Making a Player Out of Yasmany Tomas Scouting Reports
It was the Diamondbacks who managed to swoop in and get Yasmany Tomas signed to a contract. The raw terms are six years and $68.5 million, which is a bit lower than what was expected, but then that skips over the critical opt-out clause after year four. The clause is a benefit to the player and not to the team, so the clause has significant value, and you barely have to value it at anything to conclude that Tomas signed what’s effectively the biggest contract yet for a Cuban. While his deal doesn’t have the highest sum, it is the most player-friendly.
It remains to be seen what the Diamondbacks do with Tomas. It remains to be seen what the Diamondbacks do with the rest of their roster, and it remains to be seen whether this deal will end up being worth it. Arizona now has an extra-crowded outfield, with first base occupied by a young superstar, so it seems like some pieces will have to be moved around. That’s something to be thought about another day. For this day, let’s consider, what kind of player might Yasmany Tomas be?
There are a handful of good scouting reports out there to be read. Scouting reports provide a good idea of the current understanding of a player’s various strengths and weaknesses, and Tomas has been written up by Ben Badler and Kiley McDaniel, among others. My intention here is to take things one step further. Drawing upon what’s been written by people like Badler, McDaniel, and Jesse Sanchez, I want to identify player comparisons such that I can find an estimate of Tomas’ overall value. This, then, is a bit of an experiment, but let’s make a player out of the Yasmany Tomas scouting reports.
Let’s start with Tomas’ defense. This is a point of some uncertainty, where Tomas has experience in center field, but where there are teams in the bigs who see him as more of a first baseman. There’s been talk of him at first, there’s been talk of him at third, and there’s been talk of him in an outfield corner. Arizona, presumably, will put Tomas in one of the corners, but let’s proceed following the guidance of the Fan Scouting Report. We can create a blank slate for Tomas, and fill in the categories based on what’s been written.
Values range from 0 – 100, with average, of course, being 50. One thing that’s been written about: Tomas has topped out at average footspeed. They say he moves well for a guy his size, but guys his size don’t move well, so let’s put Tomas’ speed at 45. Now, people have also talked about his above-average arm strength. It’s good enough to play right field, but it’s not outstanding, so let’s put the arm strength at a 60. No one’s had particularly good or bad things to say about the arm accuracy, so we can split the middle at 50.
For other categories, we’re left guessing, based on how teams have responded to seeing Tomas perform. We can give him average first-baseman skills, since he seems at least that good. It seems unlikely he should be a DH, especially given how certain other Cuban players have gotten into better shape before making their professional debuts. Tomas, we’ll say, has slightly below-average instincts. He might have average to slightly below-average hands. If you fill out his categories, Tomas ends up with an overall defense rating around 48. That’s in the vicinity of average, and while you’re free to quibble a few points here and there, this seems to capture the consensus of the evaluations: Tomas has positional versatility, but he’s not going to be good in the field. Some comparable defensive players from the last few years, based on fan input: Melky Cabrera, Michael Cuddyer, Corey Hart, and Nate Schierholtz. Cuddyer’s interesting, given he used to play around the infield.
We’ll settle on Tomas being a little below-average with the glove. Now for the offensive stuff, which is of greater interest since it’s the offense that ought to hold almost all of Tomas’ value. For this exercise, I’m going to look at players who’ve batted at least 500 times since 2010. The idea is to apply filters until we narrow down to something resembling a comparison group.
Everybody agrees on Tomas’ strength: his greatest asset is his raw power. Some have given him a 70 on the 20 – 80 scouting scale, and while that might be optimistic, it’s the power that’s earning Tomas his eight figures. I sorted all the players in the spreadsheet by home runs per fly ball — a rate stat indicating functional strength — and I eliminated all the players less than one standard deviation above the mean.
I was most aggressive with the power filter because it’s the skill where evaluators show the greatest agreement. Now, there are also indications that Tomas has an uppercut sort of swing, leaving him vulnerable against pitches up and breaking stuff away. Probably, that swing path is going to generate an above-average rate of balls in the air, so I eliminated players with groundball rates higher than half a standard deviation below the average.
Because of the swing path, scouts aren’t sure how much contact Tomas is going to be able to make. He’s had issues with swings and misses, and though his swing is relatively short for a powerful hitter, I decided to eliminate all the hitters in the pool with average or better contact rates. I assume that, wherever Tomas’ contact rate ends up, he’ll whiff his fair share.
And as a last minor step, I eliminated players who have very seldom swung at pitches out of the zone. I don’t know how aggressive Tomas is going to end up being, but he doesn’t seem to profile as a particularly patient sort. The average hitter swings at about 30% of pitches out of the zone. Yoenis Cespedes has come in at 36%. Jose Abreu, 41%. Yasiel Puig, 32%, albeit with significant improvement last season. Dayan Viciedo, 37%. It would be a mild surprise if Tomas featured strong plate discipline, at least at the get-go.
I’m left with a pool of 29 players. These are 29 potential offensive comps for Yasmany Tomas. Over the past five years, they’ve averaged a 112 wRC+, meaning they’ve hit 12% better than average. They’ve struck out in a quarter of their plate appearances. If you narrow down to just the 14 right-handed hitters in the sample, you get an average wRC+ of 109, with the same strikeout rate. These are power-hitting fly-ball guys, with some tendency to chase and some tendency to whiff.
Strip away defense, and these players have averaged about 2.6 wins above replacement (WAR) per 600 plate appearances. An average player comes in around 2.0. Now, we decided earlier that Tomas is probably a slightly below-average defender, so maybe you knock that WAR down to 2.2 or 2.3 or so. We shouldn’t pretend like the decimal really matters. Based at least on what we’ve done, Yasmany Tomas, today, profiles as about a league-average player overall, with enough power at the plate to carry his questionable discipline and defense.
If things go well, Tomas as a hitter might resemble Justin Upton. Upton hasn’t built on his peak, but he’s been a consistent offensive threat. Yoenis Cespedes sets a more attainable level, and there are also interesting players like Corey Hart, Nelson Cruz, and Khris Davis. Yet, it’s also not hard to envision the downside; if we don’t grant Tomas his home runs, he might go the way of Dayan Viciedo. There’s a difference between raw power and game power, and Viciedo hasn’t consistently been able to tap into his strength because his discipline isn’t good enough. That is a certain possibility, and Viciedo, through age 25, owns a career WAR of -0.1, with slightly below-average hitting numbers.
Maybe Tomas is Justin Upton. Maybe Tomas is Dayan Viciedo. At the center of our expectations, we get a projection as a league-average 24-year-old. That player right there is worth an eight-figure contract, so it’s hard to say the Diamondbacks made a mistake. Tomas has growth potential from his current profile, as he approaches what should be his peak, and recently, Jose Abreu and Yasiel Puig have exceeded expectations upon arriving in the majors. They’ve created for themselves new scouting reports, and they’ve become difficult players to beat.
Tomas could go that way. If he ends up a sort of younger Mark Trumbo equivalent, well, Arizona wanted Mark Trumbo once. That’s still a fine player, and $68.5 million doesn’t quite mean what it used to.