It's been two weeks since we checked in on the New Britain Rock Cats, the Twins' Double-A affiliate that seems to have taken on an air of fatalistic determinism. They've lost six in a row, while winning only one of their last 10 games. They've gone 5-23 since winning their first two games after the Eastern League all-star break.
The Rock Cats have scored the fewest runs and allowed the most in the EL. Their run differential is -221, and dropping. Along the way, they've lost prospects like Rene Tosoni and Ben Revere to season-ending injuries and ace Kyle Gibson to a Triple-A promotion. Other prospects like first baseman Chris Parmelee and righthander Carlos Gutierrez simply have not performed.
If New Britain continues on its charted course and loses 100 or more games (and they're on target for 102), it will become just the third minor league team (that we could find) to pass the century mark for losses in the past 50 years. Well, 53 years to be exact. A slew of teams exceeded 100 losses in the 1950s—back when minor league clubs mimicked the majors and played 154-game schedules—the last being the 1957 Louisville Colonels of the American Association, who went 49-105.
The most recent minor league team to lose 100 times did so 23 years ago. The 1987 San Jose Bees went 33-109 (.232) in the California League. Prior to that, the 1980 Rocky Mount (N.C.) Pines went 24-114 (.174) in the Carolina League. The caveat (and it's a big one): neither of those teams were affiliated with a major league organization at the time. By definition, then, the Bees and Pines did not have access to players deemed to be major league prospects. [...] Continue Reading »
• When Fabio Martinez pitches, there's about a 50/50 chance that any given plate appearance will end without the ball being put in play. Part of the reason for that is because the Angels low Class A righthander has electric stuff. The other part, of course, is that Martinez doesn't have much of an idea where it's going a lot of the time. Martinez, a 20-year-old out of the Dominican Republic, is second in the minors with 76 walks in 103 1/1 innings, but he's also seventh in the minors with 141 strikeouts. That means that, of the 452 batters Martinez has faced, 48 percent of them have either walked or struck out.
• Speaking of strikeouts, one quick-and-dirty measure of an elite hitter is to compare his extra-base hits to his strikeouts. It's rare to find a player with more extra-base hits than strikeouts, a sign that a hitter is squaring up the ball with regularity and driving it for power. Among all players in the minors with at least 40 extra-base hits, there are just six players with more extra-baggers than strikeouts. Three of them—John Lindsey, Russ Mitchell and Jay Gibbons—are Dodgers minor leaguers just taking advantage of the hospitable Triple-A Albuquerque ballpark. Two are Royals farmhands: Mike Moustakas (57 extra-base hits, 56 strikeouts) and Eric Hosmer (55 extra-base hits, 51 strikeouts), while the third is Twins Double-A second baseman Steve Singleton (44 extra-base hits, 41 strikeouts).
A rookie may have one foot in the door to big league success, but we like to think he still has his other foot in the prospect pool. So in what has become a midseason tradition, we bid adieu to young players whom we no longer get to cover in print or in cyberspace, not because they're unworthy but because they have lost prospect eligibility.
You may notice that this year's format is slightly altered. Rather than count down the top 20 rookies, we've organized the top first-half performers into a team—five starting pitchers, three go-to relievers, eight position players plus a DH. This results in a few notable omissions, such as Cubs corner outfielder Tyler Colvin, Rays righthander Wade Davis, Indians shortstop Jason Donald, Indians righty Mitch Talbot and Pirates second baseman Neil Walker. But we may hear from them, as well as stud catcher Carlos Santana, in our end-of-season top rookies feature.
Rookies are organized into four groups so that performances can be compared more directly. Players are divided into starting pitchers, relief pitchers, up-the-middle defenders and corner players, because no one ought to expect a middle infielder's raw offensive production to look like a corner outfielder's.
As a supplement to yesterday's Best And Worst Minor League Teams post, here's a look at which of the 120 full-season minor league clubs have been putting forth the most productive offenses. Naturally, these comparisons will favor clubs in hitter's leagues like the California and Pacific Coast over clubs in pitching oriented leagues like the Florida State and Midwest, factors which should be illustrated here. We'll revisit this with the best and worst pitching staffs later on.
We'll start with straightforward team average and move on from there.
Statistics are through Monday's games. Bold denotes category leaders.
|TOP 10 MINOR LEAGUE OFFENSES BY AVERAGE
|Rank. Team (Org)||Level||League||AVG||G||R/G||HR||OBP||SLG|
|1. Albuquerque (Dodgers)||AAA||PCL||.303||76||6.16||86||.350||.476|
|2. Las Vegas (Blue Jays)||AAA||PCL||.298||79||5.53||95||.351||.482|
|3. High Desert (Mariners)||HiA||CAL||.297||75||5.89||83||.361||.460|
|4. Winston-Salem (White Sox)||HiA||CAR||.294||75||5.65||68||.357||.453|
|5. Colorado Springs (Rockies)||AAA||PCL||.289||78||5.46||64||.356||.446|
|7. Northwest Arkansas (Royals)||AA||TL||.288||76||5.54||62||.367||.438|
|8. San Jose (Giants)||HiA||CAL||.286||75||5.37||54||.354||.429|
|9. Columbus (Indians)||AAA||IL||.285||79||5.37||76||.359||.444|
No surprise to see three clubs at the top of the list that play in three of the minors' most hitter-friendly ballparks, with another, Colorado Springs, at No. 5. And now for the bottom 10. [...] Continue Reading »
Seven Up, Seven Down: The Best And Worst Minor League Teams
Lake Elsinore leads the California League in run prevention and ranks second to High Desert in run scoring, so it's little wonder that they have rolled to that circuit's best record. They hold a slim advantage on Altoona and Lake County for overall minor league supremacy.
The PACE category here is simply each team's win (or loss, below) total extrapolated over the 140-game season. But since most of the teams here will not maintain their present winning percentages, don't take the win and loss totals too seriously.
|TOP SEVEN MINOR LEAGUE TEAMS • THROUGH JUNE 28
|1||Lake Elsinore Storm||49||26||.653||California||HiA||Padres||91|
|3||Lake County Captains||47||26||.644||Midwest||LoA||Indians||90|
|4||Cedar Rapids Kernels||45||27||.625||Midwest||LoA||Angels||88|
|Great Lakes Loons||45||27||.625||Midwest||LoA||Dodgers||88|
|6||San Jose Giants||46||29||.613||California||HiA||Giants||86|
For perspective, follow this link to last year's full-season bests and worsts.
Seven Up, Seven Down: The Best And Worst Minor League Teams
As teams near the 50-game line, we begin to see the true best and worst emerge. One-third of the schedule has elapsed, and if Winston-Salem continues at this pace they'll win about 97 regular season games.
|TOP SEVEN MINOR LEAGUE TEAMS • THROUGH MAY 26
|1||Winston-Salem Dash||32||14||.696||Carolina||HiA||White Sox||46|
|2||Lake County Captains||31||16||.660||Midwest||LoA||Indians||47|
|Lake Elsinore Storm||31||16||.660||California||HiA||Padres||47|
|Fresno Grizzlies||30||16||.652||Pacific Coast||AAA||Giants||46|
|7||NW Arkansas Naturals||28||16||.636||Texas||AA||Royals||44|
Seven Up, Seven Down: The Best And Worst Minor League Teams
Lake County and New Britain hang on to their titles as the best and worst outfits among the 120 full-season minor league teams. The Captains have company at the top, where Winston-Salem joins them with an identical 22-10 record, but no other club has sunk to the same depths as the Rock Cats, who hold a two-game "lead" on second-worst Birmingham. So there you have it: The White Sox have a high Class A affiliate vying for the top spot and a Double-A club sinking to the bottom of the standings.
|TOP SEVEN MINOR LEAGUE TEAMS • THROUGH MAY 11
You can credit the early success of Jacksonville and Northwest Arkansas to Mike—whether it's Stanton with the Suns or Moustakas or Montgomery with the Naturals. All three of these elite prospects are off to fantastic starts. Over in the Carolina League, Winstom-Salem is lapping the field with nearly 6.6 runs scored per game. Five players check in with an OPS north of .900: CF Justin Greene (1.085), RF Brandon Short (.984), C Jason Bour (.967), LF Jordan Cheatham (.911) and 2B Drew Garcia (.905). [...] Continue Reading »
If you read Baseball America, you probably know that age is important. All other things being equal a 19-year-old dominating the Midwest League is more impressive than a 24-year-old blitzing through the Southern League. So with that in mind, here are the stats for every teenager in full-season ball. The pitchers are ranked according to ERA while the hitters are sorted by runs created.
It's probably no surprise that Mike Trout is having an impressive start to his 2010 season, but you may not have noticed how few teenagers there are in high Class A and Double-A. Jay Austin, Salvador Perez and Anthony Gose's seasons become more impressive when you put their age in context. And Martin Perez and Jordan Lyles stand out as teenagers already pitching in the Texas League.
The cutoff date is today's date, so any players who turned 20 today (May 6) or before don't qualify for this list. [...] Continue Reading »
Warning: The following post is current up through Wednesday's games only. An issue deadline yesterday interfered with a more timely posting, but if response is favorable, we can revisit the idea in the future.
Seven Up, Seven Down: The Best And Worst Minor League Teams
Mickey Mantle wore it. Stars like J.D. Drew, Matt Holliday, Joe Mauer, Jose Reyes and Ivan Rodriguez wear it today. Even George Costanza had a thing for the number seven.
Seven also happens to be a good cut-off when stacking up the winning percentages of the 120 full-season minor league teams. To this point, the top seven clubs have compiled a winning percentage of .700 or better, while the stragglers all hover near .300.
|TOP SEVEN MINOR LEAGUE TEAMS • THROUGH APRIL 28
With Opening Day here, we are scrutinizing the rosters to see what are the must-see teams and what teams are hoping and waiting for some promotions. With that in mind, we also decided to look at who are the youngest players in each league. While being the youngest in a league does not always ensure that a player will be a successful big leaguer, it is a pretty good indicator that a prospect has a bright future–it's much easier to have a lengthy big league career if you reach Triple-A as a 21-year-old than it is if you break into Triple-A as a 27-year-old.
UPDATE: This list is now updated now that all of the Opening Day rosters have all been finalized. The youngest player in all of full season baseball is Phillies outfielder Domingo Santana. The Phillies' No. 10 prospect coming into the season, Santana, 17, is a full year younger than anyone else in full-season ball. It's worth nothing that the Carolina League (Salvador Perez) is the only leagues where the youngest player in the league is not ranked as a Top 10 prospect in that organization.
During spring training we examined 14 players—seven position players and seven pitchers—who entered the season with no minor league options remaining. Making these players unique, each had reached the no-options juncture of his career this year, having played Triple-A ball in ’09 while (gleefully) using his final option year.
So how did our fateful 14 fare when it came time for big league clubs to hand down their verdicts on Opening Day? Who made the cut and who didn’t?
As it turns out, not one of the 14 players lost his place on a 40-man roster, tenuous as that grasp may be in some cases. Certainly, the Reds gave no serious thought to parting ways with Homer Bailey, but others, such as the Rangers' Joaquin Arias, made the cut thanks to extenuating circumstances. He's one of two out-of-options, light-hitting middle infielders to crack the Rangers' roster by virtue of an injury to Ian Kinsler. Andres Blanco is the other. Which one will they keep when Kinsler returns?
Texas' other out-of-options spotlight player, righthander Luis Mendoza, spent all spring with the Rangers before his trade to the Royals (for cash considerations) on April 2, just three days before Opening Day. Mendoza made Kansas City's roster as a reliever. [...] Continue Reading »
In the previous installment of our preseason minor league options saga, we examined seven position players who had reached a crossroads in their careers. Because each was out of options for the first time in his career, he either stood poised to make the big league team . . . or he served as trade bait. These decisions take on added significance with the conclusion of spring training just days away.
We turn our attention this time to pitchers, touching on those from all walks of lives—starters and relievers; righties and lefties; domestic and international. As was the case last time, each pitcher's composite left/right and home/road splits for his time at Triple-A is present. In addition, you'll find a synopsis of his strengths and weaknesses as well as an educated guess as to his fate for this season.
For the pitchers included here, the minor league performance sample is not intended to present conclusive evidence of anything. These pitchers did not accumulate nearly the amount of time in Triple-A granted to their position-player counterparts. The reason, one surmises, is that teams do not often hesitate to call up a promising pitcher to the big leagues if he has proven himself for a few months in the high minors. Some pitchers get hurt, while others lose effectiveness for no apparent reason, so clubs are always on the lookout for fresh arms. Position players, particularly corner outfielders and first basemen, have fewer such opportunities. [...] Continue Reading »
Now that we've got all the fine print out of the way—see Out Of Options and Much More On Options—we can take a look at a handful of players who enter the 2010 season with no minor league options remaining. For these purposes, we're going to focus only on players who played in Triple-A in ’09 on their third and final option. For such a player, his organization must decide in the next two weeks if it's in or out. For keeps.
Because the seven players detailed here cannot be sent to the minors without first clearing waivers, look for them either to make the big league club or be traded to an organization where they can do so. At the tail end of spring training a year ago, players such as Josh Anderson, Robert Andino, Jason Hammel, Jeff Keppinger, Edward Mujica and Hayden Penn all were traded because they were out of options. All six stuck in the big leagues in ’09. Other players who were out of options, like the Angels' Jason Bulger and the Rays' Jeff Niemann, made the big leagues and played well. [...] Continue Reading »
We had the final batting leaderboards last week.
Note that players are listed with the teams for which they finished the season. Ages are as of Sept. 1. As always, (*) denotes a lefthanded pitcher. Make use of our Player Finder to learn more about players’ schools or countries of origin. In most cases the Acquired column provides draft year and round, e.g. 2007 (5).
|Meyers, Brad||Harrisburg||EL||1.72||WAS||AA||23||2007 (5)|
|*Wood, Travis||Louisville||IL||1.77||CIN||AAA||22||2005 (2)|
|*Bumgarner, Madison||Connecticut||EL||1.85||SF||AA||20||2007 (1)|
|*Owens, Rudy||Lynchburg||CAR||2.10||PIT||HiA||21||2006 (28 D/F)|
|Lorin, Brett||West Virginia||SAL||2.20||PIT||LoA||22||2009 (Trade)|
|Hirschfeld, Steve||Fort Myers||FSL||2.23||MIN||HiA||23||2007 (9)|
|McAllister, Zach||Trenton||EL||2.23||NYY||AA||21||2006 (3)|
|*Downs, Darin||Montgomery||SL||2.23||TB||AA||24||2008 (Trade)|
|Hudson, Dan||Charlotte||IL||2.32||CWS||AAA||22||2008 (5)|
|Phelps, David||Tampa||FSL||2.38||NYY||HiA||22||2008 (14)|
|Torres, Carlos||Charlotte||IL||2.39||CWS||AAA||26||2004 (15)|
|*Friedrich, Christian||Modesto||CAL||2.41||COL||HiA||22||2008 (1)|
|Nicasio, Juan||Asheville||SAL||2.41||COL||LoA||23||2006 (Intl FA)|
|Kasparek, Kenn||Clinton||MWL||2.41||SEA||LoA||23||2008 (12)|
|Kaplan, Jeff||St. Lucie||FSL||2.45||NYM||HiA||24||2008 (11)|
Let’s take one last stroll through the minor league batting leaderboards before we say our final goodbyes to the ’09 season. Here you’ll find full-season minor league leaders (to 15 places) in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, home runs, doubles, stolen bases, strikeouts and plate appearances per strikeout, a measure of contact ability. We’ll follow up with the pitching version next week.
Note that players are listed with the teams for which they finished the season. Ages are as of Sept. 1. Primary position is listed. As always, (*) denotes a lefthanded batter and (#) a switch-hitter. Make use of our Player Finder to learn more about players’ schools or countries of origin.
|Liddi, Alex, 3B||High Desert||CAL||.345||SEA||HiA||21||2005 (Intl FA)|
|*Bowker, John, RF||Fresno||PCL||.342||SF||AAA||26||2004 (3)|
|*Gillies, Tyson, CF||High Desert||CAL||.341||SEA||HiA||20||2006 (25 D/F)|
|Clemens, Koby, C||Lancaster||CAL||.341||HOU||HiA||22||2005 (8)|
|*McOwen, Jamie, RF||High Desert||CAL||.340||SEA||HiA||23||2007 (6)|
|Locke, Drew, RF||Corpus Christi||TL||.338||HOU||AA||26||2008 (MiLB R5)|
|*Carrera, Ezequiel, CF||West Tenn||SL||.337||SEA||AA||22||2008 (Trade)|
|Neal, Thomas, LF||San Jose||CAL||.337||SF||HiA||22||2005 (36 D/F)|
|*Brown, Jordan, LF||Columbus||IL||.336||CLE||AAA||25||2005 (4)|
|Everidge, Tommy, 1B||Sacramento||PCL||.335||OAK||AAA||26||2004 (10)|
|#Bond, Brock, 2B||Connecticut||EL||.333||SF||AA||23||2007 (24)|
|Roling, Kiel, 1B||Asheville||SAL||.331||COL||LoA||22||2008 (6)|
|*Moreland, Mitch, RF||Frisco||TL||.331||TEX||AA||23||2007 (17)|
|*Kelly, Don, CF||Toledo||IL||.331||DET||AAA||29||2009 (MiLB FA)|
|Desmond, Ian, SS||Syracuse||IL||.330||WAS||AAA||23||2004 (3)|
Perhaps the most unique aspect of minor league baseball is the wide array of offensive environments. The hitter-friendly California League stands in stark contrast with the Florida State League, where runs are scarce and pitchers generally thrive. Both leagues operate at the high Class A level, but the average Cal League team this year scored nearly a run more per nine innings (0.95) than their FSL counterpart. That works out to 133 runs over the course of a 140-game season.
To put that in further perspective, consider that the FSL’s most productive team, Dunedin, would have ranked dead last in the Cal League with their 610 runs. But if we bolster their attack by that 133-run exchange rate, the Blue Jays would surge to fourth in the Cal League with 743 runs. And that doesn’t even take into account that because of the FSL’s myriad rainouts, Dunedin completed six fewer games than High Desert, the Cal League’s most offensive outfit. Furthermore, that doesn’t take into account the number of seven-inning contests, brought about by doubleheaders, played by Dunedin. We do know that Mavericks pitchers completed more than 90 additional innings (92 2/3 to be exact) than Dunedin hurlers.
League context is crucial to the process of ranking prospects. So as you digest our various league Top 20 Prospects lists, you can consult the chart below to see how players compare with the league averages.
|Florida State||Hi A||.252||.322||.363||4.24||8.0||19.0||.111||.306||70||546|
|South Atlantic||Lo A||.254||.324||.368||4.51||7.7||20.7||.114||.317||73||601|
Durham ousted Memphis in 11 innings on Tuesday night, winning the Triple-A championship game and drawing to a close the minor league season. To reflect on the season that was, we present the final organizational standings. You’ll find a ranking of all 30 organizations based on their cumulative regular-season records for all domestic clubs, both full-season and short.
As an added bonus, we’ve included cumulative games over/under .500 (DIF) as well as any league champions or runners-up in the organization. And for making you wait, you’ll find a bonus chart detailing the best and worst short-season clubs following this chart. Hey, the Pioneer League season didn’t end until Saturday night.
Get a good pitch to hit is a ubiquitous tenet of hitting in player development systems across baseball. A walk represents success because it moves the chain along without costing an out, but the walk is an outcome of waiting for a good pitch to hit. A hitter with a tiny walk rate (particularly coupled with a high strikeout rate) in the minor leagues can be a sign of a hitter with pitch recognition issues.
Hitters can get by in the lower levels of the minor leagues with great tools and a terrible approach, but more advanced pitchers in Triple-A and the majors will pick them apart with superior stuff and superior ability to locate their pitches. (Conversely, polished hitters who rely on a selective approach in the lower minors but lack major league-caliber tools can also see their production dissipate as they progress, but for today we’ll just focus on the impatient.)
Can an impatient approach work for some players? Sure, but it’s rare to see and usually is reserved for the freakishly talented who have the ability to barrel up balls at an elite rate and have above-average power. So which hitters saw their prospect status take a hit because of their free-swinging ways? These four fit the bill (note that UIBB stands for unintentional walks, while I have removed intentional walks from each player’s plate appearances count):
The regular season concluded on Monday for most of the minor leagues, so we present here the 10 best and 10 worst clubs from the 10 full-season leagues. And as for short-season ball, the Pioneer League slate stretches until Friday, leaving time for the Orem Owlz to make a run at No. 1.
The DNP column indicates the number of scheduled games that were canceled. In the case of Brevard County, they lost an astounding 13 Florida State League contests because of rain or wet grounds.
|TOP 10 MINOR LEAGUE TEAMS|
|5||Brevard County||79||48||.622||Florida State||HiA||Brewers||13||6-4|
|10||Kannapolis||82||57||.590||South Atlantic||LoA||White Sox||1||5-5|
Best Of The Best: Sacramento (AAA), Birmingham (AA), San Jose (HiA), Fort Wayne (LoA). [...] Continue Reading »
The Cardinals have played a big league-leading 91 games to this point, illustrating that the All-Star break splits the season into asymmetrical portions. So the idea of the break functioning as the halfway point to the season is a bit of a misnomer. What the break does, however, is afford us a chance to catch our breath, as well as provide the ideal backdrop to evaluate the top rookies of the 2009 season. (We checked in during spring training with our preseason Top 25 Rookies.)
Let’s begin with the all-rookie team, something you’ll find in our most recent issue, which features Mike Stanton on the cover and a Top 100 Prospects update inside.
C— Ryan Hanigan, Reds. 1B—Travis Ishikawa, Giants. 2B—Casey McGehee, Brewers. 3B—Gordon Beckham, White Sox. SS—Elvis Andrus, Rangers. OF—Brett Gardner, Yankees; Andrew McCutchen, Pirates; and Colby Rasmus, Cardinals. DH—Nolan Reimold, Orioles.
SP—Brad Bergesen, rhp, Orioles; J.A. Happ, lhp, Phillies; Scott Richmond, rhp, Blue Jays; Ricky Romero, lhp Blue Jays; and Randy Wells, rhp, Cubs. RP—Andrew Bailey, rhp, Athletics.
And on to the top 20, where an asterisk (*) denotes a lefthanded batter or thrower and a pound sign (#) signifies a switch-hitter. Click names to head directly to our player finder pages.
|1. RICKY ROMERO*, LHP, 24, BLUE JAYS|
Performing in the major leagues was the only way Romero was going to shed his perceptions as an overdraft. And that’s exactly what he has done this season. Infamously selected one spot ahead of Troy Tulowitzki in ’05, Romero has put his plus offspeed offerings to good use this season, generating a fair share of strikeouts and groundouts. Romero has averaged a firm 91 mph on his fastball this season, but it’s improved command of the pitch, more than anything, that has made the difference. [...] Continue Reading »
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