Image credit: Michael Busch (Photo by Eddie Kelly)
For the first time, Baseball America is measuring performance based on underlying metrics via the Hawkeye data gathered across the minor leagues.
The benefit of using this data versus other statistical analysis is, presumably, we’re able to remove the higher degree of variance that impacts in-game performance numbers and instead measure skill across organizations. A 110-mph line drive caught in the outfield is more indicative of future success than a 65-mph ground ball that finds a hole through the infield, even if one counts as a hit statistically and the other is an out.
Here’s our corresponding ranking of the top minor league farm systems in terms of Statcast pitching data.
In order to calculate an all-encompassing number across a variety of metrics, we used weighted on base average (wOBA) as a baseline and built our “Hit Score” based on each metrics correlation to wOBA. Our ultimate goal was to weight each input for its importance or correlation to wOBA. Below, you will see the metric we created called Hit Score. This number measures production versus the average in a similar fashion to weighted Runs Created (wRC+) moving up and down from the average score of 100.
All metrics are based around each player’s plate appearances. So if one player has a 110-mph 90th percentile exit velocity, but only 100 plate appearances, his contribution to the organization’s 90th percentile exit velocity metric will be one-fifth as much as a player with a 100-mph 90th percentile exit velocity and 500 plate appearances. The same is true of chase rates and the other measurements.
One important note: this initial Hit Score+ does not consider age as one of the inputs. We know that older hitters should score higher in these metrics than younger hitters. Partly, that is because of physical maturation, but even more it’s based around skill development. As hitters age, they improve. This puts younger systems at a disadvantage when looking at this metric. In order to consider the impact on age, we created a second metric that factors in age to the hit score.
See where all 30 farm systems ranked midway through the season in our organizational talent rankings.
Below you will see the hit score and adjusted hit score for all 30 major league organizations. This number is factoring in exit velocity data, launch angle data, contact data and approach data. It is a variety of metrics you’re familiar with from Baseball Savant and Statcast.
The Hit Score+ is listed in order of production. It has been normalized so 100 is average, and higher numbers are better than lower numbers. A 110 Hit Score+ means the organization’s hit score is 10% above league average, where 90 would be 10% below league average.
Age Adjusted Hit Score+ tries to take an organization’s Hit Score+ and weight it by age, using three years of MiLB hitting metric data grouped by age to account for how hitters improve in many of these metrics with added age and experience. A LOESS smoothing technique — which was actually suggested by ChatGPT — was used to develop a fitted curve to the Hit+ data. It showed hitters rapidly improving in these metrics as they went from 17 to 23. After 23, those numbers largely stabilize before dropping off gradually for players in their late 20s.
While the MLB aging curve usually peaks at age 27 for hitters, the minors are somewhat different. Since the top players continue to graduate to the majors, the production curve in the minors flattens and then tails off at younger ages.
We created a nomalized Hit+ score, an expected Hit+ score (based on the weighted age for the organization), and then an age adjusted Hit+ Score, which was then normalized so 100 is league average.
The Age Adjustment did not dramatically change the results, but it did lead to some teams moving up or down a few spots when compared to their non-adjusted Hit Score+. The table is sorted by Age Adjusted Hit Score +.
Statcast Farm System Rankings
|Rk||ORG||Weighted Age||Hit Score+||Age Adjusted|
- It likely comes as no surprise that the Dodgers and Yankees rank highly on an analytical analysis. However, the Tigers and Phillies are pleasant surprises.
- The Tigers have shown solid improvement in their hitting development recently. They rank in or around the top 10 across all plate skill metrics (contact, in-zone contact and chase), while ranking inside the top 10 in average exit velocity, launch angles and barrel rate. The Tigers showed a strong balance across their organization in 2023.
- The Brewers are the third-youngest organization. When factoring in age, the Brewers jump from a seventh to fifth. The Brewers have a combination of young players with advanced plate skills and at least average or better exit velocity data.
- The Rays are a bit of surprise near the bottom of this list, but when looking at the team ranks per metric it becomes clear what is dragging them down. Despite ranking highly in age and exit velocity, the Rays rank at or near the bottom across a variety of skill-based metrics.
90th Percentile Exit Velocity
- The Cubs are one of the most consistent performers across all systems. They rank in the top five across all exit velocity metrics and are tops in 90th percentile exit velocity, which is the stickiest metric when projecting future power production.
- Unsurprisingly, the Blue Jays and Guardians rank at the bottom of 90th percentile exit velocity. The Guardians and Blue Jays have both aggressively targeted hit-over-power players and that plays out here.
- After ranking poorly in overall hit score, the Rays rank highly among exit velocity numbers. They are one of the more powerful organizations, but also one of the least skilled.
- Here’s where the Guardians stand out, ranking first in miss rate/contact rate. Toronto, which ranks second to last in 90th percentile exit velocity, jumps up to ninth when looking at how organizations rank when it comes to making contact.
- Some of the best power-hitting teams rank lowly in overall miss rate. Tampa Bay is 30th in organizational contact rankings, while the Astros, Reds and Twins all rank in the top 10 in 90th percentile exit velocity, but are among the bottom 10 in contact.
- The Phillies and the Tigers are the only two organizations that rank highly in both contact and 90th percentile exit velocity, helping to explain why both organizations rank as highly as they do in overall hit score.
- The Dodgers excel in targeting and developing players with strong swing decisions and their top spot in the organizational chase rate ratings only solidifies that.
- The Dodgers, Brewers, Blue Jays and Padres rank within the top 10 in contact rate and chase rate, giving these four organizations the distinction of the teams with the best plate skills. The Tigers are just outside the top 10, but show their consistency, ranking within the top third of the league across a variety of metrics.
- The White Sox, Marlins and Rockies rank as the bottom three teams in chase rate and are all bottom five in walk rate at the major league level. This illustrates an organizational philosophy that’s heavily based on putting the ball in play.
*J.J. Cooper contributed to this report