The first book of its kind to fully integrate sabermetrics and scouting, the 2015 Minor League Baseball Analyst provides a distinctive brand of analysis for more than 1,000 minor league baseball players. Features include scouting reports for all players, batter skills ratings, pitch repertoires, performance trends, major league equivalents, and expected major league debuts. A complete sabermetric glossary is also included. This one-of-a-kind reference is ideally suited for baseball analysts and those who play in fantasy leagues with farm systems.
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About the Author
Rob Gordon is a codirector of minor league analysis for www.BaseballHQ.com and has been covering the minors for the website since 2003. He is an advisor at the University of Michigan and a history professor at Wayne State University. He lives in Detroit. Jeremy Deloney is a codirector of minor league analysis for www.BaseballHQ.com and has been writing for the website since 2004. He lives in Lebanon, Ohio. Brent Hershey is the managing editor of www.BaseballHQ.com and the associate editor of 2012 Baseball Forecaster. He was honored in 2009 by the Fantasy Sports Writer Association for the Best Fantasy Baseball Article in a Print Publication. He lives in Philadelphia.
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Minor League Baseball Analyst
By Rob Gordon, Jeremy Deloney, Brent Hershey
Triumph BooksCopyright © 2015 USA TODAY Sports Media Group LLC
All rights reserved.
Early Discovery of Prospects: Stats-Based Approach
by Nick Richards
It is commonly understood that when evaluating minor league talent, we should pay more attention to scouting reports than to results on the field. That is absolutely true. After all, perhaps that highly touted Double-A pitcher has been told to throw nothing but curve balls for a few innings so he can get a better mastery of the pitch. The fact that he gave up a lot of hits in the process tells us little about his actual talent level. If the scouts say he is a great prospect, we can ignore that ugly ERA and WHIP and wait for better days. Or maybe there is a corner outfielder who is smashing the ball left and right, but the scouts say he's a tweener, and he's doing this in the very hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. Not a top prospect after all.
So how can we stay ahead of our leaguemates, especially in dynasty leagues where other owners read what the scouts say and all jump on the hot new minor league prospects at the same time?
Scouting comes first, but stats still count
Very simply, we use stats. Scouts find the next great prospects from watching the players on the field. We can do something similar. We may not have the scout's eye, and we may not have the opportunity to see the players in real life very often, but we have all the stats we can handle at our fingertips. If we know what to look for, we can find the next wave of emerging talent before the articles get written.
Filters to find the best batters
Other than the standard measurements we use (strikeout rate, walk rate, etc.), what can we use to search for the next good minor leaguers? A simple method is to break things down to these basic metrics:
OBP — An On-Base Percentage of .340 or more shows a batter who knows how to get on base at a good rate.
ISO — Isolated Power is simply slugging percentage – batting average, and it serves as a nice view of the raw power of a batter in isolation. A measure of .200 or greater is a sign of a big-league power hitter.
SB/Game — Stolen Bases per Game is a very simple measurement that is designed to filter through different levels and playing time considerations to do an apples-to-apples comparison: In how many games did that batter appear? And in those games, how many stolen bases did he get? An index of 0.20 or higher reveals a speedster getting a SB every five games, which results in about 30 at the end of a 150-game season. Higher is better, but a 30-SB guy is nice to have.
K% — Strikeout percentage is the number of strikeouts divided by Plate Appearances (not ABs). It asks, of the times that batter came to the plate, how many times did he strike out? Anything over 25% is a warning sign, and ideally we want to see a rate under 20%.
BB% — Walk percentage is similar: Walks divided by Plate Appearances. Of the times that batter came to the plate, how many times did he walk? 10% or better should be the target.
These filters will find either a power guy or a speed guy (both is great, of course) who has an excellent batting eye and thus gets on base. Using those filters early in 2014, a discerning owner would have discovered Mookie Betts tearing up Double-A pitching before he was called up to Triple-A and then the majors. Betts was not on most top prospect lists going into 2014, so to discover him before anyone else would mean monitoring the statistics.
Filters to find the best pitchers
Use a similar approach for pitchers with these metrics:
WHIP — Less than 1.200 shows a pitcher who isn't walking too many and is proving effective at keeping batters off the bases.
BF/IP — Batters Faced per Innings Pitched is designed to look for pitchers who cannot seem to put a team away inning after inning. Look for under 4.10 to show dominance. The best pitchers will have rates under 4.00.
K% — Strikeout rate for pitchers is simply Strikeouts divided by Batters Faced. How many batters did he face, and of those, how many did he strike out? Unlike K/9, this is inning independent, and it protects against those pitchers who put up great K/9 numbers because they simply face more batters. K% is short and to the point and works for both starters and relievers. 20% or higher is what to look for, and 25% is exceptional.
BB% — Walks divided by Batters Faced. Similar to K%, this simplifies things to how many batters did he face, and of those how many did he walk? 8% or less is what to look for.
K%-BB% — As Cmd combines both Dom and Ctl, this measurement protects against extreme pitchers who don't strike out enough batters but whose walk rate is so low we tend to overlook it. We want both a good strikeout rate and a good walk rate. K%-BB% should be at least 15%.
Using these filters back in 2013 would have discovered Matt Wisler putting up great numbers in Double-A before he was on the radar — or tout's lists — for most owners.
Who looks good now?
Using end-of-season stats for Double-A players from Baseball-Reference.com (they provide a handy list of top performing minor leaguers by clicking Minors | Leaders | the three Double-A leagues | 2014 | Batting Leaders / Pitching Leaders), and applying the metrics listed above (plus filtering out older prospects or guys already called up in 2014), we find the following batters:
Obviously, Lindor is already well known. Johnson and Kemp are less so, but both are showing quite good bat control, drawing walks, and showing speed on the base paths. None of them shows much power, but they get on base at a rate that should help them transition to the big leagues while still putting up decent numbers for infielders. In early December 2014, Lindor wass already owned by 18% of CBSsports.com owners, Johnson is only owned by 3% and Tony Kemp wasn't even in their database yet. Those owners looking toward 2015 might keep an eye on Micah Johnson, while those in deep dynasty leagues might note Tony Kemp.
Using the pitching metrics yielded the following pitchers:
Winkler has been in the news for both his Tommy John surgery that will keep him out for a good chunk of 2015, as well being an Atlanta Braves Rule 5 draftee. Steven Matz and Christian Binford both made several hot prospects lists in 2014 and are already probably on owner's radars. But Cravy and Johnson also put up great numbers in Double-A, yet Johnson is only owned by 1% of CBSsports.com owners and Cravy is not even in their database yet.
This method works best in-season, such as in June or July when prospects in Single-A or Double-A are first putting themselves on our radars. Doing this at the end of the season turns up prospects who already made headlines and got picked up. Plus most leagues do not allow offseason pickups of free agents, so to notice a guy in the offseason just means waiting until spring to get him, by which time he might be on several prospect lists. Still, even in the offseason the method can help us focus on some unheralded players who are putting up solid numbers across the board. This article focused on Double-A, but the same method can be used for Single-A players too, and these are usually even less known (and are more speculative).
Will all of these players make it to the major leagues? Not necessarily, they could stumble along the way through the minor leagues. It's not until they dominate Double-A that we should really sit up and notice, and even then some will fail as they reach Triple-A or the major leagues. Some of these players are too young to know for sure how they will ultimately pan out.
However, the idea of this article is that we can find players who put up good numbers in 2014. Some of them will show up on top prospect lists going into 2015. Those who wait for such lists will get them the same time as their fellow owners. But those who explore the statistics ahead of time can find these players before the lists get published. In deeper or dynasty leagues, these are the sorts of players to speculate on. If they fall by the wayside before reaching the major leagues, it's a gamble that did not pay off. However, every time one of these prospects makes it, it's like hitting the jackpot that is all the sweeter because of finding them before anyone else. Yet all it took was statistics and common sense.
Sleepers Outside the HQ100
by Rob Gordon
Each year the BaseballHQ.com minors team spends countless hours scouting, watching video, researching, and debating which players will end up on HQ100 list of top prospects. Yet the reality is that each year there are dozens of talented prospects who fail to make the cut. Their exclusion can be justified for all sorts of reasons: too old, too young, too one dimensional, too flawed, or not enough of a track record to warrant inclusion. Yet for those who play in deep keeper formats or just have a strong affinity for scouting prospects, top 100 lists just aren't deep enough.
Below we take a look at some sleeper prospects who didn't make the cut, but have a good chance of being on the list in 2016 or beyond. We opted to focus on sleepers outside the top 100 and decided to focus our attention — and yours — on younger, lesser known players,
Michael Gettys (OF, SD) was one of the more athletic players available in the 2014 draft. He's strong and runs well, but his swing can get long and scouts were mixed on his ability to make contact and hit for average. Gettys fell all the way to draft pick #51 as teams opted for safer, more signable players. That should be a boon to the Padres, as Gettys quickly established himself as one of the better prospects in the Arizona Rookie League. Although he cooled off after a blistering start, he hit over .300 in every month and ended the season slashing .310/.353/.437 with eight doubles, five triples, three home runs, and 14 SB.
Gettys shows a combination of speed and power. He plays hard and aggressively at all times, and has 4.0 speed to first. Defensively, he covers ground well in CF and flashed a mid-90s arm as a pitcher in high school. He has easy bat speed, quick hands and should develop above-average power down the road. He can be overly aggressive at the plate, as he fanned 66 times in 213 AB. Strike zone judgment is a teachable skill, and if Gettys can improve his pitch recognition without sacrificing his power, he has the tools to be a 20/20 player upon reaching the majors.
Jose De Leon (RHP, LA) is a little bit of a late bloomer. The 22-year-old from Southern University took a huge step forward in 2014, going 7-0 with a 2.22 ERA and 21 BB/119 K in 77 innings between rookie ball and Low-A. His velocity was a couple of ticks better than in the past as he started to fill out his 6'2", 185 frame. His fastball now sits at 92-94 mph with good late movement, topping out at 96, and he mixes in a plus low-80s slurve and an improved change-up.
Improved conditioning and a mechanical adjustment fueled the breakout and he had an attention-grabbing strikeout-to-walk ratio of 42:2 while limiting opposing hitters to a .171 BA after being moved up to the Midwest League. The 24th-round pick will need to prove that 2014 was no fluke, but the uptick in velocity, improved breaking ball, and solid command all bode well for the future.
Kevin Padlo (3B, COL) didn't really garner much attention until he impressed scouts in the California Area Code Games in the summer before his senior year at Murrietta Valley High School, where he was a two-sport standout. Padlo jumped up draft boards heading into June and was taken by the Rockies in the 5th round. They signed him for an over-slot $650,000 to lure him away from a college commitment to San Diego.
Although he hit only two home runs as a high school senior, Padlo flashes a quick bat and above-average power and hit 15 doubles and eight home runs in his Pioneer League debut. He also showed an advanced understanding of the strike zone, walking 31 times in 160 AB. He moves well defensively with good hands and a strong arm and should be able to stick at 3B over the long term, though with the presence of Nolan Arenado the club will be in no hurry to rush Padlo to the majors.
Ozhaino Albies (SS, ATL) came out of nowhere to establish himself as one of the most exciting young prospects in the National League. The 18-year-old from Curacao showed a plus feel for the game despite being one of the youngest players in both the GCL and the APPY. He is a quick-twitch athlete with plus speed and an advanced feel for hitting. The switch-hitter rakes from both sides of the plate with a short, compact stroke and across two levels he hit .364/.446/.444 with 22 SB in 198 AB.
Albies uses the entire field, makes consistent contact, and has an excellent understanding of the strike zone, walking more than he struck out. He doesn't project to develop much if any power, but that is his only obvious shortcoming. Defensively he moves well to both sides of the ball, has soft hands, good footwork, and a strong, accurate arm. Albies will move up to full-season ball in 2015 and if he can duplicate these results, he will rise to the top of the Braves list next year.
Mallex Smith (OF, ATL) has some of the best pure speed in the minors. The Padres 5th-round pick out of junior college in Florida is short, but he had a monster breakout season in 2014, hitting .310 with 69 BB and 111 runs scored. Smith also led the minors with 92 SB, 20 more than the next highest total.
Smith has a quick bat and a balanced approach at the plate. He works the count well and has an advanced understanding of the strike zone that should allow him to continue to hit for average as he moves up. His plus-plus speed is his best asset, but he is also an accomplished bunter and knows how to put the ball into play to take advantage of his legs. Defensively Smith reads the ball well and covers ground in CF with an average, but accurate, arm. Power is the one area where Smith is going to be well below average. He did hit five home runs in the CAL, but that isn't going to be part of his game once he reaches the majors. At the end of the year, Smith was traded to the Braves as part of the Justin Upton deal and the ATL system is thin on position players.
Francellis Montas (RHP, CHW) had an impressive breakout season for the Sox, going 5-0 with a 1.44 ERA and 22 BB/80 K in 81 IP between rookie ball and Low-A. The 21-year-old righty from the Dominican Republic showed improved command of his hard, plus 91-98 mph fastball that has excellent late movement. Montas also has an average slider that he threw more consistently for strikes.
Montas missed significant time with two knee injuries, but when he was on the mound he dominated and showed improved command of all three offerings. His change-up remains a work in progress and will be key going forward. If that doesn't develop, he has the control and arm strength to grow into an elite level closer, though for now the Sox continue to see him as a starter.
Gabby Guerrero (OF, SEA) is the nephew of former major leaguer Vladimir Guerrero, and was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2010. Just like his uncle, the younger Guerrero is a very aggressive free-swinger who can hit anything around the plate with authority. He makes contact and covers the plate well with amazing hand-eye coordination.
On the year, the 21-year-old Guerrero hit .307/.347.467 with 28 doubles, 18 home runs, and 18 SB in 538 AB in the California League. Guerrero has emerging power that should develop into his best tool down the road, but needs to prove that his outburst in 2014 was not simply a product of the hitter-friendly CAL. Defensively Guerrero runs well and covers ground with a cannon for an arm and will likely end up in RF.
Nomar Mazara (OF, TEX) made a splash when the Rangers signed the Dominican OF to a record-breaking $4.95M bonus in 2011. In his first two seasons, he showed solid power, but struck out too much and struggled in 2013. He made some critical adjustments in his approach at the plate, namely shelving a high leg kick and working on better strike zone judgment. The 6'4" left-handed hitter belted 19 home runs in 398 AB in the South Atlantic League and then smacked another three round-trippers in a brief stint at Double-A.
For the year, the 19-year-old RF hit .271/.362/.478 with 28 doubles and 21 home runs. Mazara still struggles with LHP, hitting just .214 with three home runs in 112 AB, and will need to make an adjustment as he moves up. He is also a fringy defender with below-average speed, so his bat will be his ticket to the majors. But his power and athleticism are legit and worth owning.
Excerpted from Minor League Baseball Analyst by Rob Gordon, Jeremy Deloney, Brent Hershey. Copyright © 2015 USA TODAY Sports Media Group LLC. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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