Monday, April 28, 2014

How a Player's Minor League Numbers Translate to his Future MLB Success

When scouting, it is generally better to scout based off what you see (bat speed, approach, swing path, etc.) vs. what the numbers say. But to minor league numbers hold any relevance? Is there a correlation between a player’s minor league stats and his future major league stats? I took a sample of 40 players, who have debuted since 2000, played with the Rangers at some point in their career, and have at least 200 major league at-bats. I took their statistics at the Low-A, High-A, AA, and AAA levels and ran tests to find both the average difference between the stats at each level compared to the player’s MLB stats and the strength of correlation between the numbers for AVG, OBP, and SLG.

Here are the means, or averages, the standard deviations, or average difference from the mean, and r values, or strength of correlation (0-.5 is a weak correlation, .5 to .8 is a moderate correlation, and .8 to 1 is a strong correlation) for each of the levels for batting average, on-base-percentage, and slugging percentage. If the r value is at .5 or higher, that shows that the numbers have some relevance. I have also listed the current slash lines for the players on each roster that have 200+ PAs at any minor league level, and then translated that line to their projected major league career slash line based on the averages. Remember that there are tons of players who are well better or well worse than the average, so the projected stats are more of a fun tool than something to read anything into.

Keep in mind that the numbers for High-A are biased and the average drop should not be so extreme. Much of the sample that I used were hitters that went through the hitter-friendly California League, back when the Rangers High-A team was out in Bakersfield, whereas now these players are playing in the pitcher-friendly Carolina League. The drop shouldn’t be so big for these hitters, so take that into consideration.

Low-A Batting Average:
Standard deviation=.037
r=.334 (weak)


Low-A OBP:
Standard deviation=.039
r=.4626 (weak)


Low-A Slugging Percentage:
Standard deviation=.077
r=.508 (moderate)


In Hickory (-.027/-.034/-.025):

C Kellin Deglan (.231/.331/.393) to (.194/.284/.340) using High-A stats

C Kevin Torres (.241/.279/.324) to (.214/.245/.299)

1B Ronald Guzman (.282/.331/.398) to (.255/.297/.373)

SS Luis Marte (.222/.248/.280) to (.195/.214/.255)

2B Nick Urbanus (.198/.268/.234) to (.171/.234/.209)

1B Nick Vickerson (.237/.377/.360) to (.210/.343/.335)

OF Lewis Brinson (.246/.325/.429) to (.219/.291/.404)

OF Nomar Mazara (.227/.304/.362) to (.200/.270/.337)


High-A Batting Average:
Standard deviation=.032
r=.4208 (weak)


High-A OBP:
Standard deviation=.035
r=.5069 (moderate)


High-A Slugging Percentage:
Standard deviation=.06
r=.771 (moderate)


In Myrtle Beach (-.037/-.047/-.053):

C Jorge Alfaro (.259/.331/.443) to (.232/.297/.418) using Low-A stats

C David Lyon (.239/.321/.416) to (.212/.287/.391) using Low-A stats

SS Hanser Alberto (.213/.253/.287) to (.179/.214/.241) using AA stats

1B/OF Preston Beck (.249/.347/.352) to (.212/.300/.299)

2B Chris Bostick (.282/.354/.452) to (.255/.320/.427) using Low-A stats

3B Joey Gallo (.245/.334/.610) to (.218/.300/.585) using Low-A stats

OF Royce Bolinger (.285/.330/.426) to (.248/.283/.373)

OF Zach Cone (.262/.326/.461) to (.235/.292/.436) using Low-A stats

OF Odubel Herrera (.257/.289/.339) to (.223/.250/.293) using AA stats

OF Nick Williams (.293/.337/.543) to (.266/.303/.518) using Low-A stats


AA Batting Average:
Stardard deviation=.03
r=.3556 (weak)


Stardard deviation=.038
r=.4054 (weak)


AA Slugging Percentage:
Stardard deviation=.07
r=.523 (moderate)


In Frisco (-.034/-.039/-.046):

C Pat Cantwell (.253/.318/.316) to (.216/.271/.263) using High-A stats

C Tomas Telis (.263/.292/.348) to (.229/.253/.302)

C Zach Zaneski (.237/.310/.364) to (.203/.271/.318)

1B Trever Adams (.257/.334/.386) to (.220/.287/.333) using High-A stats

2B Edwin Garcia (.252/.308/.315) to (.215/.261/.262) using High-A stats

2B Rougned Odor (.281/.326/.465) to (.247/.287/.419)

3B Ryan Rua (.291/.371/.480) to (.257/.332/.434)

1B/OF Jordan Brown (.302/.348/.451) to (.274/.313/.413) using AAA stats

OF Chris Grayson (.192/.299/.295) to (.155/.252/.242) using High-A stats

3B/OF Drew Robinson (.257/.367/.405) to (.220/.320/.352) using High-A stats

OF Jake Skole (.201/.319/.286) to (.164/.272/.233) using High-A stats

OF Jake Smolinski (.258/.345/.401) to (.230/.310/.363) using AAA stats


AAA Batting Average:
Standard deviation=.023
r=.4686 (weak)


Standard deviation=.027
r=.6687 (moderate)


AAA Slugging Percentage:
Standard deviation=.06
r=.631 (moderate)


In Round Rock (-.028/-.035/-.038):

C/1B Brett Nicholas (.289/.357/.474) to (.255/.318/.428) using AA stats

3B Alex Buchholz (.267/.328/.398) to (.239/.293/.360)

2B Kensuke Tanaka (.323/.403/.404) to (.295/.368/.366)

INF Guilder Rodriguez (.272/.360/.291) to (.244/.325/.253)

OF Jared Hoying (.249/.284/.479) to (.221/.249/.441)

OF Brad Snyder (.288/.352/.504) to (.260/.317/.466)

OF Ryan Strausborger (.232/.297/.360) to (.198/.258/.314) using AA stats


What I was expecting to see was a very low strength or correlation for the lower levels, and higher ones at the upper levels. Low-A went as expected, with the lowest strength of correlation for both batting average and slugging percentage. However, Double-A had very weak correlations, with the weakest in OBP and second weakest in average and slugging. Triple-A unsurprisingly had fairly strong correlations, and High-A very surprisingly, at least to me, had pretty strong correlations, including the strongest correlation of any stat at any level with an r value of .771 in slugging percentage.

What these numbers showed is that there definitely is a correlation between a player’s minor league stats and his future major league stats, but not enough of one to overlook a player’s raw tools, or to overvalue a player’s minor league numbers. In other words, high-performing minor league players such as Nate Gold (who never made the majors) don’t even come close to consistently translating that success to the major league level, but they do have a higher tendency to do so than a lesser performer at the minor league levels, which makes sense.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Notes from Frisco

I was able to get out to Frisco last night and saw a gem from Luke Jackson, who was perfect through 5 2/3 innings, and threw 7 scoreless with 8 Ks and no walks. Here are some notes from the game:

- Jackson sat at 93-96, touching 97 in the later innings. He had excellent control of his fastball all night, able to keep the ball on the outside edge and consistently at the knees all night, especially from the 3rd inning on. Jackson likes to run his curveball through the zone early to get a strike called and get ahead in the count, and likes to bury it in the dirt late with a sharper break looking for a chase from the batter. His curve ranged from 72-85 mph, normally sitting in the 78-81 range. He also pitched backwards often, starting off 5 batters with curveballs from the 4th inning on. Jackson didn't even need to use his change until the 3rd time through the order due to the effectiveness of his fastball and curve. When he did use his changeup, it routinely sat 12-15 mph below his fastball, an incredible change of speed. To show the change of speeds, here are some at-bats pitch-by-pitch:

93 mph FB
97 mph FB
79 mph Curve

72 mph Curve
94 mph FB
95 mph FB

94 mph FB
79 mph Curve
95 mph FB

What I saw was a potential 60 fastball, 55 curveball, and 50 changeup. To me, he projects as a starter long-term if his command can be anywhere near what it was last night on a consistent basis.

- Edwar Cabrera is a guy who could contribute in the bullpen later on. His fastball sits at 87-89, but has some good two-seam action on it. His command can be spotty at times. But he has a legit plus pitch in a hard-biting 79-82 mph change. Cabrera has been in the majors before, and had some success, but missed all of last year after Tommy John surgery and was signed to a minor league deal by the Rangers over the offseason.

- Rougned Odor is truly one-of-a-kind. The amount of rituals he does prior to each at-bat is rivaled only by Pedro Cerrano. Before leaving the on-deck circle, Odor will slam the weight off his bat, tap a cross into the dirt, and tap his helmet twice with his bat. On his way to the plate, Odor unstraps and redoes both batting gloves. When he gets to the plate, he draws two lines with the knob of his bat, and taps both feet with his bat as he steps into the box.

- Ryan Rua showed a much better approach at the plate than he has previously, which is a very big development. A pull hitter, Rua laid off outside pitches for the most part, waiting for a pitch on the inner half, and even took an outside pitch the opposite way for a base hit.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Round Rock Express Opening Day Roster (from Scott Lucas)

Here is the Opening Day roster for the Round Rock Express, with added insights from Scott Lucas (@scottrlucas), who writes the minor league reports for the Newberg Report. Make sure to add Michael Kirkman to this roster and take Daniel McCutchen off, as those moves were made after this writing. If C Chris Gimenez clears waivers, he will also be on this roster.

Round Rock PitchersLisalverto Bonilla
Cory Burns
Neftali Feliz
Randy Henry
Doug MathisRoman Mendez
Rafael Perez

Aaron Poreda
Jimmy Reyes
Scott RichmondRyan Rodebaugh
Armando Rodriguez
Nick Tepesch
Johan Yan

The Express didn't announce roles.  Mathis, Richmond and Tepesch should be in the rotation.  Henry, Mendez and Reyes will be making their AAA debuts.

Round Rock Catchers
Jose Felix
Brett Nicholas

Nicholas is the newcomer.  Drafted as a catcher in 2010, he worked behind the plate only 40 games in the last three seasons.

Round Rock Infielders
Mike Bianucci
Alex Buchholz
Brent Lillibridge
Andy Parrino

Round Rock Outfielders
Jared Hoying
Bryan Peterson
Brad Snyder

Round Rock has spots for two more position players.


Frisco Roughriders Opening Day Roster (from Scott Lucas)

Here is the Opening Day roster for the Frisco RoughRiders, with added insights from Scott Lucas (@scottrlucas), who writes the minor league reports for the Newberg Report.

Frisco Starting Pitchers Alec Asher
Edwar Cabrera
Jerad Eickhoff
Luke Jackson
Nick Martinez (until needed by Texas)

Even without 2013 first-rounder Chi Chi Gonzalez, who I thought might make AA out of the gate, the Frisco rotation is formidable and entertaining.  Asher, Jackson and Martinez rank among Texas's top 15 prospects.  Asher is the only newcomer, having led the Carolina League in strikeouts last season.  Jackson has the most upside, albeit possible as a reliever. 

Frisco Relievers
Alex Claudio
Jon Edwards
Wilmer Font
Martire Garcia
Phil Klein
Kyle Lotzkar
Francisco Mendoza
Matt West

Matt West jumps to Frisco despite being optioned to high-A Myrtle Beach a while back.  Wilmer Font is back, a disheartening but understandable assignment.  He just isn't progressing, and Texas has an absurd number of relievers to try to squeeze into Round Rock.  Garcia and Lotzkar are offseason signings.  I saw neither but heard good reports about Lotzkar, an often wild, high-strikeout righty drafted 53rd overall in 2007 and ranked in Cincinnati's top 30 by Baseball America in six consecutive seasons.  He's endured numerous injuries over the years.

Frisco Catchers
Pat Cantwell
Tomas Telis
Zach Zaneski

Cantwell, Texas's third-rounder from 2012, jumps from Myrtle Beach.  Kellin Deglan, drafted 22nd overall in 2010, presumably stays behind in Myrtle.  Deglan will be Rule 5-eligible this winter.

Frisco Infielders
1B Trever Adams
2B Rougned Odor
3B Drew Robinson
IF Guilder Rodriguez
2B/3B Ryan Rua
SS Luis Sardinas

This sextet was essentially ordained from the day Spring Training started.  Odor and Sardinas resume duties in the middle infield, while newcomers Adams and Robinson will man the corners.  Texas will have to be creative to fit Robinson and Rua into the same lineup.  Both could play multiple positions during the season, including the outfield.

Frisco Outfielders
Chris Grayson
Jake Skole
Jake Smolinski
Ryan Strausborger

As I wrote last week, Texas had too many outfielders seemingly bound for Myrtle Beach and not enough for Frisco.  The Rangers resolved this situation by promoting 2010 first-rounder Jake Skole, who batted .211/.338/.302 last year, and Chris Grayson (.196/.296/.291).  Smolinki, an offseason signing, spent most of 2013 in AAA New Orleans (.258/.345/.401). 

Myrtle Beach Pelicans Opening Day Roster (from Scott Lucas)

Here is the Opening Day roster for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, with added insights from Scott Lucas (@scottrlucas), who writes the minor league reports for the Newberg Report.

Myrtle Beach Pitchers
Cody Buckel
Ryan Bores
Cody Ege
Andrew Faulkner
Chi Chi Gonzalez
Ryan Harvey
Keone Kela
Jason Knapp
Jose Leclerc
Luis Parra
Victor Payano
Sam Stafford
Sam Wolff

Cody Buckel has overcome the yips and pitched well enough to merit an Opening Day assignment, although one level below where he began 2013.  I'm certainly not complaining.  Flamethrower Keone Kela jumps from Hickory after strong outings in the Arizona Fall League and winter ball.  Gonzalez had a shot at Frisco and should spent part of the season there.

Myrtle Beach Catchers
Jorge Alfaro
David Lyon

Alfaro stays in Myrtle Beach as expected. He ought to finish the season in Frisco.

Myrtle Beach Infielders
SS Hanser Alberto
1B Preston Beck
2B Chris Bostick
3B Joey Gallo
SS Edwin Garcia

Gallo was a lock for Myrtle Beach.  The 21-year-old Bostick is making his high-A debut after hitting .282/.354/.452 with Oakland's low-A squad.  Beck can also play outfield and has the arm for right field, but Myrtle needs someone at first. 

Myrtle Beach Outfielders
Royce Bolinger
Zach Cone
Chris Garia
Odubel Herrera
Nick Williams

Williams and Cone should be the two most frequently appearing names in the outfield lineup.  Williams has the best pure contact ability among last year's Hickory squad, while Cone is returning from an Achilles tear.  Herrera is sliding into a utility role after playing second base most of his career.  Garia sports two of the best wheels in the system but hit .156/.198/.193 in a brief spell at Hickory last August. 

Hickory Crawdads Opening Day Roster (from Scott Lucas)

Here is the Opening Day roster for the Hickory Crawdads, with added insights from Scott Lucas (@scottrlucas), who writes the minor league reports for the Newberg Report.

Hickory Pitchers Akeem Bostick
Felix Carvallo
Abel de los Santos
Cody Kendall
David Ledbetter
Ryan Ledbetter
Frank Lopez
Yohander Mendez
David Perez
Ricardo Rodriguez
Ryne Slack
Tyler Smith
Kelvin Vasquez
Collin Wiles
Cole Wiper

2013 picks Bostick, Ryan Ledbetter and Wiper are bypassing short-season Spokane, and the 20-year Carvallo joins straight from the Dominican Summer League.  Making a belated full-season debut is 6'5" lefty David Perez.  Once among Texas's brightest prospects, Perez underwent Tommy John surgery in 2012 and has only 11.2 innings to his credit during the past two years. 

Hickory Catchers
Kellin Deglan
Kevin Torres

Deglan's demotion to Hickory is easily the most disappointing assignment.  The 22nd-overall pick from four summers ago is commencing 2014 where he began 2011.

Hickory Infielders
2B Travis Demeritte
1B Ronald Guzman
SS Luis Marte
IF Nick Urbanus
IF Nick Vickerson

2013 first-rounder Demeritte joins Hickory as a 19-year-old.  The others are repeating the level.  Guzman has earned raves in camp and ought to finish in Myrtle Beach.
Hickory Outfielders
Jairo Beras
Lewis Brinson
Nomar Mazara
Eduard Pinto

I wasn't sure whether Texas might let Beras skip Spokane.  Still 18 according to the accepted birthdate, he's talented but raw.  Brinson and Mazara are repeating the level but have an excellent shot at significant time in Myrtle Beach.  Brinson is the only Crawdad with significant CF experience.  Beras manned the position some this spring.  The 19-year-old Pinto has a contact-oriented bat and ought to receive ample playing time despite 4th OF status.