To repeat from last week, by nature, I am a stats junkie. So when MinorLeagueCentral.com put together its new leader boards, I was rather giddy with excitement. For years, I have been running those kind of reports manually on my spreadsheet template that my Excel guru buddy put together for me but the new leader boards just made my work a lot easier.
If I have one complaint, it is that the stats are broken apart by league and it is not easy to look at things by level but a bit of copy/pasting remedies that so that I can take the stats to the comforts of Excel as well as my other favorite statistical tool, InspireData, to get the kind of reports out that I want. This week, we will take a look at the hitters in the Pacific Coast League that are 28 years old or younger and had at least 200 plate appearances. Those filters give us 141 different hitters from this past season.
This is a change of pace from last week when I combined the pitchers from both the International and Pacific Coast Leagues but after some more thought into it, I felt it was best to separate the hitters because of the rather drastic park factors for hitting environments. I will do a piece on the International League hitters next week along with a Top 100 update later in the week.
Stats are just one part of the equation as we have all been fooled with good minor league numbers that lead to false expectations for fantasy investments, but rarely do we see players get to the majors on bad stats. When I find good stats on certain guys, that's when I start asking the questions from others and doing the homework, and when time permits, the actual game research to watch these guys to see what is creating the stats they are producing.
Contact: Contact can derail many a prospect unless that prospect has some immense talents. Even then, even epic power cannot save that prospect as Chris Davis has shown us time, and time, and time again while he dominates Triple-A pitching only to be dominated by major league pitching. Asking players to make contact with at least 75 percent of their pitches is not an unreasonable request, but 43 hitters in our pool (31 percent) failed to do so. Of course, Davis is in that group, but he did not have the highest swinging strike percentage (SwSTR%) as that belonged to Chris Robinson in the Cubs' organization. Other notable names that swung and missed at 75 percent or more of their pitches include Eric Young Jr., Brandon Belt, Dee Gordon, Tyson Auer, Mat Gamel, Bryan Anderson, Mike Moustakas, and Tyler Colvin. On the flip side, hitters that made swung and missed less often than most of their peers include Dustin Ackley, Everth Cabrera, and Jemile Weeks.
51 hitters saw 20 percent or greater of their plate appearances end in strikeouts. Oakland's well-traveled minor leaguer Jai Miller had the worst rate at 37 percent, but Carlos Peguero and bigger names such as Brett Jackson and Trayvon Robinson also struck out in 30 percent of their plate appearances - a rate more often than our favorite whipping boy Chris Davis. Looking at the rest of the group we find Alex Liddi, Tyler Colvin, Brandon Allen, Chris Carter, Kila Ka'aihue, and Jerry Sands.
Discipline: Demonstrating some command of the strike zone as well as demonstrating a willingness to work a count can help a prospect last longer in the big leagues than just your standard cup of coffee. Brandon Belt led the group with 4.34 pitches per plate appearances this last season while Brandon Allen, Dustin Ackley, Jemile Weeks, and Travis Ishikawa joined him in the top 20. Belt also led Triple-A in walk rate with a 20 percent walk rate. A double-digit walk rate was not rare in Triple-A this season as 66 of the 140 batters walked in at least 10 percent of their plate appearances. Top 25 walk rates for the group of 140 included Dustin Ackley at 17 percent, Brandon Allen at 16 percent, Kila Ka'aihue at 15 percent, Eric Young Jr. at 14 percent, and Jemile Weeks and Brett Jackson at 13 percent each.
Ackley's name keeps popping up in the good areas of this article and with good reason as he swung at pitches out of the zone less frequently (three percent) than any other hitter in this group. Belt was ninth-best at five percent with Sands finishing just a couple of spots behind him. Ackley also had the fifth-best walk to strikeout ratio in the sample pool and Young Jr., Weeks, and Belt joined him in the top 20. Conversely, Davis was fifth-worst and Angels speedster Tyson Auer was right behind him while Eric Patterson and Chris Nelson were also in the bottom 20. Houston's J.B. Shuck was very tough to strike out as he fanned once every 11.8 at bats and could find a way into the Astros' outfield rotation in the very near future. On the flip side, Brett Jackson struck out once every 2.9 at bats and Trayvon Robinson struck out once every 3.0 at bats.
Power: Let's be honest, this is what most of us are looking for. Since we have beaten up Davis for most of this article, it is time to praise him as he led the entire sampling of hitters in outfield flyballs with a 48 percent rate. Flyball ratios are nice, but outfield flyballs are the balls that become extra-base hits and he hit them out there with regularity. Other batters that hit outfield flyballs at a high rate include Anthony Rizzo, Jerry Sands, Chris Carter, and Ishikawa. Each of those hitters had outfield flyball rates of at least 40 percent. When we look at home runs per outfield flyball, Davis is once again at the top as 36.4 percent of his outfield flies made it over the fence. Trayvon Robinson was next at 35.6 percent with Mike Carp, Welington Castillo, Brett Jackson, Brandon Allen, Jerry Sands, and Brett Lawrie all in the top 15.
Davis had a rather insane .456 Isolated Power rating, but high ISO scores are nothing new to the PCL. In fact, 44 hitters had an ISO score of at least .200 this past season with Arizona's Collin Cowgill rounding out the group at an even .200. If we look at home run per ball put into play, Davis is again at the top of the list at 17 percent but Robinson, Carp, Sands, Rizzo, Allen, Carter, and Welington Castillo are also there. Given Castillo is a catcher, the power is intriguing and it was his presence that allowed the Cubs to add Robinson Chirinos into the Matt Garza trade last season. 2011 was a repeat season in Triple-A for Castillo, but he hit with more authority this time around and bears watching in your deeper NL-only leagues for a late reserve pick.
Again, the data used for this series is coming from minorleaguecentral.com and I highly encourage you to go there to look up your own data for your favorite prospects or players in your favorite team's organization because it has everything – even monthly splits!
If you are going to be at the First Pitch Forums this weekend in Arizona, I look forward to meeting you all. If not, start saving your money to attend next year because next to Tout Wars weekend in New York City each March, the Arizona trip is my favorite thing I do with fantasy baseball.