Friday, April 15, 2011

Weekly Minor League Breakdown: The Hitting Prospects

This is the first post in a new series here over at With this series we're going to take a deeper look in the minor league numbers and in the progress of the Rays best prospects. Every friday we're alternating going to take a look at the best Rays hitting (today) and pitching (next friday) prospects. So ... here we go.

First I’m going to list the 31 hitting prospects I’m going to follow over the year. Any wishes foradditional prospects are very welcome.

  • AAA: Lobaton, Canzler, Guyer, Jennings, Chirinos
  • AA: Mayora, Beckham, Ashley, Sweeney, Figueroa, Kang
  • A+: Nommensen, Bortnick, Lee, Morrison, Cedeno
  • A: Dietrich, Bailey, Rogers, Glaesmann, Guevara
  • XST: Sale, Vettleson, O’Conner, Brett, Araujo, DePew, Malm, Morillo, Perez, Querecuto

Overall Impressions

Before I say anything about this years’ performances you always have to keep in mind that the analysis has to be taken with a grain of salt as the sample size I’m able to look at is very small.

Nevertheless I’m going to try to read something out of the performances thus far. I want to start with the fact that the top 15 hitting prospects pre season - or lets say the 8 top 15 hitting prospects who have played in games yet - are hitting very well so far. In combined 209 PA’s they have an average batting line of .295 - .372 - .853 (AVG – OBP – OPS), good for a wOBA of .381.

Hitting prospects stats overview

(click on the image for a better view)

Obviously the stat lines so far vary way more now than they will in the following weeks. With 8 of the prospects posting wOBA’s over .400 we can at least say that these players got off to a good start. Very encouraging it is that this list of hot-start players includes some of the Rays’ top prospects, namely Desmond Jennings (#1), Brandon Guyer (#8), Luke Bailey (#9) and Derek Dietrich (#14).

As I’ve always been a great fan of Luke Bailey and Desmond Jennings I’m especially glad about their respective hot starts. While Bailey seems to have left his injury behind and is raking despite being promoted from Princeton directly to Bowling Green (with red flags being the high K-rate and the very high BABIP), Desmond Jennings makes a hard push for the 25-man roster spot currently occupied by Casey Kotchman. He shows great plate discipline (16.7 BB%, 1:1 BB:K ratio), on base skills and speed, making him even more looking like the future #1 hitter in the Rays batting order. Next to Bailey and Jennings, Russ Canzler (he also homered yesterday, which is not included in the stats), Brandon Guyer, Brett Nommensen, Daniel Mayora and the 2 guys with an OPS over 1.500 – namely Derek Dietrich and Jose Lobaton – are off to an excellent start of the season.

  • 3 prospects on the rise

1) Luke Bailey … He had the most question marks and is showing great promise and can hopefully live up to his enormous potential.

2) Jose Lobaton … Solid spring training performances and this really hot start (1.754 OPS!!!) in AAA make him the first choice to be called up if John Jaso or Kelly Shoppach get hurt.

3) Derek Dietrich … As his defense at short is a question mark his bat has to show up in order to become a big leaguer. And, what can I say, so far it’s more than showing up. He shows enormous power potential and good contact skills.

  • 3 prospects to be falling

1) Todd Glaesmann … As I said before, I’m working with very small sample sizes here, but Todd Glaesmann simply seems to be overmatched (40.9 K%) in Bowling Green. Hopefully he can turn things around and start to translate his tools into skills.

2) Robinson Chirinos … After a great showing in spring training I was even hoping that the Rays find a way to trade Kelly Shoppach. Robinson Chirinos – at least offensively – seemed more than ready. Now he seems to only be the Rays 4thcatcher in the depth chart.

3) Cody Rogers … Being older than Hot Rods teammates Bailey, Dietrich, Glaesmann, … I was hoping for Cody Rogers having a fast start to the season in order to move up to Port Charlotte. The stats, however, indicate that he is overmatched in low A (11:1 K:BB-ratio, 40.7 K%).

The prospect of the day: Derek Dietrich

  • How acquired? 2010 draft (2nd rnd)
  • Born: 07/18/89
  • Position: SS/3B
  • B/T: L/R
  • '11 MiL team: Bowling Green Hot Rods (A)

    Derek Dietrich has some serious question marks going into his first full season. Can he stay in the middle infield? Can he hit enough if he has to move to 3B? Kevin analysed his situation very well in his Prospect Guide for the '11 Rays season:

    Dietrich has some good tools at the plate, starting with his above average power. He posted double-digit home run totals all three seasons with the Yellow Jackets, including 17 as a junior. He isn't a plus pure hitter, and tries too often to pull the ball, but he has the potential to develop that tool into an average one. His plate patience is also only okay, and his swing can let long and lead to strikeouts, evidenced by a platinum sombrero (five strikeouts) on 8/30 with HV. In the field, Dietrich is somewhat of a tweener. His defensive actions at shortstop are good, and his arm is plenty strong for the position, but doesn't have the overall athleticism to stick there. Third base seems like the logical place or him to go, but with that position taken at the major-league level, the Rays will probably try to develop him as a middle infielder, albeit a second baseman.

    So, if he has to move off of short due to a lack of athleticism he'll have to prove that he can hit for power while also showing an advanced approach at the plate and excellent contact skills. And so far Dietrich has taken his fate into his own hands and put up exceptional numbers. Though, it's been just 22 PA's (now including Thursday's data) he showed great power (ISO of .714, 6 extra base hits in 22 PA's) and contact skills. Looking at last years stats, however, his approach at the plate needs some work. He had a BB% of 5.2% while striking out 24.1% of the time.

    If Dietrich can cut down on his strikeouts and draw a bit more walks he should be a fine hitter. Going forward I see him - considering all the reports I've heard - moving off of short. Then the Rays should have the first legit 3B prospect since that Longoria kid. But, as the hot corner seams to be blocked for a while I see the Rays also trying Dietrich out at 2nd base. Even if he has to move off of short, his fate is in his own hands. With steady improvements at the plate he could be a major league infielder on a daily basis. I for myself am very eager how he is doing in the future and I'll follow him closely.


    All of the stats provided above are excluding the stats from the previous day. I preferrably use 3 sources for the stats. Click on each stat for its explanation:


    1. I'd like to see you follow Stephen Vogt and maybe even Henry Wrigley.

    2. Here is a question I have, and I don't know if you know the answer BurGi, but I'll ask anyway. We always talk about small sample sizes, and obviously at just over a week into the season we are dealing with low numbers of plate appearances with all of the players. Where is the point where the small sample size qualifier no longer applies? Asked another way, what is a statistically significant amount of data when we are discussing hitters? 100 plate appearances, 200, 500?

      Just curious if anyone has given us any guidelines. Really enjoyed your first article ButGi.

    3. @Anonymous: Thanks for your input. Henry Wrigley hasn't played yet (is he hurt?) this season. But, as both are not very high on tools and old for their level, I thought that I'd wait first if they are hitting well before posting them. If they start to hit AA pitching I'm immediately including them.

      @Doug: In order to know the amount of PA in order to take the stats as reliable, check Mr. Slowinski's work:
      Nevertheless, even these small sample sizes tell something, mostly about the approach at the plate. And ... when looking at a prospects progress you often want to know specifics (like: is Tim Beckham showing some power while keeping his K's down?, ...) which you can get a tendency off earlier.

      Glad you liked it.

    4. In regards to sample size, Slow's stuff is based on the majors. Prospects are developing and constantly adjusting to newer and tougher levels of competition. I worry less about sample size and more about progression as the year moves along. Obviously if a guy rakes from the get go, you want to see him keep up solid performance.

      I hope you will follow Hak Ju-Lee upon his return from the DL.

    5. Of course I will, Zo. He is on the list.

    6. Thanks for the links, I read Steve's summary and his links to Pizza Cutter and Tango discussing the issue (the ones that still work anyway). Kind of surprising there isn't more research no sample sizes. As much debate as there is over using various stats, advanced and otherwise, you would think there would be more of a discussion of when those stats start to really mean something.

      FreeZo jumped ahead to my point, with minor leaguers if we need large sample sizes (as Steve's article says), then it really isn't of much use to us as players are promoted to new levels before we reach the required threshhold. Most of the commonly available stats (OBP, SLG, OPS) seem to require a full seasons worth of plate appearances, by which time the player probably isn't still at the same level.

      I guess I'll go back to using my own standard, about a third of the season, or 2 months. After 2 months worth of at-bats a slump isn't a 'slump' anymore, and a great year isn't a 'hot streak'. It may not hold up to statistical scrutiny, but it has seemed to work practically over the years when evaluating prospects.

      Thanks again for the link BurGi.