The Cincinnati Reds made a high money signing on the international market yesterday. Steve touched on it last night here at Redleg Nation. I wrote about it over at my site as well. The team reportedly agreed to terms with Cuban shortstop Alfredo Rodriguez for a $6M signing bonus, which turns into somewhere between $11-12M after paying the penalty for going over their allowed amount. It will also keep them from spending more than $300,000 on any single signing in the next two signing periods. But, that isn’t the point of this article.
The point of the article is the Reds seemingly chasing down a bunch of players, or having faith in players who seem to lack any ability to hit the ball over the fence but are very fast. Alfredo Rodriguez fits that profile. Billy Hamilton fits that profile. Jose Peraza fits that profile. It would seem that the Reds plans are to have all three of these players as a part of their future.
Billy Hamilton may have the most power of all three, and that really puts things into perspective on just how little power the group has between them. You obviously don’t have to hit 20 home runs to be valuable, but it’s tough to provide offensive value if you can’t hit 10. Pitchers simply don’t have any reason to fear you without the threat of homers, so they can pound the strikezone against you. It limits the amount of walks you will have, making the player rely entirely on their ability to hit singles in large quantities. Of course, if you are a singles hitter, the outfield can play in and thus makes it easier for them to turn hits into outs as they have less ground to cover.
I started wondering, which players who rely on the ability to hit only singles were over the last three seasons. I decided to head over to Fangraphs and look for all players in the last three seasons who had at least 200 plate appearances in a single season. There were 1057 players in this sample, but I decided to look only at players with an isolated power (SLG-AVG) below .080 to limit things to just about every player who has next-to-no-power. That group is made up of only 105 players, representing just under 10% of all players in baseball.
HALF of that list of players was worth 0.0 WAR or worse. 82 of the 105 players on this list were worth LESS than 1.0 WAR. Seven of the players were worth more than 2.0 WAR and three of those players were elite level defenders, all representing the top three WAR values in the list.
To dive further into the list, HALF of that list posted an on-base percentage under .300 and 66 of them were under .310. 92 of the players had a slugging percentage under .350. Essentially, the large majority of the group of players that were able to make it through the minor leagues with absolutely no power, beating the odds of those who couldn’t, are still incredibly unlikely to be even average big leaguers.
The odds tell us that these types of players struggle to become everyday contributors of value in the Major Leagues. Yet the Cincinnati Reds seem to have a plan that involves three of these players in their lineup at one time. It’s a real struggle to put together the line of thinking here. There’s no problem with having these kinds of players in the organization. But to plan on them being something before they’ve proven that they are the outlier to the sample rather than the rule, seems very confusing. You can’t steal second base or third base, or score a run, if you can’t first get on first base. As a Reds fan, I want them to succeed and hope that the Reds can beat the odds with these kinds of players, but it just doesn’t seem likely. One of these players working out and turning into an average everyday player would significantly beat the odds.