I’ve taken some grief for my Adam Duvall skepticism (it’s still there!), but one of the things about trying to figure out how he’s doing what he’s doing is that I’ve spent a lot of time looking at peripherals – specifically walk and strikeout rate – and how much they matter. So blame Duvall for this post.
Anyway, in my researching, I came across this article from 2013 that looks at strikeout and walk rates for prospects and how they predict success at the major league level. The author, Chris St. John, breaks things down much more than I will here, and I highly suggest you go read the article in full. But, in the meantime, let’s set up our terms and look at some Reds prospects.
Again, we are looking at walk and strikeout rates. We’ll use St. John’s categories for each.
He defines them as follows:
- Low BB: <7%
- Mid BB: 7-11%
- High BB: >11%
- Low K: <14%
- Mid K: 14-22%
- High K: >22%
He breaks things down by minor league level, but I’ll just give you the overall look with the understanding that you realize that the higher the minor league level, the more likely the numbers are predictive. Anyway, he has three categories for prospects: Bust, Average, and Productive. These are a bit misleading because Productive means a player produces – offensively – above the major league average. Anyway, I’m going to swap it with Above Average for the sake of clarity.
So, what are the odds a prospect ends up average/above average based on his BB% and K% peripherals. I have bolded categories where at least 40% of prospects ended up as league-average or better with the bat:
- Low BB/LowK: 12% avg/12% above average
- Low BB/Med K: 22%/14%
- Low BB/High K: 15%/14%
- Med BB/Low K: 23%/20%
- Med BB/Med K: 21%/19%
- Med BB/High K: 10%/13%
- High BB/Low K: 35%/30%
- High BB/Med K: 23%/26%
- High BB/High K: 17%/33%
There’s some sample size variance there, but you get the idea. Walks good. Strikeouts bad. Fairly simple.
I did a quick Twitter survey to determine how old a player could be and still be consider a potential contributor. All the answers I got were 27 or 28. So I’ll use 28 as our cut off. I’m going to look at ever hitter in the Reds system from A to AAA who has at least 150 PAs and is 28 or younger and we will look at players who fall into each bucket.
Low BB/Low K: A-ball: None, A+: Angelo Gumbs, AA: Tony Renda, Sebastian Elizade, AAA: Jose Peraza
Notes: Not a lot to see here in terms of number of players. Renda just got promoted to AAA and Peraza, of course, you know. Low BB/Low K players are relatively rare. These are – potentially – your true contact hitters.
Low BB/Med K: A: Zach Shields, A+: Blake Butler, Taylor Sparks, AA: Zach Vinej, AAA: Kyle Waldrop, Carlos Triunfel, Seth Mejias-Brean, Scott Schebler
Notes: Not a lot to see here, for obvious reasons, though Schebler has been crushing the ball lately.
Low BB/High K: A: Luis Gonzalez, A+: Aristdes Aquino, Jonathan Reynoso, AA: Brandon Dixon, Donald Lutz, AAA: None.
Notes: A few high-power players here you might have heard of. Nobody at AAA. There might be a reason for that.
Med BB/Low K: A: None, A+: Blake Trahan, AA: None, AAA: None.
Notes: Only one player in this category and at 24, Trahan is a bit old for his league. Still, he might be a player to watch with a 43% chance to be at least average with the bat.
Med BB/Med K: A: James Casquez, Shane Mariorisian, A+: None, AA: None, AAA: Juan Perez
Notes: Not much here either. Perez is interesting. He’s never been much of a hitter, but he does provide good defense at second (I’ve seen him lots) and his peripherals are good enough to suggest him as a potential bench player.
Med BB/High K: A: Edward Charlton, A+: None, AA: None, AAA: None
Notes: Yeah. Nothing to see here.
High BB/Low K: A: None, A+: None, AA: None, AAA: Jesse Winker, Jermaine Curtis
Notes: Hey, look! The premier hitting prospect in the system. Also one other guy. I’ve promoted Curtis already. He’s 28 and old for a prospect, but I don’t see why, given that he can play OF and 2B you wouldn’t want him on your bench. This category, for he record, is the surest bet of all.
High BB/Med K: A: None, A+: None, AA: Kyle Parker, AAA: None
Notes: Hi, Kyle Parker whose walk rates are higher than they’ve ever been before and probably a sample size accident.
High BB/High K: A: None, A+: Brian O’Grady, AA: Alex Blandino, Eric Jagielo, Phillip Ervin, AAA: Steve Selsky
Notes: Some names you know here. Especially Blandino and Ervin. These guys are reasonably good bets to contribute eventually.
It’s interesting to me how much the elite prospects line up with the statistical analysis. Winker is clearly the best hitting prospect in the system and should be ready whenever his wrist heals. Also note that these numbers concern only hitting production, so if someone is an elite middle infield prospect (like Peraza) it doesn’t take into account that the player can be a bit below average with the bat and still be very valuable to a major league team.