A Minors Obsession

A Different View of Prospects

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.

General Comments

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.

13 thoughts on “A Different View of Prospects

  1. A very good diagnosis of the Reds. The baseball doctor is in.
    A failed organizational philosophy that is this deeply rooted is going to be hard to overcome. Winker and Senzel are good starts, but much, much more is needed in the obtaining and the development of proficient OBP players. Drafting and development can only take a team so far. Flipping good players/prospects that display lower OBP skills for a better skill set may be needed also. Not only drafting a better quality hitter, but trade some assets for a few higher quality hitters. A sort of re-build binder for the minor leagues. It would be nice to augment the pitching depth with some quality hitters.

  2. A very nice article, and informative. Thanks for taking the time to compile all the numbers and players.

  3. I’m thinking colored 3-D heat map with ISO as the third variable and the color equaling the odds of being an MLB average player or better… go, Jason, go!! 😉

    • Seriously, though, this is very timely.

      As we wait on Winker to heal and people are questioning his power (2 HR and a handful of doubles), it is very important to note that he has actually cut his strikeouts when transitioning from AA to AAA. I’m sure this doesn’t happen very often. All while maintaining a great walk rate and decent AVG/BABIP numbers.

      • We need guys thst can get on base. If Winker has a high OBP there are guys who can drive him in. Let Duvall, Suarez Mesoraco and Bruce (if he is still here)hit the long ball. We need Winker, Peraza, and Hamilton to follow Votto’s lead and get on base .

        • Sounds fine, but I think this article is saying Suarez and Duvall likely won’t be around long given their peripherals. Low BB, high K players can get hot for short periods of time but tend to not have long productive careers. Bruce has hugged the line of this type player which explains in part his inconsistency.

  4. Tyler Holt didn’t qualify here, not in minors this season, but he was High BB/Med K pretty much his entire minor league career.

  5. Votto (like many HOFers) was more of the last category (High BB and high K) in minors. In MLB his Ks have decreased over time as he has focused on contact). Winker is kinda more like Votto now Than a young Votto, but still pretty darn good.

  6. I know everyone is hoping Winker bashes in the Show, but I’d take these from him regularly:

    .309/.397/.549
    .300/.394/.489
    .285/.423/.462

    These are Shin-soo Choo’s 3 best years, the last one listed of course being with the Reds. Note that .549 slugging came with only 14 HRs. If Winker can generate 4-6 WAR per year like Choo did, I’d do with him what we did with Choo and make him the best lead off hitter in the MLBs.

    • Oh, absolutely. I’d sign for those numbers right now and twice on Sunday.

  7. Thanks for doing this, Jason. And I also rather appreciated the context for Duvall’s numbers, for what that’s worth.

  8. Good information, Jason. I think some of the criticism you have been subject to regarding Duvall has been people twisting your words around or, at least, not comprehending the context of your comments. Even in the worst category,12% of the players end up being above average players. So K/BB rate is not absolute, but highly predictive of a players’ success.

    Nonetheless, I disagree with your article saying the Reds should trade Duvall. The other teams are well aware of this same data and are not likely to offer much in return for him. Now, if the Mets said they are not interested in Bruce any more but want to send Zack Wheeler for Duvall, I would jump on the deal.

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