With the 2015 minor league seasons completed, let's take a look at the leaders in key statistical areas in the White Sox system. In this edition, we're going to focus on hitters. We'll look at some classic core numbers (slash lines, XBH totals), but also some peripheral values (like contact rates) that may better indicate where these players' futures may lie.
A separate article on pitching leaders will be published soon.
Note: Statistical performance is not the same as prospect ranking or perceived future impact. In fact in many cases, these can be very different things. We'll touch on that with some notes on each leader board below.
These numbers are from 2015, minor leagues, for players still with the organization, still having prospect status (hasn't achieved MLB rookie status), state-side affiliate games only. For batters there is a minimum of 100 plate appearances for short season leagues and 200 for full season leagues...
|Cody Daily||Rk, A||222||.297|
|Eddy Alvarez||A, A+||552||.296|
The first thing that stands out here is that seven of the ten players were in rookie leagues for most or all of their seasons - last year that number was four, and three of those were only there for part of the season. Second baseman Bradley Strong (2015 28th round) had a strong offensive showing in his pro debut and you will see his name on a number of lists in this article, though he was on the older side for the league (turned 23 mid-season). Seby Zavala had an even bigger coming out party, as the 12th rounder hit for average and power in his age 21 draft season - we'll talk further about him later.
Corey Zangari (2015 6th round, but 3rd/4th round bonus), Landon Lassiter (2015 21st rd) and David Walker (2015 31st round) all made good use of the hit tool in their draft year showings. Johan Cruz, after faltering in a brief stint in 2014 with AZL (at age 18), was the biggest overall hitter in the Great Falls lineup this year. Cruz was signed as a 16-year old shortstop to a $450,000 bonus in 2012, and he's one on a list of examples of Latin American talent starting to add depth to the lower minors. Cody Daily was an undrafted free agent signing out of almost-Chicago-area Granite City and Southern Illinois University, and crushed AZL pitching before being promoted to Kannapolis.
Finally, three ranked middle infield prospects had no trouble hitting for their affiliates. Tim Anderson (2nd ranked White Sox prospect), Micah Johnson (5th) and Eddy Alvarez (24th) beat up on International, Southern, and Carolina/South Atlantic League pitching respectively. You'll see all three on the last list in this article as well - stolen bases.
***UPDATE TO ADD: Per Daren Willman's excellent MLBFarm site, White Sox 2015 draftees had the third highest batting average of all team's classes, at .287.
|Eddy Alvarez||A, A+||553||.409|
Lassiter was drafted in the 21st round this year, but the 22-year old was once considered a Top 100 college player after a big freshman showing at UNC. His numbers fell back his sophomore and junior years, and he was suspended from the team late this past spring for reasons not very clear. These facts allowed him to slip down the draft board, but the talent is significant and it showed in his professional debut as he hit, got on base and showed a little power.
Alvarez and Zavala also topped the .400 mark, with Eddy doing what he did in 2014 showing he's more than an aberration. Danny Hayes, who led the Southern League in walks, not surprisingly shows near the top here, joined by teammate and minor league journeyman Christian Marrero. John Ziznewski and Tyler Sullivan (2015 14th round) were both on the older side for their leagues, but acquitted themselves well in getting on base, a skill which the White Sox system as a whole sometimes lacks.
|Jason Coats||AA, AAA||578||.446|
Here lies one of the two noticeable changes across the system when compared to last year. In 2014, five players had .500+ slugging percentages and the top 10 bottomed out around .480. This year, the power seems to have left the system to an extent. There are a few possible causes - some leading sluggers left (i.e. Andy Wilkins, Josh Phegley), others had disappointing years power-wise or missed time (Courtney Hawkins). This will be apparent in the home run numbers as well.
But that doesn't mean there weren't some big performances. As noted previously, Zavala had a very strong showing with well over half his hits going for extra bases. The AZL club had a potent lineup and it shows here, with the top four names all spending most or all of their years in the desert. Micah Johnson showed surprising power in Charlotte, which is a theme in that ballpark but probably doesn't account for all of that.
A pair of outfielders from AAA are worth noting here. Trayce Thompson reached the majors in 2015 and has been doing very well there so far - and he did big things in the minors too, hitting for power while also improving his contact rate which historically had been a problem. Jason Coats continues to fly under the radar as a 25-year old outfielder without a truly stand-out tool. But don't miss the bigger picture here - Coats reached AAA after just two years and a month in the minors, has consistently hit for average and power with good contact rates, adds value on the base paths, and is a strong defensive outfielder. Keep an eye on him for 2016.
EXTRA BASE HITS - HR, 2B, 3B
|Jason Coats||AA, AAA||17|
|Zach Fish||Rk, A||11|
|Nick Basto||A, A+||10|
|Chris Curley||A, AA, AAA||9|
|Jason Coats||AA, AAA||38|
|Eddy Alvarez||A, A+||29|
|Nick Basto||A, A+||29|
|Nick Delmonico||A, A+||25|
|Eddy Alvarez||A, A+||7|
|Brett Austin||A, A+||5|
|Tyler Williams||A, A+||5|
As with slugging numbers generally, we can see the big power drop in the home run numbers here, as only six players system-wide managed double digits. Matt Davidson led the crowd with 23, but he also hit .203 and struck out 31.7% of the time in his 3rd go-around at AAA. The aforementioned Thompson and Coats show up here, along with Marrero. Zach Fish was able to beat up on Pioneer League pitching as a 22-year old with full season league experience, because he's re-learning the catching position and needed the reps (with Brett Austin holding the job in Kanny).
Courtney Hawkins and Keon Barnum show up on the top 10 (which is expected), but the former missed some time and struggled with the jump to AA while the latter just hasn't seen his substantial raw power transition into games yet.
Trey Michalczewski makes his first appearance here for his doubles, as his line drive swing allowed him to hit the gaps with regularity (much like Coats, who has a similarly level swing). Jake Peter and Nick Delmonico also show up here, though they are very different hitters - Peter has great bat speed and hit spots, whole Delmonico can put on power shows in BP with some loft but may have been hurt by Regions Park's big dimensions.
The triples list isn't indicative of much hitting-wise but it is fun to look at. The top four all have plus speed in common, with Adam Engel and Mason Robbins showing up on this list along with Anderson and Alvarez. Oddly enough though, while Engel's speed showed up big time in his stolen base numbers (more on that later), Robbins rarely even attempts it despite his well above average pace around the diamond.
CONTACT RATES - Best, Worst
|Jeremy Dowdy||A+, AA, AAA||210||25||11.9%|
|Tyler Williams||A, A+||331||107||32.3%|
|Zach Fish||Rk, A||275||72||26.2%|
|Nick Basto||A, A+||498||129||25.9%|
If you had to pick one measure among all in this article to rely on for predicting future offensive capability, this might be your best bet (though picking just one, or relying too heavily on stats at all, isn't recommended). On the positive side, five 2015 draftees playing in rookie ball made the best rate list, which is notable for raw players - Danny Mendick (2015 22nd round), Jackson Glines (2015 10th round) and Grant Massey (2015 26th round) make appearances here, along with the previously discussed Strong and Sullivan.
Catcher Omar Narvaez continues to put bat to ball reliably and walk more than he strikes out, to go along with his solid defensive skills behind the plate. Current major leaguer Tyler Saladino is here too, along with Christian Stringer (who missed the second half with injury).
On the "red flag" side, you'd think you'd have a lot of the pro rookies here, but as it turns out only Dominican product Felix Mercedes (who "led" the pack) and Sikes Orvis (2015 17th round) fit that bill. Tyler Williams, son of White Sox executive Kenny Williams, continued whiffing at a big rate, just edging out the previously-discussed Davidson here. Hawkins struggled predictably with the big jump to AA as his K-rate went back up. Ziznewski had the odd pairing of being among the top ten in both on-base percentage and strikeout rate.
STOLEN BASES (all players with at least 10 stolen bases in 2015, ordered by SB total)
|Eddy Alvarez||A, A+||53||15||77.9%|
|Keenyn Walker||A+, AA||37||16||69.8%|
|Michael Suiter||A, A+||15||7||68.2%|
|Ryan Leonards||A, AA||12||5||70.6%|
|Cleuluis Rondon||A+, AAA||12||6||66.7%
|Jason Coats||AA, AAA||11||4||73.3%
Whereas the power seemed to disappear a bit this year, speed became a bigger factor. Last year, there were a total of 14 players with 10+ swipes, and as a group they were successful 73.6% of the time. This year there were 21 in that criteria, and they succeeded 77.5% of the time.
Adam Engel and his plus-plus speed had a big year on the bases. He led the organization in steals, led his league while nearly doubling the next highest player, and finished third in all of minor league baseball. Alvarez was tenth in the affiliated minors across both levels of A-ball. Anderson led the Southern League and was tenth in MiLB, followed in the SL by Jacob May who did that despite missing over a month due to a concussion. Those first three had very nice success rates as well, with Engel's 85.5% looking very pretty.
Keenyn Walker has plus speed or better as well, and his 37 steals are more impressive given he didn't get on base a whole lot. Johnson is here too of course. But a positive sign as well is the number of guys with good but not "special" speed finding a way to get it done at (usually) high rates of effectiveness, including recent MLB additions Thompson and Saladino (with the latter posting a shiny 92.6% success rate). The system does not lack for speed.
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Filed under: News and notes
Tags: Adam Engel, Antonio Rodriguez, Bradley Strong, Brett Austin, Chris Curley, Christian Marrero, Christian Stringer, Cleuluis Rondon, Cody Daily, Corey Zangari, courtney hawkins, Daniel Mendick, Danny Hayes, Dante Flores, David Walker, Eddy Alvarez, Felix Mercedes, Grant Massey, Jackson Glines, Jake Fincher, Jake Peter, Jason Coats, Jeremy Dowdy, Joey DeMichele, johan cruz, John Ziznewski, Keenyn Walker, Keon Barnum, Landon Lassiter, Louie Lechich, Maiker Feliz, Mason Robbins, Matt Davidson, Micah Johnson, Michael Suiter, Nick Basto, Nick Delmonico, Omar Narvaez, Ryan Leonards, Seby Zavala, Sikes Orvis, Tim Anderson, Trayce Thompson, Trey Michalczewski, Tyler Saladino, Tyler Sullivan, Tyler Williams, Zachary Fish