With the 2014 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 (contact rates) that may better indicate where these players’ futures may lie.
A separate article on pitching leaders will be published next week.
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 2014, minor leagues, state-side affiliates only. For batters there is a minimum of 150 plate appearances…
|Eddy Alvarez||Rk, A||210||.346|
|Jake Peter||Rk, A+||265||.332|
|Zac Fisher||Rk, A||221||.330|
|Tim Anderson||A+, AA||364||.303|
|Justin Jirschele||A+, AAA||184||.298|
What sticks out in this list is that only Rangel Ravelo put in a full season’s worth of full-time plate appearances. In fact Ravelo put up one of the best overall offensive seasons in the system, posting an .859 OPS and walking nearly as often as he struck out as a 22 year old in AA. Tim Anderson is the other high-end prospect among the top 10 in average, and though his season was somewhat limited by a wrist injury, his performance was very impressive for a 20/21 year old at his level. In this case, the performance does match the considerable tools.
Another category on this list is made up of players who were full-timers but were playing in short season leagues (and in some cases were drafted in June). Eddy Alvarez may be 24 years old, but the former Olympian’s season was a revelation as he led the organization in average, on base percentage and was fifth in slugging despite going three years without picking up a bat. Jake Peter was another pleasant surprise, as the 7th rounder dominated the Pioneer League and held his own after a double-promotion to Advanced A ball in his draft year. Mason Robbins was a 25th round draft pick but looked very solid as a 21 year old in the Pioneer League.
Tyler Saladino is the sad story here, going down with an injury and TJ surgery just as it appeared he was re-emerging as a prospect. Michael Taylor, now in Chicago as a reclamation project, has shown tantalizing hints at approaching the lofty ceiling he was once assigned. Justin Jirschele was an interesting novelty – he’s a minor league bench player, but the bat played surprisingly well.
ON BASE PERCENTAGE
|Eddy Alvarez||Rk, A||210||.431|
We talked about Alvarez, Taylor, Ravelo, Saladino and Peter when we went over batting average. So let’s look at the other names among this top 10. Matt Tuiasosopo and Christian Marrero are both what you might call ringers, and they should be expected to dominate pitching at these levels given their age and experience. They did that.
Danny Hayes is a name not discussed much, but he led the South Atlantic League in walks and showed hints of some power. He just turned 24 and is a first baseman though, so he’ll have to do more than draw walks to be considered a significant prospect. Kevan Smith had a very strong season in AA as he continues his deliberate pace through the system, but he’s got a crowd in front of him going into 2015. He’ll be one of the more interesting fringe prospects to monitor next year.
Andy Wilkins had a huge season in Charlotte based in great part on his power numbers. That got him a September call-up to Chicago, where he’s struggling a bit (which his very low walk rate and significant K rate in AAA may have hinted at). Josh Phegley, Tuiasosopo and Saladino also took advantage of Charlotte’s new band box ballpark and put up big power numbers. Alvarez is here in part based on a high average but he did show some pop as well.
Anderson’s fast hands provided some surprising power this year, adding to his impressive profile. Jose Barraza was on his third try in first-level rookie ball and it looks like he figured something out, as he improved dramatically over his previous two years. He’s still just-turned 20 years old so definitely keep an eye on this one. Zac Fisher and Dillon Haupt are both guys who seemed to earn a bid to full season ball, but instead repeated in the Pioneer League and predictably beat up rookie league pitching.
EXTRA BASE HITS – HR, 2B, 3B
|*7 players tied with…
We discussed Wilkins earlier, and he led the organization in both home runs and doubles. He was also one of only a handful of minor leaguers across all systems to hit 30+ home runs. It is interesting how many players with mostly disappointing seasons that still appear on the lists above. Matt Davidson, who finished a hugely disappointing season hitting below .200, did still hit 20 long balls. Jared Mitchell is in a similar place, having a mostly bad season but still showing some power. Trayce Thompson finds himself among the org’s top 10 in all three XBH categories, repeating AA.
It is not a coincidence that six of the top nine home run hitters spent most or all of their 2014 seasons in Charlotte. The new BB&T Ballpark that opened this year has played very power-friendly. Furthermore, hitters at higher levels generally are more likely to have built up the game power to start posting the bigger long ball numbers.
Courtney Hawkins had a very nice comeback year improving in almost every offensive measure, though there is still a wide range of opinions on how far he can go. Marcus Semien, after struggling briefly post-demotion, improved dramatically and became in Charlotte what he’d been in Birmingham the year before. Ravelo continues to be a doubles machine.
Jason Coats is a name worth noting. He’s playing maybe a year old for level, but he was the Dash’s offensive leader and showed an unusual combination of good power numbers and contact rate. Keon Barnum and Jacob May displayed gap power while fighting through otherwise lackluster seasons.
The triples list is more about speed than anything else, which becomes clear when you see the names on there. It is more correlated with stolen bases (which we’ll cover last) than any hitting numbers. Jake Peter’s number stands out though, in that he had far fewer plate appearances than the rest of the players on that list.
CONTACT RATES – Lowest, Highest
Let’s start with the bad news – high strikeout rates (first table) a.k.a. low contact rates. Four players stand well into the danger zone here, but all have different stories. 17 year old Micker Adolfo skipped DSL ball to go straight to the AZL, and it showed, as he whiffed a whopping 42.9% of the time. He did also show some power and he was clearly challenged at that level, so patience is a virtue. Barraza actually got worse in his strikeout rate, but his offensive numbers were otherwise dramatically improved, so it’s hard to say what to make of that. Tyler Williams, son of White Sox President Kenny Williams, is not a prospect. Keenyn Walker was a highly ranked prospect at one time, but at this point he’s got a long road ahead of him to get back to that level.
The rest of the swing and miss list is made of hitters who also show some power, but haven’t made consistent enough contact to make enough use of it. It’s worth noting who is NOT on this list – Courtney Hawkins for one, who’s improved his contact rate quite a bit.
On the positive side (second table), a round of applause for Justin Jirschele. As noted earlier he’s a bench player, but a 6% K/PA rate is impressive in any case, perhaps even more so when he’s not even getting daily at bats. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Sox find a way to get him more regular playing time in 2015. A number of other names on that high-contact list are org or bench guys as well (Buckner, Marjama, Gonzalez, Curley and Wagner).
Peter shows up again here, and the high contact rate suggests his hot draft year may be more than a small sample size illusion. Omar Narvaez had a solid season overall, and even though he was splitting time at Kannapolis and Winston-Salem, the Rule V (minors phase) pickup may find himself starting time next year. Coats and Ravelo, both discussed earlier, also both showed above average contact rates that lend further credence to their performances.
STOLEN BASES (all players with at least 10 stolen bases in 2014)
The table here is sorted by success rate. Looking at stolen base success rates in the minors shouldn’t be mistaken for how good at stealing these players will actually be in the majors. They are still learning proper techniques, and are often under orders to do certain, specific things they may not in major league scenarios.
Walker, Engel and Johnson are all players with current 70-grade or better speed on the basepaths, so no surprise they are among the five leaders in gross total stolen bases. Walker had the highest success rate of those three, Engel was OK and Johnson struggled a bit after leading all of MiLB last year. May, Thompson and Anderson are also considered well above average runners.
Mitchell was at one time considered the fastest man in the system, but his spring training injury a few years ago slowed him down somewhat. Reports since are mixed on his speed since his recovery, and his efficiency this year was the worst in the system for those with double digits in steals. Hawkins was credited with above average speed when he was drafted, and he was indeed quite efficient this year, but he’s not likely a big-number stolen base threat at the higher levels. Ravelo is a surprise here, as he’s not known for his speed.
Want to know right away when we publish a new article? Type your email address in the box and click the “create subscription” button. Our list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.
Filed under: News and notes
Tags: Adam Engel, Andy Wilkins, Carlos Sanchez, Chevy Clarke, Chris Curley, Christian Marrero, Cleuluis Rondon, courtney hawkins, Daniel Hayes, Daniel Wagner, Dillon Haupt, Eddy Alvarez, Grant Buckner, Hunter Jones, Jacob May, Jacob Morris, Jake Peter, Jared Mitchell, Jason Coats, Joey DeMichele, Jordan Danks, Jose Barraza, Josh Phegley, Josh Richmond, Justin Jirschele, Keenyn Walker, Keon Barnum, Kevan Smith, Marcus Semien, Mason Robbins, Matt Davidson, Matt Tuiasosopo, Micah Johnson, Michael Suiter, Michael Taylor, Micker Adolfo, Miguel Gonzalez, Mike Marjama, Omar Narvaez, Rangel Ravelo, Tim Anderson, Trayce Thompson, Trey Michalczewski, Tyler Saladino, Tyler Shryock, Tyler Williams, Zac Fisher