A few weeks ago I wrote a quick primer on a few general things to look for when analyzing minor league stats – and one of them was performance relative to league. Today, I’m going to go into how to view stats from each league in the minors with more detail (you know, like, numbers and charts and stuff). Trust me, you’ll like it.
First let’s start with the most basic of factors: runs. Here is a chart of the last three seasons (2010-2012) of minor league data for runs scored per game, broken out by league, courtesy of Baseball Reference:
This chart is pretty self-explanatory and presents a pretty self-explanatory idea of how to view the offensive environment of the different leagues across the minors. On the far left, you’ve got the high-scoring havens like the Pioneer, Arizona, California and Pacific Coast Leagues. On the far right, once you take out the American/National League (for reference), you have the Florida State, Gulf Coast and Carolina Leagues. To an extent this makes sense from a geographical standpoint – higher altitude and lower humidity creates higher offensive environments and lower altitude and higher humidity creates lower offensive environments. Also, the Florida State League plays in spring training parks with large dimensions and the Pioneer/California League both have many parks that are bandboxes, which only exacerbates the geographical issue.
Now we move on to the individual player stats that we look at in order to determine future value — after the jump…
Clearly, the initial trades are the most important part of this process, but it continues on with establishing a direction for your team and rooting out the players who don’t fit in. This is the most time consuming, and occasionally frustrating, part of the rebuilding process. In a dynasty league with deep minor league rosters, you need to go through a ton of players to see who is available because you just never know.
Example #1 of this – in the league I joined, I had been going through prospect names one-by-one to see who was free for the taking as a free agent. I grabbed team prospect lists, league prospect lists, anything I could find. Name after name, creating a list of potential pickups. And while I’m in the middle of the process, I check the league transactions and see something which made me want to smack my head against the wall. “TEAM X added Miles Head – 1B – OAK.” He could have been mine! One or two more days, and he could have been mine! Now, I’m not even much of a Miles Head believer, but to have a player putting up those kind of numbers opens up all kinds of possibilities. In the end, I’d have to settle for other players (who I really like), but Head is a guy I’ll keep an extra eye on just because of what could have been.
Now for the actual free agents I do pick up, I try to make my goals as realistic as possible. In this league of 16 25-man minor league rosters (that’s 400 minor league spots), it would be very uncommon to find a player who has high upside and could be major league ready for my team’s time horizon of 2014. So instead, I’m focusing on three groups of players:
Matt Harrison was one of my guys coming into the season. He was being valued well outside the top-75 starting pitchers in the pre-season (his ADP among SP in the pre-season hovered around 90). Of course, this seemed a little crazy to me because he was a well thought of prospect (#3 in the Braves system behind Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Elvis Andrus going into 2007 and #90 overall prospect per BA; #79 overall prospect per BP) coming off a season in which he was a top-50 fantasy pitcher while only throwing 185 innings. Not to mention, he was an important piece of the Mark Teixeira trade between the Rangers and Braves (it’s still crazy how great that haul was for Texas).
I wrote a post in October back at Roto Hardball (which I cannot link to, as the site is now defunct) comparing Harrison to fellow rotation-mate Derek Holland. Here’s an excerpt: “When you hear Harrison and Holland compared, there’s the underlying narrative that Holland is much younger, has higher upside and better stuff. In reality, they are much closer than you think in all three areas.” My conclusion was that I’d rather have Harrison for the 2012 season and going forward in long-term leagues — which has appeared to be a good call so far, as Harrison is the #27 fantasy SP this year, compared to Derek Holland at #55.
Some days I know exactly what I want to write about and some days I don’t. Today was going to fit into the latter category until I saw these eight magical words come across my Twitter timeline:
“Dylan Bundy to be promoted from Double-A Bowie”
Read those words again. I can wait. Bundy will be joining the team today in Seattle as they recover from using 1,342 pitchers in their 18-inning game last night. As of right now, it is very likely that Bundy will only pitch sparingly out of the bullpen – but then again, this is the Orioles and they are deep in the playoff race. Would I be shocked to see them give him a start before the season ends? Absolutely not. Would I be shocked if they added him to their potential playoff roster? Again, absolutely not. I don’t think it will happen, but he may very well be the best starter they have on their major league roster as soon as he’s officially added. Just look at what Matt Moore did last year with the Rays.
I’m going back and writing an addendum to The Opening Trades piece just to use what happened with this league as an example of an important point. If you wait unnecessarily, you may find the window for your opening trades to be smaller than you originally thought — and this holds especially true for pitchers. Now I’m not talking about just taking the first decent offer you get, but if you have something on the table which you like and you think helps you, don’t wait around for a different contender to send you the “perfect” offer. It doesn’t exist. And when you do that, you could end up in a situation that I could have been in if I had waited much longer.
Take my pitching staff. Please! Henny Youngman would be so proud. Anyway, when I took over this team at the beginning of June 2012, my healthy starting pitchers were: Brandon Morrow, Lance Lynn, Jeremy Hellickson, Derek Holland, Kyle Drabek and Travis Wood. Remember, these are just my HEALTHY guys. Now let’s take a look at what had transpired with these pitchers by the time June 17, 2012 came around (literally two weeks after I took over this team):
It was entirely predictable. Once Mike Trout got the call to the majors on April 28th and decided to immediately become the best player in baseball, you could see the next question out of people’s mouths from a mile away. Who is going to be the next Mike Trout?
The problem with that question is that there are many ways you can define it. If you take it strictly on face value and are wondering when we’ll see another player come up from the minors and be as talented as Mike Trout, the answer is probably not for a while. Trout (along with fellow rookie Bryce Harper) is a generational talent, the likes of which we may not see again for another 15-20 years, if that. But you can also look at that question as meaning “who is the next player who was a little overlooked in the draft, but has superstar potential?” That’s a question we can work with in theory, but it also sets us up for extremely unrealistic expectations — and therein lies the bigger problem.
Mike Trout’s immediate and ridiculous success at both the minor and major league levels have turned this fairly innocuous question into a very loaded one. Now when you’re in a dynasty league, you’re always looking for that guy — a player who isn’t going to go in the top 5-10 picks in your draft, but has the upside of a fantasy stud. I was in two dynasty leagues prior to the 2010 season, and in both drafts, Trout went outside the top-15 picks (#17 and #20, respectively). So we look for signs as to why this happened, and what jumped out at me was the combination of Trout’s age when drafted and his initial success in rookie ball. So in the 2012 draft, I looked for hitters drafted in the first round that turned 18 within 3 months of draft day (June 4) and performed at a higher level that was anticipated in his first taste of pro ball. That list ended up being 4 players deep — and here they are, with their 2012 stats below:
Hold him tight and don’t let him go. How’s that for hard hitting analysis?
Many of you who drafted Encarnacion with a late round pick in 2012 are being treated to playoff trips, and possibly even championships. After all, one player can only make so much of a difference, but when a player taken outside the top-200 becomes a top-10 overall player (#7 to be exact), you feel that in the standings. As I’m typing this, Encarnacion is one HR and one RBI short of a 40-100 season, and that doesn’t even take into account his .279 average and 13 SB. He’s been a stud at a position that started off shallow and thinned out even more due to injuries. So give yourself a big pat on the back for having the extraordinary foresight to draft him and let’s move on to what happens next.
The first big ticket item, which will affect Encarnacion’s value in 2013 and beyond, is his eligibility. The 3B eligibility was great while it lasted, but it’s over now, as he only logged 1 appearance at the position in 2012. That means he’s relegated to 1B/Util duties going forward. Now, if you are in an auction format or a keeper format where you lose the equivalent draft pick, this doesn’t really matter to you – he was drafted so low in March that he’s a no-brainer to keep even with the loss of eligibility (for example, I have him at $8 in a 16-tm keeper league). But in a straight keeper or dynasty format, this matters. And this isn’t a blip on the positional radar, he’s not getting this eligibility back.
I always go back to what Kevin Goldstein (former BP writer, current Astros pro scouting coordinator) says about player comps – they’re generally a bad idea and can be much more disinformative than informative. However, a physical comp can be a good way for a baseball fan to get a better idea of visualizing a prospect that they likely have never seen play. I’ve heard a number of them that were both appropriate and helpful, like that Simon Castro is built like Jose Contreras and that Mike Trout is built like Brian Urlacher (still probably my favorite physical comp).
It’s very easy to throw around the Pedro comp to any undersized righty from the Dominican Republic who throws really hard, and among all pitching prospects out there today, Carlos Martinez gets it the most. At a quick glance, you can see why (he throws real hard and is from the DR). But, beyond the simplistic comp, let’s dive into the differences between the two, along with what we can hope to expect from Carlos Martinez as his career advances. But first, a fun fact. Carlos Martinez checks in at 6’0”, 165 pounds and is accurately described as having a slight frame, but if his frame is slight, what was Pedro’s? In his days as a prospect, Pedro was 5’11” and 135 pounds. 135 pounds! That’s 82% of Carlos Martinez! Anyway, moving on…
It’s not easy to be a new owner in an existing league. Often times a number of the owners in a league will know each other from either other corners of the internet or from real life, so it’s not unusual to feel left out at the beginning. But if you play your cards right and are willing to put in just a little bit of effort, you’ll feel like a seasoned member of the league before you know it.
There are many different ways to go about your business as a new owner in an existing league. Personally, there are four things I like to do in order to build up the most potential trade partners down the line:
Step 1 – No matter how bad the name of the team I’m taking over is, I will not change it until I’ve had some roster turnover. I do this both because it’s subconsciously more disarming for teams to deal with a team name they’re familiar with and because since it’s not a team I would have built, I don’t want to put my own stamp on it until it looks like something I want to put my own stamp on.
Step 2 – Post a message on the board saying that you’re excited to join and that you’re going to make a large portion of your team available for trade shortly. This will get the other owners excited – although, a number of them will probably be excited that there’s a potential sucker joining the league that they can take advantage of.
Step 3 – Look through the league transaction history and see which teams are the most active on the trade market. This can help you figure out who the teams that are just trying to rip you off are (fewer trades) and who the teams that legitimately like to deal are (more trades). It’s crude, but is generally pretty accurate.
Step 4 – Post your initial “on-the-block” list with a relatively short list of guys. Mine, which I discussed in Part 3 of the series, is only nine players long. For a league with 40+ man rosters, this seems reasonable. You don’t want to put 25 guys or more on the list as you may overwhelm other owners or have names get lost in the shuffle. You want them to know that you have a plan for what you’re doing, as it will make negotiations easier. Plus, if they want a guy that’s not on your list, they’re going to send you an offer for him anyway.
Much more after the jump…
Minor league stats are great for what they are — a piece of the overall prospect evaluation puzzle. However, many dynasty league owners can be tempted by gaudy numbers, leading to value displacement. And when there is value displacement, you can take advantage. After all, minor league stats can be greatly skewed by organizational philosophies. For instance, some major league clubs (as you may have heard with Dylan Bundy) have a pitching prospect scrap their best secondary offering in order to work on other pitches. Some hitters who have an aggressive approach may be asked to take the first pitch of every at bat in order for them to see more pitches (and vice versa, with more passive hitters). What we sometimes forget to remember is that the minor leagues are about development, not results.
To start the look into this, there are many different ways in which value displacement from statistics can materialize, and we’re going to go through the three major ones to look at (both on the positive and negative sides):
1) Age relative to league
This one is pretty widely talked about, but usually focused on the extreme side. Like when prospect experts on Twitter shoot down the hopes that Phillies fans have for 26-year old minor league superstar Darin Ruf, who hit 38 HR for Double-A Reading this season. But, realistically, the other owners in your league are not climbing over each other to grab Ruf off waivers — we know better than that.
However, smaller nuances on the opposite side can give you an advantage. For instance, when you see an 18-year old in full season ball (Low-A or higher), raw numbers can be deceiving. Take Xander Bogaerts or Jurickson Profar from 2011. Neither of them put up league-leading totals anywhere across the board, but Bogaerts’ 16 HR and .509 SLG, given his age and experience, may have been one of the most impressive power displays in the minors. Same for Profar’s .390 OBP and 65-63 K/BB rate (well, that’s not a power display but you know what I mean). Because of how impressive these feats were (in addition to their further impressive feats in 2012), it is not much of a surprise to prospect junkies that they will both be top-10 dynasty league prospects heading into 2013.
More after the jump…