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Most Promising Minor League Performances – First Update

Last Week, we began updating leaderboards that document the top minor league performances throughout the course of the year. Minor league performances are translated to projected offensive peaks of the players, based on data we have researched on aging curves and minor league level to MLB translations. We will update these leaderboards on a weekly basis: please feel free to view the full projected wOBA leaderboards HERE.    We will also highlight some interesting performances weekly—what follows is our first weekly roundup.  Every month or so we’ll publish a rankings update of the best stats-only prospects. See our 2018 rankings here.

As was the case last week, there are stipulations that everyone should be aware of when interpreting this information.

  1. The season is still quite young and the sample sizes remain small. With fewer plate appearances, the less accurate the projections should be expected to be.
  2. Context is very important to take into consideration when considering how to use this information.
  3. Our offensive projections are heavily based on wOBA. wOBA (weighted on-base average) is a metric that aims to measure a player’s overall offensive contributions per plate appearance.  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WOBA).

Why wOBA? 

We believe that wOBA is a useful catch-all statistic for capturing a player’s offensive contributions.  The numbers used to calculate wOBA apply to almost all fantasy leagues.  This statistic also forms an offensive basis of the WAR (Wins Above Replacement) statistic, which is commonly used to reference a player’s overall contribution to a team. The main difference is that WAR includes values that fantasy leagues do not typically apply in their scoring systems.  However, an area that wOBA does not cover and that is often tracked by fantasy leagues is a player’s contributions on the base paths.  This is something you will want to keep in mind while digesting this information.  Below is a commonly referenced scale that can be used to read wOBA numbers.  For reference, statistical anomaly Barry Bonds posted an absurd peak wOBA of .544 during his 2002 season.  Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown while posting a .417 wOBA – his following season was even better when he posted a .455 wOBA en route to his second straight MVP award.  Mike Trout’s peak wOBA came last year, with a .447.  When you see wOBA projections that are higher than these figures, please keep this in mind and take it with a grain of salt.

wOBA Scale

Classification Range
Elite .400 and Above
Very Good .371 to .399
Good .321 to .370
Average .320
Bad .291 to .320
Very Bad .290 and below

 

2018’s Top Minor Leaguers by Projected Peak wOBA:

Rank Name Organization Highest Level (double check with column E) MLB time in 2018? Age 2018 peak wOBA Projection 2019 Peak wOBA Projection % Change from 2019 Projection
1 Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Blue Jays (AAA) AAA No 19 0.510 0.430 -16%
2 Wander Franco Rays (R) (R) No 17 0.461 0.455 -1%
3 Eloy Jimenez White Sox (AAA) (AAA) No 21 0.430 0.334 -22%
4 Grant Lavigne Rockies (R) (R) No 18 0.427 0.371 -13%
5 Fernando Tatis Jr. Padres (AA) (AA) No 19 0.425 0.460 8%
6 Kyle Tucker Astros (AAA) MLB Yes 21 0.424 0.265 -37%
7 Luis Garcia Phillies (R) (R) No 17 0.423 0.251 -41%
8 Nolan Gorman Cardinals (A) (A) No 18 0.419 0.466 11%
9 Tyler Freeman Indians (A-) (A-) No 19 0.412 0.396 -4%
10 Nathaniel Lowe Rays (AAA) (AAA) No 22 0.412 0.421 2%
11 Alejandro Kirk Blue Jays (R) (R) No 19 0.412 0.420 2%
12 Leandro Cedeno Cardinals (R) (R) No 19 0.412 0.289 -30%
13 Yordan Alvarez Astros (AAA) (AAA) No 21 0.410 0.525 28%
14 Peter Alonso Mets (AAA) (AAA) No 23 0.404 0.440 9%
15 Geraldo Perdomo Diamondbacks (A-) (A-) No 18 0.403 0.390 -3%
16 Cal Stevenson Blue Jays (R) (R) No 21 0.401 0.257 -36%
17 Gavin Lux Dodgers (AA) (AA) No 20 0.400 0.377 -6%
18 Tucupita Marcano Padres (A-) (A-) No 18 0.399 0.330 -17%
19 Curtis Terry Rangers (A-) (A-) No 21 0.399 0.348 -13%
20 Luis Urias Padres (AAA) MLB Yes 21 0.398 0.429 8%
21 Xavier Edwards Padres (A-) (A-) No 18 0.397 0.384 -3%
22 Elehuris Montero Cardinals (A+) (A+) No 19 0.396 0.308 -22%
23 Austin Riley Braves (AAA) (AAA) No 21 0.395 0.360 -9%
24 Brandon Howlett Red Sox (A-) (A-) No 18 0.393 0.258 -34%
25 Mauricio Dubon Brewers (AAA) (AAA) No 23 0.390 0.306 -22%

Table 1: 2018 Top 25 Players with MiLB At-Bats in 2018 by Projected Peak wOBA

 

Players of Note

 Vladimir Guerrero – Guerrero made his Major League debut last Friday.  He had just begun really warming up in Tripe-A ahead of his promotion.  Most players take some time to adjust to MLB pitching and while it has only been a handful of games, it seems reasonable to assume that it will even take a premier talent like Guerrero some time to adjust.

Eloy Jimenez – The MLB is every minor leaguer’s dream destination.  It is also a unicorn for many and provides serious competition for those who reach it. Jimenez, like Guerrero, is still adapting to the level.  That journey of perseverance has been put on hold for Jimenez for the time being, as he was placed on the IL with an ankle injury.

Fernando Tatis – In contrast to Jimenez, Tatis has hit the ground running in his first attempt at the MLB level.  The only thing that has slowed him down to this point has been a groin injury, which will sideline him for at least 10 days.

Other top projected performers from last year that have validated (or exceeded) last year’s projections include Nolan Gorman (11% improvement), Peter Alonso (9%), Luis Urias (8%), Nate Lowe (2% – and was also just rewarded with a call-up from the Rays), Alejandro Kirk (2%), Wander Franco (-1%), Geraldo Perdomo (-3%), Xavier Edwards (-3% – and who also brings a healthy dose of speed to the table), Tyler Freeman (-4%), and Gavin Lux (-6%).

Yordan Alvarez – Excluded from that list above was Alvarez, who has performed so much better than last year’s already strong performance that he is worthy of special note.  Alvarez has absolutely mashed Triple-A pitching, to the tune of .347/.443/.867 with 11 home runs.  While he is likely due for some regression, he has established himself as a noteworthy target for all dynasty leagues.

 

2019’s Top Minor Leaguers by Projected Peak wOBA:

Rank Name Organization Age Current Peak wOBA Projection Last Year’s wOBA Projection % Change from 2019 Projection Last Week’s Rank
1 Luis Robert White Sox (AA) 21 0.598 0.310 92% 1
2 Yordan Alvarez Astros (AAA) 22 0.525 0.410 28% 2
3 Chris Gittens Yankees (AA) 25 0.480 0.260 85% 112
4 Josh VanMeter Reds (AAA) 24 0.471 0.337 40% 87
5 Nolan Gorman Cardinals (A) 19 0.466 0.419 11% 17
6 Omar Estevez Dodgers (AA) 21 0.462 0.338 37% 5
7 Sam Huff Rangers (A) 21 0.462 0.301 53% 37
8 Heliot Ramos Giants (A+) 19 0.461 0.331 39% 13
9 Kevin Cron Diamondbacks (AAA) 26 0.458 0.375 22% 18
10 Cavan Biggio Blue Jays (AAA) 24 0.456 0.363 26% 30
11 Jarred Kelenic Mariners (A) 19 0.456 0.369 23% 44
12 Wander Franco Rays (A) 18 0.455 0.461 -1% 45
13 Deivy Grullon Phillies (AAA) 23 0.454 0.343 32% 852
14 Justin Toerner Cardinals (A+) 22 0.448 0.340 32% 20
15 Jorge Ona Padres (AA) 22 0.444 0.291 53% 11
16 Jordan Groshans Blue Jays (A) 19 0.437 0.344 27% 15
17 KJ Harrison Nationals (A) 22 0.436 0.286 53% 10
18 Zach Reks Dodgers (AA) 25 0.435 0.327 33% 225
19 Cristian Pache Braves (AA) 20 0.434 0.338 29% 34
20 Gosuke Katoh Yankees (AAA) 24 0.429 0.283 51% 880
21 Rhett Wiseman Nationals (AA) 25 0.428 0.335 28% 9
22 Jarren Duran Red Sox (A+) 22 0.428 0.367 16% 82
23 Aramis Ademan Cubs (A+) 20 0.427 0.285 50% 923
24 Colton Welker Rockies (AA) 21 0.425 0.372 14% 191
25 Keston Hiura Brewers (AAA) 22 0.425 0.363 17% 79
26 Skye Bolt Athletics (AAA) 25 0.425 0.323 31% 47
27 Jerar Encarnacion Marlins (A) 21 0.422 0.273 55% 16
28 Nate Lowe Rays 23 0.421 0.412 2% 21
29 Brendan Rodgers Rockies (AAA) 22 0.421 0.351 20% 226
30 Will Benson Indians (A) 21 0.421 0.311 35% 4
31 Alejandro Kirk Blue Jays (A) 20 0.420 0.412 2% 24
32 Josh Naylor Padres (AAA) 22 0.418 0.379 10% 74
33 Drew Waters Braves (AA) 20 0.417 0.362 15% 59
34 Ben Ruta Yankees (AA) 25 0.413 0.310 33% 27
35 Brice Turang Brewers (A) 19 0.412 0.339 22% 125
36 Luis Campusano Padres (A+) 20 0.412 0.331 24% 7
37 Jonathan Ornelas Rangers (A) 19 0.412 0.368 12% 68
38 Jake Cronenworth Rays (AAA) 25 0.410 0.277 48% 46
39 Hunter Owen Pirates (AA) 25 0.409 0.303 35% 118
40 Steven Kwan Indians (A+) 21 0.409 0.376 9% 110
41 Kean Wong Rays (AAA) 24 0.407 0.329 23% 396
42 Josh Ockimey Red Sox (AAA) 23 0.405 0.351 15% 38
43 Seth Brown Athletics (AAA) 26 0.404 0.320 26% 71
44 Vince Fernandez Rockies (AA) 23 0.404 0.352 15% 86
45 Bryan De La Cruz Astros (A+) 22 0.403 0.321 26% 81
46 Agustin Ruiz Padres (A) 19 0.402 0.364 11% 72
47 Dylan Busby Pirates (A+) 23 0.402 0.282 43% 101
48 Josh Lowe Rays (AA) 21 0.402 0.311 29% 8
49 Juan Martinez Reds (A) 20 0.401 0.377 6% 95
50 Isiah Gilliam Yankees (A+) 22 0.400 0.305 31% 36

Table 2: 2019 Top Players with MiLB At-Bats by Projected Peak wOBA

 

Players of Note

Luis Robert – At one point over this last week, Robert struck out in 8 straight plate appearances.  It hardly dented his projection, however, as he still homered in his last two games.  In his last game of in High-A ball, Robert put perhaps the best performance at the plate of the season together, going 4-5 with one of those home runs and 9 total bases.  Robert was rewarded for his efforts with a promotion to Double-A.  Are we on the verge of seeing a Juan Soto-like ascension all the way up to the MLB?  It’s certainly a possibility, but Robert will need to keep the strikeouts at bay to continue finding success as he rises through the levels.

Brendan Rodgers – One of baseball’s finest prospects according to most pundits, Rodgers certainly played like it last week, catapulting all the way from 226th on the qualifying list to 26th.  In a six-game stretch that began last week, Rodgers hit .520 with three home runs, cementing his status as an elite player to watch.

Jarren Duran, Steven Kwan, and Juan Martinez – These are three lesser-known prospects that appear to be validating strong performances from last year and could be worth a look before major publications start picking up on them.  Hmm…I may need to make a transaction or two in my league before this is published.

The Author

Ross Jensen

Ross Jensen

Ross has been an avid fantasy baseball player and League Manager for over a decade. Ross's fantasy approach is to build league powers is through hunting down talented minor leaguers and targeting players on the verge of breakout based on a variety of metrics, statistical analysis, and assumptions.

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