Author Archive

Player Development Case Study: Slap Hitters

Most statistical research is done by looking at large populations and immense data sets to find trends and patterns, but case studies can also be very useful when one wants to look at a particular context. That’s what I would like to do here. Instead of looking at minor league players in general, I would like to use certain scouting profiles to examine current major-league players and how they performed in the minors to see if there are patterns we can find that will help us highlight prospects. Today, I’ll take a look at slap hitters.

When we talk about slap hitters, we generally mean smaller (in height) and/or slighter (in build) players who prefer to use their speed to get on base. What this usually means is sacrificing power by using less torque and a line-drive swing to put the ball on the ground and spray line drives. The hope is that the player posts a higher BA and OBP while making an impact on the bases by stealing and taking the extra base to offset the presumed lack of power. Let’s look at some examples.
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Catching Up with the Rome Braves

While the Braves’ farm system doesn’t rank highly among evaluators, there are certain patches of talent scattered throughout the organization. One cluster resides in Rome. 2012 first-round pick Lucas Sims, Jose Peraza, Carlos Franco, and a few other interesting prospects make up a team that is currently 36-29. They headed to Lexington for a three-game series, so I headed to Lexington to watch Rome and take another look at the Legends.

Prospects to Watch

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The Near Future of Wil Myers

Wil Myers was the prize in the James ShieldsWade Davis trade. Ranked 10th overall in 2011, 28th in 2012, and 4th in 2013 by Baseball America, Myers has been a top prospect for a long time, and a huge 2012 with 37 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A solidified Myers’ place among the very best prospects. When this season began, Myers, however, found himself back in Triple-A a few months removed from having hit .304/.378/.554 in the Pacific Coast League the past season.

Talent probably wasn’t the reason. Myers has shown the statistical production one would expect from a top prospect, and I headed to the park this past weekend to see if the scouting report matched the spreadsheet. The first thing you notice about Myers is his frame – six-feet-three-inches of lean muscle. He looks good in a uniform, and he stands out among his peers.

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Can Zach Britton Turn the Tide?

Zach Britton was supposed to be the Fourth Horseman. He was supposed to combine with Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, and Chris Tillman to form a stalwart rotation able enough to take down the AL East superpowers. TINSTAAPP rules, of course, then took effect. Matusz is now in the bullpen. Arrieta is back in Triple-A, and he may end up in the bullpen. Tillman lost his velocity and his spot in the rotation, and then, out of nowhere, he re-found his velocity and a spot in the rotation … for now. Britton’s career has been just as adventurous.

Britton debuted on April 3, 2011. He had been a Top-100 prospect for two years, and Baseball America had just named him the 28th-best prospect in baseball. That first season went fairly smoothly at the beginning. His strikeout and walk rates were below-average – 15% and 9%, respectively – but his groundball rate of 1.86 was enough to make him basically a league-average pitcher over 154 innings, netting him 2 wins of value that season. The trouble, however, started toward the middle of the season as rumors of shoulder issues began to surface.

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A Few Good PawSox

When I realized that the Pawtucket Red Sox were coming into town, I was actually pretty excited. There was a chance to see pitchers Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa and position players Jackie Bradley Jr., Jose Iglesias, and Bryce Brentz, and that’s quite a bit of quality on a Triple-A team. By the time the PawSox rolled into town, however, only three of those players were still with the team. De La Rosa had a mild injury to his side the Tuesday before the team came to Louisville, and he would skip his next start. And Jose Iglesias was promoted before the games I intended to watch. Three solid prospects remained. Read the rest of this entry »

Adam Morgan v. Daniel Corcino (2013)

As I’ve mentioned previously, top prospects tend to be a rare breed at the Triple-A level. Triple-A players tend to be guys about which we have a pretty good idea, and if they’re really good prospects, they probably aren’t long for the level. So when a night features two top prospects on the mound, it’s a good idea to go. This time meant seeing Adam Morgan from the Phillies organization and Daniel Corcino of the Reds organization. Read the rest of this entry »

Keeping Up with Billy Hamilton

Billy Hamilton is one of the most intriguing prospects in baseball. In a game where home runs are king, Hamilton’s speed still excites the imagination in a Pete ‘Wheelie’ Wheeler way. Drafted in the second round in 2009, Hamilton stole our hearts. Then he stole 103 bases in 2011; and then a minor league record 155 last season. Yet his speed isn’t enough to keep him from being a controversial prospect. Often placed in the 20s or 30s on top-100 lists, the Cincinnati Reds prospect still has his doubters.

Let’s start with what we know about Hamilton: His speed is unparalleled in baseball. I clocked him at 3.6 and 3.7 from the right side a few times, and a tick or two below that from the left side. He’s absurdly fast. When he’s on the bases, he’s constantly moving, taking mini-steps toward the next base. This gives him a sort of walking lead while also distracting the pitcher. Pitchers are obviously aware of him, but he still stole two bases against left-handers without a throw and distracted Wirfin Obispo enough to get him to balk. Hamilton’s speed is a true weapon.

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Sean Gilmartin and the Gwinnett Braves

Triple-A is weird. It’s the second-most-skilled level in American professional baseball, but it doesn’t have a lot of “prospects.” Many of these players have played or will play in the majors, but they aren’t considered as exciting because there’s a much clearer image of what kind of players they are. Lower-level players have more projection and potential, which makes them more interesting, but they aren’t as skilled as those in Triple-A. In fact, Triple-A players are largely what they are with little projection left — and most of them are role players.

But Sean Gilmartin is not supposed to be a role player. The Braves took Gilmartin with the 28th overall pick in 2011 out of Florida State University, and he was frequently ranked in the top five in most Braves prospects lists from this past off-season. When the Gwinnett Braves headed into Louisville this past week, I went to take a look.

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Driving to See the Greenville Drive

The third team to play while I was in Lexington was the Greenville Drive. Last year would have been the season to see this team as Garin Cecchini, Blake Swihart, Keury De La Cruz, Matt Barnes, Henry Owens, and others lined the roster. This season’s team definitely doesn’t have the star power, and I wasn’t terribly impressed by the overall level of talent. I will say, however, that the weather was cold – the low 50s/high 40s – and windy, but the team did not impress over the two games I saw them.
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The Visiting Asheville Tourists

So the Legends had to play someone, right? Of course they did. While I was there, I caught two other teams, and the first I’ll talk about is the Asheville Tourists. On to the prospecty goodness.
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