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Minors Leaders – BB/K for Hitters

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

The walk is still, IMO, an underrated aspect of a position players offense. It is sometimes just as good as a single, and it is always better than an out. And strikeouts, IMO, aren’t a bad thing, but it is an indication of a lack of contact.

You can still be a good offensive player if you strikeout a lot and you can still be good when you walk a little. But if you do both at the same time, you’re going to be bad. If you can manage to walk a lot and strikeout a little? You’re probably going to be good.

For reference, if we looked at BB/K ratio for major leaguers, you would have to go all the way down to #20 to get to a guy with an OBP under .337. That’s a pretty good OBP. The bottom 30 guys in BB/K ratio all have an OBP worse than .337.
10 of the worst 15 are under a .300 OBP, while 5 of the best 11 are above .400 (there are only 10 players in baseball with an OBP over .400).

So, a high BB/K ratio is a good thing. A low one is bad. What minor leaguers have the best BB to K ratio?

I limited the list to those about a .6 BB/K ratio. If you can do that in the majors, that’s the top 25%. Only 11 major leaguers have more walks than strikeouts this year. The Cubs have 4 in their minor league system doing so.

I seem to like Adrian Cardenas more than most, mainly due to this number. Ronald Torreyes is another favorite of mine. Although they are close on this list, they are complete different hitters; one with high walk totals, one with low walk totals. We’ve already seen Cardenas in the majors and I think we’ll be seeing Torreyes in another two years.

The highest ceiling players on this list would have to be either Dan Vogelbach or Matt Szczur. One thing you’ll notice on this list is a lack of power, until you get to Vogelbomb’s .648 slugging percentage. Seeing him here makes me feel better about our pre-season ranking of #4 in the system. I was done on Szczur coming into the season, but he has me intrigued now that his approach has improved so much.

I wanted to mention a few other notes. Albert Almora is near the bottom of this and has the lowest walk rate in the system (minimum 100 plate apps). He also has the 2nd lowest strikeout rate, so if his numbers are indicative of anything (they’re not), he’s going to be quite the aggressive hitter.

Joining Almora in the .20 and below range (.20 is bottom 5% of players in MLB!) is stud SS prospect, Javier Baez. These low BB/K rates don’t worry me yet, but they are something to keep an eye on.

Dave Sappelt is 23rd on the list at .51.

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Farm Report – K/9 Leaders

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

Carlos Marmol set a major league record back in 2010 when he struck out nearly 16 batters for every 9 innings (that record has since been broken by Kenley Jansen). He’s down to 11.5 K/9 this year, but that’s still good for best on the team; unless you want to include the 7 innings pitched by Alberto Cabrera. The Minors Leaders, not including the foreign rookie leagues and anyone under 20 innings pitched:

Seven of these pitchers we’ve already seen in the big leagues, so it’s going to be more of a “get to you know them” type writeup. The guys I think have the brightest future on here are, following the order of the above list:

Alberto Cabrera: I don’t think his seven career innings is enough for me to get on his case about walking too many hitters and implying he’s the next Carlos Marmol. His walk rate in the minors this year could be an aberration, as it’s a half of his career rate of 4BB/9, but he’s got a nasty fastball at 94-95 mph with a good slider. That’s a good combination for a relief pitcher.

Jeff Beliveau: Beliveau was in a similar place as Cabrera is now, although he did it as an older player in a lower level league. So I’m not as high on Beliveau as I am on most others here. But he’s got a career K/9 rate of over 11 and throws with the left hand, so I think we’ll be seeing him regularly over the next few seasons.

Lendy Castillo: I’m intrigued. As a Rule 5 pickup, I’m hoping The Front Office saw something in him and we can chalk this up as a win. He was used as a starter in his rehab stint, so maybe the Cubs are considering the move for next year, but I’m not sure he has the repertoire. He’s a converted shortstop, so he’s only been pitching since 2010, and in 131 career innings, he’s posted a 1.12 WHIP.

Tony Zych: The only one I’m mentioning without big league experience, Zych has shown solid strikeout numbers combined with a BB/9 under 3. A local kid (St. Rita High School), the Cubs took a flyer on him by taking him in the 46th round in the 2008 draft, Zych went to college at the University of Louisville and was taken again by the Cubs, this time in the 4th round in 2011, and Zych was considered a good value. He’s shown it so far and should be the first Cubs pick from 2011 to make it to the show. (Update: Pitched 2 innings and struck out all 6 on Tuesday).

Travis Wood: I think he’s a keeper and by next year, the people who still doubt the Sean Marshall trade today, will be eating crow simply because of Wood’s contributions (And because Dave Sappelt will be a 4th OF and Ronald Torreyes being a good 2nd piece in a trade for a pitcher). I’m surprised to see the spike in homers considering the move from Cinci to Chicago, so that number will need to drop if he’s to be anything more than a back of rotation pitcher. I think it will, there isn’t a qualifying pitcher in the league with a worse HR/9 rate, so I’ll bet that he isn’t among the worst next year.

No high ceiling players in the bunch, but the Cubs made every attempt to change that this year by drafting guys like Pierce Johnson (2 innings, 3 runs, 2K’s yesterday) and Duane Underwood (3 no-hit innings  yesterday) and acquiring Arodys Vizcaino, who would be my #1 Cubs pitching prospect right now.

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Farm Report – The Nine Most Interesting Cubs Minor Leaguers

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Today I thought I’d list the prospect  that interest me the most. May not be the best, just those that I like to follow  for some particular reason. The list, with nary a pitcher:

1) Javier Baez: The highest offensive ceiling in the system and he might even be able to stick at shortstop, Baez was recently ranked as the 15th best prospect in baseball by Kevin Goldstein. Good overall numbers on the year, but the BB/SO numbers show how aggressive he is.

2) Dan Vogelbach: How can a 19 year old, former 280 pound, power hitter not be interesting? I don’t think anyone knows his true weight these days; I’ve seen it written that he’s lost any where from 30-60 pounds since high school. But he’s still big, he’s still just a 1B (if that), and he’ll need to keep hitting to get any love in the Top 100 lists. 15 home runs  in under 200 plate appearances is a good start. Noah profiled him here yesterday.

3) Jorge Soler: The $30M man had a grand slam over the weekend while playing for the Peoria Chiefs. He makes a third straight player where power is his best tool. Soler is off to a good start with Peoria; 5-14, 1 homer, 6 RBI, 2 walks, 0 K’s.

4) Albert Almora: He will begin his Boise career on Wednesday after going on a hot streak down in Arizona. There is a chance next years Peoria team will have Vogelbach, Soler, and Almora in the lineup, unless Soler starts in Daytona, where I’m assuming Baez will begin. Either team will be fun to watch.

5) Matt Szczur: I was not his biggest fan coming into the season. He was coming off a terrible 2.7% walk rate in 2011 but completely shocked me by putting up a rate over 13%. He makes contact, he has good speed, he’s starting to walk….good progress, I think.

6) Ronald Torreyes: I feel like he’s underrated. He’s one of the youngest players in the league. He’s hitting 268/330/391. The league average is 252/333/375. He hit .370 and .356 the last two seasons. He’s hitting .323 in the 2nd half of the season. He has more extra-base hits than he does strikeouts. And he’s listed at 5’9″, 140 lbs in some places, so he’ll probably come off as “grindy” or something.

7) Gioskar Amaya: He’s got some speed, he’s got some power. He hit .377 last year and .311 this year. Peoria’s 2013 second baseman?

8) Junior Lake: Never been a big fan. But he started off with a pretty significant number of walks, so it seemed  he may  have pulled a Szczur. But that’s come falling steadily down. His 284/339/428 looks ok, but he still strikes out a lot, isn’t a very good infielder despite a cannon for an arm, and has struggled with base stealing. Still can’t love him like it seems many Cub fans do.

9) Jeimer Candelario: Loved him last year. A switch hitting 3B who drew more walks than K’s? Heck yeah. He went from having an excellent BB/K ratio to a decent one. I’m guessing he’s Peoria’s 3B next year. I’m going to have to get me some tickets.


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Minors Report – Top Sluggers

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

With a flurry of activity in recent weeks, 6 of the top 20 sluggers from the minors are currently on the big league team; Anthony Rizzo (1), Josh Vitters (5), Luis Valbuena!! (7), Adrian Cardenas (12), Brett Jackson (13), Welington Castillo (18).  This is a reminder of what minor league stats say about future MLB performance…not much. Not when Luis Valbuena is slugging .500.

The top 20 (minimum 150 PA):

For all the talk about the year Javier Baez is having, Dan Vogelbach is having a pretty successful season. He leads the organization in slugging and is on his way to a nice first year and a place in Peoria next season.

Javier Baez will be next year’s #1 Cub prospect and is one of the best hitting prospects in all of baseball.

Gioskar Amaya was a surprise to me. The second baseman’s slugging isn’t driven by power as much as it is by speed and his nine triples. It seems odd seeing a player with more triples than doubles and he’ll likely join Vogelbach in Peoria next season.

I went 20 players deep on this list so I can include 2012’s winner of the greatest name in all of minor league baseball, Rock Shoulders. He took 60% of the vote to beat the Texas Rangers Rougned Odor in the finals.

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Minors Report – New Additions

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

It wasn’t as much as we all hoped due to, let’s just call it, miscommunication between the Cubs and Dempster along with the injury to Matt Garza, but the Cubs added five players to the minor league system during this year’s non-waiver trade season.

The first hug went to Reed Johnson, who we later found out was sent to Atlanta with Paul Maholm for:

Arodys Vizcaino – A 21 year old right hander who hasn’t pitched this year due to Tommy John surgery, he was Keith Law’s #14 prospect coming into the season after posting solid numbers in 2011 as a 20 year old rookie. He was in line to compete for a spot in Atlanta’s rotation before being shut down. He also had an elbow issue in 2010, so the injury factor is a real concern.
But he’s also an electrifying pitcher; able to maintain a fastball in the 95-96 range according to Fangraphs 2011 numbers. Of course, that was in relief, so he may lose a tick or three. His next pitch is a hard curve ball that will help him succeed in short outings, but the third pitch will likely be the deciding factor in him being a starter or reliever….if it all clicks, Vizcaino has the potential to be a nasty top of the rotation pitcher. We’ll probably see him in 2013.

Jaye Chapman – Chapman is a 25 year old relief pitcher in AAA. He strikes guys out, walks a bit too many to be considered elite, and doesn’t have much upside. He is good against righties, so the Cubs may have gotten a useful bullpen piece for the next few seasons. He’ll likely compete for a bullpen spot next year.

Not so long later, Geovany Soto was shown hugging teammates because he found out he was moving to Texas. In return comes:

Jake Brigham: 24 year old starting pitcher currently in AA, he’s a back of the rotation candidate. Which is pretty poor return if this were 2010 Geovany Soto. But this is 2012 Geovany Soto, and he’s a guy that’s going to be non-tendered after the season, so getting a potential back of rotation arm, maybe even just a bullpen arm, at pre-arbitration pricing for 3 years is a solid return for 2012 Geovany Soto. I’d guess he’s in AAA for most of 2013 and a chance to see him regularly in 2014.

Then the Demspter craziness. All day long, Dodgers, Dodgers, Dodgers. Then in the last 15-20 minutes it’s the Yankees. Then the last 5 minutes it’s the Rangers that ninja their way in and get Dempster for:

Kyle Hendricks: An extreme control pitcher, Hendricks walks just 1.03 batters per 9 innings. He strikes out a decent amount, but he throws just 87-91 so might not be able to get that by more advanced hitters as often as he does in A ball. Barring some bizarre improvement, I’d think the earliest Hendricks make an appearance is 2014, more likely 2015.

Christian Villanueva: He’s got an interesting stat line  in 2011 for a 3B with over 15 homers and 30 stolen bases…and by all account he plays good defense at the hot corner. The scouts aren’t high on him and the numbers aren’t spectacular, but he seems like he’d be a fun guy to watch on the minor league level and there is some potential here as an everyday player. He’ll be ready to compete for a spot in 2015 if he progresses a level per season.

These guys aren’t Randal Delgado but this is the best The Front Office could do. I think it beats a supplemental draft pick in 2013 if Dempster were to reject the Cubs qualifying offer this offseason (although, I’m not sure the Cubs would put in a qualifying offer) and the Cubs simply had no leverage here.

It wasn’t the deadline day I was hoping for, but Vizcaino is probably still a top 100 prospect they obtained for about $4 million and Villanueva might sneak on the top 100 list as well. The more back of rotation/bullpen arms you throw in the system, the better your chance one breaks through.

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