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August 6, 2003

Can Of Corn

Minor League Power, Part II

by Dayn Perry

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A little something to take your mind off the forthcoming cinematic pantheon-dweller...

In last week's Can, I took a gander at the minor league power indicators of some of today's most potent hitters in an effort to find the most accurate power indicators at the minor league level. The study pool (Group A) comprised the 25 active leaders in slugging percentage who had logged at least 3,000 ABs in the majors. The group included such heavies as Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and Vladimir Guerrero.

This time around, we'll look at Group B--those that, despite strong minor-league SLGs, have been at least vaguely disappointing in the bigs. To populate Group B, I included anyone with a career minor league SLG of at least .490, at least a 10 percent decline in their SLG in the majors (you'll recall that almost all of today's elite power hitters posted higher SLGs at the major league level) and at least 1,750 ABs in the majors.

Once again, here's a brief glossary of the statistics used in this study:

MLB SLG - The hitter's slugging percentage at the major league level.

Mi SLG - The hitter's minor league slugging percentage.

Mi ISO - The hitter's minor league isolated slugging percentage, which is simply SLG minus batting average. A minor league ISO of around 0.200 or greater generally indicates a high level of raw power.

Mi AB/2B - The hitter's minor league ratio of at-bats to doubles. Put another, way it's the average number of at-bats between doubles for that particular hitter. It's been theorized that hitters in the minors who hit a lot of doubles will develop additional home run power as they mature.

Mi XBH% -- The hitter's minor league extra-base hits expressed as a percentage of total hits.

Rookie Age - The age at which the hitter reached the majors, more or less, to stay.

And here are the results for those heinous layabouts of Group B:


                                                            Rookie
Name        MLB SLG  Mi SLG  Mi ISO  AB/2B  Mi XBH%   Mi AB    Age
------------------------------------------------------------------
Beltre, A.    0.421   0.546   0.239   15.7    40.7    1,395     19
Biggio, C.    0.432   0.517   0.173   13.1    32.7       97     22
Burrell, P.   0.475   0.568   0.254   14.5    43.4      725     23
Casey, S.     0.459   0.540   0.203   11.7    35.4      967     24
Erstad, D.    0.427   0.492   0.164   16.1    31.0      482     22
Grace, M.     0.442   0.518   0.186   15.6    32.7      985     24
Guillen, J.   0.427   0.520   0.214   17.5    36.3    1,573     21
Johnson, C.   0.434   0.501   0.231   16.4    44.2      954     24
Kapler, G.    0.430   0.536   0.229   12.1    43.8    1,933     23
Karros, E.    0.458   0.524   0.195   13.9    35.0    1,825     24
Konerko, P.   0.472   0.536   0.230   17.7    37.7    1,909     22
Lee, T.       0.410   0.615   0.284   13.0    44.8      493     23
Ramirez, A.   0.432   0.514   0.211   15.9    37.7    1,734     22
Walker, T.    0.432   0.518   0.197   16.9    33.6    1,806     24
Zeile, T.     0.426   0.498   0.217   16.8    40.6    1,700     24

The composites for the 15 hitters in Group B:


Mi SLG  Mi ISO  AB/2B   Mi XBH% AB      Rookie Age
0.526   0.215   15.1    37.9    1,265   22.7

And a look back at the composites for Group A:


Mi SLG  Mi ISO  AB/2B   Mi XBH% AB      Rookie Age
0.477   0.180   17.4    34.3    1,413   22.4

There's some obvious self-selection going on here, in that I chose Group B based on its high component minor league SLGs. Even so, some observations can be made:

  • I speculated last time that a XBH% of 40.0 or greater might portend exceptional power production at the next level. Adrian Beltre, Pat Burrell, Charles Johnson, Gabe Kapler, Travis Lee, and Todd Zeile would beg to differ.

  • Although the variance isn't exactly jaw-dropping, Group A did reach the majors at an earlier age. So clearly it's unspeakably critical for a future slugger to reach the Show before his 22.5th birthday. You heard me.

  • Sean Casey hit doubles at a higher rate than anyone in the study, but it didn't translate to more home run power in future seasons.

  • Beltre's failure to develop is truly puzzling--strong raw power indicators and consistently much younger than his peer group.

  • There are certainly sample size issues here, but Group B has a larger proportion of its hitters on the far right of the defensive spectrum (four of 15) than does Group A (five of 25). This dovetails with the notion that a hitter who mans a demanding defensive position is less likely to develop his offensive skills as anticipated.

  • Group B, somewhat surprisingly, posted an aggregate ISO that was 19.4 percent greater than Group A's.

  • Only one player in the entire study, Group A's Manny Ramirez, logged an XBH% of at least 45.0. So maybe that is a sure sign of greatness. Work with me.

  • Here's an oddity: Travis Lee has both the highest minor league SLG and lowest major league SLG of any hitter in the study.

  • It might seem counterintuitive that Group B, on average, logged fewer minor league ABs than Group A despite reaching the majors at a later age; however, this phenomenon is explained by the fact that an inordinate number of Group B'ers were college- or juco-trained (11 of 15, 73.3%), whereas in Group A only 11 of 25 (44%) retained amateur status beyond high school.
Related Content:  SLG

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