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May 5, 2004
Can Of Corn
Hidden Hitters, ContinuedIf you'll recall, last time out I gave the once-over to Magglio Ordonez in an effort to explain how someone with relatively vanilla minor league numbers could go on to such unassailable success at the highest level. Here's what came out of the wash in terms of Magglio's record of performance on the farm:
1) Rates stats that are, at first blush, unspectacular.
I posited that this might be the profile of the "Hidden Hitter"--one who, like Ordonez, wields the lumber with impunity in the majors despite an underwhelming record of performance coming up through the minors. This idea applies really only to power production, and the metrics I focused on were primarily SLG, ISO (Isolated Slugging Percentage, or SLG minus AVG) and XB% (extra-base hits expressed as a percentage of overall hits).
To test this further, I picked the brains of my BP label mates to come up with a laundry list of hitters who meet this profile. By no means is this an exhaustive litany of said prototype, but it will provide a deeper look into whether the Hidden Hitter profile is worth our time. Powered by oatmeal and Van Halen I...
In Bagwell's case, it's not that his minor league numbers were unimpressive (.323 AVG/.439 SLG/.116 ISO). Rather, it's that they didn't augur the tremendous power he'd go on to display in the bigs. Let's break it down into low minors/high minors ("Low minors" consists of all lower-level leagues up through High-A ball; "high minors," in minor league parlance, refers to Double- and Triple-A.):
Low .310 AVG/.415 SLG/.105 ISO, 25.4 XB%
Bagwell did make strides in his SLG, ISO and XB% despite facing more advanced competition. Overall, however, this isn't a profile with a great many similarities to Ordonez's. Bagwell really meets only criteria three and five of the above list. Despite his lack of raw power on the farm, it was apparent he was a hitter.
A career minor league line of .295 AVG/.437 SLG/.142 ISO, 32.1 XB% shows that Edmonds wasn't a bad hitter by any means, but, like Bagwell, there's little sign of the power to come. The breakdowns:
Low .277 AVG/.379 SLG/.102 ISO, 27.3 XB%
Let's delve a little further into the case of Edmonds by looking at how his indicators increased from level to level:
Jump % increase in SLG / ISO / XB% Low to High 29.3% / 76.5% / 31.9% High to Majors 8.8% / 33.3% / 16.4% Minors to Majors 22.0% / 69.0% / 30.5%
This is the kind of profile we're looking for in terms of power potential. In terms of power-related skills growth, Edmonds sees larger gains on a percentage basis from low minors to high minors than he sees from high minors to majors and also from overall minors to majors, just as Ordonez did.
Once again, here's a player whose minor league stats are just fine on balance (.307 AVG/.450 SLG/.143 ISO, 26.4 XB%), but they seemingly lack signs of the power he'd later show. To the breakdowns:
Low .297 AVG/.375 SLG/.078 ISO, 19.3 XB%
As we did with Edmonds, let's see how his percentage increases from level-to-level stack up:
Jump % increase in SLG / ISO / XB% Low to High 30.7% / 128.2% / 56.0% High to Majors 14.9% / 46.6% / 46.5% Minors to Majors 25.1% / 82.5% / 67.0%
Turns out we have another strong Hidden Hitter profile. Giles saw more drastic power-indicator increases when jumping from low minors to high minors than from high minors to majors. Additionally, he had greater percentage increases in low to high than he had from overall minors to majors, save for the XB% category.
No introduction needed. The minor league digits: .265 AVG/.401 SLG/.136 ISO. Obviously, those numbers bear little resemblance to the Sosa we know and admire today. Let's see how these disassemble:
Low .258 AVG/.390 SLG/.132 ISO, 30.9 XB%
There's not really a need to do the percentage comparisons here, as it's obvious his statistical puddle-jumps from high minors and overall minors to majors are greater than anything he accomplished theretofore. Still, the results are somewhat skewed by the numbers of the post-Jeff Pentland/plate-disciplined Sosa that materialized in 1998. Although he did perform better in the high minors from a power perspective than he did in the low minors, Sosa doesn't fit the profile.
Vidro's cumulative minor league stats: .280 AVG/.416 SLG/.136 ISO, 32.8 XB%. And now the level-by-level digits:
Low .280 AVG/.388 SLG/.108 ISO, 28.5 XB%
And the percentage comparisons:
Jump % increase in SLG / ISO / XB% Low to High 13.9% / 50.0% / 20.0% High to Majors 7.0% / 3.1% / 2.3% Minors to Majors 13.7% / 22.8% / 6.7%
Again, we see a hitter that made greater statistical leaps from the low minors to the high minors than in any other scenario. What has emerged as a trend among these hitters is a steep jump, in percentage terms, of ISO from low to high minors. Ergo, it's possible this is an indicator of buried power potential.
We might be able to learn a thing or two from those who do fit the Hidden Hitter model (Ordonez, Edmonds, Giles and Vidro). In terms of identifying minor league hitters with untapped power potential, the major league numbers obviously won't be available. But there still may be some overarching lessons that can be applied to hitters still toiling on the farm. To wit:
Expect to see more on this subject in the future, as I'll attempt to identify some hitters still in the minors who fit the Hidden Hitter profile.