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October 25, 2013

Sporer Report

Six Super Subs

by Paul Sporer

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Go to the leaderboard for any of your favorite baseball statistics sites and you are bound to get some useful information. However, you will almost always miss a particular subset of players: the unqualified. All leaderboards default to show only the hitters who qualified for the batting average title, which means they must have 3.1 PA per team game.

Almost all sites allow you to adjust the plate appearance threshold you want to look at, but the default keeps those below the batting title threshold out of sight. Today we are going to look at six guys who fell below the threshold, but did good work in their allotted time, suggesting that they could do some nice work with a full-time role in 2014.

For this exercise I’m using the 150-400 PA range of anyone who is 26 years old or younger. While the batting title cutoff is 502 PA, I wanted to dig a little deeper, as those in the 401-501 PA range likely made a big enough impact not to be forgotten. In fact, some of the players in our sample made a similar impact and for that reason you won’t find them profiled in this piece: Wil Myers, Matt Adams, and Evan Gattis. Myers was a huge prospect that everyone was waiting for, Adams took over because of a high-profile injury (Allen Craig), and Gattis owned the first two months of the season with 6 HR/16 RBI in each.

From here I gave all of our remaining players 600 PA to see how their stats looked. Pure extrapolation is dangerous for any number of reasons, so keep that firmly in mind as we continue. Those closer to the 150 PA range are most susceptible to small-sample-size caveats as a couple of hot weeks might have seriously inflated their line which will in turn blow up their 600 PA line. Then there is the league getting a thicker book on a batter as he grinds through 600 PA, which can expose weaknesses, and finally just the overall fatigue from a full season.

So again: these extrapolations shouldn’t be seen as pure guides for the ceiling of these players, but rather we can dig deeper into some of the interesting results to see if might portend future full-time success. Looking at this subset of players last year might have turned you on to Matt Carpenter as quality 2B option (600 PA extrapolation of .294 AVG-75 R-10 HR-79 RBI-2 SB) or Josh Donaldson as a late-round corner infield power option (.241-58-15-57-7).

You could’ve seen Chris Carter’s big power potential with a full-time role in hand (.239-65-27-67-0) or dreamt on what could’ve been had Jonathan Lucroy not gotten hurt (.320-79-21-99-7). The first two paid dividends well beyond those extrapolations while the other two were almost down to the number of theirs.

Who might be 2014’s version of these guys?

150-200 PA RANGE

These are our least stable guys as there can be a lot of noise in sample south of 200 PA, but we still have a pair of guys worth keeping an eye on.

Khris Davis, MIL (OF)
It was a good year for this name regardless of how you spelled the first name. Of course this version had his power surge across just 136 PA. The 26-year-old semi-prospect didn’t hit a homer for his first 15 games, but that is a bit misleading since he amassed just 19 PA in that time as predominantly a pinch-hitter.

He continued his pinch-hitting role for six more games and hit a pair of homers during that late-July span before joining the lineup on a regular basis. He helped fantasy teams with a .281/.352/.588 line down the stretch including nine homers and 23 RBIs in 126 PA. With Corey Hart a free agent, the Brewers may have found their new leftfielder in Davis and his .506 SLG in 1,705 minor league PA suggests that he should at least deliver power.

His 600 PA line was .279-106-43-106-12 which would put him on the level of the other Chris Davis so I wouldn’t bet on it coming to fruition, but a 25-homer season with handful of stolen bases (he had full season of 17 and 10 in the minors) is well within reach.

Cody Asche, PHI (3B)
Asche (pronounced Ashy) is a 2011 fourth-round pick who has sprinted through the minor leagues after a big breakout in High- and Double-A during 2012 that he kept going after reaching Triple-A this season. He didn’t get the call until July 30, but held the starting job at third base for the rest of the season.

He started a little slowly with a meager 408 OPS in his first nine games, but then surged over his next 31 with an .850 OPS and five homers in 124 PA before stumbling to the finish with a 2-for-32 stretch in his final 11 games. That is Selective Endpoint City, but the bottom line showed some decent work that essentially matched his preseason prospect profile here at BP where he ranked seventh and was tabbed as a potential solid-average regular.

His 600 PA line was .235-60-17-74-3 which seems plenty reasonable though I would add some batting average upside to something near .280 and he has a clear path to the starter’s job from day one in 2014.

201-300 PA RANGE

There is a bit more stability with these guys because the built their 600 PA extrapolations off of larger samples.

Avisail Garcia, CWS (OF)
Known mostly for his striking resemblance to former teammate Miguel Cabrera, Garcia is a big prospect who surged up the rankings with a big 2012 in High- and Double-A that not only netted 51 regular season PA with Tigers, but also 25 in the playoffs. He was even better in Triple-A (albeit in just 156 PA) this season before eventually being part of the Jake Peavy & Jose Iglesias three-way trade which sent him to Chicago.

He didn’t do much in his 88 PA with the Tigers before leaving, but after being installed in the White Sox lineup for the final two months of the season he not only hit well, but also showed some pop—a big league first. He had just one extra-base hit with the Tigers in his 76 PA last year, but nabbed 11 in his run with the White Sox. Despite his stature (6’4”/240), he isn’t afraid to steal a base. He has a 72 percent success rate in 109 attempts as a minor leaguer including two seasons with 20 or more. He was only 3-for-5 in the majors this year, but it should remain a part of his game and help bolster his value as the 23-year old continues to evolve.

His 600 PA line was .283-73-16-73-7 which might not seem particularly special, but only seven outfielders reached or exceeded all five of those thresholds in 2013.

Logan Forsythe, SD (UT)
Forsythe would’ve made this list had I done the exercise as an article last year, too. I ran the numbers privately which is how Forsythe ended up as a deep mixed league sleeper and late-round NL grab as his 350 PA work led to a .273-77-10-45-14 line when extrapolated to 600 PA making him an excellent middle infielder target.

A 15-day DL stint that morphed into a 60-day DL stint kept him sidelined until June 10 of this season, but he hit the ground running with a .284 AVG and .779 OPS by the time June ended included three homers, 11 RBI, and two stolen bases. Whether it was the plantar fasciitis that delayed the start of his season flaring up or the sore right knee that cost him eight games in the month, Forsythe was horrendous in July with a .102 AVG and .351 OPS in 57 PA.

In fact, he was never the same as the plantar fasciitis did flare up in September and cost him 12 games across four different spells of missed time en route to a .216 AVG/.620 OPS finish over the final two months of the season. Injuries have always been an issue for him as he has just one full season as a pro (2009 in the minors) and they could continue to make a mainstay on lists like this, but there is some intriguing potential if he can ever stay upright.

While second base is his primary position, he saw time at third, short, and in the outfield last year with Jedd Gyorko putting a stranglehold on the second base job for the foreseeable future. Chase Headley and Everth Cabrera have him blocked on the left side of the infield, but the outfield could present a path to playing time once he is intact.

His 600 PA line was .214-54-15-47-15, as he still showed some nice upside despite the brutal performance after June.

301-400 PA RANGE

Though our largest samples, these are still subject to small sample caveats as most have still only played what essentially amount to half of a season or just over that.

Oswaldo Arcia, MIN (OF)
Arcia hit the majors after just 38 games at Triple-A which makes the MLB efforts of the 23-year old that much more impressive. After 50 games in the majors he had a .290/.355/.473 line with six home runs, 25 RBI, and 20 runs scored. He cooled a bit in his final 47 games in the dog days of the season with .214/.255/.390 line but he that line still included eight homers (four in both August and September) and 18 RBI.

Part of a burgeoning Twins system, Arcia took the four spot on this year’s prospect rankings here at BP and was tabbed as a first-division player. His performance this year as a 22 year old backs up that outlook. The performance of Arcia and Garcia would draw attention if they were 24-25 year-olds in their debut, but as 22-year-olds, it’s markedly more impressive and really speaks to their long-term potential.

His 600 PA line was .251-54-22-68-2, and there is absolutely no reason for the Twins to put anyone in his path as he goes for an Opening Day spot.

(Honorable Mention goes to Aaron Hicks who put up a 15 HR/17 SB extrapolation despite a putrid .192/.259/.338 line in 313 PA. Don’t completely forget about the talented 24-year-old.)

Brad Miller, SEA (SS)
Miller was one of my favorite call-ups in 2012 as he brought offense to shortstop position in Seattle for the first time in quite a while. After tearing through High- and Double-A in 2012, he got a little more seasoning at Double-A to start 2013 before reaching Triple-A and putting all of his other numbers to shame with a 1.022 OPS in 122 PA. The 26-game surge earned him a promotion and despite some shaky parts he did not disappoint overall. He had three multi-homer games which tied him for third-most in baseball with 14 others (Alfonso Soriano lapped the field with seven).

Miller had solid foundational during his 335 PA with a 7.2 percent walk rate and 15.5 percent strikeout rate, though his minor league record suggests he is capable of quite a bit more in the former (11.3 percent BB rate in 999 minor league PA). The power isn’t a fluke, either. He had 15 homers in his breakout 2012 and then another 12 before reaching the majors and hitting eight. He won’t remind any Mariner fans of Brendan Ryan in the field, but he is Barry Bonds at the dish by comparison which makes his modest defense rather tolerable.

His 600 PA line was .265-73-14-64-9 which puts him around Asdrubal Cabrera circa 2012.

Paul Sporer is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Paul's other articles. You can contact Paul by clicking here

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