A minimum of 200 at bats. Hoffpauir had 290.
A minimum batting average of .320. Hoffpauir hit .362.
A minimum slugging percentage of .600. Hoffpauir’s was .752.
A maximum age of 29. Hoffpauir was 28.
I have ranked these hitters according to BA + SLG, or BPS, I guess you could call it. I won’t get into a discussion here of BA versus OBP, or BPS versus OPS. It doesn’t matter much whether you rank by BPS or OPS or SLG, since Hoffpauir also leads in SLG, and comes in third in OPS.
Hoffpauir’s slugging percentage is, in fact, according to Baseball Reference tables based on 150 plate appearances, the highest in triple-A ball since Daryle Ward slugged .772 in 1999.
There are several 30-and-over players who are impressive sluggers in AAA and meet all the criteria except youthfulness. I exclude them because they don’t help us predict Hoffpauir’s chances, since for whatever reason, over-thirty players, whether they can hit in the majors or not, are not likely to be given a shot. In many cases it would be a second or third shot. Teams prefer younger prospects, quite understandably. The legs go first, and you don’t want them to go just as a player is getting his major-league “legs” under him. Also, you would prefer that the sort of development spurt that boosted Hoffpauir in 2008 occur when a player is already a major leaguer. Hoffpauir’s age window is open only a crack right now. The fact that he plays a position that is not considered a defensive position is also not in his favor.
In addition to older players, many younger players (like Ryan Braun) are not on the table because they were fast-tracked and didn’t accumulate many at-bats at AAA.
It’s useful to know, though, that Hoffpauir’s triple-A slugging peers, to the extent that he has any, are mostly major leaguers. Hoffpauir has some pretty good hitting company here. Of the players on the table whose breakout year was pre-2008, only Todd Linden and Joe Dillon have not established themselves as major leaguers. (Ross Gload in 2005 actually fell back to AAA after a solid rookie season, but has returned to the majors since then.) Linden and Dillon have the usual sad stories. This item gets us nearly up to date on Linden:
He was once one of San Francisco’s brightest upcoming stars, but never received much of a chance in recent years behind the likes of veteran outfielders Barry Bonds, Randy Winn, Moises Alou and Dave Roberts — just to name a few.
Two years ago, then-manager Felipe Alou used Linden largely as Bonds’ late inning legs in left field, and the now 27-year-old — who was a compensatory first-round Giants pick in the 2001 First-Year Player Draft — responded with some game-saving catches and timely hits, batting .273 in 61 games.
But when Bruce Bochy replaced Alou [in 2007], he quickly soured on holdovers Linden and Jason Ellison, who were jettisoned from the organization. After hitting .182 (10-for-55) in 30 games, Linden was designated for assignment and claimed on waivers by the Marlins on May 18. He made the most of his 85 games for Florida, hitting .271.
Linden was back in AAA in 2008 and finished the season with Sacramento (A’s).
Dillon had back surgery in 2003 that seemed to rejuvenate his career, and he had big years in AAA in 2004 and 2005 before going to Japan to play in 2006. In 2007 and 2008, he split his time between Milwaukee and Nashville, mostly Nashville.
Of the 2008 AAA graduating class, Mike Aviles has already had an impressive rookie season in Kansas City. Nelson Cruz did extremely well in September for the Rangers and is their presumptive right fielder for 2009. Along with Carlos Quentin and Conor Jackson, Jamie D’Antona was one of the D’backs’ “Three Amigos,” until his career stalled for a couple of years in double-A before reviving in AAA in 2008. We’ll see how he makes out next year. Then there is Micah Hoffpauir.
My favorite Hoffpauir stat is probably this one, given the competitive situation he finds himself in: in 290 at bats, he grounded into four double plays.