Hitting Prospects 2016

Here is the list of Cub hitting prospects based on full-season 2016 minor-league numbers.

The ranking looks at total bases, walks, steals and games played. It takes the sum of total bases + walks + SBs, adjusts it slightly, and divides by games played to arrive at a score. (Hitting prospects are starters, not pinch hitters or defensive replacements, so dividing by games is roughly the same as dividing by at-bats or plate appearances.)

The adjustment represented by the “adj points” column is Points minus Games. This adjustment rests on the idea that one total base (or walk or SB) per game is a baseline, required to get you to zero.

These are intended to be rough-and-ready, uncomplicated numbers.

Players included here are at South Bend (“sbn”) or higher. I include Eugene (half-season league) numbers and even Arizona League (“cbz”) numbers if a player has advanced to South Bend (A ball) or above.

Number-driven rankings work for me because they eliminate the BS factor. I would love to read scouting reports by professionals who are paid by major-league teams, but those reports are closely held. If you want to know what pro scouts really think, you might have to wait until amateur players are drafted in June or minor-leaguers are traded for, mostly in late July and during the offseason. Probably the most reliable ranking we ever see of baseball players at any level is the draft order in June.

If you go to Baseball Reference and click on Minors, NLB, Japan,…, and then select Chicago Cubs for the year 2016, you can click on the OPS column to get a ranking of all Cub minor leaguers by OPS. The ranking will be about the closest thing you’ll find on the web to my ranking. The difference will be that I factor in stolen bases where OPS does not. Stolen bases reflect speed and quickness, including on the defensive side. Andreoli is 3rd on my list, but only 18th by OPS. Hannemann gets a big bump up for SBs, from 24th by OPS to 4th in my ranking. And while total bases are counted in SLG which is included in OPS, I seem to put more weight on total bases than OPS does. Look at Ryan Kalish, for example. Nobody with a mere 29 total bases in 21 games could make it near the top of my ranking, unless he was super-fast. Yet Kalish is #4 in OPS. I rank him #17.

In terms of using WAR instead of OPS–well, they don’t calculate WAR for minor-league players. I don’t know the reason. My guess is that WAR relies on arcana (like ballpark adjustments) that are not available for minor-league games. Is it fair to say that the statistical community is bolder when predicting the past–a player’s MVP or HOF worthiness, for example–than when it is asked to weigh in on the ML-worthiness of young players? (If so, what does that say about the scientific pretensions of advanced stats?)

A few comments:

Vogelbach (232) and Eloy (230) have the highest number of total bases, followed by Belaguert, Candelario, Happ and Dewees.

Leaders in steals are Adams(44), Andreoli (43), (Jeffrey) Baez (38), Dewees(31) and Hannemann(26).

(Baez is one of my favorite sleeper prospects in the list. Think 22-year-old Marlon Byrd.)

Contreras is well beyond the prospect phase, and Vogelbach and Gleyber are gone. The first ten hitting prospects in this numbers-based list, then, are Andreoli, Hannemann, Eloy, Rice, Happ, Zagunis, Dewees, Bote, Candelario and Crawford. The surprises here–in that I don’t think we’ll be seeing them in other top-ten lists–are Andreoli, Hannemann, Rice, Bote and Crawford. Rice, in particular, will be a strange name to most fans. He’s a catcher out of U. of Houston last year, taken in the 29th round. Just know that he walks a lot and has some pop (15 home runs in 97 games in his first professional season).

The numerical ranking should be taken as a prediction that the top scorers will at least get a good shot at the majors. That might seem a bold prediction regarding Andreoli and Hannemann, but let’s wait and see.