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Thursday, August 07, 2014

Great Minor League Home Run Race

GIANT photos and big time home run power dominate this article.

Jim Furtado Posted: August 07, 2014 at 05:57 AM | 29 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: joey gallo, kris bryant, matt olson, peter o'brien, prospects

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   1. Pingu Posted: August 07, 2014 at 09:50 AM (#4766170)
Cool article. There is a list of previous minor league HR champs at the very bottom that urges caution. I see Danny Tartubull, Ryan Howard and a whole lot of nothing.

Gallo:HRs::Hamilton:SBs

I see 25-30 and a whole lot of Ks coming.
   2. Hotel Coral Esix Snead (tmutchell) Posted: August 07, 2014 at 10:13 AM (#4766182)
It's interesting looking at the list of yearly leaders at the end how few of them became stars in MLB. Ryan Howard, Danny Tartabull. Several guys who played in the majors for 8-10 years (Russ Branyan, Phil Plantier, Randy Bass, Todd Greene, Ron Kittle, who won a RoY but was never that good again over a full season). Several guys who ended up in japan, even becoming stars there (Alex Cabrera). Just not here.

Historically, it looks like several of the guys who led the minors in HRs were career minor leaguers already when they did it (Joe Hicks, for example, who hit 37 in AA at the age of 26) so the fact that they were in the minors did not necessarily make them good prospects.

The players featured in this article are largely different from that, all apparently great prospects, except O'Brien, who will probably never be any kind of star in MLB if he only takes a walk once every three weeks. But a back up catcher with pop in his bat can parlay that into a 10-year career if he plays his cards right.
   3. Petunia inquires about ponies Posted: August 07, 2014 at 10:29 AM (#4766194)
Interesting stuff.

Reminds me of the year Brandon Wood set the all-time HR record in the AFL.
   4. Ron J2 Posted: August 07, 2014 at 10:30 AM (#4766197)
#2 The guys who end up hitting a lot of home runs in the majors tend to be good enough that they hit the majors before they're finished players. Barry Bonds for instance hadn't learned to turn on an inside pitch by the time he reached the majors. Didn't matter. He was major league ready.

An awful lot of minor league HR champs are finished products and/or are playing in extreme hitter's parks.

EDIT: Possible tone issues with my post. In case it's not clear, it was intended as an amplification of your post. ARod for instance would have put up big HR numbers if given 140 games at AAA in a reasonable hitter's park. But (at 19) he was to good for that.
   5. bigglou115 Posted: August 07, 2014 at 10:48 AM (#4766216)
The article mentions Ryan Rua, he was at the AA AS game and won the HR derby. They played in Little Rock and I got to watch. Now, Dickey Stevens is arguably the toughest HR park in the minors, but Rua was hitting them clean out of the park. It was a truly impressive display. For context, his average HR was probably 10-15% longer than Rick Ankiel (just a special guest for the derby) hit his furthest.

Just a moment to brag, Ryan Klesko was there as well and after the derby they came up and hung out in our box for a bit. Very cool, I talked to Ankiel about the HR he hit as a Brave against the Giants and Klesko let me hold his WS ring.
   6. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: August 07, 2014 at 11:20 AM (#4766247)
Interesting list. The 2007 guy, Craig Brazell, was a local product, I'm pretty sure.

I need to go look Danny Walton (1977) up. I'm almost positive I remember his Brewers baseball card from something like 6 years before that.

Edit: Yep. Looks like his high-water mark was as a 22-year-old with Milwaukee in 1970, after which he completely fell off the cliff, with numerous partial seasons below .200. Geez.
   7. The Good Face Posted: August 07, 2014 at 11:35 AM (#4766263)
#2 The guys who end up hitting a lot of home runs in the majors tend to be good enough that they hit the majors before they're finished players. Barry Bonds for instance hadn't learned to turn on an inside pitch by the time he reached the majors. Didn't matter. He was major league ready.


An excellent point. The leaderboard in the article would have been a lot more useful if it listed how old each player was in the year they lead the minors; I suspect, but am too lazy to confirm, that a lot of the guys topping the minor league HR leaderboards, were older players or AAAA slugger types.
   8. Boxkutter Posted: August 07, 2014 at 01:51 PM (#4766419)
Reminds me of the year Brandon Wood set the all-time HR record in the AFL.

Joey Gallo now owns that record, along with the all-time Nevada HS HR record. He was also the first teenager to hit 40 homers in a season in like 50 years... in 111 games.

I am about as big of a Gallo fan as you can find, but that list at the bottom worries me. Before his promotion to AA, I wouldn't be as worried, but since he got moved up he's resorted to his old 40+% k-rate and not walking as much. I think he and Giambi need to chat a little more often again.
   9. The Good Face Posted: August 07, 2014 at 02:43 PM (#4766466)
I am about as big of a Gallo fan as you can find, but that list at the bottom worries me. Before his promotion to AA, I wouldn't be as worried, but since he got moved up he's resorted to his old 40+% k-rate and not walking as much. I think he and Giambi need to chat a little more often again.


The jump from A to AA is a big one, and despite being one of the youngest players at the level, Gallo has an OPS of like .950 (haven't checked in a few days). The whiffs are scary, but he's doing some good things there too. He's a unique talent who could fail because he never makes enough contact, but he could also turn into an Adam Dunn/Jim Thome hybrid + average defense at 3B. That's like a 6-7 WAR player.
   10. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: August 07, 2014 at 02:51 PM (#4766479)
Willie Kirkland had an interesting career--he was considered a good-hit-no-field player for the Giants Then the Indians got him and we found out he was actually a no-hit-no-field player. He led the minors in HR's the year AFTER he played his last game in MLB. Then spent 6 years in Japan where he also showed good power.
   11. Ziggy Posted: August 07, 2014 at 02:53 PM (#4766483)
Gallo is super exciting, but some things have to change. He's hitting 600 on balls in play, and given the strikeouts that's what he needs to support a .260 batting average. That rate won't last. He could be a monster, but he needs to make some major adjustments or he won't survive. He's probably got the biggest gap between his floor and his ceiling of all prospects. He hits the ball so hard he could be a star - think Troy Glaus, maybe with even more power - or he could fail to even make it to the big leagues.
   12. The Good Face Posted: August 07, 2014 at 03:13 PM (#4766502)
He's probably got the biggest gap between his floor and his ceiling of all prospects.


Almost certainly true. He could win an MVP or he could wind up as a AAAA slugger who fails to ever have a meaningful MLB career.

He hits the ball so hard he could be a star - think Troy Glaus, maybe with even more power - or he could fail to even make it to the big leagues.


Disagree there. Barring injury, a power hitting 3B who's tearing up AA at the age of 20 WILL get a shot at MLB, whiffs or no whiffs. Completely plausible that he flops at the MLB level though.
   13. valuearbitrageur Posted: August 07, 2014 at 05:54 PM (#4766651)
There is virtually nothing in common between Joey Gallo and the homerun champions on that list, they were likely near an average of 10 years older than he was last year.

Joey may disappoint but is not going to bust.

Last year he was 2 1/2 years younger than his leagues this year he's 3 1/2 years younger than his leagues, and he still only 20 years old. He still needs to improve but he's at an age where improvement comes much easier but it does later on. But even today he could probably start for more than a few MLB teams and hit .220/.300/.420 which would be a roughly league average bat for a third baseman.
   14. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: August 07, 2014 at 06:15 PM (#4766662)
Interesting list. The 2007 guy, Craig Brazell, was a local product, I'm pretty sure.


Age 27 spike... never knew he had a year like that, I'd first heard of Brazell when he was a Met "prospect," specifically it was BPro comment along the lines of, "The Mets have to stop pretending that Craig Brazell is a prospect, he's not"

Had one big year in Japan too... but outside of those 2 years never ht enough HRs to set off the fact that he almost literally never drew a walk and didn't hit for high average.
   15. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: August 07, 2014 at 06:52 PM (#4766687)
Joey may disappoint but is not going to bust.


don't say that

He showed substantial improvement in K/BB this year without losing power, but man oh man, his K rate remains downright scary...

He Ks more than 99% of MLBers did in the minors

Russ Branyan, age 20, 40 HR, 166 Ks in 552 PAs
age 21, 39 HR, 150 Ks in 527 PAs

Gallo, age 19, 40 HR, 172 Ks in 467 PAs
age 20, 37 HR, 150 Ks in 453 PAs

He Ks nearly 20% more than Branyan, (he's also younger than Branyan was and has a bit more power)

I don't think you can say that someone with Branyan's career is a "bust" but methinks Gallo's fanbase would be deeply disappointed with it.
   16. zonk Posted: August 07, 2014 at 08:18 PM (#4766730)
Javier Baez would have gotten into this race, too -- but he's decided he'll be chasing the NL crown instead...
   17. Walt Davis Posted: August 07, 2014 at 08:18 PM (#4766731)
Anybody know if we've seen the same spike in K rates in the minors the last few years as we have in the majors? We've certainly seen some high-K minor-league "stars" the last couple of years but I don't know if it's part of a system-wide trend.
   18. Spahn Insane Posted: August 07, 2014 at 09:33 PM (#4766777)
Javier Baez would have gotten into this race, too -- but he's decided he'll be chasing the NL crown instead...

Well, so far so good--just 3 Ks in 14 ABs, all in his debut.
   19. valuearbitrageur Posted: August 07, 2014 at 10:44 PM (#4766806)
He Ks more than 99% of MLBers did in the minors


Today's minor leaguers K more than any generation of minor leaguers ever, so this really isn't useful metric for measuring Gallo's abilities without a lot of adjustments. Excessive strikeouts aren't a good indicator but I think we get blinded to the fact we are in a different era with far tougher pitching, especially relief pitching, and that K rate that would have been awful historically may actually be acceptable in tomorrow's leagues. Without adjustments/comparisons to peers of this generation, you might as well throw them out.



Russ Branyan, age 20, 40 HR, 166 Ks in 552 PAs
age 21, 39 HR, 150 Ks in 527 PAs

Gallo, age 19, 40 HR, 172 Ks in 467 PAs
age 20, 37 HR, 150 Ks in 453 PAs

He Ks nearly 20% more than Branyan, (he's also younger than Branyan was and has a bit more power)


Branyan was promoted to AA late in his age 21 season, 2 years younger than the league average.

Gallo was promoted to AA early in his age 20 season, 4 years younger than league average.

Gallos AA league has a significantly higher K rate (23%) than Branyons did (20%), so he is striking out 20% more in a league that strikes out over 15% more.
   20. valuearbitrageur Posted: August 07, 2014 at 10:56 PM (#4766813)
The correct comparison is age to age.

Age 20
Branyon (low A ball, 1.2 years younger than league)
482 ABs .268/.355/.575/.930 (40 HRs) - 34.4% K rate (league 24%!-ish)

Gallo (A+/AA, an average of 3.5 years younger)
371 ABs .294/.412/.658/1.069 (37 HRs) - 40% K rate (leagues 23%-ish)

Clearly Joey Ks more in relation to their leagues. But shouldn't he? Russell Branyon was nearly the average age of his league and was repeating it from previous year with far better familiarity with the league and it's pitching.

Joey is just a kid, 4 years younger than those big tough AA veteran pitchers he's facing, they probably are knocking the bat out of his little hands:) more seriously, he's been advanced far faster than Russell, is now at a much tougher level, and was destroying high A pitching early in the season, one level above Branyons age 20 season. He's taken a step back on the K rate, but his performance still says he will be far better than Branyon.
   21. Chokeland Bill Posted: August 07, 2014 at 11:12 PM (#4766824)
Olson's up to 34 now. I'm a little concerned that he's only hitting .260 at Stockton, but the strikeouts rate isn't fully terrible. Pretty much all of the A's top position prospects are in that Stockton infield.
   22. valuearbitrageur Posted: August 07, 2014 at 11:32 PM (#4766839)
Gallo is super exciting, but some things have to change. He's hitting 600 on balls in play, and given the strikeouts that's what he needs to support a .260 batting average. That rate won't last. He could be a monster, but he needs to make some major adjustments or he won't survive.


Not sure I understand the math here.

In AA Joey is hitting .260 with 48 hits (16 HR) in 182 ABs, and 86 Ks. Back out the Ks/HRs, and you have 22 hits in 80 ABs, or a .275 BABIP. He has one sacrifice, that doesn't change anything. So it really looks like his BABIP is low, and he has been unlucky, since a guy with his power should be hitting some pretty tough to field line drives, deep flies, and even smoking some ground balls. If his BABIP was mediocre .325 for an elite power hitter, he'd have another 3 hits, and he would be hitting .280/.366/.600.

Edit: The median BABIP for the 20 MLB Hitters with the highest SLG over the last 2 years is .336, so I might be low on what Joeys reasonable BABIP expectation should be. Only 3 of those players are below .300 BABIP, including aged cripple (Ortiz), Encarcion, and Bautista.
   23. PreservedFish Posted: August 07, 2014 at 11:41 PM (#4766843)
So it really looks like his BABIP is low, and he has been unlucky, since a guy with his power should be hitting some pretty tough to field line drives, deep flies, and even smoking some ground balls. If his BABIP was mediocre .325 for an elite power hitter, he'd have another 3 hits, and he would be hitting .280/.366/.600.


You are incorrect here. There are legitimate power hitters on the bottom of the BABIP charts. Teixeira, Quentin, Bautista, Encarnacion, Reynolds ... all under .270 BABIP since the dawn of the 2010's.

I don't really understand the mechanics of BABIP in these cases. Perhaps these guys are so strong that the ball invariably goes out of the park when it's hit well - or their swings are so golfy that they rarely hit normal line drives. But power clearly does not guarantee a certain level of BABIP.

on edit > I'm not sure where you even got .325 as a "mediocre" mark for an elite power hitter - if you sort recent leaderboards for ISO you only find a handful of power hitters with much superior BABIPs, and these are mostly guys like Trout, Goldschmidt, Cabrera, true studs. A .325 BABIP is in no way mediocre, it's a fine mark.
   24. PreservedFish Posted: August 07, 2014 at 11:57 PM (#4766849)
Just did a very quick Excel check on the numbers that Fangraphs has for the 00's. The correlation coefficient between ISO and BABIP is .055, which one website defines as "no or negligible relationship." Just checking to make sure that I'm doing the math properly, I got a coefficient of .70 between BABIP and AVG, "very strong relationship."

I got a much stronger relationship between BABIP and fangraph's Baserunning runs (.22).

So, yeah. I don't understand it, but it seems clear that power hitters don't get any BABIP bonus at all. Jose Bautista has the highest ISO in the decade and he has one of the lowest BABIPs over that time.
   25. PreservedFish Posted: August 08, 2014 at 12:01 AM (#4766850)
Also it would help if you did your math properly. Joey Gallo has a .400 BABIP in AA. He has 32 (H-HR), not 22. So he's doing great.
   26. PreservedFish Posted: August 08, 2014 at 12:09 AM (#4766853)
Responding to your edit in #22. The correlation between SLG and BABIP is .34 - no surprise that it's higher because SLG is still mostly AVG. SLG gives points for avoiding Ks. ISO does not.

I think we want ISO here. We want the comparisons to include your Chris Carters, Napolis and Grandersons, and not your Canos and McCutchens.

[/Walt Davis mode]
   27. valuearbitrageur Posted: August 08, 2014 at 01:53 AM (#4766885)
Also it would help if you did your math properly. Joey Gallo has a .400 BABIP in AA. He has 32 (H-HR), not 22. So he's doing great.


But not .600?

Then my math wasn't the worst on this thread.

And .395 with his one sacrifice.
   28. PreservedFish Posted: August 08, 2014 at 02:18 AM (#4766888)
I think the .600 was hyperbole maybe?
   29. Walt Davis Posted: August 08, 2014 at 07:25 PM (#4767526)
BABIP is a funny thing. Both McGwire and Bonds have lousy career BABIPs but are far different when it comes to K rates. But Thome had an excellent BABIP (322) as do Chris Davis and Ryan Howard (esp earlier).

Mac and Bonds are among 70 players with at least 3000 PA and a career BABIP below their BA which is a neat trick. The top of this list sorted by ISO are among the greatest of all time -- Ruth, Mac, Bonds, Gehrig, Williams, Pujols, Belle, Kiner, Mays, Joe D, Killer, Aaron, Mize, Vlad, Sauer, Ott, Musial, Palmeiro, Banks, Campy.

While there's an obvious modern trend on ISO represented, that's a pretty good representation of eras. It's got some guys who K'd a ton and some who didn't. you've got some guys with pretty good speed in Bonds, Mays, DiMaggio, Aaron. I haven't checked everybody but it doesn't seem that closely related to LD% -- Bonds was league average. I would assume these are mostly pretty heavy FB hitters.

Many of those guys have pretty good BABIPs but restrict it to BABIPs below 305 and you only lose 13. Roger Maris had the same BABIP as McGwire.

And of course there is our new hero who is 1 for 8 on BIP.

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