Tag Archive | "Batting Average"

Melky Cabrera Does Something Right…For Once.

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Melky Cabrera Does Something Right…For Once.

Posted on 23 September 2012 by Trish Vignola

Melky Cabrera, serving a 50-game suspension for testing positive for testosterone, a performance-enhancing substance, will not win this year’s National League batting title.

You think?

At Cabrera’s request, the Commissioner’s Office and the Major League Baseball Players Association announced an agreement on Friday to suspend, for this season, part of a rule that might have resulted in the Giants outfielder winning the league’s batting title despite being one plate appearance shy of automatically qualifying for it. Believe it or not, according to Rule 10.22(a), Cabrera still could have been crowned batting champion.

Cabrera asked not to be considered under the circumstances. “I have no wish to win an award that would be tainted,” Cabrera said in a statement on MLB.com. “I believe it would be far better for someone more deserving to win. I asked the Players Association and the league to take the necessary steps to remove my name from consideration for the National League batting title.”

Where was this moral fortitude this spring?

Cabrera continues. “I am grateful that the Players Association and MLB were able to honor my request by suspending the rule for this season. I know that changing the rules mid-season can present problems, and I thank the Players Association and MLB for finding a way to get this done.”
Cabrera had 501 plate appearances and .346 batting average at the time of his suspension on Aug. 15. The requirement to win a batting title is 502 plate appearances, a total based on 3.1 plate appearances per game. The issue in question was Rule 10.22(a). That allowed for an exception by adding one or more hypothetical at-bats to a player’s statistics in order to reach 502 appearances. I don’t get it, but if the player maintained the league lead after such a calculation, he would be named the league champion.

Apparently, Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn won the NL batting title in 1996, via such a calculation. He finished the season with 498 plate appearances. He had a .353 average.

“After giving this matter the consideration it deserves, I have decided that Major League Baseball will comply with Mr. Cabrera’s request,” Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement to MLB.com. “I respect his gesture as a sign of his regret and his desire to move forward, and I believe that under these circumstances, the outcome is appropriate, particularly for Mr. Cabrera’s peers, who are contending for the batting crown.”

Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates, batting .339 entering play Friday, currently has the next highest average in the National League. Buster Posey of the Giants follows with a .335 average. Cabrera made his request to Michael Weiner, the executive director of the MLBPA. Weinter brought it to Commissioner Selig’s attention. The parties then worked to clarify the rule, and collectively agreed the rule would be amended this season.

“Melky Cabrera, through a written request to me, asked for the union’s assistance in removing him from consideration for the 2012 National League batting title,” Weiner said in a statement on MLB.com. “We complied with Melky’s wish and brought the matter to the Commissioner’s Office, which agreed to suspend the rule. We commend Melky’s decision under these circumstances.”

Yeah, he’s the epitome of righteousness.

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Show Me Your “O” Face

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Show Me Your “O” Face

Posted on 13 September 2012 by Dennis Lawson

Office Space FTW!

Your mission (should you choose to accept it) consists of explaining how in the world the Baltimore Orioles reached mid-September with a statistically plausible chance at making the playoffs.  How exactly does a team that ranks 16th in runs scored, 21st in batting average, 23rd in OBP, and 12th in slugging hang with the big bad wolves of the AL East?  More importantly, how can someone explain with a straight face that the same team that sits 18th in ERA, 25th in quality starts, 20th in WHIP, and 16th in batting average against also has a tenuous grip on either the 2nd wild card spot or the division lead?

Without a crack team of researchers (or maybe a team researching crack), one might think such a thing impossible.  Below average pitching combined with sub-par hitting somehow results in a playoff contender.  If a Baseball Urban Dictionary exists somewhere on the interwebs, the Orioles’ team photo must be pictured under the section on “logical incongruity”.  Explain the anomalous nature of this Baltimore beast, or be relegated to watching Golden Girls reruns.

The Orioles have exactly 3 players who have accumulated more than 2.0 oWAR – Adam Jones (4.8 oWAR) and Nick Markakis (2.4 oWAR), and Matt Wieters (2.1 oWAR).  Moreover, Markakis just went down for the season with a broken left thumb.  Of all the players who qualify for MLB’s statistical leader boards, Markakis was the batting average leader for the team at .298.  Total number of qualifying players hitting .300+?  Zero.  After Markakis at .363, the next highest OBP belongs to Adam Jones at .351.  Jones happens to have the highest OPS at .848.  For perspective, the Rangers have 3 players above that OPS mark.

The Orioles have exactly 1 starting pitcher with 10 wins or more, and that happens to be Wei-Yin Chin at 12-9.  The Cardinals have 4 starters at 13 or more wins, and they are struggling to lock down the 2nd wild card position in the NL.  So, exactly how can the O’s success be explained?  Please rationalize how a team can play 11 games ahead of Pythagorean W/L pace.

  • Opportunistic offense:  The team has hit .251/.324/.436/.760 with runners in scoring position which translates to 407 runs scored in 994 opportunities.  By comparison, the Yankees have hit .253/.350/.424/.775 with runners in scoring position, but the Bombers have only pushed across 452 runs despite having 135 more opportunities than the Orioles.
  • Doing just enough:  The Orioles lead the majors in winning percentage in games decided by 1 run with a 25-7 record.
  • Playing a hard 9….10….11:  The Orioles are currently tied with the Nationals for the most wins in extra innings in baseball (12).  The Nationals have gone into bonus baseball 19 times and lost 7.  The Orioles have gone extras just 14 times and lost only twice.  2.  The deuce.  That’s 12-2 when the number of innings hits double digits.
  • Relief work:  Combined ERA for all Baltimore pitchers in relief – 3.15.  That group has accounted for 58 “holds” and 46 saves.  By comparison, the Rangers have the best record in the AL, and their relievers have combined for a 3.29 ERA, 54 holds, and 37 saves.  The difference?  The Orioles have relied on the bullpen for 468.0 innings this season.  The Rangers have used relievers for just 388.1 innings.

Maybe the Orioles can keep it going by getting just enough offense at the right time.  After all, the team has made it 141 games using this not-so-secret formula.  Perhaps maintaining a negative run differential while staying 17 games above .500 will prove unsustainable.  Just don’t let the Orioles know that.  It would be a shame for them to realize how much of an uphill battle they are fighting (and winning).

NOTE: This was written before last night’s walk-off win that pushed the Orioles to 26-7 in games decided by 1 run.

 

 

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jason kipnis

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The Jason Kipnis Dilemma

Posted on 05 September 2012 by Will Emerson

What a long, strange road it has been for Jason Kipnis this season. Well, perhaps just strange. Kipnis came into 2012 with a nice little bit of hype surrounding  him after a nice performance in his 2011 call-up. In 36 games in 2011 J-Kip hit .272, with seven dingers and 19 RBIs. His OPS in that stint was .841 and a highly impressive wOBA of .378. To expect this over a full season would be a silly assumption, but just for kicks and to lengthen this article, let’s say he did stretch these out over a full season, how would that have compared with your qualifying second basemen in 2011? Well, if he were to keep up his rates over a full season’s worth of ABs, he would hit roughly 30 home runs, with 82 RBIs and 103 runs scored. Again, there is most likely no way he would have kept up that pace and these estimates are based on crude simplistic equations created by yours truly, but the home runs and runs would be top three amongst second basemen. The RBIs? Those would have been fifth. Batting average? That would be good for 8th amongst second basemen last year and his OPS would have ranked third at the cornerstone. Okay, okay, like I said there is nothing that would make these specific projections a reality, but these still paved the way for some decent preseason projections for Kipnis and he started off the season looking like he would live up to, and exceed, said projections.

The general consensus amongst the fantasy pundits and prognosticators before this season started was that Kipnis would be around the twelfth best two bagger in the fantasy game in 2012. As the twelfth best option at second base, that makes him a starter in pretty much every fantasy league around. On average, he was the 15th second baseman taken in Yahoo! fantasy drafts and and 16th in ESPN drafts and for all intents and purposes was still considered to be something of a sleeper pick. Well, compared to his average draft position and what he has done this season, he has been a great value pick. At his position he ranks 6th in Yahoo! and 9th in ESPN, so stellar season right? Sure, very solid, but a lot of these high ranks are based on a good start to his season. Through May he had a slash of .280/.330/.450 with eight homers, 30 RBIs and 34 runs scored and eleven stolen basesm making him one of the highest ranked second basemen in the game. But even these numbers were a bit inflated by what he did in May. For that month he had a slash of .295/.351/.459 to go along with five home runs, 18 RBIs 21 runs and seven stolen bases. That big May had many, including myself, thinking Kipnis was the real deal and ready to jump up into the upper echelon of fantasy second baseman. But then June came and the downward trend began. The June slash line was .267/.322/.381. He still had three dingers, 16 RBIs and 13 runs, which is respectable, sure enough, but let us see what happened since then, shall we?

For July and August, Kipnis had a slash line of .215/.299/.305 which is just not very good at all. In fact those numbers are below replacement level. In July and August, Kipnis has hit two, count ‘em TWO, home runs! And the first of those two home runs came on August 20th! He went just shy of 50 games without knocking one out of the park. That is a drought of pretty serious proportions. So the big question is, what in the heck happened? Why did the numbers drop so danged much? Well let’s see if we can pinpoint the trouble and see if we can expect Jason to right the ship.

Well the first thing that jumps out at me is Kipnis’ strikeout rate. Through June, he had a K-rate of 15.9%. For the past two months that rate has been at 17.3%, which is only a slight uptick, but in August that K-rate was 23.8% which is a much larger rise and also not  a great number. Striking out almost every fourth time to the plate is bad, unless you are belting out around 30 home runs a season. But really that does not seem like it would be the biggest factor in his recent woes. It is not so much that he is putting the ball in play less, but rather what he is doing when he does put the ball in play.

Here is a break down, by month, of his ground ball rates:

Mar/Apr- 41.7%

May- 44.8%

June- 43.5%

July- 51.4%

August- 56.7%

Yikes! Close to 60% of balls in play being put on the ground in August, which could only possibly be considered a good strategy if you are, maybe, Billy Hamilton or the Flash. Kipnis has decent speed but he needs to get the ball up in the air to be successful. But what is causing the increase in ground balls and general lack of effectiveness on batted balls? Well it seems that pitchers know what to throw to get Kipnis to chase and make weak contact. He chasing the same amount of balls outside of the strike zone and making contact on those just as much, but it seems that Kipnis is having trouble with pitches that are moving. Considering he is making contact on balls outside of the zone almost 90% of the time, it would stand to reason that he his not making great contact most of the time, but rather flailing at pitches and putting them into play weakly.

According to picth values on his Fangraphs page, straight ball, he hit it very much. Sliders, curveballs, and split-fingered fastballs, bats are afraid. He has a negative value on all of these pitches this season. His linear weight against the slider is -.68, wihch is behind the average hitter and also behind 94 other major league hitters. Kipnis has struggled even more against curveballs. His weighted linear value against curves is -1.96 which is behind over one hundered other major league hitter this season. But these are not anything compared to how he handles the split-fingered fastball, where his linear weighted value per one hundred pitches his a paltry -3.23. Since he is already seeing 3% more curveballs and 1.2% more split-fingered fastballs than last season, it seems that if he does not change his approach and start hitting these pitches that are a movin’, he will not be able to turn things around. Maybe he should ask Jobu to come? You know, offer him cigar, rum. He will come. Or, you know, change his approach at the plate. Well, he may have done one or the other, since he is off to a decent enough start in September. For Kipnis’ and his fantasy owners’ sakes, let’s hope whatever he has done lately will continue to work and he can start climbing back towards the upper echelon of fantasy second basemen.

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Sabermetric Mining: FB%, HR/FB, “Lucky” Homers

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Sabermetric Mining: FB%, HR/FB, “Lucky” Homers

Posted on 31 August 2012 by Blake Murphy

Finding ways to leverage sabermetric statistics for the purposes of finding Home Run value can be a tricky game. Where batting average allows us to delve into BABIP, batted ball type, and more, and there are plenty of peripheral indicators for pitching stats, Home Runs tend to be a stat that most people look at as having been earned, with less luck involved than others. However, that view can be detrimental to our analysis, as we can look to three indicators to aid us in mining for power over- and under-performers: Fly Ball Rate (FB%), Home Runs Per Fly Ball (HR/FB), and the Hit Tracker tool.

My apologies for no DOTF or Sabermetric Mining piece last week. I was driving from Kitchener, ON to Vancouver, BC and then settling in to a new place.

The Stats
FB% – Fly Ball Rate is the percentage of batted balls that a player hits in the air. When we analyzed hitter BABIP, FB% was thought to be a negative as fewer fly balls drop in for hits than ground balls or line drives. For power hitters, however, fly balls are of grave importance. After all, ground balls cannot clear the fence. FB% can help us to determine whether a player has the right batted ball profile to succeed in hitting home runs, but it is the rate at which those fly balls leave the park that is key.

HR/FB – this is the percentage of fly balls that clear the fence. HR/FB is the key item we will examine when trying to determine over- or under-performers, as HR/FB stabilizes at about 300 plate appearances. This means it can help to both identify lucky and unlucky players and players demonstrating a legitimate change in skill. It is important to compare a player’s HR/FB to his career norms, as we must judge if a drop in HR/FB is a blip or a trend, and vice versa. As a reference, an average HR/FB rate is about 10% in recent history. I should note that there is a lot more research done on pitcher HR/FB, if you are interested in further reading, as it is generally thought that a hitter has more control over his rate than a pitcher.

Hit Tracker – Thanks to the great Hit Tracker Online tool, we now have a resource for determining lucky homeruns. That is, a ball that clears Petco would likely clear any park, while a ball leaving Coors may not leave most stadiums. The key areas to view on this site are “No Doubts,” or balls that would cleared the fence by 20 vertical feet and 50 horizontal feet, “Just Enoughs,” or balls that cleared the fence by less than 10 vertical feet or just past the fence horizontally, and “Lucky Homers,” or balls that would not have been home runs on a neutral weather day. Obviously, Lucky and Just Enough homers are less indicative of a power skill than No Doubt homers or other, unclassified home runs somewhere between those end points. It is a lot to take in at once, but I highly recommend exploring the site as it has a ton of interesting information that extends beyond fantasy use.

Park Factors Affecting HR/FB
Park Factors should always be kept in mind, as HR/FB does not control for parks. Again referencing Petco and Coors as our polar examples, a HR/FB of 15% is far more impressive at spacious Petco than it is at the bandbox in Colorado. If you are interested in further and much more specific information on the topic, Jeffrey Gross of The Hardball Times tackled park factors extensively in June of 2011.

How To Use
It is difficult to just provide a link or a chart to help utilize these stats, as they do not all indicate over- or under-performance. The best means of approaching the analysis may be to scan the home run leaders for names that do not intuitively make sense or look out of place, both at the high and low end, and then use these tools to confirm or reject your initial thoughts. Additionally, using the Hit Tracker tool and subtracting “lucky” homers from totals, or simply looking for extreme performances at either end of the HR/FB spectrum, can provide a good starting place.

Edwin Encarnacion – Let’s begin with the league’s leader in FB% and one of the more surprising home run providers of the season, the hitter formerly known as E5. With a 49.7% FB%, you could employ hyperbole to say “he hits everything in the air” and you would hardly be wrong. Because his FB% is so large, even a modest HR/FB rate would lead to a large number of long balls, but Edwin also sports a 17.9% HR/FB rate, a near-elite rate. Edwin has 34 home runs, 8 more than his previous career high, and in less at bats (thus far) to boot. Looking at prior seasons, Edwin displayed an above-average HR/FB every year but 2007 and 2011, with an above-average 12.8% career mark. He also has a 45.2% career FB%. Add it all up, and Edwin has made a modest improvement to his HR/FB, increased his FB% to make the impact exponential, and received consistent playing time, making his home run surge only a moderate, and likely sustainable, surprise.

Billy Butler – People have been waiting for Butler to turn his 240lbs+ into home runs for some time now, and his previous career high of 21 bombs was nearly maddening. Butler had essentially been a monster who hits like a lead-off man. So what’s changed? In terms of batted ball profile, Butler has actually gone in the opposite direction of what you would expect given his homer surge, as his ground ball rate is at a stand-still and he’s traded fly balls for line drives. His home run total of 25 has been fueled entirely by a 22.5% HR/FB rate that is nearly double his previous career high. While Butler’s body type might lead one to expect an elite HR/FB rate, this kind of an extreme jump has to be cause for concern. I would expect Butler to slow down on the long-balls down the stretch, and his 2013 first half rate will be worth watching.

Asdrubal Cabrera – Cabrera was in the Butler/Encarnacion break-out class last year with 25 home runs, but he has fallen back to just 14 this year. When we consult his batted ball data, we see that he has hit slightly fewer fly balls (35.3% compared to 38.7%) and had a fewer percentage clear the fence (10.1% compared to 13.3%), neither of which is surprising given the magnitude of his 2011 breakout compared to his established norms to that point. Even still, we find that he might be over-performing in the category, as he is tied for second in baseball with 4 “lucky” home runs, while just 3 of his 14 have been of the “no doubt” variety. Last year, he came second in the league with 15 “just enough” home runs, indicating that he was getting lucky last year as well, which I’m sure many assumed. It seems likely Cabrera is not even an above-average power hitter, though at shortstop he obviously still holds fantasy value.

Ryan Ludwick – Ludwick technically does not have enough plate appearances to qualify for the leaderboards in FB% and HR/FB, but he sure has enough power to qualify as a leader in the counting stats. In just under 400 plate appearances, Ludwick has smashed 25 homers, a total he hasn’t touched since 2008 when he hit 37. So what happened to Ludwick between then and now, and how did he get back here? Well, Ludwick has always had good HR/FB rates, except last season, but this year he’s setting a career-high mark of 21.2%, a mark that would be top-15 in baseball if it qualified. Ludwick has always hit a lot of fly balls, and though his rate has declined to 43.1%, he’s still in the Edwin mold of ‘hit everything in the air and hope it flies.’ What is even more encouraging is that Ludwick leads the NL in “no doubt” shots with 9, and while he gets some benefit from playing in Great American Ballpark, 20 of his homers (80%) would have left at least half the parks in baseball.

Candidates
I should note here that the ‘candidates’ section this week might be more useful for those in keeper or dynasty leagues, as the month of September may not be a large enough sample to see appreciable correction for any of these players.

Potential Sell Highs and Buy Lows – Instead of identifying both separately like most weeks, this week I will instead show the home run leaders with their relevant statistics heat-mapped, as discussed. Some may have unsustainable HR/FB rates, be getting lucky on home runs, or be legitimate sluggers.

Home Runs are not always spread nice and evenly throughout the year, and power hitters tend to be streakier than contact hitters, it seems. Thus, we must be careful when looking at short-term blips in home run-related statistics, using all three of these tools together to identify the Edwin-like breakouts and the Asdrubal-like over-performers. While September may not be long enough to see full correction to the totals, those lucky enough to be in tight races will want to leverage any potential advantage available to them.

Come get to know me on Twitter @BlakeMurphyODC.
All stats courtesy of FanGraphs and Hit Tracker, for games through August 29.

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Down On The Farm: Kansas City Royals

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Down On The Farm: Kansas City Royals

Posted on 29 August 2012 by Blake Murphy

Wil Myers hits the ball very far, very often. As one of the most complete minor league hitters in baseball, it is almost astonishing that he is yet to crack the line-up of the Royals. He is one of the most exciting, major-league ready talents still yet to accrue service time, a major boon for the system. However, the system’s top arms have either struggled or been hurt, and a farm system that was once the envy of the league now has some question marks. The consensus pre-season top-5 system of the Kansas City Royals is today’s focus on Down On The Farm.

My apologies for no DOTF or Sabermetric Mining piece last week. I was driving from Kitchener, ON to Vancouver, BC and then settling in to a new place.

Pre-Season Rank: #5 (ESPN), #5 (Baseball Prospectus), #2 (Baseball America)

The Top 5
1. Wil Myers
Overall Ranks: #13 (ESPN), #19 (BP), #28 (BA)
As mentioned, Myers hits the ball very far, very often. The converted catcher has played the outfield this year to try and preserve his body in the long run, and reports show him as a good corner outfielder with a strong arm, though he likely won’t continue to play center field for long. Still, it is the bat that has people buzzing, and with good reason – Myers has clubbed 35 homers across two levels in 128 games this year. He first astonished onlookers at Double-A Northwest Arkansas with 13 taters and a ridiculous .388 isolated power (ISO, slugging percentage minus batting average) in 35 games, earning a promotion to Triple-A Omaha at just 21. 93 games and 22 homers later, with an ISO of .247 and a wRC+ of 133. Myers should have earned a September call up with this performance, and at the very latest will probably start the season for the Royals next year, an enticing idea for Royals fans and fantasy owners alike.

2. Bubba Starling
Overall Ranks: #15 (ESPN), #27 (BP), #24 (BA)
The converted quarterback is all athleticism and tools at this point, but even just getting him to sign after the 2011 draft was a huge boon for the system. He is still just 20, but the fact that a late signing and an early injury pushed his career start date back to late June of this year, at Rookie Ball, is of some concern. Basically, Starling lost a full year of development right away. Luckily, it does not appear to have set him back too much, as he has posted a 144 wRC+ for Burlington. The 30.3% strikeout rate is a concern but not uncommon for young, inexperienced players, and his 12.3% walk rate indicates there is potential for plate discipline. Starling is a few years away from making a major league impact, but this type of ultra-high-upside player always reflects well on a team and system.

3. Cheslor Cuthbert
Overall Ranks: #43 (ESPN), #83 (BP), #84 (BA)
Along with having one of the oddest first names out there, the 19-year old third base prospect also has an enviable resume for his age and an advanced approach for his point on the development curve. With that said, the promotion this year to High-A Wilmington has been a challenge, seeing Cuthbert’s wRC+ fall to an ugly mark of 72. With just an .081 ISO and a sub-.300 OBP, the Royals are likely concerned at the performance dip compared to a successful 2011 at Low-A. Still, Cuthbert doesn’t strike out too much (15.7% K-rate, 19% last year), walks enough (7.0% walk rate, 10.5% last year), and may have just been advanced too quickly for the hit tool to catch up with the approach. Cuthbert will likely repeat at Wilmington for a part of next year, putting him off the major league radar for another two seasons at least.

4. Mike Montgomery
Overall Ranks: #52 (ESPN), #N/R (BP), #23 (BA)
Montgomery is an imposing 6’5” lefty who has been on the prospect map for several seasons now. Drafted back in 2008, Montgomery has had a slow climb through the Royals system, but is failing to find success at the Triple-A level for the second year in a row, this time as a 23-year old. Last season, Montgomery struggled to a 5.32 ERA and 4.30 FIP over 150 innings, and this year it has been more of the same with a 5.69 ERA and a 4.95 FIP over 91 frames. It got so bad that Montgomery was actually demoted to Double-A Northwest Arkansas in hopes of regaining some semblance of his command. Unfortunately, he is yet to find success there as well. There is obviously still time for a 23-year old lefty with two plus-pitches (fastball and changeup) to find the missing piece, likely a third reliable pitch, but the Royals have to be getting concerned that a former top prospect will need a third attempt at Triple-A next year.

5. Jake Odorizzi
Overall Ranks: #71 (ESPN), #47 (BP), #68 (BA)
Omaha has had one success on the mound, at least, with 22-year old righty Odorizzi posting a 3.08 ERA over 102 innings after earning the mid-season promotion from Double-A. While the surface ERA is fine, Odorizzi has not carried his impressive strikeout rate at Double-A (11.13 K/9) to Triple-A (7.21), causing his FIP to inflate to 4.21. Still, the team should be happy with his development, especially the fact that he uses four pitches reliably. One of those offerings needs to evolve into an out pitch to predict success at the major league level, but he could probably fill in at the back of a rotation right now. Look for him to crack the majors at some point in 2013, though he is unlikely to be fantasy relevant right away.

Additions and Subtractions
The Royals made just a single deal during the season, cashing in on their Jonathan Broxton gamble by acquiring a pair of players from Cincinnati in Donnie Joseph and J.C. Sulbaran. Sulbaran has struggled at Double-A since coming over and will likely have to repeat the level as a 23-year old next season, while Joseph is a LOOGY in training at Triple-A. The Royals grabbed righty Kyle Zimmer fifth overall in the draft this summer, and he’s an exciting prospect to watch next year, as he has already been moved to Low-A and had success through six starts.

Other Interesting Names By Level
Triple-A Omaha – Along with Montgomery and Odorizzi, Omaha is also home to 25-year old Ryan Verdugo, a lefty who has had success with a 3.37 ERA but was the recipient of six earned runs over 1.2 innings in his July major league debut. 24-year old Nate Adcock has struggled to a 4.86 ERA but held his own in a brief audition as a swing-man earlier in the year. Finally, 23-year old lefty Will Smith had a good half-season starting before earning a promotion, though he has struggled mightily for Kansas City. Beyond Myers, Johnny Giavotella is having success, though he has flopped in the majors twice now.

Double-A Northwest Arkansas – Yordano Ventura earned a promotion in mid-July but has struggled, though it was not unexpected for the 21-year old who relies primarily on his heater. For some reason, 24-year old lefty Chris Dwyer got promoted to Omaha despite a 5.25 ERA at this level, though sadly that made him one of the better candidates. Michael Mariot was converted to starting partway through the year and has had success with a 3.40 ERA over 113 innings, though he’s only struck out 81. Justin Marks, a 24-year old lefty, has posted a 3.80 ERA through 17 starts, making him the de facto ace of the staff. At the plate, Myers’ promotion left the cupboard pretty bare, so it is no real surprise that the Naturals are a shameful 19-43 in the second half. Shortstop Christian Colon posted a .364 OBP over 73 games, enough to get him promoted to Omaha, but he offers very little at the plate beyond the OBP.

High-A Wilmington – Wilmington has been the part-time home of several strong pitchers this year, including one with perhaps the best name in baseball. Jason Adam is 6-12 but has a 3.61 ERA and has shown great command with a 3.5:1 K:BB ratio. Sugar Ray Marimon posted a 2.12 ERA over 68 innings before earning the bump to Double-A, where he has posted a 3.97 ERA over 10 starts. Matt Ridings is too old for this level at 24, but has a tidy 2.26 ERA and less than two walks per nine. 23-year old Andy Ferguson has climbed the ladder quickly, with Wilmington being his third stop, and he has struck out 53 over 56 innings with a 3.34 ERA so far. Finally, Elisaul Pimentel got dropped from Double-A at mid-season, but has been strong since with nearly a strikeout per inning and an ERA of 3.00. A few hitters have performed well for the Blue Rocks, but most are too old for the level to get excited.

Low-A Kane County – A young trio of arms have led the way, with Edwin Carl (23-years old, 1.92 ERA, promoted to Wilmington), Angel Baez (21, 3.17 ERA, 83 K in 76 IP), and Kyle Smith (19, 3.00 ERA, 72 K in 57 IP) all impressing. None of the hitters have been amazing, with nary an 11-homer bat or a .300 average on the team, but just about everyone has been solid, helping the team to a .500 mark.

The Royals system has strong depth, especially on the mound, and it is scattered nicely across all levels. While there have not been many stand-out performers aside from Myers, he alone is reason to look favourably on the system. John Lamb, when recovered, adds another high-end arm to the mix, along with top pick Zimmer. The Royals can expect to be a top-10 system again next year, though with the shine coming off a few pitching prospects and a few players graduating to the majors, a top-5 system is not a certainty.

Come get to know me on Twitter @BlakeMurphyODC.

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