Archive for the ‘Kansas City Royals’ category

Remembering Jonathan Sanchez

March 21, 2017

According to mlbtraderumors.com, the Royals just released Jonathan Sanchez as he attempted what will almost certainly be his last MLB comeback attempt.  The thought of Sanchez brings back at least some fond memories.

Giants’ fans will remember a largely frustrating career — great stuff, not enough command — that culminated in one fine year in which the Giants just happened to win their first World Series since 1954. That, and his 2009 no-hitter.

2010, when Sanchez went 13-9 with a 3.07 ERA, was his one full season to remember.  His command still wasn’t great that year, but his stuff was so good that he allowed only 142 hits in 193.1 innings pitched, and he struck out 205.

Sanchez last pitched in the majors in 2013.  Injuries set in quickly in quickly after the 2010 season, and his career was straight downhill from that point.

He pitched well in the Puerto Rican Winter League in post 2015, but this past Winter League season he pitched only two innings in one start in which he gave up only one hit, but walked four while striking out three.  If his arm is healthy, he could get a shot pitching in the Puerto Rican Winter league next off-season, but that’s about it, unless he’s willing to pitch in Mexico this summer.

In today’s game, it’s hard to feel sorry for Sanchez.  His career may not have been what he and the SF Giants hoped for, but he made more than $15 million playing professional baseball, and he’s earned a substantial major league pension, which will go far indeed if he spends any significant part of each year in Puerto Rico.

It’s tough to be an MLB player this generation, but those who can have any kind of career are now well compensated.

Overpaid Glove-Tree Catchers

December 3, 2016

The Diamondbacks just signed light-hitting, defense-first catcher Jeff Mathis to a two-year $4 million contract.  While the contract is relatively small potatoes in today’s MLB, Mathis is still the second all-field, no-hit catcher to get a multi-year, multi-million deal this off-season.

Mathis will be 34 next season, and fangraphs values his career MLB performance as worth -$5.3 million.  His defense is indeed above major league average but his hitting is so poor that even at a position where a lot of hitting isn’t expected, he hurts the team the more he plays.

Guys like Mathis and Drew Butera may be good in the club house, and they certainly make a team’s pitchers happy behind the plate, but they don’t help a team with their total lack of offensive production.  Butera at least hit in a little capacity in 2016, but Mathis has never had a single season OPS higher than .642.

Clearly, the fact that both Mathis and Butera got multi-year deals for roughly the same amount means that this is the value that teams give to veteran good-field, no-hit back-up catchers.  It just doesn’t make sense to me.

The old baseball term “glove-tree” refers to the fact that it has typically been much easier to find a player who can provide above-average major league defense than it is to find a player who can provide adequate major league defense at a defense-first position who can also hit.  If you need one of the defense-first players, you just go shake the glove-tree, and one will fall out.  You sure don’t give these guys multi-year contracts at more than three times the league’s minimum wage, at least not if you hope to be competitive.

In this age of sabermetrics, where defensive values are more accurately known than ever before, but defensive performance is still largely undervalued, it is hard to understand why players whose defense analytically does not make up for their lack of offense should get be getting $4 million contracts.

Mid-November Musings

November 19, 2016

With the World Series long over, but with the off-season signing period not yet hot and heavy, there hasn’t been much I’ve really felt like writing about.  I’ve reached a point in my blogging career where I feel like it’s only worth my writing about something if I have something truly meaningful to say that isn’t being contemporaneously beaten to death by all the hundreds or thousands of other baseball blogs out there.

As such, I write about a lot of obscure topics precisely because you’re not going to find dozens of other sites providing similar infotainment.  It also frees me to write about darker corners of the baseball world that I find interesting, but not a lot of other people care much about.

For example, I am endlessly fascinated about the American players who play in Asian leagues.  Every off-season I follow who the new crop of players moving their careers there and wondering about how Asian teams identify these prospects.  Do Asian teams regularly contact specific players (or their agents) whom Asian teams have identified based on their own research, or do the players and their agents contact Asian teams advising of their interest in playing abroad.  Is it some combination of the two?  Do Asian teams contact the MLB players’ association and MLB organizations at the start of every off-season to get the players informed about the possibilities of playing in Asia?

My guess is that a lot of the border-line MLB players who are most likely to succeed in Japan’s NPB or South Korea’s KBO simply have no interest in playing in Asia unless they get an offer they can’t refuse.  The dream of major league success dies hard for a lot of these guys.  It must, or otherwise the caliber of American players going to Japan or South Korea would be higher than it actually is, since NPB and the KBO certainly pay better than a year mostly spent at AAA.  Also, it’s a big adjustment to live and work in a foreign culture, which is exacerbated if the player has a family in the U.S.  Do you bring the wife and kids to Japan or South Korea once the school year is over, or do you live apart for six months?

The players who make the leap usually have to reach a point where they are convinced that they aren’t going to get even a fair shot at becoming major league players, usually because they’ve aged out, but sometimes because they are guys who were low draft picks who have outperformed expectations but still haven’t necessarily been shown a whole lot of respect or as many opportunities as their on-field performance alone might merit.

Something that got me thinking about this today was the KC Royals’ decision to sign catcher Drew Butera to a two-year $3.8 million contract.  Butera strikes me as a guy more lucky than good, a player who got a major league opportunity when a team (the Twins) was desperate for a catcher who could at least field the position and who then stuck around long enough that other teams began thinking of him as a major league player, even though his performances were generally poor.

Butera, at age 32 in 2016, had the first season of his major league career in which his offensive performance was not dreadful, and he was able to parlay it into a two-year deal, that, while modest by current MLB standards, is still not chump change.  It is worth noting that while fangraphs rated the value of Butera’s 2016 performance at $5.3 million, the site still gives him a negative value for his major league career.

Butera is a good defensive catcher, but not nearly good enough to make up for his typically dreadful hitting.  I strongly suspect his batting will regress toward his mean in 2017.

Anyway, the existence of long-term major leaguers like Butera who aren’t as good as a replacement level player, means that there are guys stuck in the minors who aren’t getting all the opportunities they deserve.  I’m a little surprised that even more of these guys aren’t fighting among themselves to play for major league money in Asia, in large part because the idea of getting paid big money to play baseball and experience a foreign culture for six months sounds so appealing to me.  Also, being in my late forties, it’s a lot easier for me to see the long view of a player’s professional career.

Triples Alley

May 4, 2016

Hitting three-baggers is something of a lost art, and is now largely limited to certain ballparks or when an outfielder misplays a ball off the wall not quite badly enough to be called an error.  This was not always so.

In the Deadball Era before 1920, triples were the big power hit, simply because they were much more common (most years at least) than home runs.  Aside from the dirty, battered baseballs in play, the slower, less athletic outfielders and the inferior fielder’s gloves of those days, many ballparks had very deep outfield fences, particularly to one or two of the three fields, than they do today, because of the urban lot shapes on which the fields were built and that fact that with home runs an extreme rarity, no one was really concerned with symmetric fields and keeping fences within reasonable home run distance.  In fact, before Babe Ruth, most home runs were of the inside-the-park variety when a batter split the outfielders to the long field.

Time for some trivia: Who hit the most triples in a season after 1920?  After 1946?  Since 2000?

Who hit the most career triples for any player to play in the 1960’s?  In the 1970’s?  1980’s?  1990’s?  2000’s?  2010’s?

The answers will show you just how much triples have declined as part of the offensive game, with the slight exception that integration starting in 1947 brought more speed and speed/power players into the game.

Kiki Cuyler hit 26 triples in 1925. Hazen Shirley Cuyler (pronounced Ky-ler) was nicknamed “Kiki” (rhymes with “sky”) because he had a bad stutter.  Nicknames weren’t nearly as kind back in the day.  Unfortunately, Cuyler did not live long enough to see the Veterans’ Committee vote him into the Hall of Fame in 1968, which is pretty much the ultimate retort to a mean-spirited nickname.

Since 1946, Curtis Granderson‘s 23 in 2007 is the most, although a number of players have hit at least 20 in a season since 1946.

Most career triples for any player to play in the 1960’s?  Stan “The Man” Musial with 177, tied for 19th best all-time.

1970’s?  Roberto Clemente 166 (tied 27th best all-time).

1980’s and 1990’s? Willie Wilson 147 (tied 56th best all-time).

2000’s?  Steve Finley 124 (tied 90th all-time).

2010’s?  Carl Crawford 123 (tied 94th all-time).  Although Crawford’s career appears to be winding down, with his big-money free agent contract running through the 2017 season, the odds are fairly good he can collect two more triples to move past Finley.

For what it’s worth, Babe Ruth hit 136 triples in his career, good for a tie at 71st best all-time.  While the Bambino’s lofty career total is largely a product of the times he played in, people forget that when Ruth was young and lean, he was very fast, kind of like a young Reggie Jackson, or some of the big fast guys of today’s game, like Mike Trout.

In the six seasons between 1918 and 1923, from ages 23 through 28, the Babe hit 69 triples, more than half his career total.

 

The Best and Worst Hitters’ Parks in MLB Baseball 2016

April 8, 2016

Back in the summer of 2012 I discovered that espn.com provides stats for what it calls “park factor”, which for purposes of this post means the ratio between the number of runs scored at a ballpark in any given season divided by the number of runs scored by said ballpark’s occupant (and its opponents) in away games that same season.  I’ve written several posts on this subject, which have proven quite popular, the last about two years ago, so it feels like a good time for an update.

As we enter the 2016 season, below are the average park factors for all major league ballparks over the last six seasons, 2010 through 2015 (four seasons for Marlins Park which opened in 2012).

1.  Coors Field (Rockies) 1.427.  Coors Field remains far and away the best hitters’ in MLB by a wide margin.  Every other stadium had a season or two between 2010 and 2015 well out of line with its overall average position except Coors Field.  It was the best hitters’ park in MLB five of the six seasons, usually by a lot, and a strong second in the sixth season.

2.  Globe Life Park at Arlington (Rangers) 1.144.  Globe Life Park remains the best hitters’ park in the American League.

3.  Fenway Park (Red Sox) 1.107.

4.  Chase Field (Diamondbacks) 1.093.

5.  Camden Yards (Orioles) 1.083.

6.  Miller Park (Brewers) 1.072.

7.  Yankee Stadium 1.059.

8.    U.S. Cellular Field (White Sox) 1.058.  One of the more variable parks in MLB, U.S. Cellular Field was a pitchers’ park in 2015, but a strong hitters’ park in 2010 and 2012.

9. Rogers Centre (Blue Jays) 1.047.  A pitchers’ park in 2015, Rogers Center was a hitters’ park every other year of the last six.

10.  Great American Ball Park (Reds) 1.045.

11.  Wrigley Field (Cubs) 1.034.  Long regarded as one of the best hitters’ parks in MLB, Wrigley was a pitchers’ park in 2014 and 2015, bringing it’s six year average down considerably.

12.  Comerica Park (Tigers) 1.026.

13.  Kauffman Stadium (Royals) 1.027.  25 or 30 years ago, Kauffman Stadium was one of the best hitters’ parks in baseball.  However, the newer parks built starting with Camden Yards in 1992, have for the most part been much better hitters’ parks than the ballparks they replaced.  The casual fans want to see offense, and the modern parks have largely catered to that desire with resulting attendance increases.

14.  Target Field (Twins) 1.013.  The Twins’ new ball park looked like it was going to be a pitchers’ park after the first couple of seasons of play there.  However, it now looks to be a slight hitters’ park.

15.  Citizens Bank Ballpark (Phillies) 1.005.

16.  Nationals Park 1.004.

17.  Marlins Park (2012-2015) 1.000.  The Marlins’ new park appears to be as close to a perfectly level playing field for pitchers and hitters as currently exists in MLB, at least based on the first four seasons of play there.

18.  Progressive Field (Indians) 0.992.  Progressive Field was the second best hitters’ park in MLB last year, after five consecutive seasons as a moderate pitchers’ park.  2015 was almost certainly a fluke.

19.  Minute Maid Park (Astros) 0.987.  Once known as Ten-run Park, when it was named after failed energy company Enron, Minute Maid Park varies wildly between a hitters’ park and pitchers’ park from season to season.

20.  Turner Field (Braves) 0.972.

21.  Busch Stadium (Cardinals) 0.957.

22.  Oakland Coliseum (A’s) 0.941.  O.co isn’t as much of a pitchers’ park as it once was, more or less switching places with Angel Stadium, another now antiquated multi-use stadium from the 1960’s.

23.  PNC Park (Pirates) 0.927.

24.  Dodger Stadium 0.906.

25.  Tropicana Field (Rays) 0.894.

26.  Angel Stadium 0.877.  The fact that Angel Stadium is now one of the worst hitters’ parks in MLB gives one additional appreciation of just how good Mike Trout is as an offensive player.

27.  Citi Field (Mets) 0.876.

28.  Petco Park (Padres) 0.857.

29.  Safeco Field (Mariners) 0.842.  The Mariners and the Padres moved their outfield fences in before the 2013 season in order to goose offensive production.  It hasn’t helped a whole lot, as both parks remained among the worst hitters’ parks in MLB from 2013-2015.

29.    AT&T Park (Giants) 0.842.  AT&T varies a lot season to season, but in 2011, 2012 and 2015 it was a strong pitchers’ park.

The Best Hitting Pitchers in MLB Baseball 2016

April 7, 2016

As everyone knows, modern pitchers as a group can’t hit a lick.  The rise of the designated hitter, not only in the American League, but also it’s widespread use in the minors and in the college game, is perhaps the biggest factor for the demise of pitchers who can hit, but it’s hardly the only one.

Pitchers simply don’t get as many opportunities to hit today because of the steady trend of using more and more relievers throwing more and more innings, which means starting pitchers get fewer opportunities to hit, and there are more opportunities for professional hitters to be used as pinch hitters.

Also, no matter what the old-timers might say, the level of major league play has gradually and steadily improved since the professional game started in the 1870′s, which means that pitchers, who make the major leagues solely based on their ability to pitch (this has been the overwhelming norm since at least the early 1880’s, and probably a lot earlier) have undergone a slow but steady decline as hitters by virtue of the relative improvement of pitchers (as pitchers), fielders and professional hitters, in spite of the fact that most major league pitchers were great hitters in high school and many were fine college hitters.

A final point to make is that MLB teams now almost always decide at the moment an amateur player is drafted whether he will be developed as a pitcher or a hitter.  As a result, if a player is designated as a pitcher, he won’t get many opportunities to hit in the minors even if he was an outstanding college hitter, like for example, Mica Owings.  Coming up in today’s game, Babe Ruth much more likely than not would remain a pitcher throughout his major league career.

Nevertheless, there are always a few pitchers in any era who can hit.  This 2016 update ranks current pitchers with at least 100 career major league at-bats in order to weed out the pitchers who just haven’t had enough at-bats for their career hitting stats to mean anything one way or another.

By today’s standards, a good-hitting pitcher is any pitcher with a career batting average at or above .160 or a career OPS at or over .400.  That’s really pretty terrible as hitters go, and it shows just how hard it is even for professional athletes who have played baseball their entire lives to hit major league pitching if the players have not been selected for the major leagues based their ability to hit.

1.  Madison Bumgarner (.182 career batting average and .521 career OPS as I write this).  The big-swinging Bumgarner has forced me to change the way I do my rankings.  In previous iterations of this post, I ranked pitchers-as-hitters strictly based on best career numbers for pitchers with at least 100 career plate appearances.  However, despite some poor hitting seasons early in his major league career, MadBum has clearly and pretty much indisputably been the best hitting pitcher in each of the last two seasons, so it’s safe to say that entering the 2016 season, Bumgarner is the best hitting pitcher in MLB at this point in time.  Of course, I reserve the right to drop Bumgarner down more than a few notches next year if he isn’t one of MLB’s 10 or 15 best hitting pitchers in 2016.

Bumgarner has hit nine HRs in 159 plate appearances the last two seasons with 24 RBIs, and that probably goes a long way in explaining why his record was 36-19 over those two seasons, compared to going 13-9 in 2013, when he didn’t hit a lick, but had a lower ERA.  All things considered, Bumgarner probably pitched as well or better last year than he did in 2013, but not enough to explain the much better won-loss record in 2015.

2.  Zack Greinke  (.223 BA, .603 OPS).   One thing I’ve noticed about good hitting pitchers, writing about them as I have  for some years now, is that there doesn’t seem to be a particularly strong correlation between a pitcher’s ability to hit and his having spent his minor league time or the vast majority of his MLB career with a National League team, even though this would presumably mean that the pitcher got a lot more opportunities to hit.  After spending his minor league career and his first seven major league seasons with the Royals, Greinke established himself as a fine hitter by his second National League season.

If I had to guess, I would say that the ability to hit the fastball (and lay off breaking pitches) is probably the most important factor in a pitcher’s ability to hit.  Pitchers hate to walk the opposing pitcher, so any time the pitcher-as-hitter is ahead in the count, fastballs for strikes are likely to follow.

3.   Mike Leake (.212, .545).  Leake’s hitting has dropped off substantially the last two seasons, but I still rank him as third above Yovani Gallardo because of his higher OBP (.235 to .223).

4.  Yovani Gallardo (.198, .556).  His 12 career home runs make him one of the best power threats among today’s pitchers.

5.  Daniel Hudson (.226, .567) & CC Sabathia (.219, .551).  These two deserve to be ranked together because their career numbers are very similar and they both just barely clear the 100 at-bat threshold.  They would rank higher based on the raw numbers except: (1) since Hudson blew out his elbow tendon in 2012, he worked his way back to the majors as a reliever and has had only one plate appearance the last three seasons; and (2) Sabathia hasn’t gotten on base since 2010.

Sabathia has only played one-half of one season in the National League in his long MLB career.  As an American League hurler who has been hurt a lot in recent seasons, he only gets to hit about one or two games a year (roughly two to five plate appearances a year) during inter-league play, but he’s still gotten enough hits to make this list.

Sabathia is tall and heavy set, which doesn’t sound like a recipe for a good-hitting pitcher (although that certainly describes an older Babe Ruth and Buzz Arlett), but obviously he’s just a great all-around baseball player.  I’ve long wondered what kind of batting numbers he would put up playing three or four full seasons in a row in the NL.  His career is now winding down, so we’ll never know.

7.  Adam Wainwright (.197 BA, .508 OPS).  Wainwright’s hitting has dropped off at bit in recent seasons, but I rank him above Travis Wood because of the Wainwright’s better career on-base percentage (.225 to .206)

8.  Travis Wood.  (.182 BA, .525 OPS) Wood hit poorly in 2015, and he’s been moved to the bullpen, so he won’t have many more opportunities to improve his career batting numbers, particularly on a Cubs team loaded with talented potential pinch-hitters.

9.  Tyson Ross (.201, .482).  Ross hit extremely well for a pitcher last year (.250 batting average and .640 OPS) as a full-time starter for the Padres.

10.  Jacob DeGrom (.200, .458).  Even with no power and few walks, hitting at exactly the Mendoza Line after 105 career MLB at-bats makes DeGrom MLB’s tenth best hitting pitcher entering the 2016 season.

Young Hitting Pitchers to Watch.  Taylor Jungmann (.270, .614), Michael Lorenzen (.250, .576), Noah Syndergaard (.209, .530), and Jose Fernandez (.190, .498) are the sweet-swinging young hurlers to keep an eye on.

Of the four, Michael Lorenzen, if he can prove himself to be an MLB starter [remember pitcher first, pitcher first, pitcher first], is the best bet to move quickly up my list in future years.  Someone posted a comment last year tipping me off to him.  Lorenzen was a fine college hitter (.872 career college OPS in three seasons at Cal State Fullerton, one of the many excellent Cal State University system baseball programs in Southern California).  He started his college career as a position player, but became the team’s closer as a sophomore.  In his case, as opposed to the aforementioned Mica Owings, his college numbers much more strongly suggested his development as a pitcher in the professional ranks, mainly due to his lack of power as a hitter.  If he ends up back in the bullpen, so much for his being a great hitting pitcher.

What is interesting about Taylor Jungman is that he pitched three seasons as the ace of the University of Texas Longhorns (Hook ’em, Horns!) without receiving even a single plate appearance (see my comments at the top of this post).  He had only 65 plate appearances in the minor leagues before hitting strongly in 38 plate appearances for the Brewers last year.  In short, there is really no way to tell at this moment what the future holds for him as a major league hitter.

As a final note, the best hitting major league pitchers get pretty bad as major league hitters almost immediately.  Since I started writing these posts about five years ago, I’ve noticed a steady deterioration in the best-hitting major league pitchers just in that short time.  If this trend continues, I would expect the National League to adopt the designated hitter in as little as ten or fifteen years from now.

Independent-A League Stars to Watch in 2016

February 27, 2016

Every year I like to do a piece about Independent-A League players who played so well the past year they may have the opportunity to move on to bigger and better things, particularly if they are still reasonably young.  I have a crop of these guys this year too, but I will note from the outset that almost no one really jumped out at me this year, as at least a couple usually have in past years.

Atlantic League

The Atlantic League is the undisputed top Independent-A League in North America.  It plays a  140-game schedule, roughly equal to AA and AAA, and attracts the top talent that can’t find jobs in the MLB system.

However, this year no one on either side of the ball really impressed me in terms of age and level of performance.  The most promising player I found is probably Buddy Boshers, who will be 28 this year, already over the hill in terms of professional baseball players as a group.

Boshers was good enough to pitch in 25 games for the Angels in 2013, but a bad performance in AAA in 2014 got him cut out of the MLB system.  In 2015, he had a 1.00 ERA with a pitching line of 54 IP, 39 hits and 14 BBs allowed and 71Ks.  He’s still young enough that an MLB team could sign him and send him to AA or AAA to see if the Angels gave up on him too soon.

Ron Schreurs (23 in 2016).  A player orginally from Curacao, he had a 2.55 ERA in relief with 25 Ks in 24.2 IP.  The low innings pitched total suggests he had arm problems going into or coming out of the 2015 season.

Telvin Nash (25).  Nash, a 1B/LF, has major league power but strikes out way too much.  He hit .270 with a .908 OPS in half an Atlantic League season.

American Association

The American Association is generally regarded as the next best Indy-A League, and players who play well in this league who don’t sign with an MLB organization typically move up the Atlantic League the next season.

Tyler Alexander (24) ranks as my top prospect in this league, because he’s young and pitched quite well, with a 3.31 ERA and 111 strikeouts (4th) in 111.1 innings pitched.  He’s a left-hander who’s a little wild, but he deserves another shot from an MLB organization.

John Straka (26) had a 3.27 ERA with 110 Ks (5th) in 127.1 IP.  My guess is he moves up to the Atlantic League in 2016.

Patrick Johnson (27) is getting up there in age for this level, but he went 15-1 with a 2.08 ERA (3rd) with 132 Ks (2nd) in 134 IP.  Even more impressively, he’s been one of the top pitchers in the Venezuelan Winter League this off-season, with a league leading 1.57 ERA in ten starts with 46 Ks (4th) in 51.2 IP.

Johnson may have suffered an injury late in the VWL season, as he didn’t make an appearance after December 2nd.  He’s a small right-hander listed at 5’10” and 170 lbs, which certainly hurts his chances of signing with an MLB organization.  If he can continue to pitch the way he did in 2015 going forward, he could potentially pitch in Asia one day.

John Brebbia (26) and Rob Wort (27).  Two not particularly young relievers who had terrific seasons.  Brebbia posted an 0.98 ERA with a pitching line of 64.1 IP, 34 hits and 15 walks allowed and 79 Ks; while Wort had a 1.79 ERA and a pitching line of 65.1 IP, 35 hits and 26 walks allowed and 92 Ks.

Christian Ibarra (23).  Hit .278 with an .853 OPS in 58 games.

Carlos Fuentes (23).  3.38 ERA with 43 Ks in 45.1 IP.

Can-Am League

In years past, the Can-Am League has generally been regarded as about equal to the American Association.  However, attendance in the Can-Am League isn’t nearly as good, which one would think will eventually effect that league’s ability to compete for talent.

However, the Can-Am League seemed to have plenty of talent in 2015, although it may have something to do with the fact that with only six teams, the better players may stand out more.

Joe Maloney (25).  A 1Bman who can play the corner outfield positions and even catcher in an emergency, Maloney hit .337 (2nd) with 14 HRs (4th) and led the league  by a wide margin with a .991 OPS.  Were Maloney to move up to the Atlantic League this year and continue to hit, he could definitely have a future in Asia.

John Walter (25).  Walter had a 3.08 ERA (4th) with a league-leading 127 Ks in 120.1 IP.  Listed at 6’5″ and 225 lbs, he’s got a major league pitcher’s body.

Gabriel Perez (25).  Perez had a 2.90 ERA (2nd) with 109 Ks (2nd) in 108.2 IP.

Brian Ernst (25).  Ernst had a 2.96 ERA (3rd) with 100 Ks (Tied 5th) in 109.1 IP.

Ryan Bollinger (25).  Bollinger had a 3.68 ERA and 108 Ks (Tied 3rd) in 127.1 IP.

Leandro Castro (27).  Castro batted .322 (6th) with 13 HRs (Tied 5th).  He’s old to be a prospect at this level, but he played in 234 games in the AAA International League in 2013-2014, he can play center field, and he runs well (21 stolen bases in 23 attempts against the Can-Am League’s admittedly not very good catchers in 2015).  His main problems are that he walks very little and would be a below-average defensive center fielder at the major league level.  He’s another guy who might be good enough to make some real money in Asia one day.

Ty Young (23).  A player who was apparently dropped from the Rays organization by his defensive failings, Young hit .265 with a .783 OPS in 2015.

Frontier League

What struck me about the Frontier League stars this year is how not young they were.  The Frontier League is the lowest of the established Independent-A Leagues, and its rosters tend to be stocked with a lot of 22 and 23 year old undrafted former college players, so I was definitely surprised I didn’t find more promising players there this year.

Jose Barraza (21).  As a 20 year old catcher/1Bman, Barraza hit .294 with a .783 OPS.  The White Sox drafted Barraza in the 7th round out of high school, and he hit .287 with an .818 OPS in the Arizona Rookie League at age 19.  Hard to understand why the White Sox released him (and no one else picked him up), unless he has some personality problems.

Cody Livesay (22).  A young center fielder whose release by the Braves organization seems strange (he had a .362 on-base percentage in 117 games in the low minors through age 20), Livesay batted .308 with a .388 OBP in 2015.

Boo Vazquez (23) and Kyle Ruchim (23).  A couple of the undrafted college players I was talking about, Vazquez hit .287 with an .865 OPS but played in only 41 games, while Ruchim hit .304 with an .825 OPS.

Andrew Brockett (23), Lucas Laster (23) and Trevor Richards (23).  Brockett was released by the Royals organization after two seasons in which he combined for a 2.19 ERA with 46 Ks in 49.1 IP.  As the Frontier League’s top closer in 2015, he had a 1.54 ERA with 28 Ks in 35 IP.  Laster had a 3.81 ERA with 74 Ks in 78 IP, while Richards had a 3.36 ERA with 84 Ks in 91 IP.

Connor Little (25).  Little had a terrific season in relief, posting a 1.19 ERA with a pitching line of 68 IP, 41 hits and 14 walks allowed and 90 Ks.  He did it against inferior competition, but even so his numbers really do jump out at you.