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Age in the Minors: Pacific Coast

Not unlike some of his highly-ranked, organizational teammates in Biloxi, Orlando Arcia received cool notes from the press in 2016. Throughout the season, fans and writers alike consistently pointed to Arcia’s Colorado Springs batting line as a sign that the shortstop should not be rushed, that perhaps 2016 was not indeed his year for the MLB, that perhaps the shortstop had taken a step back from his breakout season in Biloxi. A lazy toss-off line, something like “Arcia is hitting poorly, especially for hitting friendly Colorado Springs” became a chorus for the youngster’s 2016 campaign. Never mind that, in his age-21 season, the Brewers’ top prospect was five years younger than his league’s median age; nevermind that Arcia’s calling card glove remained great, at a 13.6 FRAA; despite posting a BWARP that placed him squarely within the top 20 percent of all Pacific Coast League regulars (100+ PA), Arcia had somehow “taken a step backwards.”

Related Article:
2016 Southern League bats

So we continue with the Pacific Coast League variation of the contextual minor league statistics for Milwaukee Brewers prospects. I began this series in order to judge each player within his own age group within his own league, in order to keep players in groups that are more likely to fit their own developmental standpoints. For instance, Orlando Arcia ought not to be judged on the same scale as a Garin Cecchini or Will Middlebrooks, two players with MLB experience that are receiving a second chance in the Brewers organization; while those two might be judged moreso on their ability to get back into the grove and produce quality outcomes on the plate, a prospect at Arcia’s age and developmental standpoint may be more likely to work on improving one specific aspect of his game. In fact, for his age-21 season, Arcia completely shifted his strike zone discipline, improving his walk rate significantly, while also striking out more; for all the complaints about the rookie’s slow-rising batting line and .212 TAv, Arcia is already posting a walk rate that has hovered around 10 percent since leaping to the majors. So, a project such as “improving plate discipline” could help to explain why other areas of Arcia’s bat “took a step back” in 2016.

Not unlike the Southern League, a wide variety of professional ballplayers work in the Pacific Coast League. Many second-chance MLB players work in the most advanced minor league level, giving the Pacific Coast League the look of an organizational depth association. Yet, a few supremely young players rush through, and there are even organizational depth players that remain young for AAA (such as Garrett Cooper, for instance, who is “old” for AA and “young” for AAA).

Not surprisingly, isolating players with more than 5 PA, there are many different performance levels, age-by-age, on the Pacific Coast:

2016 AAA # G / PA AB / H 2B / 3B / HR SB / SBA K / BB AVG / OBP / SLG
19 2 10 / 28 18 / 5 0 / 0 / 1 1 / 1 6 / 7 .278 / .464 / .444
20 3 21 / 91 84 / 29 2 / 5 / 5 5 / 7 23 / 3 .345 / .363 / .667
21 8 300 / 1280 1168 / 328 56 / 19 / 16 45 / 65 196 / 87 .281 / .330 / .402
22 25 1034 / 4144 3715 / 1023 220 / 28 / 126 48 / 74 849 / 361 .275 / .340 / .451
23 55 1988 / 8071 7180 / 1978 348 / 64 / 200 165 / 248 1603 / 722 .275 / .341 / .425
24 62 2578 / 10009 8942 / 2430 494 / 95 / 231 173 / 243 2045 / 812 .272 / .333 / .426
25 80 3687 / 14033 12529 / 3363 653 / 119 / 325 289 / 418 2898 / 1178 .268 / .332 / .417
26 80 3434 / 12549 11146 / 2949 596 / 100 / 237 285 / 400 2492 / 1073 .265 / .330 / .400
27 58 2530 / 9051 8484 / 2349 508 / 64 / 246 157 / 221 1903 / 783 .277 / .339 / .439
28 57 2382 / 8874 7854 / 2132 424 / 47 / 211 118 / 165 1767 / 816 .271 / .341 / .418
29 30 1226 / 4515 3994 / 1076 211 / 36 / 77 78 / 122 871 / 406 .269 / .335 / .398
30 26 1179 / 4432 3978 / 1048 180 / 32 / 99 96 / 139 914 / 350 .263 / .325 / .399
31 19 687 / 2372 2035 / 528 109 / 11 / 36 83 / 106 446 / 270 .259 / .349 / .377
32 20 663 / 2386 2143 / 565 119 / 10 / 56 41 / 49 499 / 193 .264 / .328 / .407
33 10 188 / 667 600 / 165 31 / 2 / 17 10 / 17 110 / 54 .275 / .334 / .418
34 14 3939 / 1383 1252 / 341 70 / 8 / 17 21 / 28 267 / 107 .272 / .327 / .382
35 3 147 / 532 454 / 115 15 / 3 / 5 23 / 31 79 / 61 .253 / .335 / .333
36 3 204 / 744 655 / 163 23 / 5 / 11 8 / 15 149 / 70 .249 / .321 / .350
37 4 119 / 437 400 / 93 19 / 4 / 11 1 / 1 112 / 23 .233 / .272 / .383

While it does not necessarily seem surprising that the youngest players in the league lack slugging numbers, or overall offensive performances that match the general impression that the PCL is a “free-for-all,” it was surprising to see how quickly the slugging tails off after age-25. Slugging percentage jumps once more at age-27, but then players working in the PCL between age-28 and age-35 seasons generally do not provide large slugging totals for their work. Hypothetically, one might guess that if a player is at age-28 and slugging effectively, they get their chance to work at the MLB level, while glovemen or bat-control depth guys are more likely to work their late-20s seasons at AAA; this is only one possible explanation.

By my count, the Brewers organization featured 15 players at AAA Colorado Springs that had rookie status entering the year. The vast majority of these players were young or relatively young for Class-AAA ball.

2016 Sky Sox Age (PA) AVG / OBP / SLG Age Average Note
Orlando Arcia 21 (440) .267 / .320 / .403 .281 / .329 / .402 Better than average plate discipline & ISO
Lewis Brinson 22 (93) .382 / .387 / .618 .275 / .340 / .451 Welcome to the Brewers organization!
Michael Reed 23 (492) .248 / .366 / .365 .275 / .341 / .425 Plate discipline driven bat
Yadiel Rivera 24 (326) .227 / .262 / .322 .272 / .333 / .426 Glove-first infielder
Ramon Flores 24 (31) .250 / .290 / .393 .272 / .333 / .426 Near-average ISO
Garin Cecchini 25 (469) .275 / .325 / .380 .268 / .332 / .417 Contact-Discipline Profile
Kyle Wren 25 (320) .339 / .425 / .432 .268 / .332 / .417 Excellent AVG and OBP based approach
Garrett Cooper 25 (139) .276 / .331 / .433 .268 / .332 / .417 Solid all-around batting line for age group
Nate Orf 26 (381) .288 / .366 / .383 .265 / .330 / .400 Intriguing contact-discipline utility bat
Keon Broxton 26 (199) .287 / .362 / .562 .265 / .330 / .400 Fascinating power / speed profile
Rene Garcia 26 (64) .290 / .297 / .355 .265 / .330 / .400
Andrew Susac 26 (43) .125 / .163 / .150 .265 / .330 / .400 Injury-riddled Brewers org debut
Andy Wilkins 27 (374) .235 / .321 / .419 .277 / .339 / .439
Brandon Macias 27 (68) .203 / .239 / .313 .277 / .339 / .439
Ben Guez 29 (50) .171 / .300 / .317 .269 / .335 / .398 Strong BB and XBH totals recovers AVG

A few notes:

  • Without any regular age-19 or -20 bats in the Pacific Coast League, Arcia was basically tied for the youngest regular position player in the league (with Padres’ top prospect, Manuel Margot, who had one of the best seasons in the entire PCL).
  • Contrary to popular belief, Arcia showed excellent discipline and excellent isolated power for his age group.
  • Garrett Cooper had a surprisingly good batting line, which I did not expect given my assumption that older players would be held to harsher performance criteria at AAA.
  • Lewis Brinson really stormed the league in his Brewers debut!
  • While Brewers fans commonly focused on his MLB struggles, Keon Broxton put together a great AAA campaign, even (especially?) for the league’s median age.
  • Kyle Wren did nothing but hit in 2016, but he lacks isolated power behind his strong AVG and OBP totals. One wonders whether he’ll get his MLB shot in Milwaukee, given the stacked tools situated in the crowded Brewers outfield.
  • Garin Cecchini produced a solid line for his age group, although the slugging did not come for the second-chance rookie. Cecchini could potentially profile as a contact-discipline depth player, but the lack of power could hurt a corner-defense profile.
  • BPMilwaukee featured Nate Orf as one of the Three-Up players at midseason, given his batting profile and utility glove. Hopefully Orf makes it to the MLB!
  • One wonders whether Yadiel Rivera and Ramon Flores will stick around in the organization for their respective gloves; unfortunately, their bats did not come around in 2016.
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1 comment on “Age in the Minors: Pacific Coast”

joe tortoise

Arcia’s line is almost identical to Adeiny Hechaverria’s, but in half the PAs.

When you factor in power, you could argue he’s doing as well or better than Hechevarria, Ketel Marte, Jose Iglesias, Eduardo Escobar, and veteran placeholders Erick Aybar and Alexei Ramirez.

So Arcia, having what is probably going to be the worst season of his career, is about as good as 5-10 infielders who are getting regular MLB playing time at this moment.

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