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Age in the Minors: A Levels

It’s easy to focus on the success stories of the 2016 Wisconsin Timber Rattlers and ignore the rough season endured by the 2016 Brevard County Manatees. The Milwaukee Brewers system really was split into two different prognoses this season, which provided an excellent reminder that work throughout a minor league system, even during a thus-successful rebuild, can never be finished. Even though David Stearns made some moves to procure talent for the low minors, and now-Vice President of Scouting Ray Montgomery oversaw two solid drafts, some of that talent will not be to Class-A or Advanced A ball for another year or so. In the meantime, the Timber Rattlers showcased some of the strengths of recent drafts and trades, while the Manatees reminded Brewers fans that their system was in rough shape not too long ago.

Continuing age-based analysis of minor league statistics, the 2016 Midwest League could be the most interesting case yet. Unlike the Southern League or Pacific Coast League, the Midwest League featured a group of three different age levels with similar production, and two adjacent age groups that did not fall far. From age-21 to age-22 to age-23 players, Midwest League bats slashed .245 / .316 / .356, .249 / .318 / .352, and .247 / .317 / .353, respectively. On the outskirts, age-20 batted .249 / .307 / .367 while age-24 batted .252 / .315 / .333, giving the league an expansive middle ground of 345 players that can be judged by very similar production standards.

One might ask whether this reflects the nascent stages of minor league competition, perhaps where players may be closer to the same development curve, thereby exhibiting less stratification among minor league players. Perhaps Class-A is the first level at which “organizational lifers” emerge, or players hit their first professional ceiling and stick around for a year or two before heading to their next career. It would be worthwhile digging into a scouting explanation for this phenomenon, in order to see how the physical tools relate to the statistics; perhaps everyone (or almost everyone) at Class-A is still learning the strike zone, or pitch recognition, or some foundational trait that places the vast majority of players on the same level.

2016 Midwest # G / PA AB / H 2B / 3B / HR SB / SBA K / BB AVG / OBP / SLG
17 1 3 / 13 12 / 2 0 / 0 / 0 0 / 0 2 / 0 .167 / .231 / .167
18 4 312 / 1259 1154 / 282 61 / 4 / 19 12 / 22 300 / 80 .244 / .295 / .354
19 24 1554 / 6530 5866 / 1511 294 / 47 / 72 154 / 253 1304 / 505 .257 / .317 / .361
20 45 3020 / 12236 11040 / 2744 548 / 92 / 191 296 / 466 2948 / 883 .249 / .307 / .367
21 92 4454 / 17978 15945 / 3912 750 / 138 / 248 409 / 602 4088 / 1521 .245 / .316 / .356
22 94 5606 / 22396 19849 / 4947 934 / 142 / 272 402 / 608 4607 / 1920 .249 / .318 / .352
23 93 4578 / 18236 16238 / 4016 786 / 121 / 232 344 / 526 4024 / 1512 .247 / .317 / .353
24 21 908 / 3598 3197 / 806 156 / 14 / 25 72 / 108 686 / 279 .252 / .315 / .333
25 7 164 / 672 597 / 162 32 / 1 / 3 12 / 19 91 / 49 .271 / .326 / .343
26 2 59 / 211 186 / 41 9 / 0 / 0 2 / 2 47 / 21 .220 / .299 / .269
27 2 10 / 36 32 / 5 0 / 0 / 0 1 / 2 10 / 4 .156 / .250 / .156
34 1 5 / 13 13 / 3 1 / 0 / 0 0 / 0 1 / 0 .231 / .231 / .308

There are a number of notable bats that defined the Timber Rattlers in 2016. Isan Diaz produced one of the best seasons at the Class-A level, and although he did not win MVP, he certainly has the performance level worthy of consideration. Lucas Erceg also stormed the league out of the 2016 draft, demonstrating a completely different developmental stage (relatively polished college draftee) than Diaz. Along with Diaz and Erceg, several depth players produced interesting or good seasons, giving fans and writers more players to think about and watch during the 2017 campaign. Perhaps no one will be more interesting to follow than Monte Harrison, whose statistical line was damaged by a rough April and early-May, and whose hot streak was cut short by injury. Harrison has shown flashes of “putting it together,” so it will be crucial to see how he returns from injury.

2016 Timber Rattlers Age (PA) AVG / OBP / SLG League Average Note
Trent Clark 19 (262) .231 / .346 / .344 .257 / .317 / .361 Fantastic BB% and ISO
Isan Diaz 20 (587) .264 / .358 / .469 .249 / .307 / .367 Potential MVP season in Midwest League
Jake Gatewood 20 (524) .240 / .268 / .391 .249 / .307 / .367 Plate approach questions but amazing power
Troy Stokes 20 (366) .268 / .358 / .395 .249 / .307 / .367 Under-the-radar system OF
Monte Harrison 20 (298) .221 / .294 / .337 .249 / .307 / .367 Brutal start hides pre-injury hot streak
Jonathan Oquendo 20 (76) .232 / .293 / .275 .249 / .307 / .367
Luis Aviles 21 (493) .239 / .288 / .373 .245 / .316 / .356 K / BB questions but intriguing ISO
Carlos Belonis 21 (380) .255 / .293 / .314 .245 / .316 / .356
David Denson 21 (373) . 231 / .327 / .378 .245 / .316 / .356 The discipline and power showed up!
Lucas Erceg 21 (180) .281 / .328 / .497 .245 / .316 / .356 Huge power showcase
Juan Ortiz 21 (111) .168 / .279 / .242 .245 / .316 / .356
Brandon Diaz 21 (96) .174 / .253 / .267 .245 / .316 / .356
Elvis Rubio 21 (67) .266 / .288 / .328 .245 / .316 / .356
Tucker Neuhaus 21 (28) .370 / .393 / .519 .245 / .316 / .356
Corey Ray 21 (16) .083 / .313 / .083 .245 / .316 / .356
Max McDowell 22 (400) .270 / .359 / .345 .249 / .318 / .352
Alan Sharkey 22 (258) .182 / .258 / .238 .249 / .318 / .352

Down in Florida, the Brevard County club had a rough season, mostly due to the bats. This level lagged behind in the system during 2016, and unfortunately, even age-based statistics do not allow one to reconsider many gems.

2016 Florida State # G / PA AB / H 2B / 3B / HR SB / SBA K / BB AVG / OBP / SLG
18 1 2 / 8 8 / 1 0 / 0 / 0 0 / 0 2 / 0 .125 / .125 / .125
19 5 122 / 540 479 / 116 20 / 3 / 4 7 / 17 103 / 51 .242 / .311 / .322
20 18 1061 / 4371 3925 / 1008 163 / 35 / 50 95 / 146 841 / 332 .256 / .316 / .354
21 36 2333 / 9209 8300 / 1962 340 / 47 / 106 262 / 402 1931 / 672 .236 / .297 / .327
22 56 3114 / 12527 11126 / 2777 519 / 85 / 188 242 / 352 2388 / 1044 .250 / .318 / .362
23 82 4300 / 17070 15241 / 385 675 / 107 / 249 307 / 466 3435 / 1440 .253 / .320 / .360
24 50 2601 / 10427 9107 / 2289 418 / 68 / 179 215 / 308 2083 / 1029 .251 / .333 / .371
25 28 907 / 3577 3132 / 797 116 / 15 / 48 100 / 135 724 / 321 .254 / .326 / .347
26 11 414 / 1653 1471 / 382 61 / 4 /27 16 / 29 336 / 135 .260 / .326 / .362
27 9 143 / 581 496 / 123 14 / 5 / 8 15 / 26 103 / 68 .248 / .346 / .345
28 4 91 / 354 324 / 83 21 / 0 / 7 3 / 4 78 / 24 .256 / .308 / .386
29 3 12 / 47 41 / 11 3 / 0 / 3 2 / 2 7 / 6 .268 / .361 / .561
30 5 12 / 45 42 / 11 5 / 0 / 0 1 / 1 8 / 2 .262 / .289 / .381
32 1 5 / 20 18 / 4 2 / 0 / 0 0 / 0 5 / 2 .222 / .300 / .333
33 2 11 / 49 42 / 12 3 / 1 / 0 1 / 1 8 / 6 .286 / .388 / .405
34 2 10 / 37 33 / 9 3 / 0 / 0 0 / 0 3 / 2 .273 / .297 / .364

It is worth noting that Corey Ray produced a fine campaign, based on his age level and the fact that he was making his professional debut in an aggressive assignment. While Ray’s surface stats of .247 / .307 / .385 does not look very good, age-21 players in the Florida State League were notably worse than that production level, allowing one to see that Ray showed solid hitting, discipline, and (especially) strong isolated slugging. Even if one follows scouting reports to raise some questions about the hit tool, there is a sense that Ray’s tools are already showing up in his stat line, even if that line is depressed by his environment.

2016 Manatees Age (PA) AVG / OBP / SLG League Average Note
Wendell Rijo 20 (201) .202 / .259 / .257 .256 / .316 / .354
Elvis Rubio 21 (423) .216 / .268 / .293 .236 / .297 / .327
Corey Ray 21 (254) .247 / .307 / .385 .236 / .297 / .327 Fantastic debut for an aggressive placement
Malik Collymore 21 (208) .167 / .227 / .208 .236 / .297 /.327
Brandon Diaz 21 (186) .166 / .261 / .190 .236 / .297 / .327
David Denson 21 (81) .125 / .222 / .139 .236 / .297 / .327
Jose Cuas 22 (441) .170 / .263 / .240 .250 / .318 / .362
Clint Coulter 22 (362) .220 / .285 / .333 .250 / .318 / .362
Dustin Houle 22 (360) .202 / .293 / .249 .250 / .318 / .362
George Iskenderian 22 (357) .260 / .312 / .338 .250 / .318 / .362
Angel Ortega 22 (291) .275 / .317 / .317 .250 / .318 / .362
Omar Garcia 22 (168) .213 / .280 / .233 .250 / .318 / .362
Trey York 22 (25) .333 / .440 / .571 .250 / .318 / .362 Late season promotion for 2016 college draftee
Blake Allemand 22 (298) .238 / .311 / .317 .253 / .320 / .360
Mitch Ghelfi 22 (121) .248 / .273 / .333 .253 / .320 / .360

 

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