Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Over the coming weeks and months heading into the off-season, I'm going to be combing through a ton of minor league stats and highlighting the top 10 hitters and pitchers from each league this year. Today, I'd like to start with the top 10 hitters from the Midwest League.
I didn't spend a lot of time putting this list together, but I did spend a few hours breaking down stats and trying to eliminate players that I thought didn't belong in the running. I think the list is pretty good, but if anyone has thoughts about players I might have left off, let me know.
1. Jaff Decker -- At 19 years old, Decker is a rare mix of patience and power. He's not quite an elite hitter, but could very well develop into a blend of Pat Burrell and Adam Dunn, hitting 30 or more home runs a year, with an on-base percentage that floats around in the high-.300 area. Unfortunately, he'll also play in San Diego, which means he might have to settle for a bunch of doubles during the first few years of his career.
2. Josh Vitters -- Vitters moved up to advanced A ball in July, but while he was in A ball with the Cubs, he tore the cover off the ball. With 15 home runs and 28 total extra base hits in 288 plate appearances, he was on pace to put up some huge numbers. My biggest concern with Vitters is that he has yet to post a walk rate above 4.7% in his professional career, and this year he's sitting right around 2%. I don't think hitters necessarily have to walk a ton to be successful, but this could become a really big problem for Vitters at higher levels.
3. James Darnell -- The Padres have 2 of the top 3 hitters on this list, with Decker taking the #1 spot, and Darnell coming in at #3. At 22 years old, Darnell will probably be rushed through the minors, which so far hasn't been a problem, as he's posted an OPS of .965 or higher up through advanced A ball this year. His career numbers match up with an odd group of players that include Andy Laroche, Conor Jackson, and Alex Gordon, so it's hard to say at this point what the Padres can expect from Darnell.
4. Brett Lawrie -- Lawrie recently made the jump to AA, but I think a bit more time at A ball might have been a good thing for him. He has decent plate discipline with moderate power, but he seemed to struggle at times, and didn't show much improvement as the year progressed. Lawrie has the tools to be a very good player, but putting them all together might take some time.
5. Josh Fellhauer -- A 7th round pick by the Reds in the 2009 draft, Fellhauer came into professional ball as a hitter with what might be considered an average set of skills. But I like the fact that he signed quickly, and jumped right into A ball hitting 6 home runs in his first 2 months, and posted a strikeout rate of just 13%. He's not a big guy, and the power numbers may never substantially increase, but his overall make-up leads me to believe that Fellhauer should at the minimum make an average everyday major league player down the road.
6. Brett Jackson -- With a small sample size and suspect plate discipline, I'm not ready to believe this 2009 1st round draft pick is the real deal, but I'll give him a chance. Good defensive skills, raw plate approach.
7. Kyler Burke -- Burke's stats prior to 2009 were very average to say the least, but something seems to have clicked this year, and he has developed a lot as a hitter. He might regress next year, but for now I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and keep an eye on him in 2010.
8. Andrew Cumberland -- I really like to see a young hitter that can post a strikeout rate of about 10% and match that with a walk rate between 8% and 12%. It seems to be a good indicator for major league success. With that in mind, I think 20 year old Andrew Cumberland might have the skills to be a major league shortstop in the coming years. His highest career strikeout rate is just 11%, and this year he posted a walk rate of 12% while hitting .302.
9. Alexia Amarista -- Amarista has essentially the same stats as Cumberland, but will probably end up in the outfield or at second base, making him a little less valuable on defense.
10. Allan Dykstra -- I was hoping to see Dykstra really turn it on this season, but other than working the count a lot, I'm not sure he has much to offer. I'm not giving up on him entirely, but he's slowly fading from my radar.