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Boone

3 Twins Prospects Who Have Been Much Better Than Their Numbers Indicate

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Here are three legitimate prospects (all are 1.7 years younger than the average player in their respective leagues, according to Baseball Reference) who, at first glance, appear to be struggling so far in 2014. A closer examination, however, tells a different story:

Taylor Rogers (AA SP)

  • 32.2 IP in 8 GS
  • The bad:
    • 5.36 ERA
    • 1.53 WHIP

  • Why he’s better than his numbers:

The obvious indicator is his 3.50 FIP, almost 2 full runs lower than his ERA; in fact, this difference is the highest in the Eastern League amongst qualified pitchers. Let’s take a closer look:

Rogers is striking out 8.66 per 9 innings (21.3% of plate appearances) and walking just 2.27 per 9 (5.6% of PA), good for a stellar 3.82 K/BB, which ranks him 8th in the Eastern League amongst qualified pitchers. This is a huge step forward from a season ago, when Rogers posted just 5.72 K/9 (15.7%) with a 2.59 K/BB. Furthermore, Rogers continues to keep the ball on the ground, posting an excellent 1.61 GO/AO ratio.

The cause of Rogers’ struggles is two-fold: an extremely high BABIP and a poor strand-rate. Rogers has a .377 BABIP, which is the worst in the EL amongst qualified pitchers, and his strand rate of 61.5% is the 8th worst amongst qualified pitchers.


  • How optimistic should we be?

Very. Although I wouldn’t expect Rogers to continue to strike out close to a batter per inning, if he continues to induce ground balls at a high rate and limit walks—which I expect him to do—he should have a solid year. And if his increased strikeout rate is here to stay—even if it settles around 7 K/9—then Rogers could become a very intriguing prospect. If his BABIP and strand rate settle down soon, Rogers should merit a mid-season call-up to AAA.

Adrian Salcedo (AA RP)

  • 22 IP in 15 relief appearances for New Britain
  • The bad:
    • 7.77 ERA
    • 1.86 WHIP

  • Why he’s better than his numbers:

Similar to Rogers, Salcedo’s FIP is an immediate indicator of bad luck; he has a FIP of 2.43 for the season, over 5 runs lower than his ERA (this is a staggering figure, as the next highest difference between ERA and FIP for an Eastern League pitcher with at least 20 IP is 3.42, compared to Salcedo’s 5.34). Let’s take a closer look at Salcedo’s numbers:

Salcedo is striking out a whopping 12.27 batters per 9 innings (27.5% of PAs) and is walking just 3.27 (7.3%), good for an excellent 3.75 K/BB ratio. Although he is walking more batters than a year ago, the large increase in strikeouts (up from 8.33 K/9) has led to a slight improvement in his K/BB ratio (up from 3.6 last season). Furthermore, Salcedo has posted an excellent 2.08 GO/AO ratio, even better than the 1.68 GO/AO from a year ago.

The cause of Salcedo’s struggles, similar to those of Rogers, is a high BABIP and a lower strand-rate. Salcedo’s BABIP of .464 is the highest in the EL amongst pitchers with at least 20 IP (the next closest is just .400) and his strand rate is just 51.7%, meaning roughly half of all batters that reach base score; this is the 4th worst rate in the EL amongst pitchers with 20 IP.


  • How optimistic should we be?

Very. Salcedo is establishing himself as a high-K, low-BB, ground-ball inducing relief pitcher. What more can you ask for? Once his BABIP comes back to Earth, which it will, his strand-rate should increase and his ERA will drop. I expect Salcedo to be another candidate for a mid-season call-up to AAA. It is worth noting that Salcedo was a popular sleeper prospect heading into the 2012 season before injuries limited him to just 30 IP that year.

Max Kepler (A+ OF/1B)

  • 35 games (27 at CF) for Fort Myers
  • The bad: .215/.319/.347 for an OPS of .666
  • Why he’s better than his numbers:


Kepler has displayed excellent plate discipline, striking out in just 13.5% of his plate appearances (down from 16.3% last year) and walking in 10.6%, which is the highest rate of his career. The result is a BB/K ratio of .79, which is the 13th best in the league, and a significant improvement from a solid BB/K ratio of .56 from last season.
The main cause of Kepler’s struggles is his .236 BABIP, which is the 6th lowest amongst qualified starters.


  • How optimistic should we be?


I would be slightly less optimistic about Kepler than Rogers and Salcedo. Yes, his BABIP is incredibly low and should rise. Although this figure is certainly a result of bad luck and therefore should be expected to rise, it could also be a result of some underlying problems for Kepler. First and foremost, it is similar to the .254 BABIP of a year ago. Secondly, his ISO of .130 is much lower than his ISO of .189 from last year, which could indicate that he simply isn’t hitting the ball very hard. On the other hand, the Florida State League is notoriously a pitcher-friendly league, and Kepler’s ISO is actually much better (24% better, to be exact) than the league average of .105. In fact, only one player in the league has a higher ISO and BB/K ratio than Kepler. I’m very high on Kepler—he presents a rare combination of plate discipline, power, and athleticism—but I think a full year in A+ would be good for him.
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Comments

  1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
    Nice entry. It's easy to overlook these types of performances because their stats don't look very good at first glance.
  2. jimv2's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp
    Nice entry. It's easy to overlook these types of performances because their stats don't look very good at first glance.
    I agree--very good stuff.

    The thought occurs to me that high opposing BABIPs can be caused by poor fielding--poor range especially. When you have two pitchers with extraordinarily high opposing BABIPs on the same team, that may be a bit of indictment of the NB defense. OTOH, I'm not convinced that any of the non-pitchers on that team are in the Twins' long-term plans.
  3. Lonestar's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp
    Nice entry. It's easy to overlook these types of performances because their stats don't look very good at first glance.
    What he said. I was aware of Kepler's numbers but those pitchers surprised me. Well done.
  4. Boone's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by jimv2
    The thought occurs to me that high opposing BABIPs can be caused by poor fielding--poor range especially. When you have two pitchers with extraordinarily high opposing BABIPs on the same team, that may be a bit of indictment of the NB defense. OTOH, I'm not convinced that any of the non-pitchers on that team are in the Twins' long-term plans.
    Great point about this being a potential indicator of New Britain having poor defense. There are 9 Rock Cats pitchers with at least 20 innings pitched and 6 of them are in the top 25 for highest BABIP (minimum of 20 innings pitched, 104 players qualify). This is a really large number, especially when you consider the fact that in the 12 team Eastern League, each team should have just 2.

    It seems unlikely that so many Rock Cats pitchers would be this unlucky so far. Almost surely a sign of poor defense.
  5. Tibs's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Boone
    Great point about this being a potential indicator of New Britain having poor defense. There are 9 Rock Cats pitchers with at least 20 innings pitched and 6 of them are in the top 25 for highest BABIP (minimum of 20 innings pitched, 104 players qualify). This is a really large number, especially when you consider the fact that in the 12 team Eastern League, each team should have just 2.

    It seems unlikely that so many Rock Cats pitchers would be this unlucky so far. Almost surely a sign of poor defense.
    What do the well-hit averages and LD% look like for Rogers and Salcedo? I'm not a fan of looking at just FIP and BABIP and saying someone is unlucky because sometimes pitchers just aren't performing well and hitters are teeing off on them.

    However, with this post that I quoted, it would seem that you can attribute at least some of the numbers to bad luck and poor defense.
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