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  • Young For Their League


    Seth Stohs

    When developing prospect lists, one of many criteria that goes into the thinking is Age-to-Level data. High-ranking prospects are often guys with great tools who are performing at a level where they are very young. If you look near the top of the Top 30 prospect lists that Jeremy, Cody and I put together for the Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook 2015, you’ll see a lot of players who were very young for their level.

    Image courtesy of Linwood Ferguson

    In the Prospect Handbook, there are two pages dedicated to looking at the league average age and performance of hitters and pitchers at each level. Here is what was shown for the Ft. Myers Miracle and the Florida State League.

     

    FT. MYERS MIRACLE (82-57)

     

    · FSL Hitters – 22.6, .257/.325/.371 (.695)

    · Miracle Hitters – 22.4, .261/.339/.383 (.722)

    · FSL Pitchers – 23.2, 3.75 ERA, 1.33 WHIP

    · Miracle Pitchers – 23.3, 3.34 ERA, 1.32 WHIP

     

     

    What does it mean? As you can see, the Miracle hitters and pitchers were, on average, about the same as the league average. They also performed a little better than league average in offense and pitching.

     

    By itself, this information is kind of fun to look at, but more important, it provides perspective. If a 25 year old in the Florida State League hits .300/400/500 (.900), it’s good. But if a 20-year-old hits .275/.350/.400 (.750) in the same league, he is a very good prospect. The 25-year-old could still become a big leaguer, and could even have a solid career. The 20-year-old likely has a higher ceiling.

     

    So, with that bit of background, I thought it would be fun to take a look at which Twins prospects were the youngest at their level. Players that spent time in multiple levels can show up multiple times on this list.

     

    This is not a perfect analysis, but it does give a range. Baseball-Refence.com has a method in which each player plays a season at a certain age. JO Berrios was 19 when he began the season in Ft. Myers. He turned 20 in mid-May, so his 2014 season was considered his age-20 season. As you see above, the average age for a pitcher in the Florida State League was 23.2. So, in this analysis, Berrios was 3.2 years younger than the average pitcher in the Florida State League.

     

    Years Below League Average

     

    2.2 Years: Nick Gordon at Elizabethton

    2.2 Years: Nick Burdi at Ft. Myers

    2.2 Years: Aaron Slegers at Ft. Myers

     

    2.3 Years: Callan Pearce at GCL Twins

     

    2.6 Years: Byron Buxton at Ft. Myers

    2.6 Years: Jorge Polanco at Ft. Myers

    2.6 Years: Ruar Verkerk at GCL Twins

     

    2.9 Years: Trevor May at Rochester

    2.9 Years: Stephen Pryor at Rochester

    2.9 Years: Michael Tonkin at Rochester

    2.9 Years: Aaron Hicks at Rochester (he was 0.7 years younger than the AA Eastern League hitters)

     

    3.0 Years: Stephen Gonsalves at Cedar Rapids

    3.0 Years: Fernando Romero at Cedar Rapids

    3.0 Years: Kohl Stewart at Cedar Rapids

     

    3.2 Years: JO Berrios at Ft. Myers

     

    3.9 Years: Tyler Duffey at Rochester

    3.9 Years: Jason Wheeler at Rochester

    3.9 Years: Oswaldo Arcia at Rochester

     

    4.0 Years: Lewis Thorpe at Cedar Rapids

     

    4.7 Years: Byron Buxton at New Britain

    4.7 Years: Jorge Polanco at New Britain

     

    6.9 Years: JO Berrios at Rochester

     

    You may be asking yourself the very question that I asked myself. Where would Miguel Sano have fit on this list had he been able to play. It would have been his age-21 season. In his time in AA New Britain, he would have been 3.6 years younger than the average player. We can assume he also would have moved up to AAA at some point during the season. He would have been 5.9 years younger than league average.

     

    Here are a few notes about the above:

    • The average age at AAA is pretty high. In the International League, the hitters and the pitchers averaged an age of 26.9. Triple-A isn’t so much about prospects. It’s about guys moving up and down from the big leaguers. It’s about journeymen in the organization to provide depth and help the affiliate win games.
    • JO Berrios was very young for the Florida State League, so when he moved up to New Britain, he was even younger compared to his competition. When he made his final-weekend start with the Red Wings, he was competing against hitters who were about seven years older, and more experienced.
    • Byron Buxton is one of the best prospects in baseball, but notice how quickly Jorge Polanco has moved up the system. Sure, he signed as a 16-year-old two years before Buxton was drafted, but he’s the same age as Buxton and he spent nearly half of his season in New Britain as well. As you know, he became a big leaguer (admittedly out of necessity) at the age of 20.
    • Notice how young were some of those pitchers in Cedar Rapids were. Lewis Thorpe was about four years younger than the average hitter he was facing. Kohl Stewart spent the whole year with the Kernels, and was about three years younger than the competition. Fernando Romero came up at the same time as Thorpe, just a year older. Stephen Gonsalves was promoted for the final month of the Kernels season.
    • I sometimes wonder if people realize just how young Oswaldo Arcia is. Despite a ton of strikeouts, he has shown tremendous power potential. And, he is younger than several players still in the minor leagues who are considered very good prospects.
    • You see a couple of GCL Twins names, Callan Pearce and Ruar Verkerk. When players are signed from the Dominican Republic or Venezuela, they typically spend a year or two or three in the Dominican Summer League. Pearce is from South Africa. Verkerk is from The Netherlands. Players from those countries, Australia, Germany, etc., have to come to the States to play in the GCL and you can better understand why these guys take a little longer to develop.

    So, this article is intended to be informational regarding the Twins minor league system and minor league baseball in general. Age to level of competition is a topic that Cody wrote about often in his 2014 Recaps for each of the 158 players that were profiled in the Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook 2015. It also should just help put into perspective player performance and prospect rankings.

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    While people chimed in about confirming what they thought about age in this article, they missed that these later in the draft choices produced a better warp than most systems. 

     

    I'd have to say there doesn't seem to be much consistancy between MiLB AB's and IP and WARP.  The Mets were the poster child in the article as to why not to call up guys early.  They probably did call up guys too soon, but the better teams according to WARP were all over the board.  Oakland had the best WARP yet were one of the teams with the quickest call up for pitchers, conversely they were among the slowest call up for batters.  Tampa, who was 3rd in WARP was just the opposite, being slowest for pitchers, and among the fastest for batters.  Meanwhile Cincinatti, which was 2nd in WARP, was sitting exactly in the middle in both catagories.

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    I would like to know what management expects from their prospects individually?

     

    What is it that they expect from Buxton that will propel him tho the MLB quickly?

     

    Same for Kepler and Polanco, etc.?

     

    We all guess as to what they want and when they should promote, but wouldn't it be easier to ask what thier expectations are for each promising propsect in the system?

    As a general guide moving forward................

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    I wasn't talking about me asking.  I meant someone in the media  (Seth, Jeremy. Berrnadino, etc).  Simple question: 

    What areas are you looking for Byron Buxton to improve on this year?

    What areas are you looking for Travis Harrison to improve on this year?

    What areas are you looking for AB Walker to improve on this year?

    Etc.

     

    Very rarely do I hear questions about what is needed for a prospect to progress through the next level.  They might answer. They might talk around the question.  Just ask.............

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    I try to be careful about such things... when writing the articles on the players of the year for the prospect handbook, I did ask Brad Steil about that. What made them successful in 2014, and what do they need to continue improving upon to keep moving up the ladder.

     

    It is a very individual, person-by-person thing. They're not afraid to answer it, even if not fully. 

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