Better in the Bigs

With the callups of some possible stars in Stephen Strasburg, Mike Stanton, and Jose Tabata, I wanted to take a look at a few guys who, although may have been highly touted, underperformed in the minor leagues relative to their major league track record.

2B Robinson Cano
MiLB: .278/.331/.425
MLB: .312/.345/.490

Back in 2005, the Yankees had had enough with the struggling Tony Womack and decided to shake things up. Lots of pundits and fans were saying Robinson wasn’t ready, and that Cashman/Torre were rushing the kid too quickly. Cano hit pretty well for a rookie at second base (despite his walk rate of just 3.0%). Since then, he’s been one of the better players in baseball.

SS Hanley Ramirez
MiLB: .297/.352/.430
MLB: .314/.385/.526

I often argue with my Red Sox friends over whether or not the Red Sox should take back the Hanley-Beckett deal if offered if they would also have to give up their World Series in 2007. Flags fly forever, but Hanley has hit forever, crushing major league pitching at a rate much better than his minor league line. In his last season before being called up, Hanley hit just .271/.335/.385. Since then, it’s been Cooperstown-worthy stuff.

1B/OF Garrett Jones
MiLB: .258/.312/.450
MLB: .271/.346/.490

Despite being a big guy, the power was never really there for Jones during his minor league career. During his first five years in the minors, his career high in slugging was .423. However, he broke out in 2004 in Double-A, slugging 31 homers. After some more farm time, Jones finally got a shot last season, and has been solid for the Buccos.

CL Joakim Soria
MiLB: 4.05 ERA, 2.43 K:BB
MLB: 2.13 ERA, 3.98 K:BB

The Mexicutioner was snagged by the Royals in 2006 via the Rule V draft and immediately became a force for Kansas City. Despite medicore control and so-so results in the minors, Soria quickly became one of the best closers in the game by utilizing his wicked off-speed stuff (curveball, slider, and changeup).

2B Placido Polanco
MiLB: .279/.317/.344
MLB: .304/.348/.415

When you look at the numbers Polanco put up in the minors, nobody would blame you for thinking that he was destined to be a utility man at best. His lack of patience and power meant he would rely heavily on his BABIP, and he just didn’t ever hit for much average to cancel out his other problems. During his time in the major leagues, the story has changed. Polanco can be relied on to his .300+ each year, and with a decent amount of pop too.

SP Johan Santana
MiLB: 4.78 ERA, 2.69 K:BB
MLB: 3.10 ERA, 3.60 K:BB

Like Soria, Santana was another product of the Rule V draft, with the Astros as the poor suckers who let him go. The Marlins actually took Santana first overall in the V, but a pre-arranged deal had him sent to Minnesota for $50,000. Santana started out as a rocky pitcher in the Twins pen, but since then, well, you know the story.

I love minor league baseball, and we live in an age in which it’s more popular than ever. Although there are some feel good stories in here, there also are some developmental things that aren’t too surprising (i.e. H-Ram developing power). Still, you never know if a major league career can just take off despite so-so minor league numbers, and these guys show why.



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Pat Andriola is an Analyst at Bloomberg Sports who formerly worked in Major League Baseball's Labor Relations Department. You can contact him at Patrick.Andriola@tufts.edu or follow him on Twitter @tuftspat


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