Checking in on the International League Studs

Did you know the FanGraphs leaderboards — which already no doubt consume the majority of your time like they do mine — also carry updated minor league data? Yeah, right here:

Under the Leaders tab, yo!

Let us take a moment, you and I, to delve into the numbers of my favorite of the minor leagues, the International League.

I think it’s important to point out here that a high hitter BABIP in the minor league should not detract from our impressions here as much as it otherwise would in the major leagues. When a player is substantially better than their league, they can reasonably maintain BABIPs over .300 and even over .350 on occasion as they mash line drives incessantly. In the majors, this may translate into a lower BABIP, but still relatively good production.

Also, in the recent FanGraphs Phoenix retreat, FanGraphs master editor Dave Cameron remarked to me under a silvered Arizona moon — or in the car or something — that high walk rates in the minors do not necessarily translate into high walk rates in the majors. Consider, for instance, the case of catcher Dioner Navarro, who holds an impressive .350 OBP in the minor leagues, largely on the merit of his walk capabilities, but floundered with a .300 OBP (and lack-luster defensive skills) in the majors.

The International League numbers, here they are!



    • Most of the top 10 hitters in the IL are all guys we might classify as Quad-A hitters. I wrote about the Indians first baseman Matt LaPorta back in the offseason, suggesting he would develop that Quad-A designation if he returned to the minors to start the season and then mashed. Well, he’s in the minors, mashing, and since his MLB struggles largely concerned breaking pitches, it will be hard for him to shake that Quad-A designation here on out. I should imagine the Indians will tire of Casey Kotchman groundouts (74 wRC+) which might open a door for a LaPorta renaissance, but who can delve into a GM’s mind?
    • Speaking of opening doors, Mr. Steve Pearce — here listed with the Yankees — is now on the Orioles major league roster. He was acquired for cash from the Yankees (because apparently the Yankees needed cash), and now he has a shot at adding to his career 530 PA and 77 wRC+. Pearce hit 11 homers and 15 doubles in his IL time, and his walk rate was not outlierish, so there’s reason to think he can translate some of his numbers to the MLB.
    • I am the founder of the Official Secret Dan Johnson Fan Club, so it is a little hard for me to point out his crazy high walk rate. It should not be a detractor of his accomplishments in the IL so far (14 homers, 11 doubles, and 1 triple), but it should not really add to what we would expect from him in the majors. His minor league walk rate is at 19% now, but his major league rate is around 13%. I predict he would be near 13% in the majors if he returns to the MLB — not that anyone else would suggest anything different.


    • Hey there Jeff Francis! The recently-opted-out Francis was pitching quite well in the IL, and he is moments away from potentially replacing another soft-tossing lefty in Jamie Moyer. ‘Twere I the Rockies, I would be nervous about adding a starter with an 85 mph fastball, but hey, they’ve got a 4.89 FIP in their rotation right now, so it can’t get any worse, amirite!?
    Dylan Axelrod of the White Sox has a killer strikeout-rate/walk-rate combo. And in his limited innings in the majors, he has 3.98 SIERA and a 21% K-rate. That’s some nifty pitching depth there.
    • The youngest guy at the top of the leaderboard, Rays prospect Chris Archer, has been on a tear since his first couple of starts. Archer had a 6-walk and a 5-walk start in the early part of the season, but he’s zoned in since then and even recently had a 12-strikeout game. I am just glad I was able to grab him back in my Ottoneu league without anyone else snatching him away first.
    • The 24-year-old Jeff Locke has not pitched any innings in the majors yet, but the No. 9 Pirates top prospect has some impressive minor league numbers right now. He plunked two guys in his most recent start, but the strikeouts keep coming. (game log)

There’s a lot of stories here, but not enough internet to fit them all onto. :(

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Bradley writes for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. Follow him on Twitter @BradleyWoodrum.

17 Responses to “Checking in on the International League Studs”

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  1. RC says:

    “I think it’s important to point out here that a high hitter BABIP in the minor league should not detract from our impressions here as much as it otherwise would in the major leagues. When a player is substantially better than their league, they can reasonably maintain BABIPs over .300 and even over .350 on occasion as they mash line drives incessantly. In the majors, this may translate into a lower BABIP, but still relatively good production.”

    Another related notes is that guys with very high BABIP/AVERAGE in the minors, and relatively low isoP numbers aren’t necessarily hackers. IE, a guy with a .350/.375/.600 line isn’t necessarilly a hacker despite the fact that hes not walking at all. Its tough to walk when pitchers keep throwing you meatballs.

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  2. CabreraDeath says:

    Actually, Jeff Locke did get a brief call up for the Bucs last year, pitching a rather unimpressive (especially lacking control) ~11 innings or so. He’s incorporated a Lilly-esque turn in his wind-up this year, which may or may not be contributing to his good start, but interesting nonetheless.

    I presume he gets more of a tryout once Kevin Correia unseemly low BABIP finally convinces Hurdle, that, you know, he isn’t any good. But, the Bucs have some depth, so him starting this year (before Sept call-ups) is not a guarantee.

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  3. Jimmy says:

    Actually I think Pearce had an out in his contract he could have exercised, so the Yanks put him on waivers.

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  4. DD says:

    Important to note Francis’ 85 mph fastball would be replacing Moyer’s 78 mph “heater”. So there IS room for improvement.

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  5. Michael says:

    Glad to see LaPorta, the consummate AAAA player, is at the top of the WRC+ list. It’s like he exists purely to let us Indians fans down once he makes the big leagues.

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  6. Dan says:

    The unofficial classification known as “AAAA hitter” is, at best, grossly overused.

    Check out what Brad Eldred has done with the Mudhens. He’s gone deep 22 times, and he has 15 doubles and one triple. I know that Brad Eldred is probably not a great player. He’s not going to hit for a high average or walk much, he’s been given a few chances, and he’s 31, but what is the point of not bringing him up to the Tigers, just to see? They have used Gerald Laird and Don Kelly as a DH this season, and we know that their usual DH, Delmon Young, stinks. Young is one of the worst outfielders anyone has ever seen, he’s a terrible, terrible base runner on the rare occasion that he finds himself on base, and he’s utterly dedicated, as far as I can tell, to grounding into double plays.

    What is the difference between Delmon Young and Brad Eldred likely to be in REALITY? Not in the unofficially designated terms we feel we need to go to colloquially, “AAAA player” and such, but in terms of what they actually are likely to bring to the table. Not much, maybe, but you might get lucky with Eldred, because the International League isn’t playing a different sport. It’s not THAT different. Eldred might be a net negative, in which case you’re in exactly the same boat you were before, and he might just start blasting homers like crazy. I cannot for the life of me understand why the Tigers wouldn’t give this a try.

    Quote from Jim Leyland: “I’m not into that geek stuff with the numbers,” he said before Monday’s game.

    Oh, I understand it now.

    Same thing with LaPorta. The benefit of bringing LaPorta in could be huge, just huge, while the cost is minimal because, like Delmon Young, we already know that Casy Kotchman has spent the better part of the last handful years sucking. What is the difference? Kotchman is a AAAA player playing the majors, while LaPorta is a AAAA player playing in the minors. That’s probably the extent of it.

    I have another question. What keeps these guys going? Eldred has 38 extra-base hits, and he’s waiting for….what? He’s waiting for Delmon Young to stink slightly more? He’s waiting for injuries to occur to about a half dozen players at once, like in a team bar brawl (entirely possible, come to think of it)? What keeps him going?

    By that same token, I wonder the same thing abou the team. What is the purpose of wasting a spot on your AAA roster on a guy like Eldred when it doesn’t matter what he does there? Would he be in the majors if he had 25 homers right now? 28 homers? They DFA’d Omir Santos the other day and brought up Matt Young, who was immediately placed in the #2 spot so that he could strike out four times in his first game, but that’s okay because he’s not 31 years old, and whatever you do, don’t use the guy with 38 extra-base hits, lest we want the Mudhens to miss out on that coveted International League title.

    I’m sorry, I’m an annoyed Tigers fan, these days in particular, but this AAAA nonsense has always bugged me. Maybe there is such a thing as a Quad-A player, but I’m willing to bet there are far, far fewer of them than people seem to believe.

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    • hang in there says:

      Hang in there, man. I feel you. I hate how Leyland doesn’t change the batting order when giving his regulars a rest. That’s why you see Don Kelly batting first or some minor league scrub way too high.

      The people that don’t look into the “geek” stuff are just idiots. If Leyland would just look at how much Delmon Young sucks, he would CONSIDER other options. But simple-minded people are just that, simple and unimaginative.

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    • ThePartyBird says:

      You do know that Eldred was called up earlier this season and sucked, right? Not sure if I missed that in your post.

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      • wat says:

        He got like 17 at bats. Definitely not enough to get your feet wet.

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      • Dan says:

        Yes, I do know that, ThePartyBird. He went 3-16 with a double and a triple, so I guess that ends that experiment! Let’s try 29-year old Matt Young instead, he of the .259/.431/.354 line in Toledo. That is a lot of walks, and kudos to Young, but something tells me the pitchers in the show are going to go after him more aggressively.

        Or better yet, let’s stick with Delmon Young, the PROVEN MAJOR LEAGUER (TM). He’s carrying an 87 OPS+. When he got to Detroit last year he caught fire (for him) and hit a bunch of homers, but with 5 walks in 178 plate appearances, this still jsut amounted to an OPS+ of 103. You want a little better than that out of a DH hitting as well as he ever will.

        Young’s OPS+ in 2011, before the trade: 83
        Young’s OPS+ in 2012, full season: 90

        Delmon Young is not good. Brad Eldred MIGHT be good. That is my point. I’d guess the reason Brad Eldred doesn’t get another shot is because of this mostly nonsensical label, AAAA player. Delmon Young is a AAAA player, too, so why doesn’t anyone point that out? Actually, factor in defense, base running and the ability to not get into an ethnic slur-laden altercation while drunk at 3 in the morning, and I’d argue that Delmon Young is not good enough to be called a AAAA player.

        But none of that matters because Eldred got 16 AB’s earlier this year and he “sucked”.

        LaPorta, too. If players earns shots, give them their shots, so long as they’re not blocked. Neither of these players is blocked.

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    • Nick says:

      It was pretty obvious in Brad Eldred’s call up that he A: had no clue how to approach big league pitchers and B: lacked the innnate necessary to be reasonably competent despite that. Delmon Young at least has the latter quality going for him. Eldred came up and hacked at literally everything without ever putting solid contact on the ball.

      The 4 A tag exists for a very good reason; the gap between MLB and AAA is so wide that one can mash at AAA and still not be any good at MLB.

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  7. Nivra says:

    I’d like to request that the minor league numbers update faster. I’m constantly going to milb. com because Fangraphs takes 1-2 days to update numbers for minor leaguers.

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  8. Undocorkscrew says:

    Locke may determine a winner in that Nate McLouth trade after all…..

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