Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on rookie-eligible players. Read previous editions of the Prospect Watch here. Note also: all cited ages are relevant prospect’s baseball age (i.e. as of July 1st of the current year).
J.D. Sussman, the member of FanGraphs’ crack squad of prospect analysts typically responsible for Thursday’s edition of this daily Watch, has suggested that his “real job” will prevent him from fulfilling his obligations to the site today. The present author, who is barely employed by anyone, has volunteered to replace Sussman, provided that he (i.e. that same and present author) might also avoid exerting himself unduly.
To that end, what one finds in this edition of the Watch is a brief survey of the top-10 qualified minor-league hitters by FIB*, or Fielding Independent Batting (Asterisk). What FIB* isn’t is the same metric introduced to readers by Bradley Woodrum about three years ago. That one, called Fielding Independent Batting, but without the very integral asterisk, accounts for xBABIP and is presented as an index stat, like wRC+. What FIB* is is a batting metric with which the author experimented last fall and which is calculated almost precisely like FIP, except then placed on the same scale as wOBA*. Alternately stated: FIB* is a wOBA estimator which accounts only for home runs, walks, and strikeouts.
*The equation, in full: [(HR*12 + BB*3 – K*2) * .141] + .3267.
Below are the top-10 qualified prospect-age minor-league hitters by FIB* this season, where prospect age is somewhat arbitrarily defined as 24 or below for players at Triple-A, 23 or below at Double-A, 22 or below at High-A, etc.
• The reader should note that no attempt has been made here to adjust either for park- or league-specific factors. Accordingly, a player such as Oakland outfield prospect Billy McKinney — who’s recorded six home runs already in the hitter-friendly California League — might benefit from his environment in a way that isn’t accounted for.
• While the reader is noting that, he or she should also note, however, that the aforementioned McKinney is both (a) just 19 years old in a league which features an average batters age of about 23 and also (b) has played center field exclusively as a professional. Reports, such as Marc Hulet’s from this past offseason, suggests that McKinney perhaps doesn’t have the necessary tools to remain at center. Still, the overall performance relative to age and level is promising.
• Colorado prospect Ryan McMahon, the leader by this measure among prospect-age minor leaguers, was examined in some depth by means of Nathanial Stoltz in a recent edition of the Watch. A summary of that piece: McMahon’s home field features inflated park factors, but McMahon is promising apart from that.
• Entirely powerful Texas third-base prospect Joey Gallo continues to record home-run rates among the very highest in the minor leagues — but has done so this year (through his first 80-plus plate appearances, at least) while also controlling the strike zone more ably. After having produced walk and strikeout rates of 10.8% and 37.0%, respectively, last season in the Class-A South Atlantic League, Gallo has improved upon both marks — even as one of the Carolina League’s younger players. Of note, as well: according to StatCorner, Gallo’s home park actually deflates home runs for left-handed batters by 12%.
• Catcher Eric Haase probably earns the distinction of most obscure player among those listed here. A seventh-round selection out of a Michigan high school by Cleveland in 2011, Haase played in the Class-A Midwest League last season, as well. That he’s repeating the level ought certainly to be considered — although, one notes that he recorded an above-average offensive line (113 wRC+) in 420 plate appearances his first time through.