Table of Contents
Here’s the table of contents for today’s edition of Daily Notes.
Baseball’s Best Unaffiliated Hitter: Probably Chris Nowak
In the absence of actual empirical data*, it wouldn’t be entirely unreasonable, I think, to suggest that the Atlantic League is among the most competitive of baseball’s independent leagues. Even less ridiculous, I think, would be to suggest that 29-year-old corner infield-type Chris Nowak was the best overall hitter in that same League by kinda a lot this past season.
*In the presence of said data, too, it turns out. Brian Cartwright, proprietor of the OLIVER projection system, informs me that the Atlantic League is No. 1 among all indy leagues “by a fair margin.”
After his impressive 2012 in the States, Nowak has continued to produce offensively in the Venezuela Winter League (VWL). Notably, he’s hit as well as — and mostly better than — basically every affiliated player currently rostered in Venezuela. Among the 198 batters who’ve recorded at least one plate appearances in the VWL, Nowak has the 13th-best regressed home-run rate, the 11th-best regressed walk rate, and the 48th-best (i.e. lowest) regressed strikeout rate. His overall expected line (represented by SCOUT+, below) has been bested by only four players — all of whom played within affiliated baseball in 2012. Philadelphia’s Darin Ruf, by comparison — who won the Eastern League MVP and was also named the best player in the Phillies system — is currently ranked 22nd in the league offensively, per SCOUT.
This is not to suggest, of course, that Chris Nowak ought immediately to be whisked away to the major leagues. Brian Cartwright’s OLIVER projections system, despite translating Nowak’s 2012 season to a .271/.364/.446 major-league line, still regards him (i.e. Nowak) as a replacement-level player at best — nor, given his age and probable defensive limitations (he plays a lot of first base for a third baseman), is that particularly surprising. Whatever caveats the reader is tempted to make about Nowak, in other words, they are likely valid.
That said, it’s also worth noting that playing even right at major-league replacement-level is a considerable achievement. It’s something, for example, that at least 91 actual major leaguers themselves — among them, Michael Young (-1.4 WAR) and Jeff Francoeur (-1.2 WAR) and Ryan Howard (-1.0 WAR) — were unable to accomplish in 2012.
Nowak, who was originally drafted by Tampa Bay out of the University of South Carolina (Upstate) in 2004, actually played in affiliated baseball as recently as 2011 — for Milwaukee, specifically, with which organization’s Triple-A team he recorded 54 plate appearances. While posting some superficially good numbers at points before that within the Rays org, Nowak’s power numbers weren’t excellent and he was usually old for his levels. In the ca. two years of baseball since then, however, he’s finished among the top three in Atlantic League home runs in consecutive seasons. Given his age, we wouldn’t have expected him to improve in the meantime; however, the contingency isn’t an impossible one, either. If we take for granted that Nowak would want to play within a major-league organization, it seems that letting him do that in return for (not very many, relatively speaking) American dollars would be a good arrangement for everyone involved.
SCOUT Leaderboards: Venezuelan Baseball League
Below are the current SCOUT leaderboards for the Australian Baseball League. (Ages as of July 1st, 2012. Players listed with most recent team. Click here for more on what is SCOUT.)
SCOUT Leaderboard: Venezuelan Winter League Hitters
Below is the current SCOUT batting leaderboard for the Venezuelan Winter League. SCOUT+ is calculated using regressed home-run, walk, and strikeout rates, where 100 is average and above 100 is above average.
SCOUT Leaderboard: Venezuelan Winter League Hitters (Prospects)
Here is the SCOUT batting leaderboard for the Venezuelan Winter League, but only populated with players who are 25 or under — i.e. something more like “prospect” age relative to the league.
SCOUT Leaderboard: Venezuelan Winter League Pitchers
Below is the current SCOUT pitching leaderboard for the Venezuelan Winter League. SCOUT- is calculated using regressed strikeout and walk rates where 100 is average and below 100 is above average.
SCOUT Leaderboard: Venezuelan Winter League Pitchers (Starters)
Here is the SCOUT pitching leaderboard for the Venezuelan Winter League, but only populated with pitchers who’ve made at least half of their appearances as starts.