Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
One of the few upsides to having such a rough season at the Major League level is getting a chance to watch and evaluate some of the young talent that would likely otherwise have remained in the minors. Obviously, rushing young talent is less than ideal, but getting a chance to see which players perform their way into upper managements long term plans is interesting at the very least.
Predicting how young players will perform at the highest level is tough; if anyone came up with a proficient algorithm for player predictions they could probably be of real use to any organization. One can glean more about how players might do when examining their minor league track record. This article will examine a small sample size of Rangers’ players (from past and present) OPS’s at each level of play from full A ball through to their Major League resume.
Some players’ OPS’s ascend as they play their way through the minors; some players OPS descend as the competition stiffens; others have remarkably consistent performances regardless of the level at which they were playing. Making sense out of these various trajectories could help predict future players eventual performance in the majors.
Group A: Players whose performance got better throughout the minors
Full-A: .638 OPS
High-A: .752 OPS
Double-A: .924 OPS
Triple-A: .670 OPS
Average Minor League OPS: .736
Major League OPS: .762
David Murphy OPS per level:
Average Minor League OPS: .750
Major League OPS: .769
These two players had positive slopes from level to level through the minor leagues (even despite Rios’ poor time at AAA) representing the fact that they performed better as they ascended the echelons of professional baseball. Additionally, each player has a higher Major League OPS now than their career Minor League OPS supporting their upward trend. Based on the positive differential from the minors to the majors, this improving-with-age group is a real positive.
Group B: Players whose performance stayed relatively consistent in the minors
Shin-Soo Choo OPS per level:
Average Minor League OPS: .838
Major League OPS: .836
Michael Young OPS per level:
Average Minor League OPS: .817
Major League OPS: .787
Prince Fielder OPS per level:
Average Minor League OPS: .921
Major League OPS: .910
Average Minor League OPS: .702
Major League OPS: .683
These four players each sustained relatively consistent production throughout their professional progression. Choo especially has been consistently proficient at each level he has played. Though Michael Young’s Major League OPS was 30 points below that of his minor league average, he still remained a paragon of consistency with Texas and his totals were dragged south in his final two campaigns, before which his OPS hovered just north of .800 for years.
Group C: Players who’s OPS sloped downward through the minors
Average Minor League OPS: .891
Major League OPS: .688
Average Minor League OPS: .894
Major League OPS: .746
Average Minor League OPS: .868
Major League OPS: .796
Should these numbers be put into a scatter plot, each of these players’ OPS would have a mildly significant downward slope; that downward trend continued in all cases as they broke through to the majors. Obviously, competition heightens with each additional level, so these players trajectories would probably be most common should I have to guess, especially if those players who never even had elongated success in the majors were accounted for.
Group D: Players whose offensive performance fell massively between the minors and majors.
Average Minor League OPS: .830
Major League OPS: .654
Triple-A: 1.159 (13 PA’s)
Average Minor League OPS: .943
Major League OPS: .815
Average Minor League OPS: .885
Major League OPS: .726
Here, every player had at least 100 points differentiating their Minor League performance from their Major league averages. In the case of Beltre, .815 is certainly productive still (Hall of Fame worthy? I think so), especially at such a demanding defensive position and with five full seasons of sub-.740 OPS in his lengthy career. Arencibia and Kouzmanoff though were productive relatively speaking all throughout the levels of the minors yet have simply had a harder time translating that success to the highest level.
With these groups in mind, taking another look at the players the Rangers hope to have significant roles in the Majors in 2015 and beyond is intriguing. Here is how some of the Rangers higher-level prospects would be classified on this grouped scale:
Luis Sardinas (this classification is debatable)
Unknown… Hopefully not Robinson Chirinos
Clearly, this system of grouping is a coarse methods and chock full of caveats. Though imperfect, I think grouping prospects based on their professional trajectories leading up the majors is an interesting exercise and could be refined with more time and research. The Rangers lineup will have a completely new look once 2015 begins and (theoretically) the Disabled List is vacant; for this reason, there will be less pressure on younger players and they will have a lesser role in the lineup as a whole.
Regardless, these players will be a big part of the Rangers’ future whether directly through their play or indirectly as tradechips etc. Taking these staged performances into account and attempting to extrapolate them into Major League performance is something every team’s upper management works to do. Regardless of their classification in this case, ideally all these Rangers prospects can improve as they develop, thereby putting themselves in Group A.