This article was submitted to me about two weeks ago and I just now am getting around to posting it. Sorry. I am a slacker.
The ‘raw’ statistics of a minor-leaguer does not necessarily represent an accurate measure of said player’s performance. One has to consider a player’s ‘luck’ with respect to league-average results populated by his peers. A calculated adjustment for ‘luck’ can be made to a player’s stats with respect to the league’s average for said statistic, and can even be adjusted to reflect a park’s average. The creators of minorleaguesplits.com have installed a tool/function that allows the user to compare a player’s raw stats with stats that have been adjusted for ‘luck’. For instance, a player with a low BABIP, relative to the league’s average, would be considered unlucky, thus said player’s BA will improve with the use of the ‘luck’ function. The equations used in the correction/adjustment aren’t readily available to observe/analyze through the web-site, but for the sake of this exercise, I assume that they are more-exhaustive than just using BABIP and park-factors alone. This also assumes that each park’s ‘factor’ has enough historical data to warrant the use within an adjustment equation. Either way, I highly recommend perusing some minor-league ball-players using the ‘luck’ tool before making any assumptions about past performance. If anything, it allows us the opportunity to question the reality of the numbers with respect to a player’s peers.
As a simple exercise in stat-based player evaluation, I decided to compare the raw stats to ‘luck’-adjusted stats of some Reds’ prospects that I consider the ‘next wave’. I define the ‘next wave’ of position players (Mesoraco, Soto, etc.), as those players who are just below the ‘current wave’ (Frazier, Heisey, etc.) that currently exist in Louisville. These players will likely start in either Lynchburg or Carolina in 2010, but will be well under the average age for their respective league. The table is grouped by league affiliate, and should be self-explanatory. Just compare the Raw Stats (AVG/OBP/SLG) with the Luck Adjusted stats for each player by affiliate.
Some of the prospect stat-lines are more interesting than others, especially in the context of previous discussions at redsminorleagues.com. For instance, I will now admit that I’m guilty of under-selling David Sappelt’s past performance, especially in light of his ‘luck’ adjusted stats. This guy may have more promise than I have even considered giving him before this exercise. In fact, the players who spent time in Sarasota this past season displayed much better stats after adjustment for ‘luck’. This goes to show you just how poor of a hitter’s league the FSL is. More importantly, I feel much better about this past season’s performances by Sappelt, Mesoraco, Buchholz, and Soto. Now that Sarasota is an after-thought, I’m confident that we’ll see much better performance from the aforementioned, let alone the overall improvement in stats coming from Lynchburg rather than Sarasota.
Other promising ‘bad luck’ performers include; Josh Fellhauer and Miguel Rojas. Could Fellhauer and Rojas maintain a .300 BA during an average luck season? Rojas’ season in Billings last year was dreadful, but the adjusted stats sure do provide a silver lining. Plus, Rojas’ performance this past season sure does impress. I’d love to see Rojas and Fellhauer develop into top prospects at two of the most important positions (SS and CF) on the field. The potential is there, and the Reds stand to benefit from increasing depth of legitimate prospects at the most prized of positions.
Of course, with all the pleasant surprises that transpires when adjusting stats for ‘luck’, there will inevitably be players who may have been ‘walking on a tightrope’ the past couple of seasons as the recipients of good luck. For instance, Alex Oliveras’ fabulous season in Dayton may not be an accurate indicator of future success. It seems he was helped by the elements of luck in Dayton, as was Byron Wiley. Still, even after the downward adjustment applied to their stats, their numbers (at Billings and Dayton) are not poor and bode well for the future depth of athletic outfielders with upside. Unfortunately, other outfielders, such as Tony Brown and Justin Reed, will need to show vast improvement in the near future, or I’m afraid they will fall by the wayside. I fear the future of their careers hinge on a much improved 2010.
Overall, I feel much better about the ‘next wave’ of prospects than I did previous to analyzing the adjusted stats. I think this exercise helps put a player’s performance into perspective, especially when the Reds prospects are subject to playing in such varied environments and leagues. A Reds’ prospect can expect to play in a high-octane, offense-laden league like Billings one season (thin-air and short-porches), then the next season his stats can fall off a cliff when trying to hit in the pitchers’ leagues of Dayton and Sarasota. Sometimes, the Reds prospects can appear over-matched and stalled in A-ball. However, when doubt sets in, we should all take a deep breath and realize that all stats may not be as they appear. Of course, all minor league stats should be taken with a grain of salt for various reasons, too numerous to detail here in this short blurb. Even after adjustment for luck, it’s not wise to evaluate a player on past performance alone. However, if David Sappelt begins the season in Lynchburg and posts .330/.380/.500 early on, none of us should be surprised at all.