Projecting Hitting Prospects’ MLB Primes

It’s that time of year again when all your favourite prospect buffs and baseball sites are coming out with their top prospects lists heading into the season. Most of the lists are based on scouting and the perceived ability of the player. Age versus level is also brought up fairly often when talking about how a prospect handles a certain league at a certain age. Are these prospects going to perform well enough to stay in the MLB? Just how well will they perform? What does it really mean for a 20 year old in AAA who is just hitting league average? We know they’re advanced for their level, but by how much?

I have come up with a very simple system of equating age, level, and the hitter’s wRC+ to an equivalent “prime” wRC+ at the major leagues. Essentially, if the player follows their current development path, what wRC+ will they have in the majors during their prime (around 25 years old for hitters these days).

I have a simple system of putting it all together and projecting a single number for a hitting prospect, but you can also use the approximate equivalencies to quickly put into context how well a hitter is actually doing for age vs. level. There are obviously some flaws with this method:

1. Not everyone ages the same way. Some guys add on to their frame into their 20′s, while others are fully developed by 18.

2. Not everyone “develops” at the same rate. It is hardly ever linear for a batter, but this is what is easiest to assume. Some guys figure it out all at once, while others are gradual.

3. We don’t stay the same age for a full year and then magically become older; we age age every day, hour, minute, and second. It would be very difficult to track aging throughout a year and just using the conventional age is far simpler, but not as ideal.

4. There is no regression for BABIP as it is impossible to tell if it needs to be regressed or not due to such deviation in skill in a given league. There may be some true talent .400+ BABIP’s in the minors.

5. Not all leagues of the same level have the same level of play. One Rookie league may have a better talent of pitchers than another Rookie league and this is not accounted for.

With that being said, this is the best and easiest method I have seen at projecting a Minor League player for their future “prime” production. The only stat you need is wRC+ and you can find it on their FanGraphs profile. wRC+ is wOBA that is adjusted for their park and league and then scaled to the league on a standard 100 scale (it’s actually a little more complex, but this is the just of it). For example, 100 means average, while 120 means 20% above average.

Here are the wRC+’s for each age and level for a player to have a league average (100) wRC+ in the MLB when they are 25 (or their prime):

Age/Level
AAA
AA
A+
A
A-
R
25
130150170180190200
24120140160170180190
23110130150160170180
22100120140150160170
2190110130140150160
2080100120130140150
197090110120130140
186080100110120130
17507090100110120
1640608090100110

Also important to note that AFL (R) numbers are ignored due to the higher level of competition at a rookie level and short season.

I used a combination of actual past data (could only go back to 2006) and Steamer and Oliver projections for minor leaguers in each level for the baseline.

This table can give you very quick information about a minor leaguer’s season that they are having. You can quickly find their age-level 100 wRC+ equivalent and then subtract it from their wRC+ and add 100. The result should be their MLB wRC+ in their prime. For example:

Mike Trout age 19, 2011 AA season had a 156 wRC+. From the table we see the equivalent is 90 wRC+.

156-90+100 = 166 wRC+ (coincidentally his exact 2012 MLB wRC+)

You can do this very quickly on your own, but what about an actual projection for a player? For this we need to span their entire MiLB career and weigh each season accordingly by PA and year. Fortunately for you, I have gone ahead and done this for almost every top hitting prospect in the game today! Players with limited PA have been regressed towards a suitable mean. Ideally this regression would be towards their scouted tools.

Here are the main top guys at every position in the minors that have yet to play in the MLB:

C:

Gary Sanchez 106
Reese McGuire 99
Jorge Alfaro 94
Austin Hedges 87
Blake Swihart 79

1B/3B:

Joey Gallo 144
Miguel Sano 143
Kris Byrant 132
Jon Singleton 124
Garin Cecchini 114
Maikel Franco 114
DJ Peterson 107
Dominic Smith 106
Colin Moran 97

2B/SS:

Javier Baez 141
Carlos Correa 126
Addison Russell 125
Mookie Betts 119
Rougned Odor 109
Eddie Rosaario 109
JP Crawford 108
Alen Hanson 107
Corey Seager 106
Francisco Lindor 105
Arismedy Alcantara 105
Hak-Ju Lee 100
Rossell Herrera 99
Raul Mondesi 91
Jose Peraza 84
Luis Sardinas 80
Tim Anderson 79

OF:

Oscar Taveras 147
Byron Buxton 142
George Springer 129
Joc Pederson 127
Austin Meadows 125
David Dahl 117
Nick Williams 117
Albert Almora 109
Clint Frazier 107
Philip Ervin 106
Billy McKinney 104
Jorge Bonifacio 102
Delino DeShields 102
Justin Williams 102
Brian Goodwin 100
Stephen Piscotty 99
Brandon Nimmo 99
Gregory Polanco 98
Jorge Soler 94
Ramiel Tapia 94

If you were wondering, the Super Bowl winning QB, Russell Wilson, was projected for a 56 wRC+ at age 25. I think he chose the right sport!

What about all the Blue Jays’ prospects?

Franklin Barreto 111
Richard Urena 110
Anthony Gose 100
L.B. Dantzler 100
Andy Burns 95
Moises Sierra 90
Dalton Pompey 85
Matt Dean 80
Dawel Lugo 76
AJ Jimenez 75
Kevin Pillar 75
Dwight Smith Jr. 73
Emilio Guerreo 72
DJ Davis 70
Santiago Nessy 68
Dickie Thon 62
Ryan Goins 59
Kenny Wilson 59
Brendan Kalfus 58
Gustavo Pierre 51

A lot of these guys only have a season or two under their belt, so there isn’t much of a sample size, but there is some hope for the SS’s in the system with Barreto and Urena. It’s also nice to see that the system thinks Gose will reach league average by the time he’s 25. A league average bat with his speed and defence could be a very good player. These projections are right in line for the guys reaching prime like Sierra (90 vs. 88 Steamer and 87 Oliver), Pillar (75 vs. 76 Oliver and 87 Steamer), and Goins (59 vs. 60 Oliver and 66 Steamer).

If you have any requests for any minor leaguers, let me know in the comments and I will provide you with their projection! Have fun with this little tool, but still look at scouting reports!!!

AA 2014 To Do list: Upgrade 2B
Bird Seed: Jays Window Shopping, Young Retires, Law Ranks Prospects

Author: Chris Carruthers

Chris has been a baseball (and Jays) fan for 15 years. He has also played since the age of 6, working his way through Little League and Babe Ruth Baseball as a catcher and first baseman. He got interested in sabermetrics after viewing the movie Moneyball. His continuous self-learning in sabermetrics and advanced stats is driven by his engineering background and love for numbers. Chris's go-to website is FanGraphs, where he has had a few previous community submissions. Chris also enjoys music and plays guitar in his sparse spare time from his studies. He also follows hockey and his favourite team, the Calgary Flames. Follow Chris on Twitter @CCBreakingBlue.

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6 Comments

  1. Since he’s a rare Blue Jay prospect with power, I would love to see how Rowdy Tellez projects using this method.

    Post a Reply
    • He has one small sample at R ball at 18. 18 and R is 130 in the table and Tellez had a 105 wRC+.

      105 – 130 + 100 = 75 wRC+

      He has a very small sample though, which is why he was excluded.

      Post a Reply
  2. The league factor should enter into the equation (PCL)

    Post a Reply
    • wRC+ compares the hitter to every other hitter in the league, so it doesn’t really matter if it is a hitters league or not. Some leagues may have weaker hitters than others, but this changes every year and would be very hard to quantify.

      Post a Reply
  3. If you created a positionally weighted list, you would instantly have a top prospect lists that would work wonderfully for fantasy purposes because like most fantasy leagues, it would only consider offense.

    Post a Reply
  4. Very Interesting.

    Nice read. Thanks

    Post a Reply

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