November 30, 2006


The Best Minor League Defenders (Jeff Sackmann, 11/30/06, Baseball Analysts)

Prospect analysis has always been one of the most contentious issues in the "stats vs. scouts" debates. However, for all the breakthroughs in statistical techniques, analysts have almost always had to rely on scouting to assign a value to the defensive contribution of a young player.

No longer. Through its website, Minor League Baseball has made available a play-by-play log of every game played in the affiliated minors, complete with some batted-ball information. A person with enough time, desire, and misdirected energy can track every ball that was pitched, hit, or caught by a bush leaguer in 2006.

For pitching and hitting, there's We can turn our attention, then, to fielding. Using a statistic called Range, I came up with plus/minus ratings for every 2B, 3B, SS, and OF in the minors. (For more information on how Range is calculated, here's David Gassko's introduction to his creation.) [...]

Center Field

Player Level Org IP PAA PAA/150
Jacoby Ellsbury A+/AA Bos 914 44 65
Justin Upton A Ari 918.3 32 47
Brent Johnson A+ Sea 847.3 28 45
Dustin Majewski A+/AA Tor 856 28 44
Tony Gwynn Jr. AAA Mil 812.7 26 44
Antoan Richardson A Sfg 1000.7 29 39
Chris Amador A+/AA Chw 805.7 23 39
Sam Fuld A+ Chc 734 21 38
Yordany Ramirez A+ Sdp 638.7 17 37
Matt Young A+ Atl 747 20 36

I can't wait to work out MLB equivalents for these; if Ellsbury's true talent level is even half of his 2006 PAA/150, he could be one of the best defensive centerfielders in baseball right now. It's tough to get quite so excited about Justin Upton just yet, but Diamondbacks fans who would like to see him stick in center have to be encouraged by his ranking here.

...besides trading for Javy Lopez instead of an Alberto Castillo-type, was not just putting Ellsbury in CF when Coco got hurt.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 30, 2006 12:09 PM

Yanks with top fielders at 2nd, SS, and corner of. Not bad for a supposedly depleted minor league system.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at November 30, 2006 1:58 PM

Too bad they're so helpless at the plate they'll never make the majors even as defenders.

Posted by: oj at November 30, 2006 3:07 PM

With the pitching we've got coming through in the next 3 years, and defense like that, we won't need to hit.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at November 30, 2006 4:01 PM