Minor league hitters who may be breaking out

Now that minor league teams have several weeks of games under their belts, individual player sample sizes are becoming something less than useless. We shouldn’t completely re-evaluate a player’s prospect status based on 40 games, but there’s certainly something to be gleaned by observing player’s statistics at this point. This is especially true for hitters as most have accrued 150+ PA’s at this point. K% “stabilizes” (Reaches an R Squared coefficient of .5) after just 60 PA’s while BB% takes 120. Power numbers (HR% and ISO) also stabilize relatively early at 170 PA’s and 160 AB’s respectively.

Most of the team’s best hitting prospects have struggled this year. Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott, Tyler Austin, Ramon Flores, and Angelo Gumbs have all failed to live up to expectations at the plate, while Cito Culver and Dante Bichette Jr. have cemented themselves as flops. Nonetheless, there have been some pleasant surprises in the organization.

J.R. Murphy: Murphy had consistently underachieved at the plate since being drafted in the second round back in 2008. He’s stepped up his game this year though, posting a .284/.375/.457 line in AA Trenton. His plate discipline numbers have been particularly good—he’s walked almost as much as he’s struck out (17:20). He could be bumped up to AAA Scranton before long and it’s looking like he might be in the Bronx next year at some point. He’s clearly a good hitter, but his defense is still suspect. Hopefully, he’ll be able to stay behind the plate long enough to bridge the gap until Gary Sanchez is ready.

Rob Refsnyder: A fifth round pick last year, Refsnyder has turned lots of heads by mashing in both class A Tampa and class A Charleston. In 131 PA’s in Tampa, he’s hitting .339/.443/.468. His BABIP sits at .387, so he’s been a little lucky, but he’s still walking more than he’s striking out and showing modest power. He’s also a perfect 12 for 12 in stolen base attempts. It’s a tiny sample size, but there’s also a lot to like. He’s 21 already, so I would imagine he’ll be moved to AA Trenton before long. He’s made it pretty clear he’s too good for A-ball. It will be interesting to see how he handles the challenge of the high minors.

Gregory Bird: Drafted in 2011, Bird didn’t see regular playing time until this season due to injury. The Yankees paid over slot for him when he was drafted, so they clearly saw some potential in his bat. He’s no longer a catcher, which limits his value, but it’s looking like he might have a good enough bat to hack it at first. He’s dominated in class A Charleston: .295/.432/.482.  In particular  he’s exhibited an outstanding eye at the plate, walking in almost 20% of his plate appearances. He’s still a long way off, but he’s done a lot to establish himself as a legit prospect.

About Chris

Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, and is an occasional user of the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell
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