Correlating Single-A walk and strikeout rates to the Major Leagues

USA TODAY Sports

How does a prospect's minor league walk or strikeout rate correlate to his rate in the majors?

Introduction

As I began my series of correlating prospect walk and strike ratios to future hitting success, a question arose from Carson Cistulli. How do minor and major league walk and strikeout rates compare to each other? I did a little of this analysis in my original series at The Platoon Advantage, but never pursued it in any depth. Consider this a supplement to the already running series.

Previous Levels: Rookie and Short-A

Method

I took the same data but instead split minor league seasons into various BB% or K% bins, basically the equivalent of Very Low, Low, Average, High, and Very High. Then I compared those rates with the player’s eventual MLB rate. If a player had fewer than 500 MLB PAs, I did not count his rate, since that is too small of a sample.

Hopefully the following tables are simple to understand, but just in case I didn’t design them well enough, I will explain. The first column contains the labels for BB% or K% at the minor league level. The third through eighth columns are the percentage of prospects that had that column heading’s major league BB% or K%. This means that rows add up to 100%, but columns do not.

Walk Percentage

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The younger a prospect is, the better chance he has at making the majors even with a low walk rate. Only 17% of 19 year-olds with low walk rates end up with 0-499 MLB PAs, while 33% of 20 year-olds with low walk rates do. Very few players in the majors have 0-4% or 13+% walk rates for an extended period of time. Players at these extremes in the minors will generally regress or not make it.

Strikeout Percentage

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High strikeout prospects don't tend to make it very far, even if they are younger. For the very young prospects, age 16-18, only those players with average rates have had an above average chance of sticking in the majors. Players over 18 follow a more traditional trend, where lower strikeout rates represent a high percentage of those who stick.

. . .

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus.

Chris St. John is a writer at Beyond The Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @stealofhome.

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