Success rates for prospects based on walk and strikeout rates: the summary

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The summary post of the series using historical prospect lists. Which current prospects have helped their chances at Major League success based on their walks and strikeouts?

Introduction

This is the third and final time I will look at historical walk and strikeout rates for prospects. If you followed my previous installments, much of this will look familiar to you; however, these results are more complex and different. For those who are new, the basic premise is this: how likely is it that an offensive prospect succeeds in the major leagues based only on his minor league walk and strikeout rates?

Previous Installments

Success rates

Rookie | Short-A | Single-A | Advanced-A | Double-A | Triple-A

Correlation posts

Rookie and Short-A | Single-A | Advanced-A | Double-A | Triple-A

Method

First, I compiled the minor league numbers for all Baseball America top 100 offensive prospects from 1990 to 2007. I stopped at 2007 to allow enough time for the player to achieve MLB success. I only included top 100 prospects to add in a form of scouting to the picture. Stats and scouting should work hand-in-hand and an analysis similar to this can help augment a scout’s evaluation of talent.

Next, I compared each prospect’s walk and strikeout rate to the league average that year, creating BB+ and K+ metrics. Finally, I compared the walk and strikeout rates at various ages and levels of prospects in the minor leagues to their career MLB FanGraphs Batting runs. Batting runs are calculated using wOBA linear weights and adjusting for park effects. Basically this gives us the total runs above average that the player produced on offense, after adjusting for park.

In order to put players into the low, average, and high categories for BBs and Ks, I use a 15% variation from 100 BB+ or K+. This means that 85-115 marks average for each, while players below 85 are "Low" and players above 115 are "High." Since this analysis relies on bins, I allow for a 5% variation on the cutoffs. For instance, if a player has an 83 BB+ (78-88), I look at the historical percentages for both low and average walk rates.

Prospects are required to have 500 career minor league PAs to qualify in this analysis.

The following table is an estimate of where these cutoffs actually lie in terms of BB% and K% values.

BB% K%
Low 7.7% 15.4%
High 10.5% 20.8%

A player with at least 0.01 batting runs per plate appearance in 1500 career plate appearances is tagged "Productive," while players with negative batting runs or fewer than 1500 career PAs are "Busts." It is important to note that I am only interested in hitting ability. This is how Edgar Renteria ends up in the "Bust" category. He had a great career, accumulating 35.7 fWAR; however, his batting was worth -52.3 runs.

Results

Here are the historical results for prospects over their career, split by BB% and K%.

Prospectpercentcareer

Over a player's entire minor league career, the best approach involves high walk and low strikeout rates. However, a lot of both or not many of either are kind of okay too. Where a player really gets in trouble is when he starts striking out without the ability to take a walk. Then he turns into a one true outcome player, where that outcome is not getting on base. That will never be the new market inefficiency.

Prospects in 2013

How do the 2013 preseason consensus top 190 prospects and select draft picks that qualify stack up in this analysis?

Name Team Rank BB+ SO+ Prod% Avg% Bust%
Wil Myers Rays 4 139 108 39% 15% 46%
Corey Seager Dodgers 96 122 99 39% 15% 46%
Joc Pederson Dodgers 121 134 95 39% 15% 46%
Michael Taylor Nationals 6th 124 91 39% 15% 46%
Rio Ruiz Astros 4th 121 102 39% 15% 46%
Byron Buxton Twins 17 142 98 39% 15% 46%
Aaron Hicks Twins 62 167 105 39% 15% 46%
Delino Deshields Jr. Astros 88 126 103 39% 15% 46%
Dan Vogelbach Cubs 129 143 81 39% 14% 48%
Brad Miller Mariners 136 129 83 39% 14% 48%
Marcus Semien White Sox 6th 145 89 39% 14% 48%
Jackie Bradley Red Sox 34 152 89 39% 14% 48%
Jesse Winker Reds 180 154 84 39% 14% 48%
Garin Cecchini Red Sox 133 161 82 39% 14% 48%
Chris Taylor Mariners 5th 146 85 39% 14% 48%
Deven Marrero Red Sox 1st 132 85 39% 14% 48%
Max Muncy Athletics 5th 164 79 38% 13% 49%
Jurickson Profar Rangers 1 133 71 38% 13% 49%
Tommy La Stella Braves 8th 127 45 38% 13% 49%
Jeimer Candelario Cubs 165 138 80 38% 13% 49%
Mookie Betts Red Sox 5th 152 53 38% 13% 49%
Kelvin Encarnacion Cubs Int. 159 76 38% 13% 49%
Francisco Lindor Indians 16 120 63 38% 13% 49%
Jace Peterson Padres 1st 140 66 38% 13% 49%
Billy Burns Nationals 32nd 147 64 38% 13% 49%
Kyle Parker Rockies 152 116 109 33% 13% 55%
Darin Ruf Phillies 20th 114 100 33% 13% 55%
Xander Bogaerts Red Sox 9 113 103 33% 13% 55%
Tyler Austin Yankees 82 117 106 33% 13% 55%
Christian Yelich Marlins 11 117 104 33% 13% 55%
Nick Franklin Mariners 55 111 98 33% 13% 55%
Rosell Herrera Rockies Int. 110 97 33% 13% 55%
Max Kepler Twins 142 114 89 32% 14% 54%
Hak-Ju Lee Rays 76 111 88 32% 14% 54%
Josmil Pinto Twins Int. 113 80 31% 15% 54%
Matt Skole Nationals 188 192 113 30% 13% 58%
Michael Choice Athletics 111 123 117 30% 13% 58%
Gregory Bird Yankees 5th 205 117 30% 13% 58%
Addison Russell Athletics 33 126 116 30% 13% 58%
Jonathan Singleton Astros 29 168 114 30% 13% 58%
Brian Goodwin Nationals 58 147 111 30% 13% 58%
Michael Ohlman Orioles 11th 134 111 30% 13% 58%
Mac Williamson Giants 3rd 90 107 27% 10% 63%
Jedd Gyorko Padres 49 108 90 27% 10% 63%
Oswaldo Arcia Twins 61 91 99 27% 10% 63%
Josh Bell Pirates 123 105 97 27% 10% 63%
Nick Castellanos Tigers 25 90 104 27% 10% 63%
Carlos Correa Astros 22 106 94 27% 10% 63%
Drew Vettleson Rays 166 100 94 27% 10% 63%
Cheslor Cuthbert Royals 169 96 90 27% 10% 63%
Reymond Fuentes Padres 1st 98 105 27% 10% 63%
Roman Quinn Phillies 164 103 105 27% 10% 63%
Billy Hamilton Reds 23 109 102 27% 10% 63%
Jonathan Schoop Orioles 93 95 82 26% 14% 61%
Alen Hanson Pirates 52 99 89 26% 14% 61%
Jacob Realmuto Marlins 146 93 85 26% 14% 61%
Blake Swihart Red Sox 140 95 84 26% 14% 61%
Travis Jankowski Padres 1st 93 88 26% 14% 61%
Devon Travis Tigers 13th 102 55 24% 17% 59%
J.R. Murphy Yankees 2nd 99 79 24% 17% 59%
Kevin Plawecki Mets 1st 99 51 24% 17% 59%
Gregory Polanco Pirates 54 100 78 24% 17% 59%
Kolten Wong Cardinals 65 92 65 24% 17% 59%
Jorge Polanco Twins Int. 98 58 24% 17% 59%
Carlos Rodriguez Orioles Int. 105 28 24% 17% 59%
Travis D'Arnaud Mets 12 87 91 23% 11% 67%
Joey Terdoslavich Braves 6th 86 98 23% 11% 67%
Cody Asche Phillies 4th 84 95 23% 11% 67%
Jorge Bonifacio Royals 172 88 106 23% 11% 67%
Arismendy Alcantara Cubs Int. 80 103 23% 11% 67%
Roman Hernandez Royals Int. 82 107 23% 11% 67%
Austin Hedges Padres 50 88 82 23% 13% 65%
Eddie Rosario Twins 119 85 88 23% 13% 65%
Oscar Taveras Cardinals 2 85 67 22% 15% 63%
Stephen Piscotty Cardinals 1st 89 51 22% 15% 63%
Raimel Tapia Rockies Int. 83 65 22% 15% 63%
Jose Ramirez Indians Int. 82 44 22% 15% 63%
Nolan Arenado Rockies 53 77 52 20% 12% 67%
Maikel Franco Phillies 141 76 75 20% 12% 67%
Adonis Garcia Yankees Int. 51 67 20% 12% 67%
Wilmer Flores Mets 149 65 66 20% 12% 67%
Taylor Lindsey Angels 1st 69 72 20% 12% 67%
Rougned Odor Rangers 176 64 76 20% 12% 67%
Kevin Pillar Blue Jays 32nd 67 68 20% 12% 67%
Rob Brantly Marlins 181 74 61 20% 12% 67%
Hector Roa Astros Int. 50 78 20% 12% 67%
Mason Williams Yankees 40 77 70 20% 12% 67%
Alex Yarbrough Angels 4th 47 74 20% 12% 67%
Christian Bethancourt Braves 117 50 80 20% 12% 67%
Shawon Dunston Cubs 11th 23 70 20% 12% 67%
Didi Gregorius Diamondbacks 113 71 63 20% 12% 67%
Luis Hernandez Diamondbacks Int. 63 66 20% 12% 67%
Luis Sardinas Rangers 114 75 68 20% 12% 67%
Jose Iglesias Red Sox 157 69 76 20% 12% 67%
Jose Peraza Braves Int. 71 59 20% 12% 67%
Joey Gallo Rangers 132 154 176 20% 10% 70%
Miguel Sano Twins 15 134 136 20% 10% 70%
George Springer Astros 46 141 135 20% 10% 70%
Mike Olt Cubs 27 161 134 20% 10% 70%
Bubba Starling Royals 56 126 138 20% 10% 70%
Brett Jackson Cubs 155 136 141 20% 10% 70%
Nomar Mazara Rangers Int. 123 137 20% 10% 70%
Matt Adams Cardinals 184 78 87 20% 12% 69%
Stefen Romero Mariners 186 70 83 20% 12% 69%
Brandon Drury Diamondbacks 13th 60 83 20% 12% 69%
Dorssys Paulino Indians 90 71 90 20% 12% 69%
Gary Brown Giants 103 75 84 20% 12% 69%
Adeiny Hechavarria Marlins 149 74 85 20% 12% 69%
Carlos Sanchez White Sox 127 77 82 20% 12% 69%
Carlos Tocci Phillies Int. 56 86 20% 12% 69%
Randal Grichuk Angels 1st 50 99 19% 11% 70%
Chris Owings Diamondbacks 120 38 107 19% 11% 70%
Jake Marisnick Marlins 63 79 98 19% 11% 70%
Avisail Garcia White Sox 116 47 107 19% 11% 70%
Gary Sanchez Yankees 35 92 113 19% 6% 75%
Richie Shaffer Rays 184 90 111 19% 6% 75%
Kaleb Cowart Angels 48 100 111 19% 6% 75%
Edward Salcedo Braves 181 81 114 17% 7% 77%
Aaron Altherr Phillies 9th 80 113 17% 7% 77%
Patrick Kivlehan Mariners 4th 82 118 17% 7% 77%
Domingo Santana Astros Int. 115 155 16% 6% 79%
Trayce Thompson White Sox 145 114 141 16% 6% 79%
Trevor Story Rockies 59 114 134 16% 6% 79%
Patrick Wisdom Cardinals 173 116 124 16% 6% 79%
Slade Heathcott Yankees 85 110 129 16% 6% 79%
D.J. Davis Blue Jays 138 115 142 16% 6% 79%
Elier Hernandez Royals Int. 62 112 14% 8% 78%
Mike Zunino Mariners 20 102 121 11% 2% 87%
Lewis Brinson Rangers 108 102 176 11% 2% 87%
Max Stassi Astros 4th 92 124 11% 2% 87%
Victor Roache Brewers 178 101 135 11% 2% 87%
Matt Davidson Diamondbacks 81 108 125 11% 2% 87%
Jonathan Villar Astros 189 103 130 11% 2% 87%
Marcell Ozuna Marlins 115 88 121 10% 4% 87%
Robert Hefflinger Braves 7th 88 139 10% 4% 87%
Julio Morban Mariners Int. 80 136 10% 4% 87%
Yasiel Balaguert Cubs Int. 88 135 10% 4% 87%
Javier Baez Cubs 18 65 123 9% 5% 86%
Adam Walker Twins 3rd 71 121 9% 5% 86%
Courtney Hawkins White Sox 71 68 164 9% 5% 86%
Jorge Alfaro Rangers 104 61 142 9% 5% 86%
Nick Williams Rangers 2nd 56 130 9% 5% 86%
Yorman Rodriguez Reds Int. 76 134 9% 5% 86%
Adalberto Mondesi Royals 105 79 122 9% 5% 86%

That is quite a few names and I can't cover the placement of all of them. However, a few stick out: George Springer's approach has been the cause of much concern. However, his high walk rate saves him, and this needs to be more widely disseminated. At the bottom of the list are three very interesting prospects: Javier Baez, Jorge Alfaro, and Raul Mondesi. Each are highly regarded and for many a good reason. Their current approach is not one of them, though.

I talked at some length about Baez in the Advanced-A version of this series. He is a unique prospect, possessing ridiculous power potential from the shortstop position. That combination of power and position lead him to kind of "break" this system. However, I am still leery about his inability to take a walk.

Alfaro is a catching prospect and as such, I am willing to cut him some slack, since catchers are a completely different animal offensively. Much less is expected of them and they may mature at a slower rate. Speaking of maturing, Mondesi needs to do much of that, and 2014 will be his age-18 season. His walk rate dropped quite a bit this past year, and he will need to work on that, but he still has plenty of time to do so.

Summary

What did we learn since starting this series four months ago? Extreme rates at lower levels are actually okay. Don't worry about a prospect's high strikeouts and low walks until he gets into the upper levels. Age is a definite determining factor, even among prospects at the same level. Much more is expected from a 22-year old at Double-A than a 21-year old.

As is the traditionally held value, success in Double-A is an extremely important step for a prospect. A player really needs to get through there before his age-22 season, or else he is fighting against history.

It's generally bad for a prospect to not walk a lot, but there are certain ages and strikeout levels where that is not such a terrible sign, particularly if the player also doesn't strike out a lot. High strikeout totals can be perfectly acceptable at lower levels and at upper levels with an equally high amount of walks. A high walk rate is the best determining factor in a player's approach for his chances at becoming a productive hitter.

Conclusion

One main point of contention in this series is that it ignores power. Players who can hit the ball out of the park with regularity have an upper hand, even with a less than desirable approach. Initially, I ignored power because so many variables go into minor league power numbers. However, with the help of the team here at Beyond the Box Score, my next series will go more in-depth on how power develops and how it correlates to major league success.

. . .

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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