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A brief look at DRC+ and the minor leagues

Context is important.

Minor League Baseball: Arizona Fall League-All Star Game Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

With the big debut of Baseball Prospectus’ new metric DRC+, additional research and angles have been supplemented to help better understand the definition of this metric and even provide an overall bigger view of context to the game.

Shortly after the release of historical major league data on DRC+, figures for each minor league player were put out. This opened about an array of additional ventures and angles to explore this new metric and what it means. Being the minor league stats geek that I am, I decided to dive in.

As it’s been done with major league players, I wanted to start out simple and explore the relationship between our traditional statistics, like OPS, and DRC+. I exported data from every minor league hitter that had at least 250 plate appearances in Low-A or above and lined up the respective two metrics.

*Before I dive into this data (a lot of which is under a paywall, which is why I’ll limit the amount I put on here) , I wanted to strongly suggest to anyone reading this that they get a subscription to Baseball Prospectus. There’s an endless amount of informative information accessed by this, shown further this week with the tremendous creation of DRC+

Starting off in broad terms, it goes without saying that the relationship between OPS and DRC+ in the minor leagues is extremely high. The correlation coefficient rounds out to roughly 0.843.

A lot of the the top names in DRC+ come as no surprise. Top prospects, current major league players, and some Quad-A mashers round out the top 20 marks. The top player in OPS in the minors this year, Jabari Blash, also had the top wRC+. The lowest OPS for the top 20 in DRC+ was former Braves backup reserve and current minor league journeyman Joey Terdoslavich (.840), a member of the Mets Double-A squad this year.

Top 20 minor league hitters in 2018 by DRC+

AAA Jabari Blash 2018 28 346 1.131 179
AA Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 2018 19 266 1.120 170
AAA Tyler O'Neill 2018 23 273 1.078 169
AAA Tyler White 2018 27 313 1.013 167
A+ Roberto Ramos 2018 23 255 1.051 162
AAA Dan Vogelbach 2018 25 378 0.979 161
AA Peter Alonso 2018 23 273 1.012 159
AAA Franmil Reyes 2018 22 250 1.042 154
A+ Ryan McKenna 2018 21 301 1.023 153
AAA Mike Tauchman 2018 27 471 0.978 152
A+ Bobby Dalbec 2018 23 419 0.945 151
A Casey Golden 2018 23 524 0.921 151
A Chad Spanberger 2018 22 418 0.928 150
A Ryan Noda 2018 22 527 0.905 149
AA Joey Terdoslavich 2018 29 318 0.840 149
A+ Austin Listi 2018 24 254 1.013 148
A Alex Kirilloff 2018 20 281 0.999 147
AAA Kyle Tucker 2018 21 465 0.989 146
A+ Rylan Bannon 2018 22 403 0.961 146
AA Will Smith 2018 23 307 0.890 146
Minimum 250 plate appearances Baseball Prospectus

Now that we have more of an idea built up, the outliers should be pointed out. Here were some of the biggest ones that stood out, for good or bad...

  • One of most notable ones I found was Michael Papierski, a 22-year-old outfielder in the Astros system. He slashed .185/.344/.276 this year, but DRC+ pinned as 12 percent above league average. He was a bit of an oddity, showing tremendous plate skills with little power and no BABIP fortune. He did play all of his games in the Midwest League, a below average league for offense as a whole.
  • Perhaps the biggest outlier I found was Rigoberto Terrazas, a 22-year-old that spent the duration of the 2018 season with the Mets Low-A affiliate, slashing a dreadful .176/.252/.207. Like Papierski, he showed respectable plate metrics, but only eight of his 52 hits went for extra-bases, hitting zero home runs. Playing in a notably tough hitters park in Columbia though, he ended up with a more pleasuring 83 DRC+.
  • One prospect season that DRC+ wasn’t too high on was that of Dodgers third baseman Edwin Rios. In his first full-stint at Triple-A, he slashed .304/.355/.482 in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. His DRC+ didn’t even have him sniffing average though, sitting at 81.

When looking at minor league numbers, context is extremely important. With over 100 teams to follow rather than 30, keeping up with run environments and ballpark impact is hard, sometimes allowing us to leave plenty of context out. DRC+ looks like it will at least aid to some of that problem though.

Patrick Brennan loves to research pitchers and minor leaguers with data. You can find additional work of his at Royals Review and Royals Farm Report. You can also find him on Twitter @paintingcorner.