Checking in on the Pacific Coast and International Leagues

The Triple-A leagues include an interesting mix of professional baseball veterans who are waiting for one last chance at a big league job, and young prospects who are refining their game against experienced competitors. The Pacific Coast and International Leagues will send some of their best players to face one another in next week’s Triple-A All-Star Game in Toledo, Ohio. The season is about half-finished, so this is as good a time as any to check in on some of the most noteworthy performances in both leagues.

International League

The following lists represents the top 10 pitching performances (ranked by fielding independent ERA) among pitchers with at least 60 innings in the International League this year.

ORG AGE  PLAYER              IP   W  L   H  BB   K HR   ERA FIP-ERA
PIT  23  Tom Gorzelanny    99.2   6  5  67  27  94  4  2.35    2.41  Started for Pirates on Sturday
NYY  29  Kris Wilson       92     6  5  74  15  73  4  2.84    2.66
CLE  23  Jeremy Sowers     97.1   9  1  78  29  54  1  1.39    2.85  
BOS  30  Jimmy Serrano     72     4  5  72  26  61  2  2.50    2.86  Sold to Korean team in June
ATL  27  Kevin Barry       77.1   3  4  73  27  63  3  3.26    2.90
TB   23  Jason Hammel      77.1   3  6  80  21  63  5  4.07    3.08
PIT  30  Brandon Duckworth 74.1   8  3  67  23  57  4  2.42    3.12  Acquired by Royals
CHW  24  Heath Phillips   103.2  10  3  90  27  76  7  2.00    3.21
DET  25  Wilfredo Ledezma  71.1   4  3  60  23  66  6  2.52    3.24
TB   26  Brian Stokes      87.1   4  4  81  29  69  5  3.61    3.27

Now, let’s take a look at the most productive hitters in the International League. Gross Production Average (GPA) is a simple rate statistic that properly weights OBP and SLG and scales it in a way that resembles a batting average.

ORG AGE  PLAYER             POS   AB   H  BB  SO  HR   GPA
CHW  23  Josh Fields         3B  273  92  38  82  12  .329
ATL  24  Scott Thorman       LF  256  83  30  44  15  .320  Promoted in June
CHW  36  Ernie Young         DH  183  54  37  43   7  .312  Leads league with .429 OBP
TB   22  Elijah Dukes        OF  217  64  33  37   8  .308  Returns from suspension this week
NYM  21  Lastings Milledge   OF  182  53  32  42   4  .308  Demoted from NY on Friday
TB   30  Kevin Witt          1B  295  86  33  80  20  .301  Leads league with 20 HR
TOR  30  Kevin Barker        1B  284  84  43  69  12  .300
DET  25  Ryan Raburn         2B  282  81  35  70  14  .295
CIN  25  Chris Denorfia      OF  236  81  25  29   4  .291  Leads league with .343 AVG
BAL  32  Andy Tracy          1B  264  70  41  68  15  .290
All Star Most Likely to Succeed

Tom Gorzelanny won’t be able to participate in the All-Star game because the Pirates promoted him when they sent Oliver Perez to Indianapolis. Gorzelanny has demonstrated above-average control and struck out about a batter per inning at each level during his rapid ascent through the Pirates farm system. I expect Perez to return to Pittsburgh later this year, but I don’t think Gorzelanny will lose his spot in the rotation when that happens.

All Star Most Likely to Struggle

Josh Fields is having a nice season. I just don’t think he will continue to see 45% of his batted balls in play fall for hits during the second half of the season.

Pleasant Surprise of the First Half

Lastings Milledge learned to walk. I noted Milledge’s changing walk rates earlier this year and, as it turns, out, he has maintained his walking ways and has a .425 OBP in the International League. His one-month stint with the Mets exposed some problems at the plate and on the field, but his results against much older competition in the first half of the season suggests that he could be a valuable part of the Mets’ regular lineup as soon as next year. It still is not clear how much power he will show in his prime, but he looks like a productive top-of-the-order hitter even if he doesn’t hit more than 10 to 15 home runs per season.

Disappointment of the First Half

Most baseball fans already know Delmon Young tossed a bat at an umpire in April. Did you also know that he did not hit a home run this season until three days ago? And did you know he has only walked 10 times in over 350 plate appearances with Durham over the past year? Young is still young, athletic, and a great contact hitter. He’ll probably be a good big leaguer in the long run, but his first half can only be described as disappointing.

Pacific Coast League

Here are some of the Pacific Coast League’s top pitchers during the first half of the season:

ORG AGE  PLAYER              IP  W  L   H  BB    K HR   ERA FIP-ERA
CHC  26  Rich Hill         77.2  5  1  52  16  101  1  1.85    1.49  0-4 with Cubs in May
MIL  22  Dana Eveland      65.2  3  3  43  23   74  1  1.78    2.28
LAA  23  Jered Weaver      77    6  1  63  10   93  7  2.10    2.43  4-0 with Angels 
MIL  25  Ben Hendrickson   69.1  6  2  43  24   59  1  1.95    2.85
MIL  34  Jared Fernandez   71.1  3  2  70  14   44  3  2.52    3.14  4 ER over last 27 IP
WAN  26  Billy Traber      87.1  4  5  99  18   75  6  3.81    3.23
HOU  24  Jason Hirsh      104.1  9  2  80  44   92  4  2.42    3.40
STL  24  Anthony Reyes     71    4  1  61   8   65  9  3.04    3.44  2.16 ERA for St. Louis
HOU  28  Chris Sampson     72.1  9  1  63   5   40  6  2.61    3.46
STL  27  John Webb         96    4  6 122  29   56  4  4.50    3.61

The top hitters are once again ranked according to Gross Production Average (GPA). The following GPA figures are not park-adjusted, but I will complement the cumulative numbers with information about possible park effects where appropriate.

ORG AGE  PLAYER             POS   AB   H  BB  SO  HR   GPA
LAA  21  Howie Kendrick      2B  263 102  11  43  13  .359  Leads league with .388 AVG
ARI  26  Scott Hairston      OF  250  85  32  49  18  .346  Out with shoulder injury
SD   27  Jack Cust           OF  246  72  74  62  14  .338  Leads league with .458 OBP
FLA  31  Scott Seabol     2B/SS  242  76  29  55  17  .328  Hitting .238 on the road
LAA  36  Curtis Pride        OF  191  65  40  49   4  .324  
LAD  22  James Loney         1B  239  90  17  21   5  .322  17 of 27 XBH at Las Vegas
HOU  28  Luke Scott          OF  293  88  47  61  19  .317  Leads league with 19 HR
SD   25  Paul McAnulty       1B  236  75  36  39  11  .316
FLA  33  Mike Kinkade        3B  238  83  19  36   4  .315  GPA of .271 on the road
CHC  27  Michael Restovich   OF  219  66  27  64  11  .308
All Star Most Likely to Succeed

Howie Kendrick is not a flawless ballplayer. For example, he seems to swing at every pitch he can reach, and is an average infielder at best. His ability to make contact and hit for a high batting average, however, is a rare and special thing. He walks less often than just about any other hitter in baseball, but Kendrick has hit above .300 at every major stop in his minor leaguer career, and has steadily improved his power production along the way. He plays half his games at a hitter-friendly context, but he’s actually been more productive on the road (.426/.464/.682) in the Pacific Coast League. If he keeps this up, he could be a perennial Silver Slugger contender in the big leagues

All Star Most Likely to Struggle

Joe Saunders is 10-3 with a 2.37 ERA for Salt Lake City, but his fielding-independent ERA suggests he should be surrendering closer to 4 runs per game. Expect more mediocre performances from Saunders in the second half.

Pleasant Surprise of the First Half

Milwaukee’s Dana Eveland was not effective after he made the jump from Double-A Huntsville to Milwaukee last year. In October, he struggled for a week in the Arizona Fall League before injuring his knee. The 22-year-old southpaw rebounded nicely during the first half of the 2006 season by putting together some of the most dominant pitching performances in the Pacific Coast League. Eveland only allowed four earned runs over his first 36 innings pitched this year, but he struggled once again during a call-up to Milwaukee last month.

Disappointment of the First Half

The Cubs don’t have a good reputation for developing positional players, but outfielder Felix Pie was widely regarded as the Cubs’ best prospect this Spring. The 21-year-old is struggling in the Pacific Coast League this year. Some Cubs fans want the team to “build around” a “potential leadoff hitter” next year, but this doesn’t seem like a good idea. Pie isn’t playing anything like a major league-caliber leadoff hitter. His strike zone judgment is a work in progress, so he is struggling to keep his OBP over .300 this year. Pie is also only 2-for-10 in stolen base attempts over the past two months. He is still very young and capable of significant improvement in the near future, but the early results are disappointing.

Print Friendly
 Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Google+0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone
« Previous: THT Daily: NL 8, AL 6
Next: Barry Bonds, Giants Left Fielder »

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>