Kevin Plawecki, Jayce Boyd, and age appropriateness Part II

Back in May I wrote an article discussing the Savannah Sand Gnats trio of Kevin Plawecki, Jayce Boyd, and Brandon Nimmo, who were mashing the South Atlantic League (SAL) at the time. Specifically, the discussion centered around the downplaying of Plawecki and Boyd’s performances because they were “old for their league” or not “age appropriate.” A common rule of thumb appears to suggest that age appropriate for the SAL is somewhere between 19-21, with 22 being pretty questionable. Plawecki and Boyd were 22 and so doubt was cast on their stellar performances.

Where did this rule come from? Well, probably from people with much more knowledge and experience in these sorts of things than you or I. The problem, however, is that this rule appears to mostly apply to prospects at the top tier in talent and how they generally perform well while being young for their league. It certainly didn’t sprout from the actual numbers, as my research suggested.

As a refresher, the table below summarizes the average age, median age, and age ranges for the leagues in which the Mets have an affiliate except for the GCL and DSL. It also includes those same metrics for the Mets’ affiliates specifically.  Note that the metrics are derived from players’ ages as of 5/12/2013 and the numbers were derived before all of the promotions and shuffling of players this season.

Age Metrics Pacific Coast League (AAA) Eastern League (AA) Florida State League (A+) South Atlantic League (A-) New York-Penn League (SS-A) Appalachian League (Rookie)
League Mets League Mets League Mets League Mets League Mets League Mets
Average Age 27 yrs 4 ms 26 yrs 10 ms 25 yrs 4 ms 24 yrs 5 ms 23 yrs 10 ms 24 yrs 0 ms 22 yrs 4 ms 22 yrs 5 ms 21 yrs 9 ms 21 yrs 10 ms 21 yrs 0 ms 20 yrs 5 ms
Median Age 26 yrs 6 ms 26 yrs 6 ms 24 yrs 9 ms 24 yrs 0 ms 23 yrs 4 ms 23 yrs 4 ms 22 yrs 3 ms 22 yrs 2 ms 21 yrs 6 ms 21 yrs 4 ms 21 yrs 1 ms 20 yrs 7 ms
Age Range 19.6 – 38.11 21.9 – 32.11 20.7 – 41.5 21.9 – 29.8 19.5 – 41.5 19.9 – 36.8 17.8 – 29.2 19.9 – 24.8 17.5 – 35.8 18.4 – 33.1 17.3 – 28.4 17.8 – 25.3

The most important number above is the median age in each league. According to the numbers, Plawecki and Boyd were pretty much spot on for age appropriateness in the SAL. It’s understandable that you temper expectations for a prospect that should perform well in a league in which they are age appropriate. It also makes sense that you get excited for youngsters outplaying the older competition and therefore rate them higher. That doesn’t mean you completely disregard production from a player when they so fully dominate their league, as Plawecki and Boyd did to the SAL in the first half of the season.

About the only thing they could do to silence the doubters was to get promoted to the next level and keep on performing, and that’s exactly what they did. On June 20th, the 22-year-olds were both promoted to High-A St. Lucie in the Florida State League (FSL). In the FSL, the two are currently performing as such:

  • Boyd: .287/.349/.487 with an OPS of .836, 4 home runs, 23 RBI, and a 12/10 K/BB in 31 games
  • Plawecki: .317/.410./416 with an OPS of .826, 1 home run, 20 RBI, and a 12/9 K/BB in 30 games

All of a sudden these two are performing at a high level in a league where, according to the table above, they are slightly younger than the competition. You’d obviously like to see more power production from a first baseman, but it’s clear that Boyd so far has shown a hit tool that could lead to the development of more power down the line. Still, there’s a legitimate question as to whether he will ever hit enough for the position.

Plawecki, on the other hand, is certainly making prospect watchers take notice. Not only is he hitting well for the catcher position, which adds tremendously to his value, he’s also shown strong defense behind the plate and has thrown out 29% of runners. You may start seeing Plawecki creeping his way on to top 100 lists this offseason if his production continues. In fact, John Sickels at Minor League Ball has recently stated that Plawecki could make his next top 100. You will most certainly see him shooting up Mets-specific prospect lists and possibly in the discussion for top catching prospects overall. How crazy would it be for the Mets to have two of the top catching prospects in the game?

12 comments for “Kevin Plawecki, Jayce Boyd, and age appropriateness Part II

  1. July 28, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    Some people follow the minors for the sake of the minors and that’s great. Me, I follow the minors to see who’s going to be able to make an impact in the majors. In my way of thinking, it doesn’t make a bit of difference if Robbie Shields is 25 and playing in the FSL – he has no chance of being anything of consequence in the majors.

    If anything, this should be a backwards-looking thing. How old were the guys currently on the MLB roster when they were at the various levels of the farm system? And even that is going to be skewed because of things like Scott Rice being 28 and at Double-A.

    It might be worthwhile to take the rosters of the All-Star teams this year and do the study for their ages in the minors. Because if we want to find out about Plawecki being possibly one of the top prospects, wouldn’t it be more interesting to see how he compared to Mauer, Molina and Posey than Robbie Shields and Rylan Sandoval?

    • July 28, 2013 at 7:13 pm

      After the All-Star game I looked at the box score and checked all of the position players ages when they made their major league debut. In the AL the oldest was Nelson Cuz at 25. I did not run the average but 22 would be close. For the NL the Cardinals duo of Carpenter and Craig were both over 25. I would say overall the NL average was higher, closer to 23. Again, major league debuts. It puts Plawecki in perspective, and has to make us wonder about d’Arnaud who is already 24 and not considered major league ready by the Mets FO.

      Molina, Posey, and Perez of KC were all in the major leagues before they were 22 .

      • July 28, 2013 at 7:18 pm

        Actually should have written when they were 22, not before. Apologies.

    • July 28, 2013 at 7:55 pm

      That’s an interesting way to look at it. It certainly makes sense to compare a catcher to a catcher when you’re looking at ways to establish things like timelines. Unfortunately, prospect evaluators/minor league “gurus” don’t seem to approach things that way. That being said, with the broad characterization of “age appropriateness” you actually do get the Mauers and Molinas mixed into that along with the Shields. It’s one of the things they use to see who’s going to be able to make an impact, though necessarily flawed simply because there are so many factors and the unpredictable nature of it all.

      • July 28, 2013 at 8:05 pm

        One of the best things about writing for a blog is that you’re not tied to what others have done in the past.

        You do what makes sense to you and put it out there and see if it makes sense to others. You look for suggestions and constructive criticisms and see how you can apply it going forward.

        My two cents is that the research you did for average age is valuable stuff, something that’s very good to know. But I see that as only a tiny part of the picture. There’s more stuff to figure out and I just think it would be so much more helpful to know what the average age of guys who are now starting catchers in the majors was at the various levels of the minors than what the overall average age for level is.

        Knowing where John Buck, Brian McCann and Carlos Ruiz were when they were 22 seems so much more important to predicting Plawecki’s future than that all teams have guys at various positions at age 25 in the FSL.

        • July 28, 2013 at 8:13 pm

          I definitely see your point. Though I would say that it doesn’t necessarily need to be a position-to-position comparison since hitting is hitting, right? Larger picture, it would be interesting to see all productive major leaguers’ ages at the levels. There would have to be a threshold, of course. Like maybe 2 or 3 WAR guys. This might actually give a better picture of “age appropriate” as it pertains to prospects who would go on to have good major league careers.

          • July 28, 2013 at 9:16 pm

            Generally, I would agree with that.

            I think you have to make exceptions for defensive positions, most notably catcher. Although I think it applies a little to middle infielders and center fielders, too.

  2. July 28, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    Problem is that players like Harper, Trout, and the Marlins Jose Fernandez this year make everything out of whack when thinking about player development in major league baseball. Its not like the NBA, where players come out at age 19-20 and start for their teams. Dribble and shoot. Same court size. Same height of basket.
    Give a 21 yr old kid out of college baseball a wooden bat, ask him to play everyday, and be able to hit pitchers who may be throwing in the high 90s, with movement, and breaking pitches.

    • July 28, 2013 at 7:11 pm

      But not one of those guys is a catcher.

      Molina at age 22 – Split time between Hi-A and Double-A
      Posey at age 22 – Split time between Hi-A and Triple-A
      Mauer at age 22 – Played the entire season in the mjaors

      • July 28, 2013 at 8:05 pm

        By comparing catchers directly here, you bring up an excellent point. It tends to take catchers longer to develop, for the most part, and it seems as though Plawecki is right on track. Although I have seen at least one pundit claim that the Mets started him too low in the system since he was college player. I don’t necessarily agree with that, as Posey started at an even lower level. He was pushed more quickly through the Giants system, though. To be fair, the Mets don’t really need to push him since they have d’Arnaud ahead of him.

        • July 28, 2013 at 9:32 pm

          I’m no pundit but I thought they started Plawecki too low.

          My belief is that you put your prospects where you think they belong and you fill in around them. The Mets had Cam Maron at Lo-A last year and gave him the spot at Hi-A to start the year. My feeling is that Plawecki should have been at Hi-A and Maron could have been there in a time-share/backup role or starter at Lo-A.

          Perhaps that is not being fair to Maron. But that’s the way I would run things. The job of the minors is to get the stars ready to play in the majors, not to run things so that everyone has an equal shot. If everything breaks right, Plawecki’s got a shot to be a starting catcher in the majors.

          But that’s a big if. He’s scuffling now, with six hits in his last 34 ABs after today’s 0-3. And he has a huge H/R split.

  3. mikeyknows
    July 28, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    Here is the rule of thumb that clubs used to gauge to prospects. These are the levels that the player should achieve if he going to be a top prospect.

    A level – 20 years old.
    A+ level – 21 years old.
    AA level – 22 years old.
    AAA level – 23 years old.

    Mike

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