Comparing MLB and AAA numbers for Mets players at both levels

The minor league regular season is in the home stretch and this seems like a good time to check in and see how big the difference is between Triple-A Las Vegas and the Mets for hitters. It’s always a step up for players going from the minors to the majors and this is even more of an issue with the Mets’ top affiliate playing in one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the minors.

So far, there are 16 hitters who have played for both Las Vegas and New York here in 2013. Listed below are the stats for these players in both places, starting with the Mets.

Player AB H 2B 3B HR BB K HBP SH SF AVG OBP SLG BABIP
Mike Baxter 101 21 5 1 0 13 22 5 0 1 .208 .325 .277 .263
Andrew Brown 110 29 5 0 5 7 26 0 2 0 .264 .308 .445 .304
Collin Cowgill 61 11 2 0 2 2 15 0 0 0 .180 .206 .311 .205
Travis d’Arnaud 40 7 2 0 1 7 10 0 0 1 .175 .292 .300 .200
Ike Davis 317 65 14 0 9 57 101 1 0 2 .205 .326 .334 .268
Matt den Dekker 14 3 0 0 1 1 4 0 0 0 .214 .267 .429 .222
Lucas Duda 239 57 13 0 11 41 73 4 0 1 .238 .358 .431 .295
Wilmer Flores 70 16 3 0 1 5 16 0 0 1 .229 .276 .314 .278
Juan Lagares 304 82 19 4 4 15 73 2 3 1 .270 .307 .398 .342
Zach Lutz 5 2 1 0 0 2 1 0 0 0 .400 .571 .600 .500
Kirk Nieuwenhuis 95 18 3 1 3 12 32 0 0 1 .189 .278 .337 .246
Omar Quintanilla 276 61 9 2 2 36 63 0 2 2 .221 .309 .290 .277
Anthony Recker 114 23 6 0 6 11 40 0 0 2 .202 .268 .412 .243
Josh Satin 145 43 14 0 2 27 42 0 0 0 .297 .407 .434 .406
Ruben Tejada 187 39 10 0 0 14 23 1 2 0 .209 .267 .262 .238
Jordany Valdespin 133 25 3 1 4 8 28 3 0 0 .188 .250 .316 .208
  2211 502 109 9 51 258 569 16 9 12 .227 .311 .354 .281

We see the group as a whole has been underwhelming, which is to be expected given that they played in Triple-A, too. Nearly half of these players started the year with the Mets, meaning their performance in the majors earned them a ticket to the minors. However, we see the group check in with a .281 BABIP, which is not too far off from what we consider normal for MLB hitters. Overall, the group has a .665 OPS while the NL average this year is a .705 mark.

Now, let’s look at what these same hitters did in the minors for Las Vegas:

Player AB H 2B 3B HR BB K HBP SH SF AVG OBP SLG BABIP
Mike Baxter 187 54 12 5 7 24 27 4 0 1 .289 .380 .519 .305
Andrew Brown 153 53 15 6 7 23 34 4 0 5 .346 .432 .660 .393
Collin Cowgill 123 33 6 0 5 17 25 2 3 0 .268 .366 .439 .301
Travis d’Arnaud 56 17 8 0 2 21 12 0 0 1 .304 .487 .554 .349
Ike Davis 75 22 7 0 7 17 18 0 0 0 .293 .424 .667 .300
Matt den Dekker 179 54 8 4 6 20 46 1 0 2 .302 .371 .492 .372
Lucas Duda 62 19 3 0 0 14 15 0 0 2 .306 .423 .355 .388
Wilmer Flores 424 136 36 4 15 25 63 3 3 8 .321 .357 .531 .342
Juan Lagares 78 27 3 2 3 4 14 0 0 0 .346 .378 .551 .393
Zach Lutz 399 117 27 4 13 54 102 4 2 7 .293 .377 .479 .357
Kirk Nieuwenhuis 282 70 15 2 14 40 78 2 5 1 .248 .345 .465 .293
Omar Quintanilla 126 42 9 2 2 20 25 0 0 2 .333 .419 .484 .396
Anthony Recker 10 4 0 1 1 2 2 0 0 0 .400 .500 .900 .429
Josh Satin 220 67 14 0 9 43 45 1 0 0 .305 .420 .491 .349
Ruben Tejada 240 69 14 1 2 14 30 6 5 4 .288 .337 .379 .316
Jordany Valdespin 58 27 4 2 3 8 7 1 0 0 .466 .537 .759 .500
  2485 757 169 28 89 322 516 24 18 32 .305 .385 .503 .349

This same group posted an .888 OPS with a .349 BABIP in Las Vegas. The two groups both have 2,500+ PA, a reasonably good sample size to make some initial judgments. This is by no means definitive but it does provide some good “back of the envelope” calculations.

We see that the group lost 26% from their AVG, 19% from their OBP and 30% from their slugging in moving from Las Vegas to New York. Their OPS took a 25% hit while their BABIP dropped 19%

Looking at these two charts helps put some things in perspective, perhaps nothing more so than the year turned in by Flores. What on first glance seems like an excellent year for the longtime Mets prospect was exactly average for guys who played for both teams.

Flores is certainly young enough to continue building on his 2013 season but he’s not at the point yet where he should be considered ready to make an impact at the major league level.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is the performance of Satin. He went from an average BABIP and a slightly elevated OPS for the group in Las Vegas to the best OPS in the majors. However, that .841 OPS was produced with a .406 BABIP, 125 points above the group’s average in the majors. Satin has 162 PA with the Mets compared to 264 PA in the minors.

The hope is that a handful of these players – d’Arnaud, Lagares, Satin – establish themselves as major leaguers and do not spend any time in Las Vegas in 2014. Of course, few imagined that in 2013 Davis, Duda and Tejada would all be on this list, so there are no guarantees.

But now we have some “rule of thumb” numbers on how much air to remove from the stats of hitters in Las Vegas. As Satin shows us, these are not going to be anywhere near perfect. But these numbers project a .462 SLG for Brown and he has turned in a .445 mark so far. They forecast a .238 AVG and a .289 OBP for Flores and he’s produced .229/.276 to date in the majors. So there are success stories, as well.

There are always going to be flukes and outliers in both directions. Hopefully these numbers can help us identify which players to include in these categories and aid in making better projections for 2014 performances.

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12 comments for “Comparing MLB and AAA numbers for Mets players at both levels

  1. TexasGusCC
    September 3, 2013 at 2:16 am

    Thanks for the cold splash of water to the face there, Brian. You couldn’t let the winter go by letting us think we may have something better next year, could you, LOL.

  2. James Preller
    September 3, 2013 at 8:32 am

    Thanks for crunching those numbers, Brian. No surprises here overall. Funny, I was just doing something similar with Brooklyn pitching and league-wide averages. In isolation, you can look at a guy’s season-ending numbers and think: wow. But context is everything, especially in the minors where there are so many variables. OTOH, performances that appear “mediocre” on the other side of the plate — hitting in Brooklyn, pitching in Las Vegas — might help us identify hidden jewels. At age 19, Cecchini is far out-performing his team and his league, for example. Mazzilli, too, but he is 22 and probably at the wrong level.

    • September 3, 2013 at 8:52 am

      Cecchini’s OPS is tied for 55th best among 86 qualified hitters in the New York-Penn League.

  3. Chris F
    September 3, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    found this gem about Lagares in MMO today, which I enjoyed:
    “In 45 games since the All Star break, the 24-year old whiz-kid is batting .301 with a .448 slugging and .799 OPS. Among his 49 hits he has stroked nine doubles, three triples and three home runs while driving in 17 and scoring 19 runs. He has transformed himself at the plate and drives the ball with authority.

    I love watching him come to the plate with two outs. He has this thing about never wanting to make the last out and in 99 at-bats he’s slashing at a .303/.361/.465 clip and an .816 OPS. We could use a few more players with this mindset…”

    • September 3, 2013 at 12:50 pm

      The issue, as always, is how did he produce those numbers in that hot streak? Since the All-Star break, Lagares has a .365 BABIP. I have no doubts that he will be productive if he can maintain this rate. Only 7 of the 149 players who qualify for the leaderboards have a BABIP this high. We’re talking about a BABIP better than 95% of batters put up. Also, the seven batters who did post this rate all left Lagares in the dust in OPS. The next closest had an .835 OPS, a significant advantage.

      Lagares had a .393 OPS at Las Vegas and the charts show we expect a player to lose 19% of that going to the majors. We would anticipate Lagares putting up a .319 BABIP, which is an elevated mark.

      In his last 32 games, covering 130 PA, Lagares has a .319 BABIP and that’s given him a .685 OPS. Combined with his defense – that’s a valuable player!!!

      I just don’t believe he’s going to be a guy with an .800 and above OPS unless he drastically improves either his HR or BB output. I hope he can do one or the other.

      • Chris F
        September 3, 2013 at 1:18 pm

        I think both could be psrt of the deal. On Fangrphs, he’s posting a 2.6 WAR and 95 wRC+, the former of which is comfortably over the mean MLB center fielder, and the latter a shade under the mean of 100. I like where is his going. I still prefer him in CF, which can sustain his defensive prowess better than a corner can. If MdD can show up with some power, perhaps he can be moved to LF, and finishing off with Choo in RF.

        Is it me, or are there others that think we may have seen Ike play his last game as a Met? Maybe the Twins could use him now with Morneau gone! Ike and Pelf…

      • Jerry Grote
        September 3, 2013 at 2:27 pm

        First of all, nice work Brian. I had hoped someone would do that work.

        Regarding our friend Lagares, looks to me like you are taking some liberties with end points here Brian, to support an underlying belief (his highpoint for OPS, notably, was 32 games ago). Not intentionally, I’m sure.

        Lagares has played 97 games. If you break them down into quadrants, you get
        01-25 430 OPS/ .182 BaBIP
        26-50 675 OPS/ .373 BaBIP
        51-75 928 OPS/ .388 BaBIP
        75-97 668 OPS/ .344 BaBIP

        Looks to me like you can easily throw out the first 25 games (if for no other reason than that he didn’t become a starter until later), and you do have a player that gets a little more out of his hits than the rest of the guys.

        The “real” Lagares is likely not going to be the game 51-75. But looking at these numbers, it seems to me he’s more of an outlier (like Satin, but in a different way). I agree with you to this extent: he’s going to have to improve to show more than a 690 OPS over a longer haul.

        One way or the other, he’s a keeper. If this season ends with us coming up two new players internally (Satin, Lagares), well, the 87-90 losses will be worth it. If we can only get one more surprise in the field in September (Brown?), you’ve got yourself a ball club next year.

        • September 3, 2013 at 2:55 pm

          My only goal was to find a consecutive stretch where he had a .319 BABIP.

          We can also get close by using his first 53 games. He had a .324 BABIP and a .618 OPS in that span. I don’t think that’s indicative of his talent as he was striking out a lot early.

          Saw a thing on MetsBlog where Satin wants to be an outfielder because he knows that’s his best ticket towards playing time. I proposed that in the offseason, so obviously I’m in favor of that. Perhaps the best thing about Satin in the outfield is that maybe TC will bat him second if he’s not playing a corner infield spot.

          • Jerry Grote
            September 3, 2013 at 4:13 pm

            … saw that too and I agree with you on this, but only if you are playing MdD and JL in CF/RF respectfully. And if that’s the case, Satin has to be truly a .280/.380/.440 type guy in 450-550 ABs.

            I sorted the Mets stats on slugging percentage the other day. Above/near league average:

            Byrd (gone)
            Wright (injured)
            Brown
            Satin
            Duda
            Recker
            Murphy
            Lagares.

            The Mets gave 2700 ABs to guys slugging .367 (!) or less this year. Just another way to torture myself. This is why I don’t like the idea of splitting 1B between Duda and Satin. You need as many 400+ SLG guys in the lineup as you can get, without destroying your defense.

            I certainly hope MdD keeps his game up.

  4. Name
    September 3, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    Another small factor to consider is the amount of playing time difference between AAA and MLB.
    A lot of these guys are only part-timers when at the Majors but are playing everyday when at AAA, and since baseball is about repetition, the more you play, the better the chance you have of putting up better numbers.

    Of course, the level of competition is still the biggest determining factor, but i thought i’d throw this out there.

  5. Stephen
    September 3, 2013 at 10:27 pm

    Another example of an over reliance on stats. Flores can hit. What has happened on the major league level is that as the league discovered the hole in his swing up and in, he hurt his ankle, thereby making it exceedingly difficult to rotate on that pitch and adjust back.

    While it is a useful comparison, there are those who clearly have major league skills (Lagares, Flores, Satin, and yes Duda – it’s his attitude that’s the problem, ec) and those that don’t (Brown, Baxter, Cowgill, etc).

    There are any number, limitless, of those that have had significantly more, or less, success in the minors than the majors.

    That is why scouting, actual eyes on the prospects, is so important.

    But it is ALSO why stats are important. If someone puts up numbers at EVERY level, clearly they should be promoted (think Satin). The disappointment to me as a former scout, is that when I saw Satin, it was clear he is a major league hitter. I’m not sure who was wrong on him.

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