When we talk about how much power a hitter has we usually look directly at home runs or extra-base hits. That’s a good place to start when looking at how much power potential a guy has as well. One thing that we can check out with Major Leaguers that we don’t have easy access to for minor leaguers is HR/FB%. You can find that stat at Fangraphs for big leaguers, but as far as I’ve been able to find, unless you build your own play-by-play database, you can’t get it for minor leaguers. Fortunately, I’ve built my own minor league play-by-play database and can run the numbers for things like HR/FB%.

Fangraphs glossary has this chart to explain the various levels of talent when it comes to HR/FB%, though it goes back to 2002, which was still in the PED era, so you may want to adjust the numbers down a percent or so for the current environment.

Rating

HR/FB

Excellent 20.0%
Great 15.0%
Above Average 12.5%
Average 9.5%
Below Average 7.5%
Poor 5.0%
Awful 1.0%

We also need to note that some parks are much more friendly for fly balls than others. For the Reds that would include Billings, Bakersfield and left field in Pensacola. Right field in Pensacola is at the opposite end of the spectrum and punishes fly balls in a big way.

I took a look at the Top 20 guys by home run totals from the 2014 season that are still in the system moving forward. That actually led to a list of 21 players since two players tied for 20th. I’ve sorted the list among those players by HR/FB% and left in the teams they played for to give the numbers a tad more context for their park factors.

Name Age Team HR/FB%
Juan Duran 22 PEN 26.6%
Aristides Aquino 20 BIL 26.2%
Taylor Sparks 21 BIL 22.7%
Donald Lutz* 25 LOU,PEN 18.8%
Argenis Aldazoro* 21 BIL 18.0%
Marquez Smith 29 BAK,PEN 16.5%
Jesse Winker* 20 BAK,PEN 16.0%
Sean Buckley 24 BAK,DAY 14.3%
Alex Blandino 21 DAY,BIL 12.7%
Seth Mejias-Brean 23 BAK,PEN 12.3%
Jeff Gelalich* 23 BAK,DAY 12.2%
Yorman Rodriguez 21 PEN 12.0%
Joe Hudson 23 DAY,BAK 11.3%
Kyle Waldrop* 22 BAK,PEN 9.7%
Tanner Rahier 20 DAY 9.4%
Juan Perez* 22 BAK 9.0%
Felix Perez* 29 LOU 8.6%
Sebastian Elizalde* 22 BAK,DAY 8.4%
Ryan Wright 24 BAK,PEN 7.5%
Beau Amaral* 23 BAK,DAY,PEN 5.7%
Phillip Ervin 21 DAY 5.4%

It’s not a surprise to see Juan Duran at the top of the list. He’s got the best rated power in the system and he played in a ballpark that strongly favors power to left field, where as a right hander who pulls the ball he gets a boost. The next two guys on the list both also have big power potential and also played in friendly confines.

Donald Lutz showing up next is a bit of a surprise. Lutz has plenty of power, but he also was a left hander who spent time in Pensacola where right field is very unforgiving (the ballpark yielded 12 home runs to right field, from both teams playing in the 70 home games in 2014. There were even less in 2013.) before moving up to Louisville. I did not include his big league team here.

The biggest surprise on the list for me was seeing Phillip Ervin on the bottom of the list. Ervin has power in his bat and while Dayton isn’t a place that really hurts power, it isn’t a place that helps it either. While there were obviously players lower than him that weren’t included in the Top 21 home run hitters and he was last among the hitters on the list in homers, he just stands out as a guy I would have expected to see a little higher.

It will be interesting to see how things hold up in 2015 for the guys going from hitter friendly environments to less favorable places to his, particularly those coming from Billings and moving up to either Dayton or Daytona depending on their assignment. Aristides Aquino and Taylor Sparks both are noted for their power, so the transition, at least from a power department, may not be as big for them as some others making the same move up, but a decline in overall power wouldn’t be a surprise.

16 Responses

  1. doctor

    I like seeing Blandino on the list along with Sparks and Winker. Hopefully, Blandino can continue to show a plus bat and hold down a mid-infield spot defensively, possibly the heir to 2B.

  2. cfd3000

    The Reds have not exactly put Donald Lutz in position to succeed, yet every time I see him on these lists of power potential, winter ball success, etc. he looks extremely promising. I really hope the Bats outfield includes Lutz and Winker every day, all year so those two guys can show that they are the future of the Reds outfield (along with BHam). If Bruce rebounds health wise then so much the better. An embarrassment of outfield riches would be a very welcome change.

  3. i71_Exile

    “Fortunately, I’ve built my own minor league play-by-play database and can run the numbers for things like HR/FB%.”

    This is awesome, and leads me to believe that you have also spent a lifetime building up a resistance to iocaine powder. 🙂

    Thank you for sharing your data!

    • cfd3000

      Second that. Amazing Doug. And props for the reference. Perhaps Doug is the next Dread Pirate Roberts.

  4. wvredlegs

    The bad news, only two players with a (LOU) beside their names.
    The good news, there are many young hitters on the way, but most still a few years away.
    Sparks and Blandino I believe will have big seasons this upcoming year and will cement themselves behind Winker as the next best hitters in the system. And a health rebound for Erwin will do wonders for him. The next generation Reds have much potential and look good in their infancy. Much reason for optimism in 2017 and beyond.

    • lwblogger2

      My concern about Sparks is plate discipline. The guys swings at pitches that he has zero chance to hit. He also swings at pitches closer to the zone but that he still shouldn’t be swinging at. Of course on some of those, he manages to somehow get decent wood on the ball so sometimes he’s an ok ‘bad-ball’ hitter. I’d like to see him swing at fewer pitches outside the zone. That would bring his BB-rate up and his K-rate down.

      • Doug Gray

        This is my thought as well. Sparks has the tools to be an All-Star caliber third baseman. But his plate discipline also means he’s a guy who might hit .215 in Low-A. He struck out at a rate, in rookie ball, that would embarrass Adam Dunn. Sparks would have to make gigantic strides in his contact rate to put himself into “top position prospect” area. Guys don’t usually make that kind of step in one season.

      • WVRedlegs

        The K% is concerning. But it is early in his pro career. A little tutoring can help that. His 12.9 BB% is good, which made his OBP respectable (.232/.350). Luckily, plate discipline is teachable and learnable.
        I really like Sparks’s extra base hit ability. His speed is very good for a guy that size. His defense is said to be sound.
        I think after college, then getting drafted very high, and then getting acquainted with new surroundings may have had some effect. Going fromsea level on the west coast to the Big Sky country of Montana could have had some effects. I think come July, we Reds fans will like what we are hearing coming out of Dayton about Sparks. And that will earn him a trip to the beach, Daytona.

      • Thegaffer

        Drew Stubbs maintained that same K rate from college thru every level. Sparks is so far doing the same.

      • Doug Gray

        Unfortunately it’s just not something you often see WVRedlegs. Guys don’t come out with huge strikeout rates and make improvements too often. Usually, even in your first year, if you swing and miss at an extremely high rate (above 25%), that’s who you are.

        Plate discipline isn’t really something that is teachable and most guys don’t ever really learn it. The reason is simple: It’s about being able to read the spin on a baseball and not everyone can do it quickly enough to react in time to lay off. I’ve long said that the guy who can figure out how to teach that skill will be able to write his own paycheck for any team in the world, because right now that guy doesn’t exist and every team wishes they could find him.

      • lwblogger2

        @Doug – That’s why sometimes you even need to be a “guess hitter” and just figure you’re getting a breaking ball or off-speed pitch off the plate. That’s also the reason you see guys take called third-strike fastballs, because they aren’t looking for that pitch when they are so far behind in the count. Raw talent and the ability to see those pitches and identify them almost immediately is what separates the best hitters from the good ones.

  5. David Potteiger

    Ervin regressed in pretty much area last year with the exception of stealing bases. His OPS dropped from .989 across two levels in 2013 to .680 in 2014. I’m not shocked that his HR/FB% is poor. Here’s hoping he rebounds in 2015.

    • Doug Gray

      Ervin did battle recovering from wrist surgery, which is known to sap power for about a year. Still, when you watch him take batting practice he stands out among the guys, so I would have expected him to do better than he did in this category. He did rack up a whole lot of doubles though, which could have included a few wall scrapers that may turn into homers and improve this for 2015.

      • doctor

        the 34-2B and 7-3B plus the 30 steals show promise but he was in his age-22 season for 2014. so hopefully he has a big year and moves up a couple of levels and ready for AAA in 2016. He might be the Bruce RF replacement in 2017 season.

      • Thegaffer

        Wrist injury clearly is part of it, but his scouting report in the draft year was earily similar. It said that he was slightly above average in all tools but they did not think he could maintain power at the highest level. They also said he would need to improve his contact rate and hope for doubles, but that this was a problem if he ended up as a RF.

      • redmountain

        And yet he hit well in the Cape Cod League,which is close to High A. Do I think he is going to be a prodigious HR hitter? No, but would you take 15-20 and a BA around 320? I would.