Prospects in Proper Context, Pt. 6: AA Eastern League

Today, we’ll wrap up our look at the top offensive prospects in Double-A with the Eastern League. In case you haven’t gotten the chance to check out the lists for the High-A level and the other two Double-A levels or you would just like a refresher, here they are:

High-A
Florida State League
Carolina League
California League

Double-A
Texas League
Southern League

The Eastern League list leads off with a familiar face who might just be the best prospect in the game, and the rankings feature depth to boot. Among those receiving consideration but not appearing in the top five: outfielders Austin Jackson (Yankees), Nicholas Evans (Mets), Daniel Murphy (Mets), Jose Tabata (Pirates), Nolan Reimold (Orioles), shortstop Jason Donald (Phillies) and third baseman Wes Hodges (Indians). Red Sox first base prospect Lars Anderson missed the 200 PA cut-off.

(note: 2008 league offensive levels are found courtesy of First Inning. Keep in mind that the league offensive levels are only from one season’s worth of data. Park factors are from 2006-2008 data compiled from Minor League Splits, posted on the Baseball Think Factory site. A park factor of 1.00 is exactly neutral. Anything above 1.00 favors hitters, while anything below 1.00 favors pitchers. The Park Adjusted Line (PAL) and Major League Equivalency (MLE) figures are compiled from Minor League Splits. A 200 PA cut-off was used for the list.)

AA Eastern League offensive levels: Singles (0.96), Doubles (1.00), Triples (1.00), Home Runs (1.00)

1. Matt Wieters, Orioles: .472 wOBA (.365/.460/.626)
Age: 22
Position: C
2006-2008 Park Factor (Bowie): Runs (0.95), Hits (0.97), Doubles (1.00), Home Runs (1.03)
Park-Adjusted Line: .376/.470/.639
Major League Equivalency: .295/.395/.479

I think that we have run out of superlatives to describe Matt Wieters. The switch-hitting, power-hitting Georgia Tech product also paced out Carolina League list, and what was said of him there still applies:

“Wieters’ performance was head-and-shoulders above everyone else. He switch-hits. He draws a ton of walks. He can drive the ball as far as anyone. Wieters’ performance actually improved significantly upon a promotion to Double A. Think about that: his .345/.448/.576 line at Frederick (High-A) was his weaker showing in 2008. He even comes with a pretty solid defensive reputation, despite being a pretty large human being (6-4, 230 pounds). Earlier this offseason, Peter Bendix wondered if Wieters might be Joe Mauer with more power. This Pirates fan is going to go cry himself to sleep, haunted by memories of Daniel Moskos.”

Check out Wieters’ Major League Equivalency at Bowie- his performance basically reminds one of…well, Joe Mauer with more power. Gregg Zaun is the O’s starting catcher for the moment. But when he steps aside and reclaims his role as the “Practically Perfect Backup Catcher”, Wieters figures to rake from day one.

2. Travis Snider, Blue Jays: .366 wOBA (.262/.357/.461)
Age: 21 (20 during ’08 season)
Position: LF/DH
2006-2008 Park Factor (New Hampshire): R (1.01), H (0.99), 2B (1.04), HR (1.05)
PAL: .276/.367/.459
MLE: .222/.315/.354

21 in February, Snider will never be known for his defensive prowess- at 5-11 and 245 pounds, his build brings to mind that of Matt Stairs. The lefty might be relegated to DH duty in the long run, but man, can he hit. Taken with the 14th overall selection in the 2006 amateur draft, the Washington prep product has compiled a career .299/.375/.513 line in the minors, and he more than held his own during a short stint with the Jays this past September, batting .301/.338/.466 in 80 PA. At New Hampshire, Snider posted a near-.200 ISO as a 21 year-old while also showcasing a good eye with a 12.6 BB%. His contact rate is somewhat concerning (he whiffed 36.1% of the time at High-A and 32% at AA), but Toronto’s best young hitter possesses the secondary skills to make up for a middling batting average.

3. Louis Marson, Phillies: .391 wOBA (.314/.433/.416)
Age: 22
Position: C
2006-2008 Park Factor (Reading): R (1.03), H (1.00), 2B (0.96), HR (1.22)
PAL: .317/.433/.416
MLE: .249/.369/.322

Lou Marson’s career got off to something of a slow start (from 2004-2006, he posted OBP’s between .329-.343 and SLG%’s between .351-.389), but he’s made major strides over the past two seasons. The 4th-round pick from the ’04 draft has uncanny control of the strike zone- he drew a free pass an astounding 17.4% of the time at Reading. While no one questions Marson’s plate approach, there are concerns over his power ceiling (Marson’s ISO was just .102). It’s possible that the walks will dry up somewhat at the highest level (pitchers might not be so stringent with a low-power guy with a great eye- the worst that can happen in most cases is a single). If you want to be really optimistic, you could think of Marson as Russell Martin-lite, though Kurt Suzuki might be a more reasonable approximation.

4. J.P. Arencibia, Blue Jays: .348 wOBA (.282/.302/.496)
Age: 23 (22 during ’08 season)
Position: C
2006-2008 Park Factor (New Hampshire): R (1.01), H (0.99), 2B (1.04), HR (1.05)
PAL: .292/.311/.485
MLE: .243/.262/.388

One could make the argument that Arencibia should rank ahead of Marson on the basis of his power- Arencibia has a career .481 slugging percentage in the minors as well as a .214 ISO at New Hampshire on the heels of a .246 showing at High-A Dunedin. While Marson’s biggest question is his pop, Arencibia’s most glaring weakness is his plate discipline. Arencibia wasn’t exactly patient at Dunedin (4.2 BB%) and his hacking tendency only intensified upon reaching Double-A: he walked just 2.6% of the time at New Hampshire, posting a ghastly 0.13 BB/K ratio. Arencibia ranks well on the basis of his offensive thunder at a premium position, but major league pitchers are going to carve him up if he doesn’t learn to show a little restraint.

5. Fernando Martinez, Mets: .346 wOBA (.287/.340/.432)
Age: 20 (19 during ’08 season)
Position: Corner OF
2006-2008 Park Factor (Binghamton): R (1.05), H (1.05), 2B (1.04), HR (1.05)
PAL: .274/.328/.416
MLE: .222/.278/.328

Martinez is the most polarizing name on this list- it seems as though some are very strong proponents of the $1.3 million Dominican bonus baby, feeling that he has performed quite well in advanced leagues at an exceptionally young age. Others are less enthusiastic, particularly noting his durability issues (according to Baseball America, a bone bruise and a knee sprain in ’06, a broken hamate bone in ’07 and hamstring problems in ’08). Setting aside his numerous ailments, Martinez possesses a tremendous amount of talent. The lefty batter has not set the world afire during his pro career, but his numbers become considerably more impressive when you check his birth certificate- Martinez was several years younger than most of his peers. How many teenagers could avoid embarrassing themselves just two steps away from the majors, let alone hold their own like Martinez did?

We hoped you liked reading Prospects in Proper Context, Pt. 6: AA Eastern League by David Golebiewski!

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A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at david.golebiewski@gmail.com and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.

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Superman
Guest

Just to clear this up, Travis Snider was 20 during the whole 2008 season and won’t be 21 until February 2nd as he was born on 2/2/1988.

Also I just wanted to say that I love this “Prospects in Proper Context” series, very enjoyable

Keep up the good work!