Seeing as my usual Monday beat is second base, I decided to write a piece on minor-league second sackers who could make a fantasy impact down the stretch. As it turns out, that was an entirely fruitless endeavor. There just aren’t any players at the position that I’m excited about for the remainder of 2015, who aren’t already at least on the major-league club.
However, during my 90 minutes or so of dead-end research, I noticed Danny Worth’s shockingly productive stat line. In case you forgot, Worth is that guy the Tigers would always call up for some reason in each of the last five seasons, despite the fact that he owns a career .230/.293/.295 slash in 292 major-league plate appearances.
Last year, Worth hit just .211/.296/.300 in Triple-A, a line very similar to his 2013 Triple-A marks of .223/.305/.308. My eyes nearly popped out of my head when I saw that he’s slashing .332/.416/.508 this year, but then I noticed that he isn’t in Detroit’s system anymore. He’s in the Diamondbacks system, playing in the ridiculous hitters’ haven that is Aces Ballpark in Reno.
Over the last three years, Reno has been the second-best offensive environment in the Pacific Coast League, trailing only Albuquerque. (I’ll likely do a similar piece on the Isotopes at some point.) The reason is simple — both parks are at higher altitude than any major-league stadium not named Coors Field. Also, there’s no humidor like there is in Denver.
Despite the relatively large physical dimensions of Aces Ballpark, it’s still the third-most homer-happy park in the PCL. Furthermore, the massive gap in right-center makes Reno the most triples-friendly stadium in all of Triple-A and the majors. All told, 26% more runs are scored at Aces Ballpark than at a league-average PCL park.
Every year, there are some absolutely hysterical statistical inflations in Reno, and 2015 is no exception. So, while my initial plan of writing about under-the-radar late-season second basemen fell through, that piece was destined to be a bit dry and boring. This will be neither. Let’s have some fun with one of the minors’ wackiest statistical venues.
Dorn is 31 years old, and had never tasted the majors until a 32-PA cup of coffee earlier this season. Across his first six Triple-A seasons, Dorn hit .268/.334/.471. He’s always been a productive power hitter in the minors, but his line is nothing special for a first baseman.
In this, his seventh full season in Triple-A, he’s hitting .411/.466/.646 with a .473 BABIP. I suppose you could call those video-game numbers, but in modern baseball video games, you couldn’t touch those numbers. Maybe if you were playing on Easy and your buddy was pitching, throwing you fastballs down the middle. Maybe then you too could be a total stud like Daniel Dorn.
Of course, there’s an unfortunate byproduct of guys like Worth and Dorn rocking huge numbers for the Aces. It’s tough to pitch in Reno, but to illustrate just how difficult it is, look no further than Webster. From 2012 through 2014, the 25-year-old was universally considered a top-100 prospect, until his command issues significantly tainted his prospect status.
This year, Webster has tightened up his command considerably. With a 2.93 BB/9, he’s issuing fewer walks than he has at any level since he was in Rookie ball, back in 2009. I can only imagine what his numbers would look like if Webster was still issuing so many walks.
Despite his improved walk rate, Webster has an earned run average of 8.95. That is not a typo. In his 11 starts at Triple-A, he has allowed 55 earned runs in 55.1 innings.
Opponents have a .406 BABIP against Webster, and he’s served up seven homers. For reference, in 2012, Webster hurled 121.2 innings at Double-A and gave up just one long ball.
Coming into this year, Allen Webster had a 0.46 HR/9 in his first 721 minor-league innings. He had never had a HR/9 higher than 0.77. With the Aces in 2015, he’s at 1.14.
This one’s just sad. The 26-year-old pitched well in Double-A last year, with a 3.47 ERA in 147.2 innings, giving up just three homers all season. He was rewarded with a promotion to Triple-A to begin 2015, and surrendered 30 earned runs in his first five starts (21.1 IP).
Shugel was sent back down to Double-A in mid-May, and pitched brilliantly for the next two months. His 2.21 ERA in 12 starts (77.1 IP) was the lowest of his career. His 1.75 BB/9 was easily another career-best. Arizona thought he was ready to try Triple-A again, so he got promoted back to Reno last Thursday. He gave up six runs in 2.2 innings.
Aces Ballpark is ridiculous.
Scott Strandberg started writing for Rotographs in 2013. He works in small business consultation, and he also writes A&E columns for The Norman Transcript newspaper. Scott lives in Seattle, WA.