Minor League AnalySSiS: Small Sample Size Hitting Edition

Dickie Joe Thon
Dickie Joe Thon

The minor league season is about 11 games old for most of the teams in the Jays’ system and we’re going to look at some early season happenings and try to decide if the Small Sample Sizes (SSS) are really a trend of things to come for the season or just statistical noise.


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Buffalo Bisons


Munenori Kawasaki
Munenori Kawasaki

It’s interesting how very few players on the Bisons are hitting well but they’re getting just enough offense to win games (six in a row at this point). New additions and returning players Brad Glenn (.263 OPS), Jonathan Diaz (.361 OPS), Caleb Gindl (.547), Andy Wilkins (.565) and Chris Dickerson (.613) haven’t produced much although Dickerson does have five RBI so far. Ezequiel Carrera was off to a slow start but has a .405 OBP with a couple of stolen bases and Josh Thole has a .316 batting average but they’ve all been singles. Will these guys all fail to hit? Diaz will probably get on base a little more but he’s always had a light bat. The rest should certainly rouse themselves from their funks eventually although there’s probably one among them who will consistently underperform this season (not a specific one but I’m sure that someone among them won’t have a great season).

On the other side of things, Matt Hague has continued to hit as well as he did in a limited look in Buffalo last year (.933 OPS), Chris Colabello leads the team in home runs and has an .872 OPS while Munenori Kawasaki has been pretty outstanding with a .308 batting average and .438 OBP. Obviously Kawasaki and Hague will come back to earth a little but but I have a feeling that Colabello’s success will be pretty sustainable throughout the season.

The wildcard is Andy Burns. He was sensational in his Bisons debut but has gone hitless in his two games since. What’s he going to do over the long haul?

Verdict: Most of the Bisons aren’t nearly as bad as they have been to start the seasonĀ  and there are only a couple who stand to regress. If they continue to get their good pitching, this Bisons team can be very good in 2015.



New Hampshire Fisher Cats


K.C. Hobson
K.C. Hobson

The Fisher Cats have probably the most disappointing start the 2015 season, hitting fairly well but without being able to translate hits into runs. Their offensive leader, Melky Mesa, is on the DL and has only played in four games. Jon Berti has, uncharacteristically, struggled to the tune of a .457 OPS while at shortstop, Kevin Nolan (.679 OPS), Shane Opitz (.600 OPS) and Jorge Flores (.566 OPS) have all been sluggish. Nolan hasn’t been that bad with a .292 average and .346 OBP but his one extra-base hit in 26 plate appearances could stand to improve.

While Jack Murphy‘s hitting only .190, two of his four hits have been four home runs, bolstering his OPS to .703.

Otherwise, the stats have been good for the rest of the hitters which really doesn’t explain how little the club has scored Ryan Schimpf has a .751 OPS, Dwight Smith is hitting .317 with a .788 OPS while K.C. Hobson, Jake Fox and Matt Newman are all in the .800-.900 OPS range. Again, it’s pretty strange to see such solid numbers but with a 5-6 record with 35 runs scored through 11 games.

Verdict: Individually, the hitters aren’t doing too badly but, for some reason, that hasn’t translated into runs. I wouldn’t expect that trend to continue for too long.


Dunedin Blue Jays


Dawel Lugo
Dawel Lugo

The Dunedin Blue Jays are also 5-6 but have scored even fewer runs (34) in their 11 games than the Fisher Cats have. Most hitters on the club have been scuffling. Catchers Jorge Saez and Mike Reeves are both under the Mendoza line (.150 and .176 BAs respectively) while outfielders Roemon Fields and Derrick Loveless are scuffling along with sub-.500 OPSs. Christian Lopes is next with a .558 OPS and Ian Parmley, the club’s fourth outfielder has a .364 OBP but just a .222 slugging percentage.

The club offensive leader is Dawel Lugo who has a pair of home runs with a .766 OPS which is completely sustainable while Emilio Guerrero has some decent enough numbers with a .708 OPS despite not having a position that he’s playing regularly. Mitch Nay and Matt Dean are both performing below expectations with a .695 and .606 OPS respectively and David Harris has a great slugging percentage with two home runs but a low batting average and OBP.

Verdict: I’m very intrigued with how the rest of the season is going to play out for the D-Jays. The ones who are really having trouble have had mixed results at this level (Saez, Reeves, Lopes) or are new to the level (Fields, Loveless). Lugo’s early season results are very encouraging while Dean and Nay should be able to do more. Keep an eye on this club. I think it could go either way.


Lansing Lugnuts


Ryan McBroom 2

I’m expecting the Lansing Lugnuts to have a very potent offense this season and, with 43 runs in 11 games, the Lugnuts are coming through but with contributions from somewhat surprising sources.

Struggling to start the year? Josh Almonte (.399 OPS), Tim Locastro (.416 OPS), Dan Jansen (.459 OPS), Richard Urena (.515), Chris Carlson (.584), Michael De La Cruz (.584) and Justin Atkinson (.591) all have OPSs under .600. For De La Cruz, the backup catcher, it’s not much of a worry and his .353 OBP is comforting. Almonte has had four hits in his last couple of games and Jansen also appears to be coming out of an early season funk. All of these players are still adjusting to playing professional baseball in April and are all moving up levels. In addition, Urena’s weakness from the right side of the plate is being exploited as he’s only 1/16 as a righty but hitting .300 with some pop from the left side.

Rowdy Tellez is slashing only .619 but has been coming out of his slump and hitting a lot of singles while Gunnar Heidt has been slumping as well after starting the season strongly. Heidt’s average of only .174 is bolstered by his six walks to give him a .345 OBP.

On the other side of the ledger, D.J. Davis has been very solid, hitting .256/.370/.333, showing more patience (but still leading the team in strikeouts) while Ryan McBroom, new to the level, too, has been hitting the ball hard with a .289/.333/.400 line, playing in all 11 games so far. The biggest surprise has been Dickie Joe Thon who has slugged his way to a 1.159 slash line. The 23 year old is looking to catch someone’s attention after a repeat assignment to Lansing and he’s doing a great job so far.

Verdict: As some hitters start to find their swings and adjust to better pitching, the Lugnuts are probably going to be a scary team for pitchers. While Thon will either cool off or be promoted, I think Urena is particularly strong from the left side of the plate and Dan Jansen has had some good swings and will do much better. It’s a patient lineup that will exploit pitchers with control issues.


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