Orioles Minor League Hitters
The scouting industrial complex has grown and grown and grown over the years. The ease of access to the gobs and gobs of basically free information gives the chance for fans to know more than ever about farm systems. There are scouting reports from multiple outlets (Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, ESPN, Fangraphs, 2080 Baseball, not to mention team specific websites) and stats available on every player's baseball reference page.
The statistics in particular allow a fan to dream on a prospect. Locate the uncovered diamond in the box scores and show how much you know to those damn internet commenters. But, as they say, you can't scout the stat line. The nature of minor league baseball makes it hard to analyze a player on statistics alone. Their age relative to the league. Older guys tend to do very well in a younger league. The conditions of the field vary wildly making some league's hitters leagues or some infields notoriously fast. The fielding level is also much lower causing hits fall in more often. The stats can be skewed greatly.
That being said, the scouting reports can be pretty awful too. Manny Machado wasn't considered a great defender. Caleb Joseph couldn't catch at the major leagues. Brian Matusz had four plus pitches. Matt Wieters was "Mauer with Power." So lets scout the damn stat line.
Alright, well we won't do exactly that. There is a balance to be had. A little bit of both is necessary. When I look at minor league stats I stick to the three true outcomes. That is, power (I know it's home runs, but stay with me here), walks, and strike outs. Those play at any level and have shown over history to be slightly more predictive of major league performance.
D.J. Stewart 18.5% walk rate, 21.7% strikeout rate, .134 ISO (35 BB, 41 K, 12 XBH)
That is a very strange line. In 40 percent of his plate appearances last year's first round draft pick has not been putting the ball in play. He has a .376 OBP and actually an above league average offensive output, that's good. But, he's hitting .215 with a meager .349 SLG good for the .134 ISO which is not great. Could be that he is getting used to a new stance and trying to time pitches so he lets more go. Could be something else. Regardless, it's a bit of an up and down season for Stewart thus far.
Chance Sisco 13.8% walk rate, 12.6% strikeout rate, .073 ISO (23 BB, 21 K, 10 XBH)
More walks then strikeouts is always impressive. It's especially impressive for a player who is 3.5 years younger than the league average. It's doubly impressive when it's a catcher. The lack of power from Sisco is certainly concerning, but the guy can flat out hit as he has shown over his his minor league career. Hopefully his power and defense develop enough to play at the major league level.
Trey Mancini 10.2% walk rate, 24.5% strikeout rate, .176 ISO (15 BB, 36 K, 13 XBH) (All numbers are from AAA)
Mancini is the riser in the Orioles system after a break out year last year at AA Bowie. This year started off the same and he was quickly promoted to AAA Norfolk where he has hit pretty okay. The walk rate is solid, but the strike out has climbed from 16.4 percent last year in Bowie. Contact issues can plague a hitter in the big leagues where major league pitchers are much more capable of exploiting that particular weakness. The power output is still good. Definitely a wait and see type of player still.
The swing and miss is the perfect outcome for a pitcher. The batter thought it was a good enough pitch to hit and could not even make contact. Not only that, it's a strike no matter where you threw the ball. For this reason, things like swinging strike rate and whiffs are measured for each pitcher and each pitch. Well, the two bright spots in the Orioles otherwise dreary rotation have increased the whiffs on two key pitches which are leading their solid starts to 2016.
Chris Tillman has started to throw his slider/cutter much more often this season and it is working out great. He already has 25 whiffs on that pitch in 2016 which is 5 more than he has had in other season prior to 2016. In fact, he had 91 career whiffs on his slider/cutter coming into 2016 and has a pretty good chance--if healthy--to surpass that mark in 2016.
Also, Kevin Gausman has definitely improved upon his "slurve" pitch this year. While it's still not as sharp as it needs to be, he currently has 13 whiffs on the pitch to date in 2016. He had 16 all of last year and only 15 the year before. He too has a chance of surpassing his career mark in whiffs on his slurve in 2016.
Adding good pitches and utilizing them more is a good plan. Now if only the other three Orioles starters could get on board.