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The WAR Room: 2014 Akron hitters season in review

Solid seasons from Lindor, Naquin, Wendle highlight the RubberDucks hitters

The WAR Room: 2014 Akron hitters season in review
The WAR Room (Graphic courtesy of Brittany Chay)
October 12, 2014
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The WAR Room is back again, bringing you the 2014 advanced stats for every Cleveland minor leaguer. With the minor league seasons at an end, we continue bringing you seasons in review, with today's featuring the 2014 Akron RubberDucks hitters.

The list of previous season in reviews are below:

Of course, it is always important to keep context in mind, just like with scouting. A pitcher who is old for his level using that experience to succeed against young, inexperienced hitters must be taken with a grain of salt; the same goes when looking at these WAR totals.

But it is a useful tool to put each player's performance into context and look at where they sit in regard to the rest of the league.

For reference on how I computed WAR, a reminder on the problems inherent in the stats, and everything else you need to know, click here. For a refresher on WAR and what it is, click here.

As a reminder, a 0.0 WAR per 162 games is replacement level -- otherwise known as the kind of performance an average player from the level below could offer -- a 2.0 WAR per 162 games is average, and a 5.0 WAR per 162 games is All-Star level.

Also, the lack of good defensive metrics for the minor leagues means we have to adjust for a range of defensive abilities. To account for this, I will give you each player's WAR with a qualifier: either poor-defense WAR for a poor defender (-10 runs below-average per 162 games), average-defense WAR for an average defender (0 runs per 162 games), or great-defense WAR for a great defender (10 runs above-average per 162 games).

One more thing, all "+" stats are averaged at 100. Anything over 100, like 110, is higher and means that player is 10 percent better than the league average. Anything under 100, like 90, is lower and means that player is 10 percent worse than the league average. In the case of any "-" stats -- when lower is better, like with ERA -- a 90 ERA- means that player is 10 percent better than the league average.

Today we begin our look at the Akron RubberDucks with the pitchers before moving to the hitters next week. For the full stats, go ahead and click here.

Name Team Age G PA Poor D WAR WAR Great D WAR
Tyler Naquin Indians (AA) 23 76 304 1.8 2.3 2.7
Francisco Lindor Indians (AA) 20 88 342 1.7 2.2 2.8
Anthony Gallas Indians (AA) 26 73 280 1.3 1.8 2.2
Erik Gonzalez Indians (AA) 22 31 129 1.1 1.3 1.5
Joe Wendle Indians (AA) 24 87 336 0.7 1.2 1.7
Jaime Pedroza Indians (AA) 27 21 67 0.8 0.9 1.1
Giovanny Urshela Indians (AA) 22 24 90 0.7 0.9 1.0
Tyler Holt Indians (AA) 25 39 124 0.6 0.9 1.1
Bryson Myles Indians (AA) 24 84 300 0.3 0.8 1.3
Alex Lavisky Indians (AA) 23 67 241 0.3 0.7 1.1
Tony Wolters Indians (AA) 22 94 341 0.1 0.7 1.3
Ollie Linton Indians (AA) 28 49 150 0.3 0.6 0.9
Justin Toole Indians (AA) 27 77 236 0.0 0.5 1.0
Ryan Raburn Indians (AA) 33 3 11 0.1 0.1 0.1
Nick Swisher Indians (AA) 33 2 6 0.1 0.1 0.1
Cody Ferrell Indians (AA) 24 5 13 0.1 0.1 0.2
Jake Lowery Indians (AA) 23 66 219 -0.3 0.1 0.5
Adam Abraham Indians (AA) 27 29 108 -0.1 0.0 0.2
Charlie Valerio Indians (AA) 23 9 27 -0.1 -0.1 0.0
Bryan LaHair Indians (AA) 31 101 364 -0.8 -0.2 0.5
Jason Giambi Indians (AA) 43 6 17 -0.2 -0.2 -0.1
Tim Fedroff Indians (AA) 27 29 111 -0.4 -0.2 0.0
Michael Bourn Indians (AA) 31 6 23 -0.3 -0.3 -0.2
Jerrud Sabourin Indians (AA) 24 12 33 -0.5 -0.4 -0.4
Jordan Smith Indians (AA) 23 126 459 -1.2 -0.4 0.3
Ronny Rodriguez Indians (AA) 22 118 413 -1.4 -0.7 0.0

Notable Catcher

Tony Wolters (Photo: MiLB)The most important thing about catcher Tony Wolters’ 2014 season is the continuing development of his acumen behind the plate. But while Wolters is getting really good reviews of his defense in just his second year as a catcher, the bat is leaving him not close to major league ready. Even giving the 22-year-old credit for great defense, his 1.3 great-defense WAR in 94 games leaves him as just an average Double-A player, not one forcing his way to Cleveland. Wolters does a good job with his plate discipline (19.1 percent strikeout rate, 100 K%+; 9.0 percent walk rate, 110 BB%+), but he needs to drive the ball with more authority (.065 isolated power, 50 ISO+) in order to keep progressing toward Cleveland.

Notable Infielders

Francisco Lindor (Photo: MiLB)Due to a combination of callups and injuries, most of Akron’s players appeared in under 100 games in 2014. Thanks to that, shortstop Francisco Lindor’s 2.8 great-defense WAR in just 88 games led the RubberDucks even though he was called up to Columbus in late July. Though Lindor stumbled a bit once in Columbus, he showed what he is capable of during his time in Akron. The 20-year-old’s .111 isolated power (85 ISO+) is good enough for a shortstop, and when added to a 15.8 percent strikeout rate (83 K%+) and 10.3 percent walk rate (126 BB%+), adds up to a standout infielder. Lindor needs a little more polish in Triple-A to start off 2015, but the standout prospect should contribute at the major league level in 2015.

Lindor’s replacement had some big shoes to fill, yet shortstop Erik Gonzalez somehow found a way to fill them. The 23-year-old’s 1.3 average-defense WAR in 31 games is a bit unsustainable given his .429 BABIP (139 BABIP+), but the pieces are still there for Gonzalez. He may not walk like Lindor (5.1 percent walk rate, 63 BB%+), but with a similar 16.9 percent strikeout rate (89 K%+), .116 isolated power (88 ISO+), and the ability to stick at shortstop, Gonzalez is a pretty solid prospect. Whether that manifests itself in a utility role for Cleveland or as a trade piece, Gonzalez took a huge step forward in 2014 and actually managed to replace Lindor in Akron.

For a bat-first prospect, second baseman Joey Wendle’s 98 wRC+ seems like a bit of a disappointment. But with a 1.2 average-defense WAR in 87 games, Wendle actually made the jump to Double-A while still maintaining an overall average level of production. That jump to Double-A is probably the hardest in the minors, yet Wendle was still able to control the plate (15.1 percent strikeout rate, 79 K%+) and show some nice power (.161 isolated power, 123 ISO+). Wendle could use a few more walks (7.0 percent walk rate, 86 BB%+) and some positive regression on his .279 BABIP (90 BABIP+), but outside of a hamate injury, 2014 was not all that bad for the 24-year-old.

After a disappointing 2013 season in Akron (1.0 average-defense WAR in 116 games), infielder Ronny Rodriguez took another step back this past year, posting a -0.7 average-defense WAR in 118 games. Everything fell apart for Rodriguez, with his power dropping off (.097 isolated power, 74 ISO+ in 2014; 84 ISO+ in 2013) and his strikeouts rising (20.6 percent strikeout rate, 108 K%+ in 2014; 76 K%+ in 2013). Even with a rise in his walk rate, up to 5.6 percent (69 BB%+), the combination still led to a massive falloff in Rodriguez’s offense. The 22-year-old is still young, though taking a step back while repeating Double-A is certainly concerning.

Notable Outfielders

Tyler Naquin (Photo: MiLB)A broken hand ended outfielder Tyler Naquin’s season early, but the 23-year-old was in the midst of a breakout year before the injury. With 2.7 great-defense WAR in 76 games, Naquin established himself as someone who should contribute at the major league level before too long. His .389 BABIP (126 BABIP+) will fall over time, but with a solid combination of a 20.8 percent strikeout rate (109 K%+), a 8.5 percent walk rate (104 BB%+), a .112 isolated power (85 ISO+), and the ability to play strong defense in center field, Naquin will still be a good player.

Outfielder Anthony Gallas may not have performed at the same level as Naquin, but with 1.8 average-defense WAR in 73 games, the 26-year-old impressed in his first extended Double-A action. Gallas swings hard and does not make a lot of contact (23.0 percent strikeout rate, 121 K%+; 6.8 percent walk rate, 83 BB%+), but with a .243 isolated power (185 ISO+), that is exactly what the outfielder should be doing. He will never make contact like an Ichiro Suzuki, but when power is your calling card, you should keep swinging hard and tapping into it just like Gallas does.

Injuries kept outfielder Bryson Myles off the field for a bit, a fact when combined with his 0.8 average-defense WAR in 84 games paints a negative picture of his 2014 season. Playing left field the majority of the time, Myles’ roughly average 103 wRC+ does not quite stand out from the pack. The hope is Myles will improve with time and reps, though at 25 years old, seeing some growth in his .130 isolated power (99 ISO+), 25.8 percent strikeout rate (136 K%+), and 7.7 percent walk rate (94 BB%+) soon would be encouraging.

While Myles’ below-average 2014 was a bit disappointing, it still dwarfed the season outfielder Jordan Smith had. The 24-year-old continued with his low-power ways, posting a .083 isolated power (63 ISO+), but his walk rate dropped way off (6.6 percent walk rate, 81 BB%+), cratering his offensive value. Smith still limits his strikeouts (16.5 percent strikeout rate, 87 K%+), but the combination of little power and few walks makes it hard for a right fielder to succeed. The tools are still there for Smith, but he will need to bring the 0.3 great-defense WAR he put up in 126 games quite a bit to keep climbing ladder in 2015 and beyond.

Quick Hits

Giovanny Urshela (Photo: MiLB)Third baseman Giovanny Urshela did not spend much time in Akron, getting promoted to Columbus after posting 1.0 great-defense WAR in 24 games. That quick promotion was not surprising because Urshela (who celebrated his 23rd birthday yesterday) was repeating Double-A and rapidly showed he was ready for a new challenge (.267 isolated power, 204 ISO+; 147 wRC+).

He may have ended the season in Cleveland, but outfielder Tyler Holt started 2014 with the RubberDucks. Holt’s third season spending time in Akron did not last, however, as 1.1 great-defense WAR in 39 games, a 17.3 percent walk rate (212 BB%+), and the ability to play every outfield position well finally got the 25-year-old a promotion to Columbus

With a great reputation for his ability behind the plate, catcher Alex Lavisky put up a pretty good 1.1 great-defense WAR in 67 games. If not for the great depth behind the plate in the organization the 23-year-old might get a longer look, but at the very least, Lavisky will keep rolling his high-contact (17.2 percent strikeout rate, 90 K%+; 4.7 percent walk rate, 58 BB%+), low-power (.091 isolated power, 69 ISO+) offense as a backup catcher for years to come.

Though catcher/first baseman Jake Lowery struggled in 2014, posting 0.1 average-defense WAR in 66 games, I am personally writing the entire season off. Getting hit by a pitch in the face not only cost him seven weeks, but I would imagine it also threw him off at the plate even after he returned. At 24 years old, Lowery will need a big 2015 to get himself back on track, but the best thing for him may simply be leaving 2014 behind.

Making his organizational debut after missing all of 2013 with various injuries, outfielder Ollie Linton made it back on the field in 2014. The 28-year-old posted a decent 0.6 average-defense WAR in 49 games, though the outfielder’s time in Akron was disrupted by needing his appendix taken out.

Utility player Justin Toole is still chugging along, putting up 0.5 average-defense WAR in 77 games while filling in all over the diamond for the RubberDucks. The performance on the field is not what matters for Toole, though, as the 28-year-old’s main role is being able to fill in literally anywhere on the diamond, giving a minor league manager options when players are called up, demoted, injured, or any other situation that naturally arises during a long season.

Infielder Jaime Pedroza did not earn a callup for his 0.9 average-defense WAR in 21 games like Urshela, but that was because the 28-year-old was signed as a minor league free agent midseason to help combat the injuries and promotions that decimated Akron’s lineup. Pedroza certainly did not disappoint, however, which combined with his ability to play all around the infield, could help him stick around in organization next year.

One of the bigger disappointment for the RubberDucks has to be the performance of first baseman Bryan LaHair. Despite having major league pedigree, LaHair struggled mightily, turning in a sub-replacement level -0.2 average-defense WAR in 101 games. Power was one of LaHair’s calling cards during his All-Star 2012 season, but it was not present in 2014 (.099 isolated power, 75 ISO+).

If you want to follow Jim on Twitter, he’s @JimPiascik. If you want to e-mail him, you can do so at jpiasci1@gmail.com. If you want to read his Master's thesis on college athletes and Twitter, you can do so here.

User Comments

Ryan
October 15, 2014 - 3:35 PM EDT
I am not sure what the ratio of "potential major league regulars" are supposed to be found at every level in every organization, but IMO, having 3 seems to be pretty good considering the number of players that fail from AA and upwards. Also, Wolters is young for his level and Lavisky and Lowery are not exactly old, all three playing a premium defense-first position. And considering how young the core is at the ML level already and how many potential ML players are at the AAA level who are not expected to start at the ML level in 2015 but either are on the brink of a call-up or have already received ML playing time (Walters, Ramsey, Holt, Aguilar, Urshela) that is a huge improvement.
pathofkindness
October 13, 2014 - 12:26 AM EDT
Boy, if the Tribe's minor league system is improving, it sure isn't showing up at AA yet. This is a sad list of players, with what looks like only three potential major league regulars above the "quick hits". Lindor, Naquin and Gonzalez are it, and Naquin and Gonzalez have pretty significant issues that could limit their ability to make it in the majors. Maybe Wolters still has a chance, but his bat will have to improve quite a bit. The others, including Wendle, Gallas, and Myles are getting old for prospects and going nowhere fast, imo they are just taking up roster space at this point until some of our younger guys can move up. Rodriguez maybe can salvage something of a career, but it doesn't look likely...geez...for a team like the Indians who need to depend on young players coming up through the system, this article is very depressing...

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