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The WAR Room: 2014 AZL hitters season in review

MVP candidates Bradley, Chang headline the AZL hitters' year

The WAR Room: 2014 AZL hitters season in review
The WAR Room (Graphic courtesy of Brittany Chay)
November 23, 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 Arizona League 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 finish our look at the Arizona League team with the hitters. Keep in mind that for the short season leagues, the projection of each player features heavily into the equation, not just the raw stats. For the full stats, go ahead and click here. 

Name Team Age G PA Poor D WAR WAR Great D WAR
Yu-Cheng Chang Indians (R) 18 42 181 2.2 2.5 2.8
Bobby Bradley Indians (R) 18 39 176 2.2 2.4 2.7
Li-Jen Chu Indians (R) 20 29 103 1.4 1.6 1.8
Emmanuel Tapia Indians (R) 18 39 148 0.8 1.1 1.3
Sicnarf Loopstok Indians (R) 21 5 18 0.7 0.7 0.7
Bryson Myles Indians (R) 24 5 20 0.6 0.6 0.7
Nathan Winfrey Indians (R) 19 28 123 0.4 0.6 0.8
Jodd Carter Indians (R) 17 37 147 0.3 0.6 0.8
Silento Sayles Indians (R) 19 35 152 0.3 0.6 0.8
Alexis Pantoja Indians (R) 18 40 159 0.2 0.5 0.7
Joe Wendle Indians (R) 24 6 26 0.4 0.5 0.5
Willi Castro Indians (R) 17 43 170 0.1 0.3 0.6
Simeon Lucas Indians (R) 18 16 55 0.2 0.3 0.4
David Armendariz Indians (R) 22 18 62 0.2 0.3 0.4
Kevin Calderon Indians (R) 20 16 44 0.0 0.1 0.2
Bobby Ison Indians (R) 20 32 140 -0.1 0.1 0.3
Gian Paul Gonzalez Indians (R) 18 11 40 -0.1 0.0 0.1
Ben Shorto Indians (R) 19 1 1 0.0 0.0 0.0
Victor Cabral Indians (R) 20 8 33 -0.2 -0.1 -0.1
Hector Caro Indians (R) 18 9 35 -0.2 -0.2 -0.1
Grofi Cruz Indians (R) 18 19 68 -0.6 -0.5 -0.4
Francisco Miguel Indians (R) 19 33 129 -0.7 -0.5 -0.3
Gerald Bautista Indians (R) 19 16 56 -0.7 -0.6 -0.5

Notable Catcher

Though catcher Li-Jen Chu was not a big name heading into 2014, the 20-year-old impressed on the field in his first stateside action. Chu used an impressive .247 isolated power (240 ISO+) to 1.6 average-defense WAR in 29 games, an MVP-type rate which was a big part of the team’s championship run. It is true that the ball flies out of the park easier in the Arizona air, but Chu was so significantly above the Arizona League average, it seems there could be something there. It was only 29 games -- and a .412 BABIP certainly helped -- but with power, a 17.5 percent strikeout rate (76 K%+), and a 10.7 percent walk rate (116 BB%+), Chu definitely caught eyes in his debut season.

Notable Infielders

Drafting away from the middle of the field is not typical behavior for Cleveland, yet making the exception for first baseman Bobby Bradley worked out tremendously so far. Bradley won the MVP award in his draft year thanks in large part to his .290 isolated power (281 ISO+) and 2.4 average-defense WAR in 39 games. Much like any player putting up an 8.0-WAR pace in essentially one-fourth of a season, Bradley was aided by a .425 BABIP (131 BABIP+), but his power and plate discipline (20.5 percent strikeout rate, 89 K%+; 9.1 percent walk rate, 99 BB%+) are for real. Being a first baseman already means Bradley will have to hit a ton at every level, but one year in, the 18-year-old has gotten off on the right foot.

Though Bradley took home the league MVP honors and the majority of the attention, Yu-Cheng Chang actually edged the first baseman ever so slightly in WAR. While WAR is not accurate down to the exact decimal point -- and one can easily argue Bradley was better -- the fact exists that Chang also had a tremendous season, posting 2.5 average-defense WAR in 181 plate appearances. Splitting time between shortstop and third base, Chang is yet another middle infield prospect in an organization swimming in it. Chang can hit for power (.220 isolated power, 214 ISO+) and has an idea of what he is doing at the plate (15.5 percent strikeout rate, 67 K%+; 9.9 percent walk rate, 107 BB%+), and while his .389 BABIP (120 BABIP+) will fall as he leaves Arizona, the 19-year-old is a legit prospect, just like Bradley.

While he did not put up stats like Bradley or Chang, second baseman/shortstop Alexis Pantoja showed off his defensive prowess while hitting a little bit en route to 0.7 great-defense WAR in 40 games. The 2014 ninth round pick was one of the few players to not enjoy the power boosting environment out in Arizona (.035 isolated power, 34 ISO+), but Pantoja frequently put the ball in play (10.7 percent strikeout rate, 46 K%+; 7.5 percent walk rate, 81 BB%+) and did not appear overwhelmed by his first stint in professional ball. A positive rebound in his .281 BABIP (87 BABIP+) would help the 18-year-old, but luckily for Pantoja, his Francisco Lindor-ian ability with the glove will give him a long leash for his offense to develop.

Furthering the idea that Cleveland has a never-ending supply of middle infield talent in its minor league system, second baseman/shortstop Willi Castro made his stateside debut, splitting time with Chang and Pantoja. Castro, who signed for $850,000 in July 2013, did not impress on the field like Chang, only putting up 0.3 average-defense WAR in 170 games, but this is a case where pointing out the raw stats does not help very much. The middle infielder is very young, playing the entire 2014 season at 17 years old, and showed some great bat-to-ball ability despite the lack of results. Castro only struck out 19.4 percent of the time (84 K%+), and though he only walked at a 3.5 percent rate (38 BB%+), he flashed league-average power (.110 isolated power, 107 ISO+) and was the recipient of some bad BABIP luck (.292 BABIP, 90 BABIP+). Youth is on Castro’s side and 2014 was a solid debut for the 17-year-old.

Notable Outfielders

Cleveland’s outfielders did not shine quite as bright out in Arizona, but a couple still put up impressive seasons. First up is center fielder Silento Sayles, who posted a solid 0.6 average-defense WAR in 35 games. The 2013 14th round pick is a speed guy who stole 16 bases last year -- a pace that would have led the majors -- and is not someone who will have a lot of power (.054 isolated power, 52 ISO+). As such, Sayles could use making a little more contact to let his speed come through (23.0 percent strikeout rate, 100 K%+), but his 11.2 percent walk rate (121 BB%+) helped the 19-year-old put up league-average offense in his first full professional season. There is still plenty of work to do for Sayles, but the speedy outfielder seems to be on the right track.

The 24th round selection of this past year’s draft, Jodd Carter spent most of his debut in left field, though the 18-year-old hit enough to put up 0.6 average-defense WAR in 37 games. That is no small feat for a player just out of high school, with Carter’s 19.0 percent strikeout rate (82 K%+) and 10.2 percent walk rate (111 BB%+) pointing to a player with solid plate discipline despite playing in his age-17 season. Carter did not show much power out in Arizona (.063 isolated power, 61 ISO+) and was helped a bit by a .356 BABIP (110 BABIP+), but being roughly league-average as a young player in your first experience in professional ball is pretty good. Not everyone can debut like Bradley.

Quick Hits

First up on rounding out the list of Arizona League position players who logged significant time in 2014, five 2014 draft picks debuted to largely positive reviews. Those five were catcher Simeon Lucas (0.3 average-defense WAR in 16 games, picked in the seventh round), catcher Gian Paul Gonzalez (0.0 average-defense WAR in 11 games, picked in the 20th round), center fielder Bobby Ison (0.1 average-defense WAR in 32 games, picked in the 21st round), outfielder David Armendariz (0.3 average-defense WAR in 18 games, picked in the 23rd round), and third baseman Nathan Winfrey (0.6 average-defense WAR in 28 games, picked in the 28th round).

International signings making their stateside debut down in Arizona in 2014 included one great result, one average result, and two struggles. First baseman/designated hitter Emmanuel Tapia (1.1 average-defense WAR in 39 games) stood out, while catcher Kevin Calderon (0.1 average-defense WAR in 16 games), third baseman Grofi Cruz (-0.5 average-defense WAR in 19 games), and right fielder Francisco Miguel (-0.5 average-defense WAR in 33 games) all have plenty of room to grow.

Finally, the only player to log significant time and not yet be mentioned is Gerald Bautista, who posted -0.6 average-defense WAR in 16 games while repeating the Arizona League and logging time at first base, second base, third base, right field, and designated hitter.

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

User Comments

November 24, 2014 - 4:39 PM EST
Can't wait to see how these hitters do next season, once they are out of Arizona. Hoping to see more good numbers.

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