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The WAR Room: 2014 Scrappers hitters season in review

A star-packed outfield highlights the Mahoning Valley position players

The WAR Room: 2014 Scrappers hitters season in review
The WAR Room (Graphic courtesy of Brittany Chay)
November 9, 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 Mahoning Valley Scrappers pitchers.

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 Mahoning Valley Scrappers with the pitchers before moving to the hitters next week. 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
Bradley Zimmer Indians (A-) 21 45 197 1.7 2.0 2.3
Francisco Mejia Indians (A-) 18 66 274 1.2 1.6 2.0
Steven Patterson Indians (A-) 21 54 247 1.3 1.6 1.9
Greg Allen Indians (A-) 21 57 270 0.9 1.3 1.6
Leo Castillo Indians (A-) 21 64 264 0.6 1.0 1.3
Taylor Murphy Indians (A-) 21 53 219 0.6 0.9 1.2
Yonathan Mendoza Indians (A-) 20 63 241 0.3 0.7 1.0
Ordomar Valdez Indians (A-) 20 38 139 0.2 0.4 0.7
Jorge Martinez Indians (A-)/O 21 16 56 0.1 0.2 0.3
Shane Rowland Indians (A-) 22 9 35 0.0 0.0 0.1
Mike Papi Indians (A-) 21 2 9 -0.1 -0.1 0.0
Martin Cervenka Indians (A-) 21 25 93 -0.2 -0.1 0.1
Garrett Smith Indians (A-) 24 2 5 -0.1 -0.1 -0.1
Austin Fisher Indians (A-) 21 46 176 -0.4 -0.2 0.1
Nick Hamilton Indians (A-) 24 3 7 -0.2 -0.2 -0.1
Joel Mejia Indians (A-) 21 7 31 -0.3 -0.2 -0.2
D'vone McClure Indians (A-) 20 49 188 -0.5 -0.2 0.1
Juan De La Cruz Indians (A-) 20 28 106 -0.4 -0.3 -0.1
Josh McAdams Indians (A-) 20 26 101 -0.5 -0.3 -0.1
Drake Roberts Indians (A-) 22 34 130 -0.5 -0.3 -0.1
David Armendariz Indians (A-) 22 15 50 -0.6 -0.5 -0.4

Notable Catcher

Francisco Mejia (Photo: MiLB)Catcher Francisco Mejia’s first action above the Arizona Rookie League did not go perfectly, yet on a strictly on-the-field basis, the catcher turned in a very impressive performance in his age-18 season. Even accounting for how raw Mejia is behind the plate, he put up 1.2 poor-defense WAR in 66 games, a still above-average rate thanks to his bat. Mejia showed an ability to make solid contact, posting a .125 isolated power (118 ISO+), while also putting the ball in play. He does not walk all that much, but thanks to a 17.2 percent strikeout rate (86 K%+), Mejia is already playing quite well. Considering much of Mejia’s value is wrapped up in his projection, seeing him put up nice numbers this young is very encouraging.

Notable Infielders

When Cleveland drafted second baseman Steven Patterson in the 10th round this past year, the scouting report showed him as more of a performer than projection guy. That showed in Mahoning Valley, with Patterson posting 1.6 average-defense WAR in 54 games. Not much about Patterson’s game stands out, as he is more of a steady player than a stud. The 22-year-old’s power came out above-average (.157 isolated power, 148 ISO+), and when paired with a 17.4 percent strikeout rate (87 K%+) and 10.1 percent walk rate (132 BB%+), it forms an All-Star level combination. Now the question is whether Patterson can continue this when moving to an age-appropriate, full season league in 2015.

Yonathan Mendoza (Photo: MiLB)The calling card of the Cleveland minor league system lately has been dynamic shortstops. With the Scrappers in 2014, Yonathan Mendoza did his best to add to that depth, putting up 0.7 average-defense WAR in 63 games. Though that level of performance is only average -- and Mendoza spent more time at third base (32 games) than shortstop (27) -- the 20-year-old still looked good for Mahoning Valley. The infielder did not hit for much power (.047 isolated power, 44 ISO+), but with as many walks as strikeouts (10.8 percent walk rate, 141 BB%+; 10.8 percent strikeout rate, 54 K%+) and versatility, Mendoza is in good shape.

Another low-power, great plate discipline infielder on the Scrappers roster was Ordomar Valdez, who posted a decent 0.4 average-defense WAR in 38 games. Unlike Mendoza, Valdez struck out more than he walked, but not by much (12.2 percent strikeout rate, 61 K%+; 10.1 percent walk rate, 132 BB%+). Valdez bounced between second base and third base and did not play any shortstop, which hurts his projection, especially considering the 20-year-old’s .048 isolated power (45 ISO+).  The infielder was league-average at the plate, but if Valdez is going to stick at second and third while climbing the minor league ladder, he will need to be a little better than average at the plate.

First baseman Leo Castillo took a step back last year -- playing in Mahoning Valley after spending extended time in Lake County in 2012 and 2013 -- but the 21-year-old did show something on the field while with the Scrappers. While 1.0 average-defense WAR in 64 games does not stand out, being above-average while playing first base is hard. First basemen have to hit a ton to have real value, and thanks to a .152 isolated power (143 ISO+), 16.7 percent strikeout rate (83 K%+), and 9.8 percent walk rate (128 BB%+), Castillo pulled it off. He will need to do this in a full season league before he will have real prospect value, but this is a step in the right direction for Castillo.

Notable Outfielders

Bradley Zimmer (Photo: MiLB)The stats in a player’s first professional experience immediately after being drafted are less important than his projection, but it never hurts to see a draft pick excel on the field immediately. Such was the case with center fielder Bradley Zimmer, who put up MVP-type numbers during his time in Mahoning Valley, posting 2.0 average-defense WAR in 45 games. Some of that was helped by a .348 BABIP (112 BABIP+), but even more importantly, Zimmer did not strike out much (15.2 percent strikeout rate, 76 K%+), walked quite a bit (9.6 percent walk rate, 126 BB%+), and showed some nice pop (.161 isolated power, 152 ISO+). Seeing a college player do well in a short season league does not mean much, but seeing the 21-year-old flash all of this while playing up the middle could be a precursor of things to come.

Zimmer’s presence kept sixth round pick Greg Allen from playing center field full time, which hurts for someone like Allen who does not have much power (.053 isolated power, 50 ISO+). But despite playing a power position like right field while not having much, Allen still put up 1.6 great-defense WAR in 57 games thanks to a 9.6 percent strikeout rate (48 K%+), 10.0 percent walk rate (131 BB%+), and stellar defense. Plus, Allen’s .274 BABIP (89 BABIP+) is low for someone like Allen and should rise in time, which would pull the 21-year-old’s value up even more. Allen is already playing like an All-Star and his speed (30 steals), defense, and plate discipline combination should translate well to full season ball next year.

Though it was a little overshadowed by the outstanding performances of Zimmer and Allen, what 18th round pick Taylor Murphy did in his professional debut should not be passed over. The recently-turned 22-year-old “only” posted 0.9 average-defense WAR in 53 games, leaving him as yet another above-average outfielder the Scrappers ran out there in 2014. Like Zimmer and Allen, Murphy’s calling card was a low 16.9 percent strikeout rate (84 K%+) and high 11.9 percent walk rate (156 BB%+), and while he was only league-average in the power department (.107 isolated power, 101 ISO+), the outfielder was still pretty good. Things will change as players progress through the minors, but right now, the 2014 Scrappers look to have an outfield full of players on track for great things.

Quick Hits

D'vone McClure (Photo: MiLB)Not everything came out well for the Scrappers, with former high draft picks outfielder D’vone McClure stumbling in his first action above the Arizona League (-0.2 average-defense WAR in 49 games) and outfielder Josh McAdams continuing to struggle (-0.3 average-defense WAR in 26 games) after doing so in Mahoning Valley in 2013 and in Lake County in 2014. It is still about projection for McClure and McAdams, but being below the New York-Penn replacement level is still not a good sign.

Moving to 2014 draft picks, 13th round pick Austin Fisher posted -0.2 average-defense WAR in 46 games, but got plenty of time at shortstop, which is good for his future. Meanwhile, 23rd round pick David Armendariz (-0.5 average-defense WAR in 15 games) and 29th round pick Drake Roberts (-0.3 average-defense WAR in 34 games) both did not play well and did not get much time at up the middle positions, though it is still too early to say anything definitive about their prospects.

Martin Cervenka was a decent backup catcher for Mejia, though the 21-year-old struggled in 2014. Cervenka split time between Lake County and Mahoning Valley last year, but while repeating with the Scrappers this season, he only put up -0.1 average-defense WAR in 25 games.

First baseman Juan De La Cruz played well in 2013 down in Arizona, posting an .845 OPS in 22 games, but that slipped in 2014 in Mahoning Valley, with the 21-year-old putting up -0.3 average-defense WAR in 28 games. 

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.

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