Back in March, EJ wrote a piece about how we tend to over and under value Yankee prospects in different ways. In there, you’ll find that all the organization’s minor league affiliates manage to be in leagues that have ranked average to below average in runs per game since 2008. The argument EJ presents is that there is too much hype around the pitching prospects, and too little hype around the hitting prospects.
This is something that goes overlooked in many farm systems. Yes, from time to time we see players’ hype extinguished by great offensive performances in league like the PCL, and most prospect evaluators take into consideration the league, but when it comes to ballpark factors, there’s so many different stadiums to analyze that even the experts seem to get caught up in the hype.
One non-Yankee example could be the Mariners over the last few years. Top prospects like Dustin Ackley, Michael Saunders, and Jeff Clement all posted huge offensive numbers in the minor leagues as left-handed batters, but have failed to succeed in Safeco Field. If you take a look at Stat Corner’s rankings of their minor league parks, the Mariners have extremely favorable park factors for left-handed hitters in both their High-A affiliate and Triple-A affiliate. Meanwhile, Safeco remains a very difficult ballpark for left-handers to hit in, as Stat Corner gives it an 80 (where 100 is average) for doubles and triple, an 83 for home runs, and a 79 for runs overall. Meanwhile, Mariner’s pitching prospects usually exceed expectations after surviving through the offensive-slanted minor league system.
For the Yankees, it would seem the opposite happens. The team has had a number of top pitching prospects over the years that have failed to survive in Yankee Stadium and the AL East. This doesn’t necessarily mean that all pitching prospects will fail in Yankee Stadium, but Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Ian Kennedy decimated the Yankees’ minor league system, and each earned themselves top prospect statuses before hitting a wall in the Bronx. Of course the Yankees minor league teams, for the most part, have pitcher friendly stadiums, while Yankee Stadium remains one of the easiest ballparks to hit in.
Different prospects react in different ways, but now that the Yankees have a number of intriguing positional prospects, it’s important to keep in mind that the minor league stadiums are notoriously hard to hit in. While Tyler Austin is hitting .268/.361/.396 on the season, he’s actually OPSing .871 on the road and just .633 inside Arm & Hammer Park. Stat Corner ranks Trenton as having a 79 rankings for doubles and triples for right-handed hitters, an 86 for home runs, and an 86 for runs overall.
Another interesting stadium is the Joe in Charleston. Cito Culver, who is now exclusively batting right handed, is hitting .176/.288/.222 at home, but .250/.333/.464 on the road. At home, Culver also has just 5 extra base hits, all doubles, while he’s had 11 of them on the road, including 6 home runs. Dante Bichette Jr owns a similar split, a .143/.195/.193 with just 1 home run at home, and a .254/.336/.369 on the road. Both right-handed hitters are facing a home ballpark which is one of the most difficult to hit in. Stat Corner ranks Charleston with an absurdly low 63 on home runs.
This makes Peter O’Brien‘s 2013 performance all the more respectable. His .332/.401/.632 slash line is aided by a .362/.447/.691 slash at the Joe. His 7 home runs at home are an incredible feat for a righty, and he’s probably only weeks away from an early promotion to Tampa. But O’Brien won’t see much of a benefit in the move to Florida. The Tampa Yankees currently own a 63 rating for right-handed home runs, and a 74 for left-handed home runs.
The tandem of top hitting prospects have been less than spectacular this year, but it’s important to keep the right expectations for these hitters. If any of them are able to succeed in pitcher’s ballparks, it’ll make it that much easier for them to hit in Yankee Stadium.