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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Most valuable infielders - 2007 Reds minor leagues

In his most recent column, Dan Fox released a spreadsheet with 2007 minor league fielding stats for infielders (outfielders are still in revision--sorry, no Jay Bruce stats yet) using his Simple Fielding Runs (SFR) approach.

SFR may not be as precise as hit-location statistics like UZR or PMR, but because it can be calculated using play-by-play data, he can get data on players from leagues that are not "video scouted" by BIS or STATS Inc. Therefore, one of its most exciting uses lies in generating quality fielding statistics for minor league players! That's what I wanted to look at tonight.

Below is a table reporting total fielding value for each infielder (excluding pitchers and catchers) in the Reds' system last year. For each player, summed across all positions and teams. SFR is total +/- across all positions that a player played. PosAdj is a pro-rated (by playing time) position adjustment, which varies depending on position played (described here; shortstops get a boost while first basemen get a penalty because an average-fielding shortstop would be a very good defensive first baseman). FRAA is the total fielding value of the player, reported in as Fielding Runs Above Average. There was no adjustment for league, although there probably should be (I doubt the bar for fielding is as high in rookie-ball as it is in AA).

Name SFR PosAdj FRAA
Pedro Lopez 7.1 2.6 9.7
Justin Tordi 7.8 1.2 9.0
Jose Castro 3.4 3.8 7.3
Eric Eymann 3.4 3.5 6.9
Brandon Waring 5.5 0.5 6.0
Mark Bellhorn 4.4 0.8 5.2
Kevyn Feiner 4.8 0.2 5.0
Zachary Cozart 3.3 1.7 5.0
Neftali Soto 3.0 1.3 4.3
Jorge Cantu 4.4 -1.0 3.4
Todd Frazier 1.4 1.5 2.9
Angel Cabrera 1.7 0.8 2.5
Justin Turner 1.3 1.1 2.4
Jose Medina 2.1 0.1 2.2
Drew Anderson 1.3 0.7 2.0
Jose Gualdron 1.1 0.8 2.0
Dan Conway 0.1 1.8 1.9
Jeff Keppinger 1.3 0.0 1.4
Anderson Machado -0.9 2.0 1.1
Ryan Baker 0.9 0.2 1.1
Todd Waller 0.4 0.7 1.1
Jason Louwsma 3.1 -2.1 1.0
Earl Snyder 0.1 0.8 1.0
Chris Valaika -3.5 4.4 0.8
Jesse Gutierrez 3.1 -2.4 0.7
Paul Janish -4.4 4.9 0.5
Eli Rimes 0.3 -0.1 0.2
Petr Cech 0.0 0.2 0.2
Kyle Maunus 0.4 -0.3 0.1
Ryan Freel 0.1 0.0 0.1
Michael McKennon 3.9 -3.9 0.0
Luis Bolivar -1.1 0.9 -0.3
Mike Edwards -0.3 -0.1 -0.3
Gabriel Suarez -0.4 0.0 -0.4
Fulton Kendrick -0.6 0.2 -0.4
Juan Francisco -1.3 0.7 -0.6
Brett Bartles -0.7 0.0 -0.7
Jay Garthwaite -0.3 -0.6 -0.8
Radhames Moreta -1.6 0.6 -1.0
Paul Witt -1.3 0.2 -1.1
Jeremiah Piepkorn 1.3 -2.5 -1.2
Jeff Bannon -1.5 0.1 -1.3
Edwin Encarnacion -1.4 0.1 -1.4
Logan Parker 6.0 -7.5 -1.5
Billy Rojo -1.8 0.2 -1.6
David Scott -1.3 -0.8 -2.1
Raul Tablado -2.4 0.1 -2.2
Adam Rosales 4.4 -7.1 -2.7
Ramon Ramirez -2.0 -0.7 -2.7
Joey Votto 2.8 -5.9 -3.1
Aaron Herr -4.5 0.8 -3.7
Brodie Pullen -4.5 0.2 -4.3
Carlos Mendez -1.9 -3.5 -5.3
Michael Griffin -6.2 0.6 -5.7
Michael DeJesus -8.9 0.7 -8.1
Caonabo Cosme -8.1 -0.3 -8.4
Tonys Gutierrez -4.9 -5.5 -10.4
Enrique Cruz -16.4 1.8 -14.6

A few assorted comments:
  • The Reds' minor league infielders don't really seem to have any substantial defensive standouts, at least according to these numbers. Pedro Lopez, for example, ranked 121st among all minor league infielders. Granted, some of the higher-ranking players in this spreadsheet were playing in the Mexican league, which might have a rather weak level of competition. But there were guys in AAA posting 20+ FRAA. Kind of shocking how far from that any of the Reds were.
  • Pedro Lopez spent a substantial part of last season in the White Sox organization, and those numbers are included in the above totals. Therefore, Justin Tordi wins the award for most valuable Reds defensive infielder! Tordi, a 41st-round selection in '05, split time between second, third, and shortstop, for Billings, Dayton, and Sarasota last season. Unfortunately, he didn't hit much, posting a combined 0.215/0.282/0.294.
  • Brandon Waring accompanied his impressive offensive performance in Billings with a very good defensive performance at third base. I hadn't heard much about his fielding before, but these data indicate that he's pretty well-rounded. Also, keep in mind that his totals are essentially just a half-season's work. It'll be interesting to see how he does next year.
  • Paul Janish and Zachary Cozart have to been seen as having disappointing scores, as both of them are supposed to be defensive standouts. Janish, in particular, comes out really badly.
  • Nice to see Neftali Soto posting pretty respectable numbers. I haven't been keeping up--anyone hear if he's likely to play a full season in Dayton next year?
  • Nice to see Votto coming out as a tad above average at first base last year--though not enough to overcome the position penalty.
  • Chris Valaika and Todd Frazier, currently shortstops, are both expected to eventually move to another position. Frazier did ok last year, but Valaika's numbers indicate that he's already showing signs that a move would be appropriate.
  • Yikes about Enrique Cruz. 22 errors in 117 games doesn't help, but his range can't be good either.


  1. I am not so sure how I feel about this. Maybe its because they were playing in rookie ball or something, but Todd Frazier isn't a shortstop according to anything I have seen.

    Waring at third base is also something I have heard some mixed reviews on, and in just half a season he did have 16 errors. Over the course of a 162 game schedule that puts him on pace for about 35 errors.

    Those were the ones that immediately jumped out at me.

  2. Hi Doug,

    A few quick comments:

    1. I'm sure that level of competition is a factor that should probably be adjusted, and that could definitely be factoring into Waring, Frazier, and Tordi's showings. AFAIK, these +/- numbers are relative to league in question, not all of the minors.

    2. Also keep in mind that this is just a half-season of data for those players. Fielding probably isn't as variable as hitting, but our ability to assess fielding has much bigger error bars around it than our ability to assess hitting. So thinking of these as +-5 to 10 runs per 140 games is not unreasonable.

    3. It's also possible that Frazier's decent enough now, but will likely decline as he fills out over the coming few years. That's purely conjecture on my part, of course--I've certainly never seen the guy play.

  3. One other point about Waring--those 16 errors are accounted for in his runs estimate. Therefore, he apparently made enough other plays to make up for screw-ups.

    Whether his plus fielding rating in a half season last year predicts future plus performances is another question...'course, we could say the same thing about his hitting. :) -j

  4. brandon waring... wow. i had no idea that he had any kind of defense to offer, and im really excited by it. he is easily my favorite unknown minor leaguer in the reds' system. there's probably a reason he wasn't drafted until the seventh round, but he absolutely rakes -- No. 2 in the NCAA in home runs last year. i know he's supposed to have a healthy-sized hole in his swing, but this seems like a guy you can dream about.

  5. I think we should take Doug's warnings with all due seriousness. But yeah, I'm cautiously optimistic about him. It'll be fun to see how he does in Dayton next year, both on offense and defense. -j

  6. Are these minor leaguers being compared to other minor leaguers? Just wondering. Also it was nice to see another fielding measurement system showing that EdE can't field. Sweet. If you go over to Redszone and just read their posts you would come away with the impression that Encarnacion is the second coming of Brooks Robinson or Mike Schmidt. Reality - what a concept. A negative 1.4 FRAA in only one month's work when (possibly) being compared to other minor leaguers. What would that work out to over a full season? Way to bring that leather, EdE. He better OPS at least .850, because his defense has shown to be woefully inadequate to this point in his career.

  7. Hi Dave,

    AFAIK, the +/- numbers are fielding relative to others in their specific leagues. That's why I'm a bit worried about the numbers from rookie ball--we probably need an adjustment for league quality, as I'm guessing the bar for defense in rookie-ball is not as high as it is in AAA, especially at premier positions. Wouldn't be hard to calculate that estimate--I just don't have time to do it right now.

    As for Eddie, remember, that's just one month's time, so your error bars are pretty large. Still, -1.4 runs x 6 months = ~-8 runs or so per season. That matches up pretty darn well to my estimate of -8 runs based on composite fielding estimates. So there's consistency. Players can always improve, but ~-1 win a year on defense might be where Eddie stays.

    Overall (offense + defense), I had Eddie as a +17 run above replacement player last season. If he can improve his offense like a lot of us think he can, he might be a +25 RAR (+2.5 WAR) player next season, which is about average for a starter. That might be about the best we can reasonably hope for from the guy moving forward. .... not great, but far from worthless. -j

  8. to bad jerimiah piepkorn retired.he was good but i benifited from it! he is my new highschool baseball coach!

  9. ya hes a really good coach.