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Down on the farm: A sabermetric look at top A's prospects

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this week, the A's Triple-A affiliate Sacramento River Cats included an "advanced statistics glossary" in their game notes, offering definitions of various sabermetric stats - which is something you don't normally find in most minor league game notes. As you might imagine, it got a big thumbs-up from the sabermetric community and prompted a bit of discussion as well. So with that in mind, I thought we'd apply a bit more of a sabermetric perspective to some A's minor leaguers this week.

I've decided to focus on the A's top 5 minor league hitters and pitchers in two primary statistical categories - Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) for hitters and Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) for pitchers. But I'm also including information on Walk Percentage (BB%) and Strikeout/Walk Ratio (K/BB) for hitters, along with Strikeout Percentage (K%) and Strikeout/Walk Ratio (K/BB) for pitchers, as these are highly important numbers as well. All the stats used below were garnered from Minor League Central and are for games through Saturday, May 3rd. And if you need further definitions for any of these stats, you can check out their glossary there.

Continuing on with last week's "injuries" theme though, there are some developments I should note about a couple of our top 5 players below. I've heard from a couple of sources this week that it looks like RHP Raul Alcantara is now in need of Tommy John surgery, which is a big blow to the A's top pitching prospect. And on Sunday, 1B Max Muncy appeared to be hit in the left hand and ended up leaving the game and being taken to a local hospital for examination. There's no further word on Muncy's status yet, but let's just hope he doesn't also end up on the DL for an extended stint. You can always keep tabs on all the A's top prospects and minor league teams on my Athletics Farm site and get a sabermetric look at some of the A's top prospects right here on Athletics Nation...

TOP 5 in wOBA (minimum of 75 plate appearances):

Herschel Powell (OF-Bel) - .455 wOBA / .484 OBP / .490 SLG / 16.3% BB% / 0.8/1.0 K/BB

Chad Pinder (2B-Sto) - .425 wOBA / .362 OBP / .636 SLG / 4.3% BB% / 4.8/1.0 K/BB

Max Muncy (1B-Mid) - .418 wOBA / .441 OBP / .475 SLG / 18.1% BB% / 0.6/1.0 K/BB

Tyler Ladendorf (IF-Sac) - .417 wOBA / .464 OBP / .481 SLG / 15.5% BB% / 1.0/1.0 K/BB

Dusty Robinson (OF-Sto) - .395 wOBA / .360 OBP / .526 SLG / 10.8% BB% / 2.25/1.00 K/BB

It's important to keep in mind that the average wOBA in the A's system is about .325, while the average player in the A's organization walks about 10% of the time and strikes out about 20% of the time, making the average strikeout-to-walk ratio 2/1. Thanks to his high OBP, Beloit outfielder Herschel Powell currently tops the wOBA charts. His high BB% combined with a lofty batting average (.371) has made him a very valuable player for the low-scoring Snappers this season. Stockton second baseman Chad Pinder is a bit of an exception among our top 5 in that he doesn't have a good BB% or a good K/BB. But his great SLG and his solid .327 batting average are what make him a real threat. Meanwhile, Midland first baseman Max Muncy is exactly what the A's would like every hitter to look like. He walks more than he strikes out, gets on base at an incredibly productive clip and flashes a little pop. Let's hope his injury Sunday is nothing serious because he's one of the A's most mature hitters and could make for a new and improved version for Mr. Barton before long, for those of you who've been waiting for something like that. Sacramento infielder Tyler Ladendorf has proven to be a surprisingly effective offensive weapon for the River Cats this season, largely on the strength of an impressive OBP and a 1/1 K/BB. You may have forgotten that he came over from the Twins in the Orlando Cabrera deal many moons ago. And with a current wOBA over .400, he could play himself into the A's infield before the season's through. Stockton outfielder Dusty Robinson rounds out our wOBA top 5 primarily on the strength of his SLG, though he's been walking at a slightly above average rate this season too. It just goes to show that, even if you're swinging and missing a lot, you can still make yourself a pretty valuable player if you can just show enough power consistently enough.

TOP 5 in FIP (minimum of 18 innings):

Seth Streich (RHP-Sto) - 2.43 FIP / 3.48 ERA / 28.0% K% / 4.4/1.0 K/BB

Murphy Smith (RHP-Mid) - 2.55 FIP / 0.42 ERA / 21.9% K% / 4.0/1.0 K/BB

Lou Trivino (RHP-Bel) - 3.05 FIP / 4.18 ERA / 18.1% K% / 2.25/1.00 K/BB

Arnold Leon (RHP-Sac) - 3.17 FIP / 4.34 ERA / 17.3% K% / 2.2/1.0 K/BB

Raul Alcantara (RHP-Mid) - 3.25 FIP / 2.29 ERA / 13.2% K% / 2.0/1.0 K/BB

It's important to note that the average FIP in the A's system is about 3.80, while the average pitcher in the A's organization strikes out about 20% of the batters he faces and walks about 10% of the batters he faces, making the average strikeout-to-walk ratio 2/1. Stockton RHP Seth Streich has clearly been the A's most effective minor league pitcher so far this season. He's got a solid ERA, a great FIP and an impressive K%. As long as he stays healthy, Streich could be the new fast-riser in the A's system to keep a close eye on. Midland RHP Murphy Smith makes for an interesting case. After having served almost exclusively as a starter, with mostly mediocre results, the A's moved him to the bullpen this season, and he's been nearly unhittable. Smith could ultimately shape up an effective long reliever a la Jesse Chavez in 2013. Beloit RHP Lou Trivino often gets overlooked with the likes of Bobby Wahl, Dylan Covey and Ronald Herrera also in the Snappers starting rotation, but he's been getting the job done on the mound so far this season. And last year's 11th-round draft pick could prove to be a solid workhorse. Slowed by injuries, Sacramento RHP Arnold Leon is starting his sixth season in the A's system. He often seems to get overlooked a bit, but he's been the best starter so far this season at Sacramento. And if the A's need another arm, they could do worse than to give Leon a look. Rounding out our FIP top 5 is Midland RHP Raul Alcantara. He got off to a great start in his first 3 outings this season, allowing just 5 walks and 0 home runs over 19 2/3 innings. But now it looks like his latest injury is likely to sideline him till next season. Let's just hope Raul can come back and pick up where he left off!

You can check out my blog - Athletics Farm - for updates on the A's minor league teams and all the top prospects down on the farm.