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Small sample size theater: Minor league hitters

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Has there been anything to learn from the first month of the minor league season?

This was an actual thing at a major league baseball game
This was an actual thing at a major league baseball game
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

We are roughly one month into the minor league season. That means the takes are not quite as hot as they may have been a couple weeks ago and are now just lukewarm. Always remember this: it is only a small sample size if it contradicts the conclusion you were hoping to reach!

Obviously, everything here comes with the caveat that there is still a ton of baseball to be played, and a lot will certainly change between now and September when the seasons come to an end. All prospect rankings are courtesy of our writers/community top-30 list.

Interesting

1B Jake Bauers (.250/.394/.474, 13.8 K%, 18.1 BB%)

Bauers, ranked No. 23, has not been the player described in previous reports. His ISO is nearly double what it was last season in the Midwest League (.224), and his plate approach has been even better. With all of this in mind, I'm assuming his .250 average is a product of bad luck. If he can hit for more power than expected, his stock is on the way up.

OF Johnny Field (.296/.383/.519, 22.9 K%, 10.4 BB%)

Field ranked just one spot behind Bauers. He fits a familiar archetype: productive college player lacking tools but plays the game hard. The approach to evaluating these prospects is probably familiar too; wait and see how he does once he gets to the upper minors. In his case, the early returns are good. It would be helpful if he struck out less, but I do not think that will stop him from helping a big league bench.

OF Tyler Goeddel (.326/.408/.488, 15.3 K%, 11.2 BB%)

Goeddel, April '12: .304/.360/.493, 26.7 K%, 6.7 BB%
Goeddel, rest-of-season '12: .230/.328/.337, 24.6 K%, 10.8 BB%

Goeddel, April '13: .286/.378/.443, 12.2 K%, 12.2 BB%
Goeddel, rest-of-season '13: .242/.300/.379, 21.2 K%, 7.2 BB%

Goeddel, April '14: .286/.381/.476, 14.4 K%, 12.4 BB%
Goeddel, rest-of-season '14: .265/.340/.391, 22.0 K%, 8.9 BB%

Goeddel, April '15: .351/.429/.541, 17.9 K%, 10.7 BB%
Goeddel, rest-of-season '15: ?/?/?

A hot start is not unusual for Goeddel. I am not sure if there is anything to this, and I would personally lean toward no. There are some possibilities that probably cannot be verified:

1. Goeddel is unable to make adjustments to pitchers adjusting to him
2. Goeddel does not have the durability for a full season of work

I am sure he will cool off over the next few months because not many can sustain what he just accomplished. The key will be not completely falling apart like in some previous seasons.

3B Richie Shaffer (.262/.370/.488, 29.0 K%, 15.0 BB%)

Quite clearly, the strikeouts are out of control so far. Still, this is probably the best Shaffer has performed since his pro debut in 2012. He is showing roughly as much power as last season with Montgomery, and now we just have to see if his higher average is just a product of his .333 BABIP. If he cuts down on the whiffs a bit, he should move up to Durham if there is an opening.

I do not want to sound like an overreactive lunatic, but it would have been nice if these players were performing better

SS Willy Adames (.238/.301/.357, 34.4 K%, 8.6 BB%)

Adames is the third-youngest player in the Florida State League, behind only Bauers and Mets infield prospect Amed Rosario, so it is not too surprising that he is struggling so far. Even last season when he had a nice campaign in the Midwest League, he was probably still striking out too much, but this is just bad. Hopefully that number can come down.

C Justin O'Conner (.195/.241/.364, 36.1 K%, 4.8 BB%)

O'Conner's first month in 2015 has been vintage O'Conner: nice power, a lot of strikeouts and probably not enough walks. It was probably never realistic that he would replicate his Arizona Fall League experience where he struck out less than 10% of his plate appearances, but 36.1% is too much. Getting the ball in play more has to be emphasized moving forward.

C Nick Ciuffo (.220/.242/.305, 20.3 K%, 3.1 BB%)

Ciuffo's first month is roughly in line with his professional career to date. His strikeout rate and ISO are similar, and his walk rate is a little down. Every report indicated it would take some time for his bat to come around, so it looks like more patience will be necessary. On the defensive side, he is throwing out 30% of attempted base stealers and only has one passed ball.

SS Hak-Ju Lee (.230/.269/.284, 35.8 K%, 4.9 BB%)

In 2014, I was willing to give Lee the benefit of the doubt because of his knee injury. In 2015, I am losing patience. The one thing he always had at the plate was patience, and I am not able to blame knee surgery for a player striking out so much that I start to question if he is doing so intentionally.

2B Kean Wong (.237/.310/.276, 14.9 K%, 9.2 BB%)

I think Wong will turn it around. His strikeout and walk rates are both better than they have been in the past, but his BABIP has plummeted. His already tenuous power has been reduced to even more singles, but the Rays hope that is not a reflection on the quality of contact he is making.

What we expected

SS Daniel Robertson (.276/.385/.414, 24.0 K%, 10.6 BB%)

Robertson had a slow first week, but since he had his first multi-hit game in his eighth game of the season, his OPS is .947. The strikeout rate is a bit high, but I think this is how he was advertised. He makes good contact, has a patient approach, and I bet more doubles will be coming over the next few months.

OF Justin Williams (.257/.288/.419, 26.3 K%, 3.8 BB%)

Where to list Williams was probably one of the tougher choices. Coming out of the draft, I do not think anyone would have been surprised by this line. His pro career to date has been defined by high BABIPs and surprisingly modest strikeout rates. That has not been the case so far in 2015, his first full season in a full-season league.

OF Boog Powell (.297/.402/.338, 20.7 K%, 12.6 BB%)

Powell was not in our top 30. I am not entirely sure if this performance would get him on there. His strikeout rate is a tick higher than usual, but otherwise, April was a quintessential month for him. He is making good contact, walks quite a bit and has no power.

OF Bralin Jackson (.314/.368/.357, 19.7 K%, 6.6 BB%)

Both Jackson's strikeout and walk rates are lower than usual, but his OPS is only seven points different from 2014. He is hitting a ton of singles and owns a high BABIP, now at .400. I do not think we know anything more about him than we did at the start of the season.

OF Thomas Milone (.288/.374/.375, 17.4 K%, 9.8 BB%)

Despite being a third-round pick, I feel like Milone has stayed under the radar a bit. For a raw athlete, his on-field performance has been good, and that has continued in 2015. His strikeout rate is the lowest in his career, and his walk rate is again solid. He is an effective base stealer, and hopefully a little power comes later.

Neither good, nor bad, nor quite what we expected

IF Andrew Velazquez (.293/.328/.328, 21.3 K%, 4.9 BB%)

Velazquez's average and strikeout rate might as well be identical to last season, but his walk rate is down and power and speed have been non-existent. Although his .138 ISO from 2014 is probably a bit inflated by an absurd 15 triples, I would still expect a few more doubles at the very least.

I think this guy just has a low BABIP

1B Casey Gillaspie (.225/.292/.438, 14.6 K%, 9.0 BB%)

There was a bit of a debate about Gillaspie in some comments recently. At first, I was on the side that he has been a bit disappointing, especially for a star college player in the Midwest League, but I think if you look below the surface, it looks like a breakout could be on the way. He has been patient, he certainly has not been striking out too much, and his ISO is over .200. I think he will be just fine.

I meant to include pitchers in this post too, but then it went way too long. That should be next week.