The Durham Bulls offense scored the third most runs in the International League with 643 (4.53 runs per game). They trailed the Scranton-Wilkes Barre RailRiders (Yankees) with 664 runs and Indianapolis Indians with 647 runs.
By average, on base percentage, slugging, walk, and strikeout rates the offense was near average for the league.
The Hitting Environment
Durham Bulls and International League Offense
The Durham offense is built much differently than the current version of the Rays, with more emphasis on speed than power. This could simply be function of the prospects who happen to be at this level and not reflective of a new team strategy. It could also be attributable to their being youngest team in the league; unlike a lot of good AAA teams there weren’t many old AAAA types on the roster. The average age of position players was 24.7. This tied with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Phillies) for the youngest offense in the league.
The Bulls’ 111 homers were eighth out of fourteen in International League. The league average team hit 119 homers. their power manifested itself in doubles where their 272 doubles were tied for second.
Due to rehab assignments 25 players saw at least one plate appearance for the Bulls. Only 13 players received at least 200 plate appearances. Unlike the carousel that was present in the pitching staff the Bulls offense had a stable pool of contributors.
For the majority of the season this was the Bulls roster:
C Curt Casali
C Mike Marjama
1B Casey Gillaspie
1B/OF Jake Bauers
2B Kean Wong
SS Willy Adames
3B Patrick Leonard
OF Johnny Field
OF Shane Peterson
OF/DH Michael McKenry
UTI Jake Hager
2017 Durham Bulls Offense
|Rickie Weeks Jr.||15||20.0%||33.3%||1||0||0.167||0.333||0.417||0.342|
Willy Adames and Jake Bauers received the most plate appearances on the team as two of the three youngest players to start the year in AAA. The other was 20 year old Ozzie Albies of the Braves. Adames and Bauers were the only others younger than 22. Even though they were young they produced in the middle of the lineup.
Adames led the league in plate appearances by a player under 30, trailing only Pedro Alvarez (30) and Matt Hague (31). He started the season struggling for the first time as a professional, which he attributed it to pressing with the thoughts of playing in the majors only one step away. Through the end of April he was hitting .210/.309/.333 and putting up a 81 wRC+. He warmed up with the onset of summer. From June 1st on he hit .303/.389/.455 and put up a 139 wRC+ in 371 plate appearances. This led to him being in the middle of the high powered offense.
Bauers had the second most plate appearances in the league for a player under 30, just behind Adames. He followed up his 14 homer campaign in Montgomery last year with 13 in Durham. His 31 doubles were tied for fifth in the league. For the first half of the season he played in the outfield more than first base, but after the trade of Casey Gillaspie he played first base almost exclusively. In perhaps the most surprising stat in the Rays minor league system Bauers stole 20 bags in only 23 attempts. The team ran a lot and Bauers was just one short of the team lead of 21 by Mallex Smith.
Patrick Leonard started the season on fire. In April he hit .412/.474/.553 and put up a 193 wRC+ over 95 plate appearances. In his final 458 plate appearances he hit .239/.297/.378 and put up a 86 wRC+. He carried the team in April, but fell hard.
The Bulls outfield has been an offensive weak spot. Johnny Field spent most of his time playing center field, and he has solid but never spectacular. He put up a 100 wRC+ with a solid power and speed combination. His 35 doubles was second in the league.
Kean Wong, the younger brother of St. Louis Cardinals second baseman/center fielder Kolten Wong, was at 22 one of the youngest players in the league. He hit five homers and added a grand slam in the AAA National Championship game on his way to earning the Most Valuable Player award. The minor league defensive metrics love his defense, with Davenport putting his play at +7 and Baseball Prospectus giving him +10.0 FRAA.
Casey Gillaspie had a very disappointing season for the Bulls. After putting up huge numbers in the second half for the Bulls last season the expectations were high for his second run through the league. However the power slipped and he hit only .227/.296/.357 and put up an 80 wRC+ in 395 plate appearances before being traded to the White Sox for Dan Jennings.
Curt Casali had a very different year than you would have expected based on past performance. In 466 plate appearances in the majors he has hit for a low average and put up a .186 ISO. He hit for much more contact leading to a .263 batting average and .351 on base percentage, but the .083 ISO isn’t what we’ve been used to seeing.