The Top Minor League Hitting Performers of 2011

This article continues what I started here last week; making an “All-Performance Team” of sorts out of minor leaguers. That article covered the pitching staff of such a team; here are the hitters. Note that in many of these cases, things were extremely close, so just because I didn’t put some player with absurd stats on this team doesn’t mean he’s not having a great year.

Anyway, let’s look at these guys.

Catcher: Bryce Massanari, Rockies. Massanari is hitting .325/.416/.550 in Low-A, a combination of on-base ability and power that few catchers can match. He’s 25 years old, though, and Asheville is a notorious hitter’s park, so it remains to be see how he’ll adjust to more age-appropriate pitching in the upper minors. That said, anybody who can catch and put up serious numbers like this is a nice guy to have around.

First base: Paul Goldschmidt. Given how many first baseman are crushing the ball this year, it’s a testament to Goldschmidt’s dominance that this was probably the easiest call of all. He’s hitting .316/.434/.642 in Double-A, and has really tightened up his strike zone, with a 66/59 K/BB ratio. Goldschmidt also paces the minors in home runs, with 25, three more than the next-best player.

Second base: Jose Altuve. The other really easy decision was to put Altuve here. The 5’5″ infielder has great pop for his size. He hit .408/.451/.606 in High-A Lancaster; while that park is known as the most hitter-friendly in the minors, those are still incredible numbers. And to back it up, Altuve’s hit .365/.383/.565 in Double-A as well. Between the two levels, the 21-year-old has hit .393/.428/.591, with 21 doubles, ten triples, eight homers, and 24 steals.

Shortstop: Brian Dozier, Twins. Dozier has the least power on this team, which probably isn’t too surprising, given his position. He makes up for it with on-base ability, though, as he’s hit .330/.425/.481 between High-A and Double-A on the season. Dozier has struck out just 28 times while walking on 33 occasions, and has one of the most discerning eyes in the minors. He’s also got good speed, with 15 steals.

Third base: James Darnell, Padres. It was tough to overlook Brett Lawrie here, but Darnell’s stats are nearly as good, and he plays in a park that’s death on righties while Lawrie gets to take advantage of Las Vegas and the PCL in general. Darnell’s hitting .333/.432/.596 in Double-A. He’s bashed 16 homers, and has even hit .370/.473/.667 in his very tough home park. Like Dozier, he’s walked more (50) than he’s struck out (45), as well. Darnell’s defensive issues may ultimately push him to a different position, but it looks like his bat will play.

Left field: Khris Davis, Brewers. Davis has hit well in the oppressive Florida State League environment, smacking the ball around at a .325/.420/.550 clip. He’s kept his strikeouts down (56 in 72 games) while walking 38 times and smashing 12 homers. The 23-year-old certainly will receive some good attention in a thin Milwaukee system.

Center field: Jermaine Mitchell, Athletics. Mitchell’s hit .355/.453/.589 with Double-A Midland, with 15 homers, 13 triples (!), and ten homers. He’s also stolen 14 bases while walking 54 times. It took the 25-year-old a long time to translate his tools into baseball skills, but he now looks like the well-rounded player he was projected to be years ago.

Right field: Bryce Harper, Nationals. You’re reading a website about minor league baseball; you don’t need me to tell you about Harper’s 2011 exploits.

Designated hitter: Clint Robinson, Royals. Robinson’s putting up his usual excellent numbers, batting .327/.399/.569 in Triple-A. Yeah, it’s the PCL, but Omaha is one of the less ridiculous home parks. Robinson has 21 doubles and 17 homers, and, like seemingly everybody on this team, a strong K/BB (51/35). The 25-year-old is stuck behind Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler, but he’s ready to hit for some MLB team.

Backup catcher: Devin Mesoraco, Reds. Mesoraco’s certainly a better prospect than Massanari, but this is about performance, and his numbers–.309/.387/.517–aren’t quite at that level. But he’s not in an easy offensive environment, and any catcher who can post an OPS north of .900 is among the elites at that position.

Infielder: Ryan Flaherty, Cubs. Flaherty’s played all over the field this year, and he’s even handled shortstop on a number of occasions. He’s hit .305/.379/.545 on the season, bashing 14 homers and 18 doubles while maintaining an excellent 47/33 K/BB ratio in a neutral-to-tough environment in the Southern League. Soon to be 25, he may not be able to stay at shortstop in the majors, but he could be a great offense-oriented utility player.

Outfielder: Reynaldo Rodriguez, Red Sox. Rodriguez’s numbers aren’t there with a lot of the other outfielders, but one number says it all–his .976 OPS is 73 points higher than the second-highest in the pitcher-friendly Carolina League. He’s not much of a defender, and usually DHs, but that’s pretty special. Rodriguez was recently promoted to Double-A, where he’s knocked nine extra-base hits in 18 games.

25th man: Kody Hinze, Astros. Throwing caution to the wind, I went with the best hitter in the ridiculous Cal League environment here, since there were so many guys with crazy numbers in that league, but it’s tough to know what to do with them. With 21 homers and 70 walks, Hinze has hit .332/.474/.634. There’s no telling if the 23-year-old will collapse in Double-A, but those are some monster numbers regardless of the caveats.

Topics: Brian Dozier, Bryce Harper, Bryce Massanari, Clint Robinson, Devin Mesoraco, James Darnell, Jermaine Mitchell, Jose Altuve, Khris Davis, Kody Hinze, Paul Goldschmidt, Reynaldo Rodriguez, Ryan Flaherty

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