Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Most Improved Prospects: Strikeout Rate

#5 - Garrett Olson - Inf | 23 years old | 16.6% K% in 2007 - 13.5% K% in 2008 | 3.1% decrease
Drafted by the Twins out of Maine's Franklin Pierce University in the 4th round (126th overall) in 2006, Olson first went to Elizabethton where he batted .313/.396/.381 in 147 at-bats at the short-season.  The 6'-2" right-handed batting Olson was sent to low-A Beloit in 2007 where he failed to replicate the same output as he did in 2006.  He witnessed his strikeouts spike to 79 and his overall slashes fall to .217/.285/.317 in 438 at-bats.  Twins officials opted to keep Olson at Beloit to open the 2008 season where he responded with a 30/17 K/BB ratio in just under 250 at-bats.  Encouraged by this, Olson was sent to high-A Ft Myers where he regressed significantly as evident by his 38/9 K/B ratio and his .201/.249/.258 batting line.  Still if you are looking for a silverlining on this 4th round draftee, it is that he dropped his strikeout percentage by 3.1% normally a sign of someone developing better plate disipline.  Unfortunately for Olson, his increase in walks was nearly as pronounced as his strikeouts (just +0.79% increase in BB%) meaning his career on-base percentage of .299 isn't likely to improve much.  On top of that, turning 24 in 2009 and still being around A-ball doesn't bode well for Olson either.
#4 - Matt Moses - Of/DH | 23 years old | 19.8% K% in 2007 - 16.0% K% in 2008 | 3.2% decrease
I detailed Moses's minor league career extensively a week ago when he landed, coincidentally enough, as the #4 Most Improved Walk Rate in the system.  Sure, nearly 30% of his total hits went for extra bases but you have to factor in his age, that statistic looks unimpressive.  Without going too much further into his career background once again, let's attribute this improvement to none other than his fourth tour with New Britain in the Eastern League. 
#3 - David Winfree - RF | 22 years old | 21.6% K% in 2007 - 17.3% K% in 2008 | 4.3% decrease
Like Moses mentioned before him, Winfree also finished the year as #3 Most Improved Walk Rate in the system.  But unlike Moses, Winfree's improvement carries an air of legitimacy.  His first introduction to AA New Britain was marred by a large drop in walks and large increase in strikeouts (26/106 BB/K) but his second dance proved much more reassuring that he is on the right track (41/87 BB/K) and stroking the ball all over the field (42% xbh%).  Another reason to like Winfree: he mashes left-handed pitching.  According to Minorleaguesplits.com, Winfree hit .292/.370/.608 in 120 at-bats against left-handed pitching in 2008.  In 402 career at-bats against southpaws, Winfree has maintained a steady .296/.354/.520 batting line. 
#2 - Daniel Berg - 1b/Of/DH | 23 years old | 26.6% K% in 2007 - 21.1% K% in 2008 | 5.4% decrease
Another member of the Most Improved Walk Rate squad (#5), Berg's success at reducing his strikeouts is somewhat surprising.  After spending a season split between Elizabethton and Beloit in which he struck out 59 times in 211 at-bats, Berg took on a full season at Beloit and saw his strikeout total swell to 103 in 333 at-bats.  The Twins front office moved him to high-A Fort Myers where Berg shaved his strikeout total to 49 in 222 at-bats and was advanced to AA New Britain where he struck out 18 times in 48 at-bats.  Striking out 44 fewer times in 2008 has led to additional balls put into play.  Since Berg hit line drives on 20% of the balls put in play, the results have been a .350 babip, leading to a .278/.374/.400 batting line (this is a hefty improvement over his 11% line drive rate in 2007).   
#1 - Johnny Woodard - 1b | 25 years old | 27.6% K% in 2007 - 21.3% K% in 2008 | 6.2% decrease
In 2003, the Twins used their 3rd round draft pick (88th overall) to select a powerful first baseman out of Consumnes River College in Sacramento.  Woodard, just 18 years old, would report to the Gulf Coast League Twins where that power failed to appear (8 extra base hits in 41 hits).  The following season, brought along slowly, Woodard would start at Elizabethton where he would led the team in on-base percentage (.385) and tied for second in home runs (8) in 194 at-bats.  This performance drew attention of Baseball America who ranked him on the Twins Top 30 prospects.  In 60 games with low-A Beloit, Woodard smacked eight home runs, in a season that had him sidelined all of April and June with a fractured foot.  However 2006 would be another lost year for Woodard who play in only 23 games with the Fort Myers Miracle but the slugger reemerged in Beloit in 2007 hitting .273/.390/.473 with 10 home runs in 205 at-bats.  This earned him a promotion back to Fort Myers where he struggled, striking out 64 times in 164 at-bats - totaling 126 on the season.  Once again at high-A Fort Myers to start the 2008 season, Woodard was limited to 245 at-bats but he greatly reduced his strike outs to 64.  His biggest detriment is his inability to hit same-sided pitching - in 195 at-bats, Woodard has hit only .190/.325/.318.