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albert almora cubsAlbert Almora is closing in on the 100 Plate Appearance plateau and has yet to draw a walk. He has just ten strikeouts this season, so he’s not swinging and missing a lot, but he apparently isn’t taking too much either.

Believe it or not, though, he isn’t the only player to enter yesterday’s games without a walk and to have collected at least 90 plate appearances this season. Meet Humberto Arteaga, Baseball America’s 2013 number 20 prospect from the Royals farm system and the only other candidate to be the last guy to walk this season.

If either of these two finish the season with a 0.0% walk rate, he won’t be the first accomplish that either. As recently as 2011 Pedro Feliz, at the age of 36, walked to the plate 92 times for the Padres Triple A franchise, and did not earn a free pass once. He also finished that season with an OPS of .587.

One thing missing from the (short) list of minor league players to finish a season with at least 90 PA and no walks is any notable major league player. Even for great contact hitters, some walks are just expected. So, since good prospects should have walks and Almora doesn’t, should we be worried?

Probably not yet. Like I said last week, all he needs to do walk a few times and his BB% climbs back into a more normal range. The percentages look bad, but he’s only four or five walks away from being fairly normal. As we saw from Anthony Rizzo last night, that’s one good game.  Granted, Almora isn’t the type of player we expect to ever walk four times in a game, but three or four in a week isn’t out of the question.

In the meantime, we get to enjoy an unexpected, if dubious, race as we enter the month of May. Who will be last guy in the minors to earn a walk? Will it be Arteaga, the lightly built young shortstop playing in Lexington? Or will it be Almora, the slightly younger outfielder playing in Daytona?

Almora’s clearly the better prospect, but he’s facing tougher pitching. Still, I think he can do it. Hopefully soon Almora will take a free pass and leave the Kansas City Royals in possession of the Walkless Wonder of 2014.

Scores From Yesterday

Iowa – It isn’t often you see Iowa rainouts two days in a row, but that’s what happened. Yesterday’s game was officially postponed.
Tennessee – A two run seventh gave the Smokies the lead, and they kept that lead for a 4-3 win.
Daytona – They weren’t shut out, but Daytona was clobbered 11-2.
Kane County – Kane County was supposed to play in Cedar Rapids. Cedar Rapids is in Iowa, Iowa got rained on, and so it not surprising that this game was rained out.

Performances of Note

  • [Tennessee] The battle of Kershaw vs Kris Bryant went to Kershaw. Bryant finished 0 for 5 on the night and struck out twice, but he also played the full game after a scary incident at first in the first inning. Bryant went to the ground after tripping over the first baseman, was checked by the trainer, and seemed to be holding his wrist, but he stayed in and played the rest of the game. So that’s probably a good thing.
  • [Tennessee] Dustin Geiger had a good night. He finished 2 for 2 with a double and 2 walks.
  • [Tennessee] Jae-Hoon Ha and John Andreoli both had a double as part of their two hit games. Andreoli also tripled, walked, and stole 2 bases. He now has 12 steals this season.
  • [Tennessee] Ivan Pineyro pitched 5.2 innings and allowed 3 runs on 7 hits and 3 walks while striking out 6. The bullpen of Ryan Searle, Hunter Cervenka, and Armando Rivero didn’t allow much else the rest of the way, though, setting the Smokies up for their come back.
  • [Daytona] Dan Vogelbach had 3 more hits, including a double, in this game. It appears his early season struggles are in the past now, and his line over his last ten games is an impressive .429/.512/.600.
  • [Daytona] Chadd Krist also finished with 2 hits, including a double.

Other News

  • Thanks to the rainouts, and weather permitting, Iowa and Kane County will both be playing double headers today.
  • ssckelley

    Arizona Phil posted an article yesterday that mentioned Anthony Prieto under went Tommy John surgery.

    Luke, I seen Wang got clobbered again yesterday. Have they seen enough of him to know he is not a starter or they going to keep throwing him out there? Dallas Beeler appears to be ready, perhaps Daytona is a good place to work him back into action?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      I wouldn’t give up on Wang just yet, but I suspect he will be better suited to a bullpen role long term.

  • David

    Concerned about Almora may be too strong of a word. But I hope it improves as he is, I assume, being groomed for a top of the order hitter. Scrappy #2 hitter, with a bit of speed and a bit of power??

  • Spoda17

    Oh no… Bryant and Almora are officially a bust… damn… I guess it’s time to pick a soccer team to root for…

    Seriously though… if the FO, or Almora’s manager was really concerned, I think they would encourage him to work on taking some walks. I have no idea, but I don’t think they have said anything to him; knowing Almora, if they said go and take a walk, his very next AB would be a walk.

    • Aaron

      Agreed, although it’s hard to believe that anyone in the Cubs organization is not emphasizing walks. From the FO to minor league hitting coaches, Epstoyer has made it pretty clear that OBP is pretty important.

      So while I don’t doubt that Almora could take a walk on command, I’d like to see a few more walks, even though his light K% suggests he has a pretty solid approach.

    • hoosiercub

      I get what you’re saying, and while it isn’t the best comparison because Almora is still really young and in the minors, remember what happened last year when the coaches tried to get Castro to change his approach to be a more patient hitter?

      I’d like to see more walks out of Almora, but if this approach is working for him, I say let him stick with it. Ask him to adjust if he starts to really struggle and his K% rate climbs, but for now let the kid just play his brand of baseball

  • ari gold

    I can’t believe I’m going to agree with a comment Jon made yesterday. I would like to see Almora walk just once. In order to have 0 walks in almost 100 PA’s, you almost have to try to do that.

  • another JP

    I believe that the K rate of minor league pitching in the organization as a whole is another development. … The number of guys striking out more than one per inning is amazing.

    • Edwin

      Hitters or pitchers? ;)

      • Fishin Phil

        Yes.

  • Edwin

    Almora’s power is also down from last season, which isn’t the best trend either. It’s still too early to get really concerned about these types of things, but the walks and the power are turning into issues to keep an eye on.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Power numbers often look depressed in the Florida State League. I’m not sure we should make much of anything of that.

      • johnnyp

        Why are the depressed in FSL?

        • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

          You have an entire league playing at sea level in high humidity conditions.

          Balls will weigh slightly more from not being so dry and there is increased air resitance.

          • Brocktoon

            Balls travel farther in humid conditions.

  • Edwin

    So if you could grade the top 10 prospects so far, how would they grade out for April?

    • ari gold

      If you mean overall for the top 10, I’d say C- or D+ thus far, only because Soler and Edwards are hurt. Almora is struggling and so is Baez. However, this could change very quickly. I think Almora is going to adjust very soon and get back to the hitter he was last year. Baez is going to drop the hammer on the PCL in May.

      • nate1m

        Almora’s still hitting 250 with a K% of 10.6 at a level he’s young to be in. The injuries are a problem though and Baez and Johnson are part of that too. He has also been struggling but not unexpectedly. Vogs is starting to hit the crap out of the ball though. Bryants been better than I thought and Alcantara looks like he’ll be in the majors this year (I think most scouts would have predicted a for year in Iowa for him). Over this rates in the B to C+ range. Above average but not we’re winning the WS like tomorrow good.

    • ssckelley

      Almora C-
      Baez D
      Bryant B
      Soler (Incomplete)
      Alcantara C
      Johnson C-
      Vogelbach C
      Edwards (was an B+ before injury)

      • Aaron

        OBP: .407
        BB%: 13.9%
        ISO: .258
        wOBA: .427
        HR: 5
        SB: 5

        That’s a B???

        • JCubs79

          In what world are those stats a B?

          • DocPeterWimsey

            One where you lose 10 points for every K, it would seem….

        • ssckelley

          No, those stats are definitely an A. I was looking at everything like the high SO rate (28%), which leads to a lower BA (.281), slugging rate is actually down (.539 versus +.700 in AFL and lower minor league levels), and then you have an average (but acceptable) defense so far at 3rd. I think the B is justified, perhaps a B+ would be better.

          • Aaron

            Okay, well Barry Bonds had a career SLG of .607 – you’re going to tell me that you’re docking Bryant because his slugging dropped from an unsustainable .700 (in a pitcher’s league) down to .539?

            Yes, the K% is high, but considering the complete picture, I’ll tolerate it. I understand the desire to temper expectations, but there isn’t much more he can do. I’m not going to argue an arbitrary letter-grade, but you’re nitpicking his outstanding performance so far this year.

          • Isaac

            That is just intentionally nitpicking. If that isn’t an “A”, no one gets an “A”.

            • ssckelley

              In my defense nobody did get an A, although I damn near gave Edwards one.

              Prospects I do consider around the “A” level are:
              Tsuyoshi Wada
              Rafael Lopez
              Corey Black
              Bijan Rademacher
              Arodys Vizcaino
              Will Remillard
              Paul Blackburn
              Zack Godley

            • Norm

              A guy that doesn’t K over 25% of the time in AA would get an A.
              Gregory Polanco, gets an A.

              • ssckelley

                Yep, Polanco has eye popping numbers so far in AAA with, what appears, to be good defense in right field.

              • Isaac

                Gregory Polanco ALSO receives an A. Do we only hand out one A in the Minors now? Polanco gets the MVP, so far.

                • Brocktoon

                  Do we completely ignore K rates if a guy has other pretty stats?

                  How would you rate a 22 year old in AAA with a 297/.388/.551 stat line over 215 PAs?

      • BT

        Bryant gets a B? Glad you aren’t my teacher.

      • Isaac

        Bryant is having an other-worldly first crack at AA, anything less than an “A” is an absolute joke.

        Nearly as bad is grading the freshly-promoted Alcantara a “C”. 13 XBH’s, 7SB’s/0CS’s, .540 SLG and 2 errors in 20 games at a MIF position. “A” all of the way.

        • Edwin

          Alcantara has a 3.2% walk rate, and a 21.5% K rate. He’s doing ok, but I think we’d want both those numbers to start looking a little better. I’d say a B would be fair.

          • Isaac

            His walk rate will certainly improve. But by golly, let me say again, .540 SLG from a 2B….A!

        • ssckelley

          See my comments above on Bryant, I think I am justified with that grade. Keep in mind a B is still above average.

          Alcantara I wish I would have dove into his numbers a little deeper before throwing down a C. The only real knock on him is his low walk rate (3%) and a fairly high SO rate for someone with his power (22%).

          After further review a B+ is more reasonable for Alcantara.

          • Isaac

            Woohoo!

          • DocPeterWimsey

            B hasn’t been above average in a long, long time!

            • ssckelley

              Whatever Doc, I have not been in school for a long time. Your the one who seems to like to “teach” everyone around here, put down your own grades if you don’t like mine.

              • DocPeterWimsey

                At these tiny sample sizes, everybody gets an “incomplete” from me! :-)

                • ssckelley

                  DAMN YOU!!!!

                  :D

            • CubChymyst

              Grade inflation. The average is the cut off for a B/C at most places now.

          • Spriggs

            I don’t have a problem with your B grade for a couple reasons. Two of the biggest question marks concerning Bryant going into the season – were probably his strikeout rate and his glove. I would say he hasn’t done enough to answer those questions – to this point. Yes, his power and OB skills rate an easy A and those are great to see. But the two question areas still remain.

            Someone else brought up stats “only 2 errors for a MIF” in the case of Alcantara deserving a higher score. I realize that errors (esp. in the minors) are not a good way to judge a fielder, but if that’s fair to bring up for Alcantara, then I will bring up Bryant’s 5 errors and his 30 K’s in just over a hundred plate appearances – not necessarily big problems, but still questions, and they bring down his grade for me. If that means he is on a different scale than everyone else, fine. Maybe, a top ten prospect in all of baseball should be looked at a little differently. I mean if that was Shawon Dunston putting up those numbers… yes, he gets an A+++ because of the expectations.

            OK, maybe a B+ for Bryant!

            • Isaac

              This perfectly exhibits why fans are constantly let down by prospects, they set expectations that are completely unrealistic. The K rate would be FAR more concerning if it didn’t also come with a sky-high walk rate and a .407 OBP. Joey Votto and Mike Trout both strikeout a lot as well, that is mitigated by huge SLG and BB rates…It’s a very specific and intentional approach.

              • Spriggs

                Actually, the people giving out all the A+ are the ones who will be “let down” the most.

              • TWC

                Trout has an MLB K% of 21% or so. He had a MiLB K% of 16%.

                Votto has an MLB K% of 18%, and had a MiLB K% of 22%.

                Bryant has a MiLB K% of 26%.

                They ain’t nearly the same.

                • Isaac

                  Completely missed the point. I didn’t compare their strikeouts, I compared their approaches at the plate. Bryant obviously sees a LOT of pitches, and manages to find himself on base over 40% of the time. That’s an A.

                  • Spriggs

                    Comparing Bryant to Trout and Votto…
                    “This perfectly exhibits why fans are constantly let down by prospects, they set expectations that are completely unrealistic.”

                • noisesquared

                  Trout – 1312 PA in MiLB
                  Votto 3031 PA in MiLB
                  Bryant 254 PA in MiLB

                  Can we at least give Bryant a season to really get acclimated before we start using K% to compare him to anybody? K% in short spurts across different levels seems to fluctuate pretty heavily. I’d like to give Bryant 500-600 PA before making any judgement on his K% being a huge detriment.

                  • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

                    Trout and Votto were HS draftees.

                    K and BB rates are some of the first stats to normalize to a hitters true talent level. There has been little repeatable evidence that those K and BB rates significantly change over a player’s career.

                    Byrant also had issues with a high K rate in college. Honestly, I wouldn’t be a bit shocked if in 5 years both him and Baez are out of baseball with a negative career WAR.

              • ssckelley

                Actually the opposite is true, I might be a little bearish on my grades but at least I am looking at the entire picture and not just getting all excited about his good numbers.

                Right now Bryant looks closer to an Adam Dunn type player than a Votto or Trout. It is still too early to label him as any of those types of players, it is still only April.

                • Karl Groucho

                  It is, actually, May. All SSS references are no longer valid! Or something.

                  Coincidentally, today is also my favorite day…

                  • ssckelley

                    Dammit, got me there. But those numbers are still April, at least until they play today or tomorrow (moving goal posts around is fun).

                • Isaac

                  uh, no. If you believe a guy OPSing around 1.000 in his first stint at AA is not an “A”, than your expectations are wildly out of whack.

                  • ssckelley

                    Who said anything about expectations? With the exception of his high SO rate he is playing at or slightly above expectations. But the SO rate is pretty high, I would like to see him making more contact it will bring his average up and increase his slugging.

                    Do yourself a favor, look up successful major league players and count how many of them had SO percentages above 25%. I did this once hoping to find evidence to combat stat heads on here when we were discussing Baez’s high SO rate and the list was disappointing. Even Adam Dunn, who I compared Bryant to, had a SO rate below 20% in the minors. Unless you are hoping for Bryant to be the next Dave Kingman (24%) or Gorman Thomas (28%) type of hitter you will be disappointed.

                    The bottom line is a high SO rate in the minors does not project well as major league players.

                    • ssckelley

                      Even Reggie Jackson, one of the most famous SO artists of all time (his K’s were fun to watch), had a 14% SO rate in the minors.

            • ssckelley

              I am neutral on Alcantara’s defense, without having seen a game just looking at minor league fielding numbers are tough when judging 2nd basemen. Two errors does not seem like a lot but we are talking about 2nd base, a position that should not have a lot of errors.

              • Isaac

                2B is a high-volume position….limiting errors as such is a fantastic indicator of future success, especially for a guy that is supposed to have solid range.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Interesting question. I’ll to give that some thought.

      I’m not inclined to punish players for getting injured, so I’d have to find some way to take that into account without just crushing their grade. And I’d also have to determine some standard to measure against.

      Let me think about this a while. I might run with that either for the Sunday article, or as an intro in the next few days.

      • Edwin

        Thanks. I’m just curious to see how the stock is for some of the more interesting prospects in the system. My initail reaction is that things aren’t off to the best start, but there’s a lot of time left.

    • Spriggs

      As a whole, you would have to grade the group below a C. I agree with ssckelley that only Bryant deserves a grade of B. Alcantara might merit a tick above average. It is all relative though I guess. If you base it on expectations or if you base on what you were hoping to see… on the whole though, it’s been disappointing so far and the injuries to Edwards and Soler really suck. I agree with whoever said it, Baez is going to explode in May. That D is going to change very soon!

  • Norm

    I’m thinking a good offensive comp for Almora is…..Starlin Castro.

    • Billy

      With plus defense in centerfield I will gladly take that

  • cubbiekoolaid2015

    Another 2 walks for Baez. Gotta love it!

    • Jon

      last one was intentional. Cowards.

      • ssckelley

        That is a lot of respect being shown to Baez with a hot hitting Valaika batting behind him. But it worked, Valaika struck out to end the inning.

      • Rudy N

        Does it technically count as an IBB if the first 3 pitches were not “intentional” but the last one was?

        • bbmoney

          I would assume, but I guess I’m not sure.

          Kind of seems like the first three pitches may have been unintentional by only the strictest sense of the word anyway.

  • jp3

    Damn, Vitters 0-3 with 3 Ks, something is wrong with him, he’s injured or a head case over the last month. His K rate is higher than normal lately

  • jp3

    Well, arbitrary endpoints, 7 Ks in his last 13 ABs anyways😃

  • CubsFaninMS

    Performances from our Top 10 have certainly been a little disappointing collectively, but we’ve seen non-Top-10s step up the first month of the season including Amaya, Hernandez, Blackburn, Lopez, Wada, Vogelbach (borderline Top 10), Andreoli, and Pena. There are some bright spots to lean on until some of the Top 10 start to catch fire.

    • TheDondino

      One thing to think about with a bunch of these guys…it’s been an unusually cold and wet spring. Here in Iowa, it’s 46 degrees right now…at 1:00 in the afternoon…on May 1st. Not normal. Most of these guys aren’t used to playing in cold weather yet, that comes with experience and age. It can take a toll on young hitters, especially when the majority of them (if not all) come from warm weather states or the Caribbean. It’s not the only reason for some of these slow starts, but it’s probably a key factor.

  • Rudy N

    Baez is gonna hurt himself with all those head first slides. That 2nd one into 3B looked particularly dangerous!

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