Rays Prospects

New Ray Daniel Robertson Among Stars of Minor League WAR

By Robbie Knopf
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We love WAR here at Rays Colored Glasses. Actually, we do not. We occasionally use it–for instance, to find comparables in arbitration–but we generally find it more useful to delve deeper into the ways that players reached their WAR totals. At the end of the day, what matters a lot more than how much WAR Desmond Jennings was worth last season is how much we can expect him to be worth next year.

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In any event, WAR still has its uses, specifically as a catch-all summary statistic to compare vastly divergent players. And now, thanks to Carson Cistulli of Fangraphs, we now have a leaderboard of the top minor league position players by WAR from last season. Cistulli admits that it isn’t perfect–he didn’t even try to evaluate defense aside from adjusting for position–but it’s a cool way to look at the Tampa Bay Rays’ minor leaguers nonetheless.

One interesting fact is that the Rays have acquired several of the top performers in terms of Cistulli’s minor league WAR (henceforth just mWAR) from 2014. Daniel Robertson ranked 11th with 6.0 mWAR between the Athletics’ High-A Stockton affiliate and the Arizona Fall League (yes, mWAR includes the AFL). His mediocre baserunning did nothing to hold back his spectacular bat for a shortstop.

One thing worth noting, though, is that Robertson put up such a high WAR because he made a ridiculous 720 plate appearances on the season. Evan Longoria, who played in all 162 games for the Rays, made only 700. If we instead look at mWAR per 600 plate appearances (which is conveniently supplied by Cistulli), Daniel Robertson is only at 5.0.

Nevertheless, that is still a fine total and the narrative that the Rays’ new top prospect led them in mWAR last season is quite nice. Let’s not ruin that because of technicalities like plate appearances.

Andrew Velazquez, another trade acquisition, was a few spots behind him at 20th. He combined a more diversified approach–he combined a good bat with 50 stolen bases–on his way to 5.5 WAR and 5.3 WAR per 600 plate appearances. Granted, people were perplexed as to why Velazquez was at Low-A for so long, but it took his spectacular performance for than confusion to arise.

Third among Tampa Bay Rays prospects in mWAR was the Rays’ Minor League Player of the Year, Johnny Field. Field was worth 5.0 mWAR (5.6 per 600 PA’s) thanks to even better offensive output and solid, though not Velazquez-esque, baserunning.

And then we come to three more recently acquired players: Steven Souza, Boog Powell, and Willy Adames. Souza won the International League MVP award despite making just 407 Triple-A PA’s. His mWAR of 4.7 was impressive enough, but his 6.7 mWAR per 600 PA’s was pretty incredible. Powell had to settle for 4.4 and 5.7 while Adames was at 3.8 and 4.5.

From there, we see more homegrown Rays prospects–specifically Justin O’Conner, Ryan Brett, Mikie Mahtook, and Tyler Goeddel–but it is a little scary that five of the Rays’ top six players in mWAR came from outside the organization. Of course, none of this analysis includes pitching, but it is nice to know that the Rays have acquired some more formidable minor league hitters in the last few months.

Next: RCG Mailbag: Can Souza Avoid Myers' Problems?

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