Number Munchers: Back to Minors Part II – Do Numbers Matter?

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back to the minors

A couple weeks back, Number Munchers took a look at the career progression of Christian Colon. Coming off a short stint of initial major league success, kneejerk fans tired of watching “Moose vs the Mendoza Line” and Omar Infante’s tendency to fluctuate at a moment’s notice between Mr Clutch and Dr Awful have been calling for Colon to get an everyday spot in the lineup. With this week’s acquisition of career .214 / .284 / .347 Jayson Nix, the temperature around Colon seems to be bubbling over. Why would an organization that drafted a player in the top 5 not have any faith in him? Did he say or do something wrong along the way? Did he not leave at least one full cup in the coffee pot during spring training? Was he unable to spitfire back quotes from Major League? Did he tell Ned Yost he was distantly related to Nate Bukaty?

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Cleveland Indians

The easy and obvious answer is his minor league numbers. Over 5 minor league seasons (489 games / 2167 PA), he posted a .281 BA, .729 OPS with 37 HR and 232 RBIs. Those are not terrible numbers per se, but they by no means demand a major league call up. Certainly not anything that would get on the radar of Yost’s gut.

Yet, in a small sample size (42 plate appearances), he has been more successful at the major league level, to the tune of .308 / .357 / .462 with 4 doubles and 2 stolen bases. Time will obviously tell what kind of major leaguer he becomes, but these numbers along with the eye test lead one to believe that he is indeed at least a major leaguer (which for many was a point in doubt leading into this season).


Now, one could argue that a top 5 pick should be more than “just a major leaguer.” I tend to agree with you, but you can’t get to the peak without first climbing the Hillary Step. Regardless, at first glance, those minor league numbers do not predict a future all-star.

But how true is that assumption?   Do minor league numbers *really* matter when it comes to predicting success at the major league level? Into the numbers we go.

I’ll be focused on offensive players as Colon is not a pitcher. And whereas there is a pretty cut and dry conclusion to follow in regards to batters, pitching is much more variable. With often poor defensive play behind them, the varying quality of minor league umpires, and pitch count limits/considerations, the traditional pitching stats (Wins, ERA, WHIP, etc) from the minors can often be inflated by factors that don’t really reflect how good a pitcher actually is.

Does minor league success predict major league stardom? The easy, concise answer is yes. Players that destroy the minor leagues tend to become at the very least every day major league players. Players that do not usually fail to make it to or succeed in the majors.

Kansas City Royals designated hitter Billy Butler (16)

Billy Butler owns a minors line of .336 / .416 / .561 over 1779 PA with 73 HR and 333 RBIs. Mike Trout: 286 games, 1312 PA, .342 / .425 / .516 with 23 HR and 134 RBIs (and 108 stolen bases). Giancarlo Stanton: 333 games, 1427 PA, .272 / .365 / .565 with 91 HR and 249 RBIs. Paul Goldschmidt: 315 games, 1387 PA, .317 / .407 / .620 (yeah, that is a 1.027 OPS) with 83 HR and 264 RBIs. Take a look at the all-star game rosters for the past 15 years and you will see that the majority of those players own pretty gaudy minor league numbers.

But fear not Royal fans, there is hope. There are historical exceptions, pretty spectacular and surprising ones in fact. So, for all you pro-Colon people, here are the “minor league sub .800 OPS” blue prints for your boy.


Omar Infante: 462 games, 1898 PA, .277 / .330 / .349 with 11 HR and 178 RBIs. Numbers that are actually substantially inferior to Colon’s.

Infante is a fine major league player and has enjoyed a very nice career. BUT shouldn’t we expect more from a top 5 pick? Perhaps we should expect multiple all-star games. A gold glove or two (and quite possibly eventually double digits). A player like …


Salvador Perez: 352 games, 1397 PA, .287 / .329 / .397 with 20 HR and 184 RBIs. Though in 800 less PA, those numbers are practically identical to Colon’s. I could have also gone with fellow all-star catcher Alex Avila here (166 games, 690 PA, .280 / .372 / .422 with 14 HR and 83 RBIs).

Salvy is considered one of the best players at his position in the majors. But he is a catcher. The competition there is a little less stiff. We need a better comparison. Someone who mans the middle infield. Someone like …


Jimmy Rollins: 583 games, 2541 PA, .261 / .328 / .383 with 36 HR and 237 RBIs. Hmm, those are much closer, actually still slightly inferior to Colon’s.  J-Roll has 3 All-star games, an MVP, and 4 gold gloves.

You want more?  Okay.  How about someone in our league, the good old American League?  3 time all-star?  Bah, lets double it.  6 all-star game appearances and an AL MVP as well.  Someone like …

miguel tejada

Miguel Tejada: 374 games, 1638 PA, .272 / .346 / .442 with 53 HR and 240 RBIs. Those are admittedly a little better numbers than Colon’s, but not too far off as still a sub .800 OPS overall.

Well yeah, but Tejada comes from the back end of the steroid era. Who knows what all he did once he got to the majors to boost his play on the field? You can’t get away with stuff like that anymore (theoretically). We need a more modern example. A modern era 6 time all-star, plays the middle infield, 5 time silver slugger award winner, 2 gold gloves. Someone like …

MLB: New York Yankees at Toronto Blue Jays

Robinson Cano. BOOOOO!!!!! (Sorry, force of habit). His minors experience looks like this: 493 games, 2106 PA, .278 / .331 / .425 with 41 HR and 281 RBI.

Look at those numbers. Look at Colon’s numbers. Old Robbie had just a slight touch more power, but otherwise they are damn near identical.

Will Christian Colon turn into Robinson Cano, Miguel Tejada or Jimmy Rollins? Probably not. But it’s a crazy world. Anything is possible. Chances are we will not be seeing his bust in the Royals Hall of Fame, we may not even see him in the majors in 3 years, but rest assured there is at least some sort of history of players with his minor league pedigree becoming all-stars.

There really is only one way to find out and that is to play him.

And just to give you one more mind screw for the day. There is a player that over 368 career minor league games (1597 PA) hit for a .286 BA, .350 OBP, .431 SLG with 28 HR and 228 RBIs. That’s correct. A non-earth shattering .781 OPS.

He is now considered by many as one of the best right handed bats in major league history. A player that if he retired today at the age of 31 he would probably be a first ballot Hall of Famer. A player that you will tell your grandchildren about someday. He is one of the most feared and respected hitters in the game in recent memory.


Miggy done blossomed. So much for minor league numbers.

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Author: Zach Hodson

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