Would you look at that. After USA TODAY totally screwed up their pick for Minor League Player Of The Year award, today Baseball America decided to make the same mistake. Though Baseball America didn’t idiotically pick Xander Bogaerts as the best Minor League Baseball Player of the Year, they did mistakingly select Byron Buxton for the award. Lets go through the reasons why both publications made the wrong choices.
From USA Today (click HERE for full article):
"Bogaerts batted a combined .297 with 15 home runs, 67 RBI and a .865 OPS between Class AA and AAA, made his major league debut Aug. 20 and got his first big-league hit four days later.The fast climb to the majors, his standout season and obvious tools made Bogaerts’ the logical choice as USA TODAY Sports’ Minor League Player of the Year, following 2012 winner Wil Myers and 2011 honoree Paul Goldschmidt."
From Baseball America (click HERE for full article):
"Now, Buxton can add one more feather to his cap: Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year, a distinction he sewed up with an all-around game seldom seen from a teenager in his first full season.In stops at low Class A Cedar Rapids and—following a late-June promotion—high Class A Fort Myers, Buxton hit a cumulative .334/.424/.520 with 49 extra-base hits, 55 stolen bases and a sparkling 76-to-105 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 125 games. He led the minors with 18 triples, finished second with 109 runs scored—one behind Marcus Semien of the White Sox—and 12th in stolen bases.More impressively, Buxton ranked sixth in the minor league batting race, 10th in hits (163) and seventh in on-base percentage, despite being a full year younger than any other member of those top-10 lists."
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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Let’s start with USA Today’s choice, Xander Bogaerts. Honestly, when I saw the tweet that he won I was astonished. How did George Springer lose to Bogaerts?!? I have been following the minor leagues for several years, so I knew Bogaerts was a hot name, but wasn’t sure how he had been doing this year so I checked the statistics. Hmmm, how would they compare to Springer? Well, Bogaerts was called up in late August so Springer had several more at-bats (48), but Springer still had better statistics across the board (look at the table above for confirmation).
So it couldn’t have been the statistics. Maybe the USA Today writers never heard of George Springer. It’s possible these writers decided to not follow the Astros once Yu Darvish nearly threw a perfect game against the Astros on April 2nd. Alright, well that wouldn’t be too professional of them, but heck, sometimes us Astros bloggers can’t follow our own Astros.
Maybe the “G” button on their keyboards were broken? After all, if they searched “eore Spriner” you get sent to the page to your right. Did they just not believe what their colleagues and other members of the national media were tweeting about in regards to George Springer? Who knows. I for one am still shocked Bogaerts was selected. When they asked baseball fans to vote, George Springer received around 47%-48% of the vote. Archie Bradley was also around the 47%-48% mark. Bogaerts? He was at 1%-2% throughout the vote. Did the vote make a difference? Not so much I suppose. In an article announcing voting was open to the public, USA Today said, “Each member of the USA TODAY Sports baseball staff, the group that whittled a strong field down to five finalists, gets one vote and online fan balloting counts as two votes.” So the question still stands. Why did Bogaerts win USA Today Minor League Player Of The Year?
Let’s reread the USA Today explanation and examine it.
"The fast climb to the majors, his standout season and obvious tools made Bogaerts’ the logical choice as USA TODAY Sports’ Minor League Player of the Year"
“The fast climb to the majors”
Not to take away from Bogaerts, but the Red Sox situation is a bit different than the Astros current situation. The Red Sox are first in the division and need a quality backup SS/3B. Calling up Bogaerts made sense for the Red Sox. Sure he earned the promotion but it’s doubtful Bogaerts gets called up to the majors if he was on the Astros. The Astros have held Springer in the minors all season and if Springer were on a different team, it’s likely he would have been called up even earlier in the season to help that team in their playoff chase.
“His standout season”
Lets be honest. Good season? No doubt. Standout? Far from. Bogaerts ranks 13th in AVG, 7th in OBP, 8th in SLG, and 10th in OPS (Springer, Carlos Correa, and Delino DeShields ahead of him as well) amongst the MLB.com top 100 prospects with 200 at-bats or more. A great season for a 20-year old, but his statistics didn’t stand out from other prospects. I didn’t want to compare Buxton with all minor league players because his numbers do not stand out at all from prospects with at least 100 at-bats or more (click here to see how he compares to the rest of the minor leagues).
I don’t think I could make an argument that Bogaerts doesn’t have obvious tools. He does. It’s clear. Here’s what Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com had to say;
"He has the ability to make hard contact and can shoot the ball to all fields with excellent bat speed and a smooth swing. He has significant raw power he’s still learning to tap into and he will be a better overall hitter as his plate discipline continues to improve, something that happened in the Carolina League in 2012, but not as much once he moved up a level. His plus arm works just fine from shortstop and while he’s an average runner, he has better range than one would expect for a player his size."
So yes, he has the tools. But Springer?
"Power and speed. It’s a combination always in high demand in a player, but often difficult to find. But there’s no question Springer has plenty of both, and not the raw kind of tools that never show up. His outstanding bat speed allows the University of Connecticut product to drive the ball to all fields, with plenty of power to leave the yard regularly. While he does tend to strike out a good amount, most feel he’ll hit enough to tap into that power and hit for a little average. His speed is legit and he should continue to be a threat on the basepaths and a well above-average defensive center fielder, though he has the arm for right field should that be the spot the Astros need him to play."
You could argue Springer’s tools are just as obvious and probably even better than Bogaerts. Which begs the question again. Why was Xander Bogaerts the choice for USA Today Minor League Player Of The Year?
It doesn’t appear so. As mentioned above, Springer outplayed Bogaerts throughout the season, Springer’s tools are arguably just as good if not better, and his call up to the Red Sox shouldn’t give him an edge in this conversation. Why was he chosen? I don’t know to tell you the truth. I suppose they chose Bogaerts due to his age. He’s having a great season for a 20-year old, but since when does age play a factor into awards? Should Mike Trout have won 2012 AL MVP because what he did at the age of 20/21 last year was more impressive than the triple crown the 29-year old Miguel Cabrera won? Heck no! I’m not comparing Cabrera’s triple crown to Springer’s 37/45 season, but I think you get the point. Age wasn’t a reason to give Bogaerts the award, but it seems to have clouded the judgement of the USA Today’s writers.
Now on to Baseball America.
While Bogaerts was a TERRIBLE choice, Byron Buxton is at least a SEMI-respectable choice. Buxton had great numbers as you could see in the table above, but were they on Springer’s level? I don’t think so.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Baseball America’s main argument seems to be the same as USA Today’s. Baseball America chose age and potential over the stats. Now tell me, when you read “Minor League Baseball Player Of The Year” do you think of the BEST player of the season, or the player with the biggest potential? Why even have the award if it’s based on potential. Just take five of the most respected top 100 prospects lists, and see which prospect is considered the #1 prospect by the five of them together, and then give him an award. No reason to make a separate “Minor League Baseball Player Of The Year” if at the end of the day the award is given to the best prospect in baseball, as opposed to the best minor league player of the season.
Again, I’m not taking away anything from Byron Buxton. Am I sour that the Astros chose Correa over Buxton? No, not one bit. That argument is for a separate post, but I will always defend the Astros decision to take Correa over Buxton.
Buxton’s numbers themselves clearly show his great season. He was top 10 in AVG, Hits, Runs, and OBP. He’s considered the number one prospect in baseball, and I would certainly agree with that assessment. But Baseball America fell in love with Buxton’s potential and not in Springer’s 2013 season.
Let’s see Baseball America’s explanation and examine it.
"Now, Buxton can add one more feather to his cap: Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year, a distinction he sewed up with an all-around game seldom seen from a teenager in his first full season."
Again, this is the main problem I have with the Buxton choice. They point out that it’s his “all around game seldom seen from a TEENAGER in his first full season.” Teenager. Yes, I understand he’s 19 years old, and we rarely see these types of seasons from 19 year olds, but why should that matter for a “Minor League Player Of The Year” award? Why do I care if he’s 19 or if he’s 23? Shouldn’t the award be given to the best player from that season no matter the age?
Baseball America continues with comparing Byron Buxton‘s 2013 season with Mike Trout‘s 2010 season. In the photo to the right, you see Buxton’s numbers compare favorably to Trout’s 2010 numbers. Baseball America added;
"Buxton was by far the best I have seen in a long, long time other than Trout,” said high Class A Palm Beach manager Johnny Rodriguez, who managed against Trout in the Midwest League in 2010. “Trout has more power, but Buxton probably does more (things). He has a better arm. He is a better defender than Trout, with better range and jumps. They’re both so explosive, and Buxton probably is a better hitter. He has fewer holes than Trout had. That’s what is so amazing, Buxton has very loose hands and has such bat speed, he just sits back on the ball and then explodes through it.”"
Did Trout win in 2010? No. Jeremy Hellickson won the award going 12-3 with 2.45 ERA in 21 starts, striking out 123 and walking 35 in 118 innings. Hard to argue with those numbers from Hellickson. Here’s what Baseball America says comparing the competition for the award between Trout/Hellickson with Buxton and Astros prospect George Springer;
"In an echo of 2010, Buxton’s chief competition for the POY award this year also happens to be a 23-year-old prospect who excelled in the upper minors but who has a lower ceiling. This time it’s Astros center fielder George Springer, who with 37 homers and 45 steals very nearly became the first 40-40 player in the history of the modern minor leagues.Springer had a huge year, hitting .303/.411/.600 with 68 extra-base hits and 83 walks in 135 games split between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Oklahoma City. He even recorded in the highest power-speed number—a harmonic mean between a player’s homers and steals—of the past decade. Springer’s propensity to swing and miss, however, places him at greater risk to fall short of fulfilling his ceiling."
And there lies the problem with the award. Baseball America clearly states Springer had a tremendous season, but points out that his tendency to swing and miss “places him at a greater risk to fall short of fulfilling his ceiling.” That’s interesting. I still don’t understand why his ceiling and what MAY happen with Springer over his career should affect the season Springer is CURRENTLY having?
Baseball America continued the article comparing Springer with some of the top power-speed performers since 2004 with each player’s strikeout percentage per plate appearance. Who is on the list? Grant Desme, Terry Evans, Justin Maxwell, Greg Halman, Charlton Jimerson, Nelson Cruz, Chris Young, Delmon Young, and Dan Carroll. Baseball America decided to show their readers how Springer may not end up reaching his ceiling by comparing him to these players, all players who didn’t reach their full potential.
They’ve missed the point. Both Baseball America and USA Today made the same mistake. They chose potential and ceiling instead of the 2013 numbers. USA Today totally screwed up choosing Bogaerts — who didn’t have the best stats of 2013, and isn’t even the best prospect in baseball. Baseball America at least chose the best prospect in baseball with some fantastic numbers instead of Springer. However, they chose Buxton because of his great (but not the best in the MiLB) 2013 stats and his potential. He’s considered the best prospect in baseball and scouts compare him to currently one of the best players in the MLB, Mike Trout. Would I rank Buxton as my number one prospect? Yes, without any doubt. But did Buxton outperform George Springer when comparing 2013 numbers? No.
Both publications chose Wil Myers for the 2012 “Minor League Player Of The Year” award. Myers was the clear choice last year because of his 2012 stats. His competition wasn’t the same as the numbers Springer put up, but Myers also had the “best prospect in baseball” tag to go along with his stats. If Springer had that tag on him, there is no doubt he wins this award unanimously.
While Astros fans should be upset that Springer did not win the “Minor League Player Of The Year” award, it’s something that I’m sure Springer will remember as he puts on his Astros jersey for the first time in 2014.