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John Dewan's Stat of the Week

Minor League Defensive Runs Saved End-of-Season Roundup

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When a promising position player gets called up from the minors, you almost never hear about his defensive prospects unless they are extreme in one direction or the other. At Baseball Info Solutions, we use Minor League Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) as a tool to expand fans' knowledge of the defensive side of the game.

We track minor league DRS the same way we do in the majors, even comparing minor leaguers to the same baseline as their big league counterparts. With the 2018 minor league year completed, let's look at the best of the best in Double-A and Triple-A. You'll see the leaders at each position with their runs saved total at that position. To allow for comparison between players who are more likely to be future prospects, the leaders are split between ages 23 and younger and ages 24 and older.

2018 Minor League DRS Leaders by Position, Ages 23 and Younger

Pos Player, Organization Age Level DRS
P Dedgar Jimenez, Bos 22 AA/AAA 5
P Ranger Suarez, Phi 22 AA/AAA 5
C Jake Rogers, Det 23 AA 18
1B Bobby Bradley, Cle 22 AA/AAA 10
2B Luis Urias, SD 21 AAA 13
3B Mandy Alvarez, NYY 23 AA 9
SS Andrew Velazquez, TB 23 AA/AAA 8
LF Justin Williams, TB/StL 22 AAA 5
CF Myles Straw, Hou 23 AAA 10
RF Justin Williams, TB/StL 22 AAA 11

Jake Rogers looks like a dominant performer on this list with 18 runs saved at catcher, but there are a couple guys competing with him when you consider their value across multiple positions. Luis Urias was the only minor leaguer to save at least three runs at three different positions this year (13 at 2B, 3 at 3B, 5 at SS). Justin Williams appears twice on the list, and is one of only three minor leaguers to save at least five runs at two different positions this year. Recent Astros callup Myles Straw has one carrying tool: his arm. He saved 9 of his 10 runs in center field with his arm alone.

2018 Minor League DRS Leaders by Position, Ages 24 and Older

Pos Player, Organization Age Level DRS
P Mitch Talbot, Cle 34 AAA 10
C Austin Allen, SD 24 AA 14
C Rocky Gale, LAD 30 AAA 14
1B Taylor Jones, Hou 24 AA/AAA 6
2B Heiker Meneses, Phi 27 AA/AAA 8
3B Josh Fuentes, Col 25 AAA 19
SS Ildemaro Vargas, Ari 26 AAA 9
SS Bengie Gonzalez, Was 28 AAA 9
LF Andrew Guillotte, Tor 25 AA/AAA 9
CF Jacob Hannemann, CHC 27 AAA 8
RF Blake Drake, StL 24 AA 8

This group is more of the Quad-A type that might get a cup of coffee or two in the majors but at this point in their careers are unlikely to make a true splash. The exception might be Josh Fuentes, who led the minors in Total Runs, which takes into account his hitting, fielding, and baserunning. But with his cousin Nolan Arenado (seriously) manning third base in Colorado, that splash may have to be at another position or with another organization. Rocky Gale and Andrew Guillotte had great defensive seasons thanks to excellence in one particular skill—Gale saved 13 runs with his pitch-framing, and Guillotte saved five in left field with his throwing arm. And I would be remiss not to mention Mitch Talbot, who led pitchers in DRS and held a 2.52 ERA in Triple-A after playing in independent ball and internationally from 2014-17.

Other Notable Performances

A couple of touted outfield prospects—Willie Calhoun of the Rangers and Raimel Tapia of the Rockies—sit towards the bottom of the minor league DRS list, with -29 and -30 respectively. Also in that neighborhood is Tim Tebow, whose broken hamate bone cut his season short after costing Binghamton 21 runs in the field.

Of the top five prospects according to MLB Pipeline (Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Fernando Tatis Jr., Eloy Jimenez, Nick Senzel, and Victor Robles), Nick Senzel of the Reds easily stands out as the best of the bunch defensively, saving four runs in only 42 games between second and third base. Jimenez falls lowest among that group, costing 13 runs in the outfield in less than two-thirds of a season.

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