Detroit Tigers: Minor-league hitter top 10s

Erie SeaWolves batter Spencer Torkelson reached first base on a fielder’s choice after hitting this ball.
Erie SeaWolves batter Spencer Torkelson reached first base on a fielder’s choice after hitting this ball. /
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Detroit Tigers: Minor-league top 10s

Detroit Tigers
Erie SeaWolves batter Riley Greene makes contact. /

Batting average doesn’t hold the same weight it once did, and as an indicator of offensive talent it can be pretty misleading. Still, there’s something to be said for demonstrating the basic ability to put bat to ball in the minor leagues, so let’s check in on the top ten this year:

Detroit Tigers Minor League Batting Average Leaders

First of all, a hat tip to Riley Greene for being the only qualified hitter in the system to bat .300 for the season. He was also the only qualified 20-year-old to hit .300 in the upper minors (Double-A and/or Triple-A) this year. Jacob Robson has been a quality minor-league bat in the system for years, and it was nice to see him get a cup of coffee in the big leagues. And credit goes to Aderlin Rodríguez, a minor-league lifer who was one of the most dangerous hitters in Triple-A all year.

The one other name on this list worth talking about is switch-hitting catcher Eliezer Alfonzo. He’s been on the fringe of prospect status for a few years now, and he’s a fascinating player. He had an up-and-down year, but finished the season strong, batting .338 with 8 doubles, 4 home runs, and 12 walks to just 6 strikeouts over his final 35 games.

Alfonzo just turned 22, he still needs a lot of work on defense, and there’s not much room for him to get stronger. But his pure bat-to-ball skills and zone control might buy him enough time to develop, and he certainly wouldn’t be the first catcher to sneak into the big-leagues in his mid-to-late-20s.

Detroit Tigers Minor League wRC+ Leaders

A reminder that wRC+ is a stat designed to encompass a player’s total offensive production compared to a league average of 100. Every number above 100 is a percentage point better than average. This year there were 17 Detroit Tigers minor leaguers who finished with a wRC+ above 100.

It’s nice to see Cristian Santana top this list, and good stats are better than bad stats, but numbers at the rookie level can only tell us so much. Santana’s 161 is the 4th highest wRC+ from a Tigers 17-year-old since 2006, but the three players above him — Domingo Leyba, Jose Quero, Iverson Leonardo — aren’t exactly huge success stories.

Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene finished the season with identical wRC+ numbers, which is fun, but it may be helpful to break that down a bit. Torkelson posted a 171 in High-A, a 148 in Double-A, and a 129 in Triple-A, while Greene had a 145 in Double-A and a 153 in Triple-A. Meanwhile, Ryan Kreidler saw a huge jump in production after he was promoted, going from a 105 in Double-A to a 148 in Triple-A.

Detroit Tigers Minor League Stolen Base Leaders

The Detroit Tigers were much more aggressive on the bases in 2021, and that may be a feature of the team in the future. So let’s finish with a look at the top base stealers in the system this year:

Like all minor-league stats, stolen base numbers can be misleading. The pitchers aren’t as good at holding runners, the catchers aren’t as good at throwing, and in 2021 minor-league baseball was used as a testing ground for a number of rule changes designed to encourage more steals.

That said, speed is a very real part of Eric De La Rosa’s game. He’s a legitimate plus-plus runner who will take an extra base whenever possible. Gage Workman is an above-average runner underway, and he may be good for double-digit steals annually, but mostly he’s just a heady player who racked up 22 steals in Low-A, where pitchers were only allowed two pickoff attempts. Wenceel Perez has always been a willing runner, but this year he made much better decisions than in 2019, when he stole 21 bases but was caught 13 times.

Kingston Liniak joined Workman, Riley Greene, and Ryan Kreidler as the only players in the system with double-digit home runs and steals. Liniak is a good athlete with plenty of tools, but he just hasn’t been able to hit enough yet. Andrew Navigato might have joined the quartet above if he played more, but speed isn’t really a huge part of his game. Still, he looks the part of a valuable organizational soldier going forward, having offered solid production at three different levels this year while playing at least 15 games at four different positions.

Check back soon as we take a look at some pitching top tens!

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