2017 Minor League Stat Leaders, Guerrero Excels
Editor's Note: Littell's team has been corrected to the Twins.
Now that every full-season minor league has wrapped up, it’s time to look at who led the minors in some of the major categories. Most notably, 18-year-old Vladimir Guerrero Jr. led the minors in on-base percentage and Zack Littell became the first pitcher to win 19 games in the minors in 22 years.
Bo Bichette, Lansing/Dunedin, (Blue Jays) .362
Bichette’s batting average in the second half of the season understandably tumbled. He was hitting .402 as late as June 28, but after his promotion to high Class A Dunedin, he hit .323 in the Florida State League, dropping his overall average more than 20 points from the .384 he hit in the Midwest League. But that shouldn’t detract from what was an amazing season.
A.J. Reed, Fresno (Astros) 34
This is Reed’s second time leading the minors in home runs. He also hit 34 home runs to lead the minors in 2015 when he split time between high Class A Lancaster and Double-A Corpus Christi. Reed is the only repeat minor league home run champ in the past 25 years of the minors.
Christian Walker, Reno (Diamondbacks) 114
Walker spent the offseason shuffling between teams in a game of 40-man roster limbo. In the span of a month of a half last winter Walker was claimed and then dropped from the 40-man roster by three different teams (the Orioles, Braves and Reds). He ended up finally successfully making it through waivers with the Diamondbacks, which meant an assignment to one of the best hitter's parks in the minors in Reno’s Greater Nevada Field. Helped by his home park, Walker finished second in the minors with 32 home runs in addition to his RBI crown.
Ronald Acuna, Florida/Mississippi/Gwinnett 181
The Braves had long been impressed with Acuna’s well-rounded tool and skill set, but injuries wiped out most of his full season debut in 2016. Acuna made up for any lost time this year. He came into the year with only 102 career minor league hits. After getting 181 more this year, he likely won’t have many chances to add to that minor league total in the future, but with a chance to hit the majors as a 20-year-old, he has a very good chance to rack up an impressive number of major league hits.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Lansing/Dunedin .425
Teenagers don’t end up with the best on-base percentage in the minors. To have an 18-year-old lead the minors in on-base percentage is outlandish. Usually the minor league on-base crown is held by a mid-20s college draftee with savvy and sometimes some tools to go with it. Previous OBP champs include Mike O’Neill, David Cooper and Jeremy Reed. Guerrero led all minor leagues in on-base percentage even though he was usually three or four years younger than the pitchers he was facing. No teenager had won the minor league OBP title in the past 25 years. Guerrero had to edge fellow teenager and teammate Bo Bichette, who finished with a .423 OBP.
Oswaldo Arcia, Reno (Diamondbacks) .639
It’s not meant to detract from Arcia’s accomplishment, but the slugging percentage minor league leaderboard is a glaring testament to Reno’s status as a home for hitters. Three of the top 10 minors league slugging percentage leaders played for Reno, including Arcia, Christian Walker and Zach Borenstein. As a team Reno slugged .515 at home. It’s a great place to hit, and a nightmare for pitchers.
Zack Littell, rhp, Chattanooga (Twins) 19
With all 30 organizations watching their minor leaguers' pitch counts carefully, winning 19 games in the minor leagues now requires some luck, run support and a pitch efficiency that few pitchers have. As a Yankee, Littell went 1-1 in April, pitching both as a starter and a reliever. At that point, it would have been very hard to imagine he’d end up with the most wins any minor league has posted since Rich Hunter also won 19 in 1995. But Littell won his final eight starts with high Class A Tampa. Promoted to Double-A Trenton, Littell won five of his seven starts there before being traded to the Twins for Jaime Garcia around the trade deadline. With Double-A Chattanooga, he proved equally efficient, winning five of his seven starts. From May 1, Littell worked at least five innings in 21 of 22 starts.
Jon Duplantier, rhp, Kane County/Visalia (Diamondbacks) 1.39
Duplantier’s 1.39 ERA is the second-best in the minors in the past 25 years, topped only by Justin Verlander’s 1.29 in 2005. Duplantier made 25 appearances this season. He allowed no earned runs in 13 outings and one earned run in six more. He never allowed more than three earned runs.
Pedro Beato, rhp, Lehigh Valley (Phillies) 33
Over the years, being the minor league saves leader has been a player development kiss of death. Of the minor league saves leaders over the past 25 years, the leader in major league saves is Brad Clontz with eight. The 30-year-old Beato already has spent parts of five seasons in the majors, so he’s already exceeded the ceiling of some of the previous saves leaders.
Alec Hansen, rhp, Kannapolis/Winston-Salem (White Sox) 191
Hansen’s 191 strikeouts are the most in the minors in a season since Edwar Cabrera’s 217 in 2011. It’s been a breakout year for the big righthander. Hansen had more strikeouts and nearly as many innings this year in the minors as he had in three seasons at Oklahoma.
Freddy Peralta, rhp, Carolina/Biloxi (Brewers) .178
2019 MLB All-Rookie Team
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Peralta is a pitcher who hitters just never square up. Everything moves and hitters struggle to pick up the ball out of his hand. His 90-92 mph fastball plays better than that velocity would indicate and his changeup is equally baffling.