Monday, September 19, 2011

The Durham Bulls in 2011 — The Hitters: Part I

Twenty-five different ballplayers came to bat in a Durham Bulls uniform this year. Some quite a few times (Russ Canzler, 549). Some not so often (John Shelby, 3 ). That compares to 27 in 2010 and 25 in 2009, so 2011 was about normal. Players are listed in order of games played. The "slash line" is Batting Average/On-Base Percentage/Slugging.

The Top 14 (40+ Games)

Russ Canzler (25) was in his first season with the Bulls and had a brilliant year. He was the International League MVP.

  • Played in the most games of any Durham Bull (131) and had the most plate appearances (549). He led the Bulls in batting average (.314), was second in OBP (.401) and was first in SLG and OPS (.530 and .930), and led the team in wOBA (.399). His 83 RBI were way ahead of #2, Leslie Anderson, who had 65. He also led in home runs (18), doubles (40), second in triples (5). He was the team leader in walks (67) and strikeouts (129). The all-around offensive star of the year.
  • His great year was rewarded by a call-up (and placement on the Rays 40-man) as soon as the Bulls season was over in early September. As of this writing he has had one ML plate appearance where he drew a walk. Defensively, the Bulls never quite figured out where to play him, although by the end of the year you could consider him a regular corner outfielder. He had 40 starts at 3B, 17 at 1B, and 68 games in the outfield. He also had 6 games at DH. He certainly is not the Rays' future third baseman, but no reason why he couldn't spend more time at 1B and see how it goes. As we'll see, however, it looks like 1B could be crowded in 2012. Really was fun watching him play.
  • Stats

Ray Olmedo (30) came back to the Bulls after a year with Nashville, the AAA team of the Brewers that plays in the PCL.

  • Played in 124 games (500 PA). Ray had 95 games at SS and 29 games at 2B. For a guy who usually batted at the end of the order, he had very good numbers — .260/.303/.322, wOBA .306. 27 RBI, 22 doubles, 3 triples.
  • I like watching Ray Olmedo play baseball. I especially like the way he moved over to second base when young Tim Beckham came up and how well he covered that position. Here's hoping the Rays find room for him next year.
  • Stats

Leslie Anderson (29) joined the Bulls late in 2010. He had defected from Cuba earlier in the year and quickly moved up through the Rays minor league system as an outfielder and first baseman. This season was a decent, but not breakout, year.

  • Played in 121 games with 494 plate appearances. He had 63 games at 1B and 42 in the outfield, mostly in LF. The rest of the games he was the designated hitter. Decent numbers of .277/.314/.413 with a wOBA of .323. His 65 RBI was second-best on the team; his 24 doubles were third-best; and his 13 home runs was third best as well.
  • I'm not sure Mr. Anderson is going to make it beyond AAA. He isn't very fast. He's something of a streaky hitter and only a so-so first baseman. Plus he's beginning to age out.
  • Stats

J.J. Furmaniak (31) was with the Bulls with most of 2010 and we were really pleased to see him back in 2011. He did not have a good year at the plate, but he had a bunch of timely hits and sacrifices, and was vital to keeping the infield sorted out.

  • Played in 116 games (433 PA). In the field he played 2B (52 games), SS (15), 3B (43), outfield (11), dh'd a game, and pitched a shutout inning(!). Most of the year his numbers were off, but they got much better near the end. Numbers — .215/.267/.308 with a wOBA of .258. J.J. led the Bulls on successful sacrifice bunts with 15.
  • I really like J.J. I think he adds a lot to the team. He did not have a good year at bat, but until the Rays start bringing up some infielders, the Bulls really need someone like J.J. on the roster — an experienced, mature, quick-handed infielder.
  • Stats

Brandon Guyer (25) came to the Bulls as part of the big Tampa Bay Rays/Chicago Cubs deal over the winter. A lot to like about this young ballplayer. He would have played in more games if a back injury had not taken him out of the lineup for a couple of weeks in the middle of the year.

  • Played in 107 games (443 PA). All of his games were as an outfielder, mostly in right and center field. Very good numbers — .314/.401/.530, wOBA .387. Hit 18 home runs (second on team), had 61 RBI, and led team in getting hit by pitches (12). Very fast, but needs to work on base running a bit (16 stolen bases, but caught 6 times).
  • Brandon was on the 40-man all year and was called up once, before going up in the September callups. As of this writing he's been in 10 games for the Rays. Expect him back next year and looking forward to it.
  • Stats

Dan Johnson (31) started the year with the Rays and came to the Bulls in late May. Something must have gone awry over the winter, since the 2010 Bulls superstar was having serious troubles in St. Petersburg. He passed through waivers and accepted an assignment to the Bulls.

  • Played in 93 games (395 PA). Starting very slowly, his numbers improved as the year went on — .273/.382/.459,wOBA .375. Low extra base production (for him) of 23 doubles and 13 home runs. 52 RBI. 59 games at 1B, 15 at 3B, and 21 as DH.
  • Dan was called back up to the Rays at the end of the season, but he's got to be thinking about his future as a ballplayer. I'm guessing that he will not be back with the Rays in 2012.
  • Stats

Desmond Jennings (24) began his year with the Bulls and, to our surprise, stayed with the team until mid-July.

  • Played in 89 games (397 PA). The big difference between this year and 2010 was that he stayed healthy and he had some big improvements in his power. Numbers — .275/.374/.456, wOBA .362. A leadoff batter is going to be a bit low in the RBI column, and he was with only 39. But he scored 68 runs and stole 17 bases. Mostly a center fielder this year, with a few starts in right field and a couple as the DH.
  • He's had 52 games in the majors as of this writing, and he's tearing things up with a .292/.386/.510, 9 homers, 22 RBI, 38 runs scored and 17 stolen bases. Don't expect to see him back with the Bulls next year.
  • Stats

Robinson Chirinos (27) is another of the players from the Cubs/Rays deal. He had a spectacular spring training and came to the Bulls with very high expectations. He had a good, not exceptional, year. And was able to get in 20 games with the Rays.

  • Played in 78 games (319 PA). He had a terrible start, so his final numbers actually represent a big improvement on the year — .259/.343/.376, wOBA .324. Because of his terrific spring training, most thought Chirinos was going to have a real breakout year and, at 27, he needed it. Not quite, though. He got the most starts at catcher (63) of anyone on the Bulls' roster and did pretty well.
  • His main counterpart, Jose Lobaton, had a much better year as a catcher and a hitter. When Lobaton got a call-up he was almost immediately injured and Chirinos followed him to St. Pete within a couple of days, then came back in August.
  • Stats

Omar Luna (24) started the season with the Bulls and then was essentially swapped out for infielder Daniel Mayora in late June.

  • Played in 56 games (182 PA). Not very good numbers — .203/.229/.227, wOBA .229. Pretty much the worst numbers of anyone who had any serious amount of time with the Bulls this year. Mostly played 2B (47), but had a game at 3B, a game at shortstop, and 3 games in the outfield. He also made two appearances as a pitcher.
  • Pretty good second baseman, but Furmaniak better, with a better bat. Luna went to Port Charlotte in the Rays system where he did OK. Hard to tell if he will be coming back.
  • Stats

Jose Lobaton (26) had a breakout year and he was fun to watch as long as he stayed with the Bulls.

  • Played in 54 games (224 PA). Terrific numbers — .293/.410/.489, wOBA .382. His OBP was the team best. Most of his ABs were as a catcher, but 18 games as DH. Above average catching skill as a catcher.
  • His third best OPS (.899) and skills behind the plate earned him a call-up in early July. Unfortunately, he was immediately injured and did not return to the Rays lineup until September. Expect him to stick with the Rays next year.
  • Stats

Chris Carter (28) started the year with the Bulls.

  • Played 54 games (233 PA) for the Bulls before exercising an opt-out clause in mid-June, 26 games as DH and 28 games in a corner outfield position. Pretty good, but not stellar, numbers for his time with the team — .270/.309/.460, wOBA .323. He brought some power to the team, 10 HR and 11 doubles.
  • He signed with the Gwinnett Braves (Atlanta) and was having a great run (OPS of .974) for 23 games before he was injured and went out for the rest of the season.
  • Stats

Daniel Mayora (25) came up to Durham from the Montgomery Biscuits in late June.

  • Played in 51 games (205 PA), almost exclusively at third base. Of the six different third basemen the Bulls used this year, he was tied for the most games (40) with Russ Canzler. Numbers are OK — .262/.317/.353, wOBA .306.
  • Not a standout third baseman and doesn't seem like he will get past AAA level. And yet the Bulls needed him for the second half of the season and may need him again next year.
  • Stats

Felipe Lopez (31), a veteran infielder, started the season with Durham, went back and forth to the Rays a couple of times and then moved on to the Milwaukee Brewers system.

  • Played in 48 games (207 PA) and had excellent numbers — .305/.357/.474, wOBA .374 with 37 RBI and 7 home runs. 25 games at 2B, 12 at 3B, and a few as DH.
  • Lopez was with the Bulls primarily because the Rays' infield situation was unsettled at the time. Once that was sorted out, he left the system. I would have preferred to see more young players under development.
  • Stats

Justin Ruggiano (29) has a five year history with the Durham Bulls and holds a number of hitting records. He started this year with the Bulls, but went up to Tampa in May and stayed there, with the exception of a brief rehab visit in August.

  • Played in a total of 43 games (190 PA) and had excellent numbers — .304/.378/.518, wOBA .398. Almost an RBI per game (34), 7 HR and 11 doubles.
  • Unlikely that we will see him in Durham next year.
  • Stats

Next: New guys, rehabbers and visitors.


  1. Further thoughts about Canzler and Johnson in this guest essay I wrote for Baseball Prospectus:

  2. For those checking out the comments, take a look at Adam's piece linked above. I'd missed it. Nicely done, Adam.

    Very interesting look at Canzler and Johnson and an astute comment on Desmond Jennings.