Friday, September 21, 2012

The Durham Bulls in 2012 — The Hitters: Part I

Thirty-two different ballplayers came to bat in a Durham Bulls uniform this year. Some quite a few times (Leslie Anderson, 482 times), some hardly at all (Matt Joyce, 3 times). That compares to 25 last year, 27 in 2010, and 25 in 2009. So this year was well above normal.

Players are listed in order of number of games played. The “slash line” is Batting Average/On-Base Percentage/Slugging.

An asterisk (*) after a player’s name indicates he bats left-handed, a # sign indicates he is a switch hitter. A distinct oddity to this year’s Bulls is that 8 of the top 12 batted left-handed and one switch hit.

The Top 12 (50+ games)

Jesus Feliciano* (33) was in his first season with the Bulls and had a decent year.
  • He played in the most games of any Durham Bull (125) and was #2 in plate appearances.  His line of .270/.312/.326 and 46 RBI helped. An unimpressive Weighted On-Base Average  (wOBA) of .294 and a Weighted Runs Above Average  (wRAA) of -11.5 does not auger well for his future in a Rays system that loves to crunch numbers. 
  • On the other hand, it sure seemed to me that if anyone came through for the Bulls this year, it was Feliciano. He’s got time with several different AAA teams and played 54 games with the Mets in 2010. My guess is that he and his agent will be working on another minor league contract with invitation to spring training next year, but not with the Rays.
  • Stats.
Leslie Anderson* (30) had a career year with the Bulls. For reasons known only to the Rays front office, it was not good enough to push someone off the 40-man and give him a place on the Rays bench at the end of the year.
  • Anderson led the Bulls in plate appearances with 482 (116 games). His line of .309/.355/.450 led the Bulls and very nearly won him the International League batting title. He was also led the Bulls in RBI with 56. His wOBA of .355 was an improvement over 2011’s but below Rich Thompson’s .371. He was also one of very few with a positive wRAA (11.2). The loose end with Anderson is what position should he play? This year he had 24 games at 1B, 49 in the outfield, and 43 as DH.
  • What we don’t know much about is his contract with the Rays. Does he have another year or not? We don’t know if he will be looking a minor league free agency this year. He was passed through waivers last year, probably because no other team wanted to pick up his contract (after his defection). This year he showed his worth as a ballplayer. Given the folks that the Rays invited last year (see below), seems to me that Mr. Anderson deserves a shot next spring.
  • Stats. Story.
Reid Brignac* (26) was not a name I expected to be third on this list, but here he is at 99 games and 400 plate appearances.
  • His line .228/.321/.347 with 46 RBI is not too impressive. His wOBA of .308 and negative wRAA (-5.6) are simply not very good numbers. And yet, from a fan’s perspective, he was a valuable Durham Bull this year. Unlike their parent club, the Bulls defense held up pretty well and that was, in my opinion, helped both by Brignac’s play and by his apparent mentorship of young Tim Beckham.
  • At this writing, Mr. Brignac is back up with the Rays where he has made an appearance late in 5 games and has had 3 AB (0-3). Seems to me that the Rays have completely lost confidence in their starting shortstop of 2010 and 2011. You have to think that he’ll be looking for a new home this winter. And that might be good for both parties. But I like watching him play baseball. I’ll miss him if he goes.
  • Stats.

Stephen Vogt* (27) had a slow start, including some time with the Rays, but seemed to be on track by the end of the year.
  • He played in 94 games with 396 plate appearances. He had a decent slash line of .272/.350/.424 with 43 RBIs. His wOBA of .350 is above average and his wRAA was a valuable 7.4
  • The puzzle he had to face each day was sorting out which glove he was going to use. He played catcher in 37 games, 1B in 16 games, and was in the outfield for 53 games. How much of this was necessity on Montoyo’s part (the Rays never bothered to look for outfielders to play in Durham this year) and how much was dictated by the Rays, we’ll never know. Certainly the hints are that the Rays regard Vogt as a second string player. He was called up to the Rays for September and has made brief appearances in four games (4 PA, 2 BB). He has not yet had a hit as a major leaguer. Vogt was one of the players caught up in the turmoil of the Rays’ early season injuries. I’d love to see him back. More than that I’d like to see him have some success with the Rays this month.
  • Stats.
Henry Wrigley (25) had a solid season, playing 32 games with the Montgomery Biscuits before coming up and playing 94 games with the Bulls (380 PA). He’s also the first right-handed batter on this list.
  • His numbers are pretty good: .285/.324/.472 with 52 RBI. And his wOBA of .350 and wRAA of +7.4 is a match with Vogt’s. Although he put in a few games in the outfield (6), he played mostly 1B (53 games) and as DH (31 games). The Bulls had some confusion around the first base position this year (9 different players there), so it’s hard to tell. From a distance (I sit over near third base), I’d say that he’s a solid, but not great, first baseman. If he could just get a chance to settle in there on a regular basis, he might turn out to be a real asset to the Rays system.
  • My guess is that Mr. Wrigley has a good shot at coming out of spring training with a place on the Rays’ 40-man. If he spends the winter working on his 1B footwork, he might go places.
  • Stats.
Cole Figueroa* (25) had 25 games with the Biscuits and 88 with the Bulls (347 PA). He just might be the most interesting of this year’s Bulls as far as the future is concerned.
  • Numbers: .286/.344/.386 with 42 RBI. His wOBA was .330 and wRAA barely in the positive range (+1.3). So nothing special there. Nor is his speed all that great (Spd, 4.2). I just liked watching him play. He split time between 3B and 2B this year and my bet is that he’ll be back next year. One of the positive signs for the 2013 Bulls.
  • Stats.
Matt Mangini* (26) played in 82 games with 329 PAs. From the stands he struck me as a very solid young ballplayer.
  • Mangini’s numbers, .273/.337/.373, 32 RBI, were OK. His wOBA of .326 was average and his wRAA was neutral (0.0). He was part of a very large crew of ballplayers from outside the Rays system who signed contracts with invitations to spring training this year, but, it seemed to me, got pushed out as Rays players finally started getting healthy.
  • Mr. Mangini was released by the Bulls in August and went to play for Mobile (the Diamondbacks franchise in the AA Southern League). He helped that team win a championship.
  • Stats.
Tim Beckham (22) started off the year by blowing a hole in the Bulls’ lineup when he drew a 50-game suspension. He came back to play in 72 games (323 plate appearances) and learn something about a new position, second base.
  • Beckham’s numbers are not particularly impressive overall, .256/.325/.361 with 28 RBI. The advanced metrics aren’t much better, wOBA of .317 and a wRAA of -2.2. Beckham came up through the system as a shortstop and that’s all he’d played until this year. His fielding percentage was better at 2B than SS, so maybe that’s his future.
  • The Rays are going to undoubtedly give this young man every possible chance to succeed. But I have to say that, other than being a right-handed bat in a lineup full of lefties, he did not add much to the Bulls this year. Maybe next year? We can hope.
  • Stats.
Chris Gimenez (29) got ensnared in the Rays injury turmoil early this year and, although I’m sure he didn’t mind, spent a good bit of time (34 games so far) at the beginning and end of the season with the parent team. As a Bull he got in to 71 games (301 plate appearances). He was one of my favorite players this year for a lot of reasons. Too bad he didn’t spend more time with the Bulls.
  • His line of .310/.389/.483 was one of the best on the team. His 49 RBI computes out to a stunning 100 or so if he'd been with the Bulls an entire season. His OPS of .871 was far ahead of any of the regulars on the team. His other metrics were similarly impressive. He had a wOBA of .382 and a team best wRAA of 13.3.
  • Although mostly he played at catcher, he did get to run around the outfield some (20 games). Unlike most of the September call-ups, he’s getting some playing time this September. So far he’s been in 10 games and has hit .353 with 2 RBI. Would I like to see him back with the Bulls? You bet. But I’ve got to think he’s got a shot at bigger things now. I hope so.
  • Stats.
Jeff Salazar* (31) played in 68 games (234 plate appearances) but was released in mid-July.
  • Salazar had some moments, but he was never able to put together a solid stretch in his time with the Bulls. On his departure he was at .216/.287/.327 with 22 RBI. His wOBA was only .284 and his wRAA was -7.7
  • To some extent he was yet another victim of the previously mentioned Rays signing of a bunch of players just before spring training. When they didn’t make the Rays they ended up in Durham and, especially in the first several weeks, they never jelled. Salazar was not alone. I’ve not heard if he caught on anywhere else. If a reader has, add a comment and I’ll correct it here.
  • Stats
Sean O’Malley# (24) played in 67 games (247 plate appearances) and finished out the season with the Montgomery Biscuits (35 more games). I like this guy.
  • OK, his numbers aren’t very good. He was at .245/.304/.310 with only 18 RBIs. And his wOBA was just .294 and, even worse, his wRAA was -6.1. But, what can I say? He was really fun to watch. He did steal 11 bases and only got caught once. That was second to Rich Thompson’s 22 in a similar period. He was essentially pushed back to Montgomery in the post-All Star roster turmoil.
  • O’Malley is a fan’s kind of ballplayer. Works hard. Runs like the wind. Seems to be having fun. Now if he can just start hitting a bit better.
  • Stats
Rich Thompson* (33) rounds out the top 12. He played in 63 games (282 PA) and made quite a splash with the Bulls.
  • I was surprised going through my notes that the trade of Kyle Hudson for Rich Thompson happened back in mid-May. The Rays needed an outfielder and Thompson was apparently made available by the Phillies. Thompson was a fan favorite with the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs and is becoming one with the Bulls. He went directly to the Rays and didn’t show up in Durham until early June. He brought some badly needed speed to the team. In his 63 games he stole 22 bases and only got caught 5 times. He was part of the September call-up crew. So far he’s done a bit of pinch-running/base stealing and is 1 for 4 at bat.
  • Thompson’s numbers are among the best on the Bulls: .311/.369/.436. His wOBA was a fine .371 and his wRAA was +9.9. He had the highest Spd number (8.4) on the team. The only other player even close was Shawn O’Malley at 7.3. 
  • Stats
Note: Primary statistics sources are Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.


  1. According to Cot's Baseball Contracts, Leslie Anderson has one more year left on his $1.725 million deal.

  2. Thanks, Adam! Ashamed to say that I'd never heard of Cot's before.
    For some reason, I was remembering his original contract as running out this years.

    Then Anderson has, I'd think, a good shot to get back on the 40-man at spring training and maybe even a tryout at 1B. Worst case (for him), he's back with the Bulls and that could be a great situation for us because he'd be playing for a 2014 contract with someone else.