Friday, October 6, 2017

The Durham Bulls in 2017 — Part 3 — The Hitters

In 2017, 25 ballplayers came to bat in a Durham Bulls uniform. That's a considerable contrast to the 42 pitchers discussed in Part 2. Overall, as we saw in Part 1, Bulls hitters were exactly at the IL average OPS of  .719. This was a particularly young team, averaging a little less than 25 years of age

Five of those 25 played less than 10 games, major leaguers Wilson Ramos, Trevor Plouffe, Richie Weeks, and Brad Miller, plus Grant Kay who appeared in four games in late July before going back to Montgomery. Ryan Brett appeared in 12 games, but was essentially on the DL for the entire year.

This table sorts players by wOBA (weighted on base average) and includes another stat (wRAA) that compares performance to league averages. We like wOBA, but as  you can see, it pretty much matches the better known OPS over the season.

Daniel Robertson
Shane Peterson
Dayron Varona
Jake Bauers
Mike Marjama
Willy Adames
Granden Goetzman
Patrick Leonard
Johnny Field
Mallex Smith
Curt Casali
Kean Wong
Michael McKenry
Casey Gillaspie
Cade Gotta
Jake Hager
Taylor Featherston
Justin O'Conner
Alec Sole

The Hitters

Players are discussed in order of plate appearances. "Slash Line" is Batting Average/On Base Percentage/Slugging Percentage. The Bulls played a 142 game season that ended September 4, 2017. Post-season hitting is not included in these data.

Willy Adames (21 years old, 130 games, 578 plate appearances, .277/.360/.415) had a fine year. Only two players (Jake Bauers and Patrick Leonard) played in more games. His 210 total bases led the Bulls. His wOBA was 5th best. His baserunning could have been a bit better, 11 steals, 5 caught stealing. I like his OBP of .360. His team-worst 132 strikeouts is worrisome. But he also had the teams best batting average. Almost all of his games were at shortstop, and he made 24 errors there. All in all, he lived up to his reputation as a leading Rays prospect. Stats.

Jake Bauers (21 years old, 132 games, 575 plate appearances, .263/.368/.412) seemed to improve as the year went on, ending up with a terrific wOBA of .352, team best (among regulars) OBP, and 200 total bases. He seemed to blossom after Casey Gillaspie was traded away near the end of the season and he became the every day first baseman. He was a star in the postseason. At just 21 years of age, and not yet on the Rays 40-man he could easily start next year with the Bulls and we'd love to see him back, if only for a month or two. Stats.

Patrick Leonard (24 years old, 131 games, 553 plate appearances, .268/.327/.408) started off the year on fire, but cooled off a bit for the last couple of months. Nevertheless, he had a terrific year. He began as the Bulls primary third baseman, but spent 39 games in the outfield, mostly in right field. He was number 3 in stolen bases (15) and was only caught twice. His impressive 205 total bases was second best on the team. Stats

Johnny Field (25, 111 games, 480 plate appearances, .261/.303/.425) was a huge part of this year's championship team. Especially, it seemed, when he batted leadoff. He led the team in doubles and had 57 RBI, an unusually high number for a leadoff hitter. He had to share some center field duties with Mallex Smith when Smith was in town, but, to be honest, I preferred Field's approach to outfielding and base running. Stats.

Kean Wong (22, 105 games, 417 plate appearances, .265/.328/.361) was the hero of the national championship game with his grand slam that won the game, but, much more than that, he was a solid member of the "diamond" (catcher, shortstop, second base, center field) virtually all of the  year. Wong started with the Bulls, went down to Montgomery for a couple of weeks in May, and came back to stay. He was a very sure-handed second baseman, making only 9 errors at 2B and was part of 58 double plays. Also, he record was in the face of Tampa Bay's radical shifting that can make for some odd accommodations. Lastly, he was always a threat to try bunting for a single. Fun to watch. Hope he comes back. Stats.

Casey Gillaspie (24, 95 games, 395 plate appearances, .227/.296/.357) was a star in 2016, but never got on track on 2017. He was traded to the White Sox after 95 games with the Bulls and got in 30 games with the Charlotte Knights before the end of the year. Mostly this year we just kept hoping that whatever ailed him would go away, but it never did. Maybe a new context is what he needed. Stats.

Curt Casali (28, 85 games, 343 plate appearances, .263/.351/.347) had the most game appearances of the five catchers that were on the Bulls roster this year. He caught in 53 games and DH'd the rest. A fan in the stands really can't tell how much a catcher is contributing to the cause beyond the numbers. That is, how good a game is he calling? How well is he managing young pitchers? Certainly, he got a lot of playing time among a large crew of catchers. He was called up in early September, so missed the Bulls playoffs. He had limited time on the field with the Rays, although he did hit a home run on the last game of the Rays season. Stats.

Shane Peterson (29, 76 games, 300 plate appearances, .286/.313/.504) started the season with the Bulls, but went up to the Rays after a few games and spent the rest of April there. He came back for much of May and June, spent July with the Rays, and August with the Bulls. As a Bull, he was an exceptionally valuable left-hand bat. He carried best OPS among those who might be considered a "regular" this year and complemented the key "diamond" players mentioned above very, very well. To my surprise, he did not get called back to the Rays in September. In the playoffs, he was in the lineup of every game as the designated hitter or in the outfield and did a fine job. Would be happy to have him back in a Bulls uniform. Stats.

Mike Marjama (27, 72 games, 292 plate appearances, .274/.342/.445) was this year's poster child for the Rays system's inability to manage/develop catchers effectively. He was doing better than just fine when he was traded to Seattle in early August. We wish him well and we're pleased to see he got his "cup of coffee" with the Mariners in September. I expect to see him join all the other ex-Rays catchers who have made it to ML playoffs with another team. Stats.

Jake Hager (24, 73 games, 291 PA, .229/.275/.328) never quite hit his stride this year. He ended up with almost exactly the same amount of playing time as in 2016, when he made his AAA debut. And he was competing among a very talented group of infielders. He spent some time on the disabled list this year, which didn't help. He's a good ballplayer. Maybe next year. Stats.

Michael McKenry (32, 73 games, 272 PA, .209/.338/.324) was this year's "veteran" presence. At a guess, he was brought in to be a back-up catcher, but ended up being used in the outfield (25 games) and DHing (23 games) as much as catching (24 games). Not to mention time at 2B (1), 3B (1), and 3 relief appearances. He had two starts in the post-season, both at catcher. Stats.

Mallex Smith (24, 45 games, 205 PA, .263/.325/.392) started the season with the Rays, came to the Bulls for May and early June, went up to the Rays for June and July, and spent late August with the Bulls. From the stands it sure seemed like his contribution to the Bulls was mixed. Yes, he was a good ballplayer, but his speed seemed to confuse the Bulls as much as it did the opposition. He stole 21 bases, but was caught 8 times. His speed earned him 4 triples. When in town, he usually played center field moving Johnny Field to left or sometimes right. The Rays don't seem to have a clear vision of what they want from him. We'll have to see. Stats.

Taylor Featherston (27, 31 games, 129 PA, .200/.248/.342) went from the Phillies system to the Rays in early June, then came to the Bulls in mid-July, playing a little bit of everything, 2B-4, SS-3, 3B-7, LF-6, RF-9. At bat, he was not able to make much of a contribution. He played in the first four playoff games as an outfielder, but did not appear in the rest. He elected free agency in October. Stats.

Cade Gotta (25, 27 games, 94 PA, .267/.287/.356) had two visits to the Bulls up from the Montgomery Biscuits, in April and in June/July. From the stands, he was an impressive ballplayer with good speed and power. I'd expect him to be with Durham next year. Stats.

Dayron Varona (29, 19 games, 77 PA, .268/.325/.479) is the kind of ballplayer that I like. Unfortunately for him, the Rays apparently wanted to make room for their younger outfielders not too long after the season started. Varona's superb slash line was not enough to keep him with the Bulls. He caught on with the York Revolution in the Independent Atlantic League (along with former Bulls Joel Guzman and Alexi Casilla) as an outfielder, where he had a decent year. Stats.

Alec Sole (24, 22 games, 76 PA, .183/.237/.197) started the season with the Montgomery Biscuits, went to the Charlotte Stone Crabs for a few games, spent June and early July with the Bulls before going back to the  Stone Crabs where he was released in early August. An above-average infielder, he was not able to succeed at bat as a Bull. Stats.

Granden Goetzman (24, 17 games, 73 PA, .314/.342/.429) came up from the Montgomery Biscuits very early in the season and went back after 17 games with some fine numbers. Unfortunately, he went on the disabled list there mid-June and never quite came back. He ended the season with the Charlotte Stone Crabs. Stats.

Justin O'Conner (25, 20 games, 71 PA, .194/.225/.299) came to the Bulls from the Biscuits in early August. Competing with three other catchers on the Bulls roster, he probably did not get as much playing time as he would have liked. He's is a very promising catcher with a cannon for an arm. He was the regular catcher for the post-season, playing in 7 of the 9 post-season games. Stats.

Daniel Robertson (23, 11 games, 47 PA, .372/.426/.488) spent most of 2017 with the Rays. He didn't come to the Bulls until the end of the season and went back to the Rays after the post-season. But he was incredibly helpful in those 11 regular season games and in the 9 post-season games. He started every post-season game at 3B and was the hero of the Governors' Cup championship game with 4 RBIs. Stats.


  1. @thefortmckenry did in fact play in the postseason including 2 RBIs in game 1 vs. Scranton

  2. Right you are. He played in two postseason games. Corrected. Thanks.

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