I have a Community Research Participation Project for you. New York Mets prospects Cesar Puello and Aderlin Rodriguez got me thinking about the topic of plate discipline again. I did a study for myself about this several years ago, but I don't have time right now to revise the data. It occurred to me that this could be a prototype for a new feature I am considering for 2012, the "Community Research Project."
Cesar Puello had a 18/103 BB/K ratio last year for High-A St. Lucie. He drew walks in 3.7% of his plate appearances and struck out 21.1% of the time. Aderlin Rodriguez had a 29/106 BB/K ratio for Low-A Savannah. He drew walks in 5.2% of his plate appearances and struck out 19% of the time. These are very poor numbers.
Both players are, in theory, young enough to improve that substantially. But how often does a guy with poor plate discipline at the lower levels really improve? How often does that really happen?
What I'd like to do is find out how many currently successful major league players had such horrible plate discipline in the low minors, but were able to overcome it and become productive major leaguers. There are a ton of variables here. . .age relative to league at the time, position of the player, whether they hit left or right, amateur origin, etc. There are all kinds of ways to approach this. One suggestion would be to take everyone over a certain 2011 season WAR (say 3.0 and above) and see what their walk and strikeout rates looked like in A-ball.
This is not a ground-breaking idea and other people have studied this in great detail. Normally I would just do the research myself and write up a nice article, but I'm behind the 8-ball right now with the top 20 lists and the book and don't have time to do this right for at least a couple of weeks. However, I think the topic is very interesting and want to discuss it now, so I'm throwing this in your court.
The question for discussion: what major league players had plate discipline in A-ball that approached how badly Cesar Puello (3.7% walks, 21% Ks) was last year?
Matt Kemp, for example, showed pretty bad plate discipline early in his career, with a 28/112 BB/K ratio in A-ball in 2004, for example (5.6% walks, 22.4% Ks). Of course he also hit .293/.337/.504 that year, and his walk rate was a lot higher than Puello's. How many guys actually do what Kemp has done?