One of the unique aspects of minor league baseball is that individual performances are actually considered more important, both by fans and organizations alike, than the performance by a specific team.
Everybody loves a winner, but let’s face it, nobody’s going to be too upset if, say, the Omaha Royals fail to make the playoffs in a given year. On the other hand, if a past season’s #1 draft pick can‘t throw a strike to save his life, you might see the pitchforks come out.
Case in Point: Raise your hand if you were more concerned that Spokane went 22-54 in 2001, or that this happened:
(Screen cap from thebaseballcube.com)
Especially for the Burlington Royals, it’s fortunate that minor league records don’t really count for much. Just like the team profiled last week, the B-Royals struggled mightily last season, ending up with a 24-51 record, which was "good" for last place.
Things were so bad that they cancelled the final game of the year. (Okay, they cancelled it on account of inclement weather, but the fact that they didn’t bother to re-schedule it is probably testament to how pointless the whole venture was at that point.)
But lets not dwell on the negatives, shall we? Instead, let’s look at what matters -- the individual performances. And in that category, the Royals shined. Well, the pitching did, anyway.
Top 5 Pitching Performances
#5 Barry Bowden
Hopefully, these aren't too hard to read. What should probably pop out is the 40 SO in 29 IP, which equates to a 12.4 K/9. Impressively, the Burlington Royals actually featured seven pitchers who posted K/9 above 10.
#4 Jacob Rodriguez
Like Bowden, Rodriguez posted a stellar season out of the pen. In addition to having a higher K/9, I gave him a slight edge over Bowden thanks to a better K:BB ratio, and the fact that Rodriguez avoided giving up any homeruns in his 33 innings pitched.
It's not every day that you see these sort of numbers out of a 22nd round pick, but perhaps Rodriguez's dominant performance can be attributed to a less than holy pact with el Diablo. (Rodriguez was the 666th pick overall in the 2007 draft.)
#3 Sam Runion
You might remember Sam Runion as the heralded, yet semi-disappointing, 2nd round pick from 2007. Drafted as a high schooler out of Asheville, N.C., Runion's first season in the minor leagues was a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, he averaged a strikeout per inning, on the other he gave up a fair amount of walks and hits.
Runion rebounded valiantly in 2008 with Burlington, improving in almost all facets of the game. His K rate was down a bit, but not to a level that one would call worrisome.
#2 John Flanagan
Top of the mornin'! John Flanagan's season comes in at #2 for the Royals, edging out Runion by virtue of his better homerun and strikeout rates. Unlike the others on this list, Flanagan was a true "rookie" to the minors, being drafted in 2008 out of Fordham and immediately being placed into service in Burlington.
Flanagan 2008 season should also serve as a feather in the cap for the Royals scouting department, as Flanagan's numbers at Fordham were rather uninspiring, if not downright horrendous: 8.34 ERA, 26 Ks against 26 BBs. Would I have drafted him? No, but that's mainly because that would require me from leaving my mother's basement.
#1 Kelvin Herrera
Hey, remember when Dayton Moore said he was going to increase his scouting budget in the latin market? Looks like it's already paying dividends, as evidenced by Kelvin Herrera, one of our Dominican Republic imports.
While the ranking of the first four pitchers on this list could easily be argued, calling Herrera's season the most successful qualifies as a no-brainer. Kelvin led all starters with a 1.42 ERA, a 1.05 WHIP, and a K:BB ratio of 9:1. And he did all this without yielding a single homerun. Would I have drafted him? No, but that's mainly because I'm retarded.
Top 5 Hitting Performances
#5 Josh Vittek
Catching prospect Josh Vittek was perhaps the lone bright spot for the Burlington Royals' offense, as his .855 OPS led a team that hit collectively like Tony Pena, Jr. In fact, he led teammates in pretty much every offensive category, with the exception of triples and OBP, both of which were led by shortstop Yeldrys Molina.
These numbers were especially good considering Vittek was an undrafted free agent out of Mt. St. Mary's college.
#4 Yeldrys Molina
Molina's numbers were even more impressive than Vittek's considering he was 1. younger, and 2. playing a more important defensive position. He didn't showcase the power of Josh Vittek, but he did manage a much more impressive OBP than Vittek, against fewer strikeouts.
#3 - #1 ????
Pop Quiz: Which is the Burlington Royals Team Offensive Stats, and which is Willie Bloomquist's career line?
While there's technically a right answer here, does it really make a difference?
I'm not going to punish anybody by posting the rest of the prospects here, because none really warrant mention. Hilton Richardson's 10 stolen bases were pretty nice, in a kissing your sister kind of way (as he was caught 7 times). Kevin Cadwell's 4 homeruns were enough for second on the team, but he coupled that with a .595 OPS. It's like this all across the board.
Hey, did I mention the pitching was really good?
[Note by royalsreview, 03/02/09 1:47 PM EST ] It appears the Flanagan stats are incorrect, due to a confusion of Flanagans.