In Part One of our study of hitters who played their entire age-22 season at Low-A or below, we looked at our database of 120 guys who Made It Big (OPS+ in the majors of 110 or higher). We found six who "made it": three were power hitters working on high strikeout rates, and only two of them were "pure" examples of hitters like Dario Pizzano (26intheMix) who demonstrate strong Plate Skills but need to discover their inner Kevin Youkilis. Youkilis being one of the two, and Josh Willingham the other.
At the end of the day, however, 114 of the 120 did not spend their entire age-22 season at Low-A or below. Except for those six, they were all someplace higher up the ladder by the end of that season.
Now let's go through from the other direction by examining our Mariners database. We go back to 1999 (since that captures pretty much everyone still around) and, in this instance, we stopped at 2008 since we are looking at guys who were age 22 (and a couple of guys who were 22 in 2009 are still in the system).
It appears that 29 hitters who played age-22 seasons in the Mariner system between 1999 and 2008 went on to make an MLB roster.
If you're not super-impressed by that, well it shows how thin the hitting prosepcts were during the Gillick and Bavasi eras.
If we use a very broad definition of "successful" major leaguer (one broad enough to encompass Greg Dobbs and Willie Bloomquist), we find that 12 of the 29 might be classified in that category. Maybe we should say "enduring" in some cases, but whatever.
Of those 12 only Raul Ibanez was in Low-A or below for his entire age-22 season. As mentioned in Part One, he was, at the time, trying to make it as a catcher. Once he gave up catching at age 24, he moved up from AA to AAA to a September call-up all in one season. So he's really an outlier.
Among the other 17, there were only five who sniffed the majors after spending the entire age-22 season at Low-A or below.
The other three got fairly decent shots, but didn't make the grade.
- Adam Moore (catcher again) got over 200 PAs but couldn't hit;
- Terrmel Sledge had one flukish season before a quick decline; and
- the briefly notable Justin Leone got 115 PAs to prove himself, and, despite power, couldn't get on base often enough to avoid slipping back into obscurity.
In other words, our sweep of the Mariners system comes up snake eyes.
So where do we end up? In the Mariners example, no hitter except the trying-to-make-it-at-catcher Raul Ibanez found any major-league success after spending the entire age-22 season at Low-A or below.
Among those who Made It Big, only six (again, one of whom is Ibanez) did, and three of those don't fit with the profile we're looking for.
Obviously, that does not mean that Pizzano and company are sunk, only that they are not on a typical path for a successful major-league hitter.
And that's worth noting.
[Final Note: I've found that the same rules don't apply to pitchers. Bobby LaFromboise (Talk40 #34) can be a completely different pitcher at age 26 and suddenly leap up the chart. But hitters, almost without exception, show their ability by age 23. It just seems to be the way it works.]