13 February 2017

The Bowie Boost for First Basemen


Joe Reisel's Archives

Christian Walker (2013-2015 Tides), first baseman on the All-Harbor Park team. Photo courtesy of Steven Goldburg / Norfolk Tides
After I wrote about the Norfolk Tides' catchers while they were an Orioles affiliate, I began to look at the Tides' first basemen of the same time period. I intended to do a similar survey of the first basemen, hoping to find general patterns among a long list of memorable and not-so-memorable names. (Anyone remember Robbie Widlansky?) But I re-discovered something much more interesting and potentially more important than a list of names and trivia. It involved four first basemen were unlike any of the catchers.

Brandon Snyder, Joe Mahoney, Christian Walker, and Trey Mancini arrived in Norfolk as highly-regarded, but not uber-regarded, prospects. (Among the catchers, Matt Wieters was an uber-prospect while none of the others were well thought of.) And all four of the first basemen were coming off outstanding performance at AA Bowie.

Brandon Snyder (facing camera) (2009-2011 Tide). Photo courtesy of Megan Morrow / Norfolk Tides.


The below table shows their Bowie performances.

 
Age
G
PA
Slash
OPS
Snyder
22
58
233
.343/.421/.597
1.018
Mahoney
23-24
137
564
.300/.356/.518
.874
Walker
22-23
112
480
.292/.360/.488
.849
Mancini
23-24
101
429
.350/.399/.604
1.003

While Mahoney and Mancini were, perhaps, older than you'd like for AA players, all four put up some pretty impressive numbers. You might like them to take a few more walks, but these numbers are nonetheless impressive on the surface.

But when they were promoted to AAA Norfolk, all four looked a lot more ordinary, as shown in the below table.

 
 
G
PA
Slash
OPS
Snyder
22-24
285
1167
.256/.317/.394
.711
Mahoney
25
132
536
.265/.319/.389
.708
Walker
23-25
313
1332
.260/.324/.429
.754
Mancini
24
125
536
.280/.349/.427
.775

Yes, I know that Norfolk is a level up from Bowie and that Norfolk is a terrible hitter's park. The fact remains that there have been four first basemen who performed very well at Bowie, achieved some prospect love, and then looked much less impressive at Norfolk. And Brandon Snyder and Joe Mahoney - whose careers are essentially defined - have been what we should have expected based on their Norfolk production, not their Bowie production.

Two years after starring at Bowie, Joe Mahoney was out of baseball. Photo courtesy of Allison Veinote / Norfolk Tides.
But this boost appears to be limited to first basemen. The statistics of other Orioles prospects such as Brandon Waring, Jonathan Schoop, L.J. Hoes, and Xavier Avery were not inflated (as much, at least) at Bowie. Obviously I don't believe that there is something special about first basemen that would cause their performance to be uniquely boosted by Bowie. I'm sure that a more detailed analysis would identify shared characteristics that Prince Georges Stadium favors.

As fans, we should learn this lesson - be skeptical of players in general, and first basemen specifically, who produce apparently dominant numbers at Bowie. Wait and see how they do at Norfolk before project them to be a future star. Brandon Snyder, Joe Mahoney, and (most probably) Christian Walker failed to live up to the promise of their Bowie performance.

But at least as compared to the others, Trey Mancini may still become a productive major-league player. Yes, his Norfolk performance dropped significantly from his probably-unsustainable high at Bowie. It's still better than the performance of the other three. While Mancini almost certainly won't be the star hinted at by his Bowie performance we can still be optimistic that he can become a useful major-league player.

3 comments:

Pip said...

Is it possible to make any reasonable estimates about how well and how quickly Mancini can develop average defensive skills in the OF?
A good OF needs speed and eye to get to a ball, and a good arm to throw it. I haven't a clue which of those traits Mancini has, but I am really hoping he's able to develops them enough to earn a place on the team. Carrying two DH-only players is probably silly.

Joe Reisel said...

I would guess that if anyone thought that Mancini could play the outfield, someone would have tried him there already. Christian Walker's experience doesn't give me cause for hope.

Jon Shepherd said...

Last spring, Orioles discussed whether it made more sense to try Walker or Mancini in the outfield. Walker looked like he had better skills for outfield play. Before they decided, Walker volunteered.

It was not good.

Mancini as an OF would be more of a desperation move to try to get some value out of him.