08 November 2013

Performance Scouting the Independant Leagues: Canadian-American League

Previously, I ran some numbers on who performance scouting indicated were exceptional players in the American Association and Atlantic Leagues.  In the time between those posts and this one, the Orioles have struck a deal and acquired SS/3B Cam Kneeland out of the Canadian-American League.  As a 23 year old, he was one of the younger players in the league.  Although not quite as mature as the Atlantic Leagues (mean age is 29), it is in line with the American Association (mean age is 27).  My metrics only hit on Kneeland for batting average, but perhaps I am too hard on players much younger than the average age or maybe I am looking at the wrong statistics or maybe he simply is around for organizational depth.  I assume with him being a SS/3B in CanAm that he might wind up being a better fit as a 2B, 3B, or LF.  Typically, if you can play SS in the minor leagues then you will not find yourself in the Indy leagues.  It simply is very difficult to find good defensive SS.

Below are Kneeland's statistics:
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/2/2013.

Anyway, here is a refresher on what I am looking at for these posts.  I will be focusing on three skills measured with four metrics.  To qualify as being exceptional for a specific skill, the player needs to rank in the top 20% of players in the league for that metric.  The skills:

Plate discipline - I measure plate discipline by the walk rate (BB%) and the ratio of walks to strikeouts (BB:K).  The intention behind this is to target players who have a good understanding of hittable pitches and their ability to work for a walk.

Contact rate - I use batting average for this.  From an anecdotal perspective, players with good plate discipline AND poor contact rates have trouble progressing through the minors.  As they face a greater number of pitchers with more command of their pitches, the opportunities for walks will decrease.  Pitchers are more likely to pitch in the zone and for a player to make contact.  Players who do not have good contact rates tend to get eaten up as they move on to higher levels of competition.

Power - Good contact rate and plate discipline are a great foundation for a hitting skill set.  However, slapping the ball in professional leagues with players who field better is not as useful.  There are just not many Ichiro Suzukis out there who have the speed to take advantage of a rapidly improving defense.  In the pro game, there needs to be some power to go along with these skills.  Otherwise, pitchers will go at hitters and give them pitches to hit, knowing that there is unlikely to be much damage.
Additionally, these leagues have a level of competition that is more or less on par with low A and below talent with an occasional old salt who would be average in AA.  As such, I am looking for players who are 25 and younger (emphasis on younger) where there may be some hope for a few years of development.  This kind of player should be not available in these leagues.  The MLB scouting apparatus should have found them and locked them into their minor league systems.

Here are the metric values for the Canadian American League as well as the two previously covered.  The first four columns mark the top 20% while age is the league mean:

American Association 11.6 0.97 .315 .194 27
Atlantic 9.8 0.77 .296 .166 29
Canadian-American 12.5 0.90 .303 .176 27
Players Who Excelled in all Four Categories


Players Who Excelled in Three Categories

Jonathan Malo, INF
29 years old
Drafted in the 48th Round (Miami-Dade College) by the New York Mets

2005212 TeamsA--A+NYM184542833535.222.379.354
2006222 TeamsA+-A-NYM4131617374669.228.328.339
200723St. LucieA+NYM2621006242337.255.322.377
2009252 TeamsAA-AAANYM4169411033664.224.299.279
2010262 TeamsAA-AAANYM3081533653362.217.311.330
2011272 TeamsAA-AAANYM264633111852.226.290.315
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/2/2013.

In the Mets' organization, Malo showed an aptitude to adequately play several infield positions.  He also showed an inability to make contact, make good contact, or able to earn walks in the higher minors.  It was unsurprising that he has not played with any organization in the past two years.  That said, the past two years have been immensely successful for Malo in the CanAm.  He is showing a good walk rate, a good average, and an exceptional walk to strikeout rate.  The only thing not impressive has been his power.  I think at his age that he will likely be continued to be overlooked even though he probably would be fine as organizational depth for a team in HiA or AA ball.

Other Notables

One player who would have shown up in our list is someone who was snatched up by a Major League club before he could accrue enough innings in this exercise: Chris Edmondson.

Chris Edmondson, COF
25 years old
Drafted in the 43rd round (LeMoyne College) by the St. Louis Cardinals
2010222 TeamsA--RkSTL2501748101434.294.352.509
201123Quad CitiesASTL38022610533973.260.347.456
201224Palm BeachA+STL50818291143482.256.317.362
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/2/2013.

Last March, the Cardinals decided to cut ties with Edmondson.  I am unsure why the Cardinals released him from the organization, but I imagine it began with him not exactly playing good defense and struggling at HiA ball.  Beyond that, I don't know.  The Braves started him out in the low minors and he did not accrue many innings.  It would not be surprising to me if he will be a free agent before next season.


Expectations should be tempered when assuming what Kneeland may offer the Orioles.  Edmondson was completely dominating the CanAm league, but that was not reflected in the handful of plate appearances he had as a member of the Braves' Rome club.

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