Since we've been talking about Joe Wendle a bit here at LGT, I decided to look at Class A+ players from 1991-2010 who had similar stats at the same age. We know that Class A is always chock full of players 22 years old or older who hit well at that level but end up flaming out later at higher levels, so the PTM system excludes those players, including Wendle, from consideration. Wendle's performance has been exceptional even for a 23-year-old, though. PTM calls for Class A+ players to be solid at 20 and successful at 21 (or younger), but it doesn't seem to include a category called "completely awesome", so I looked up all 23 year-olds with an OPS of .950 or higher in the Carolina League and the Florida State League. I excluded the California League because that league is notoriously hitter-friendly and at first glance it was going to have more hitters than I wanted to take the time to count. I'm not arguing that the PTM should be changed to accomodate Wendle; I was just curious to see what I would find. Incidentally, I think it validates PTM in the end.
Wendle is hitting .330/.404/.608 (1.013 OPS) with 11 home runs, 20 doubles, 34 strikeouts and 22 walks.
I found 23 players from 1991-2010 who fit the criteria. 15 made it to the major leagues.
Here are those 15. You'll see some names familiar to Indians fans, starting with the very first one:
Travis Hafner .346/.447/.580 (1.027 OPS) 86 SO 57 BB - Major leagues: 4748 PA 135 OPS+
Brad Hawpe .347/.447/.587 (1.033 OPS) 84 SO 81 BB - Major leagues: 3396 PA 113 OPS+
Kevin Kouzmanoff .339/.401/.591 (.991 OPS) 51 SO 24 BB - Major leagues: 2679 PA 95 OPS+
Ryan Church .326/.433/.569 (1.002 OPS) 51 SO 31 BB - Major leagues: 2128 PA 103 OPS+
Ryan Garko .328/.425/.609 (1.034 OPS) 34 SO 26 BB - Major leagues: 1752 PA 106 OPS+
Mark Quinn .324/.418/.565 (.982 OPS) 66 SO 57 BB - Major leagues: 1166 PA 101 OPS+
Chris Shelton .359/.478/.641 (1.119 OPS) 67 SO 68 BB - Major leagues: 1044 PA 110 OPS+
Jake Fox .313/.383/.574 (.957 OPS) 49 SO 27 BB - Major leagues: 534 PA 87 OPS+
Brad Eldred - .310/.397/.570 (.967 OPS) 97 SO 35 BB - Major leagues: 299 PA 74 OPS+
Matt Luke - .306/.385/.590 (.975 OPS) 27 SO 28 BB - Major leagues: 291 PA 98 OPS+
Jason Dubois .321/.422/.562 (.985 OPS) 95 SO 57 BB - Major leagues: 227 PA 87 OPS+
Julio Zuleta .344/.418/.549 (.967 OPS) 59 SO 35 BB - Major leagues: 191 PA 99 OPS+
Trace Colliquette .319/.419/.564 (.983 OPS) 27 SO 27 BB - Major leagues: 122 PA 60 OPS+
Kelly Dransfeldt .322/.390/.612 (1.002 OPS) 67 SO 29 BB - Major leagues 117 PA 25 OPS+
Kevin Thompson .331/.433/.522 (.986 OPS) 27 SO 32 BB - Major leagues: 75 PA 74 OPS+
The eight that didn't make it to the majors:
Mike Grace .339/.411/.567 (.977 OPS) 23 SO 23 BB
Bubba Smith .301/.374/.585 (.959 OPS) 109 SO 35 BB
Mike Warner .321/.416/.564 (.980 OPS) 50 SO 51 BB
Scott Morgan .315/.396/.606 (1.002 OPS) 87 SO 47 BB
Jim Negrych .370/.448/.508 (.956 OPS) 55 SO 55 BB
Fletcher Bates .300/.387/.593 (.980 OPS) 66 SO 33 BB
Mike Zywica .389/.459/.619 (1.079 OPS) 40 SO 34 BB
Brandon Sing .270/.399/.571 (.970 OPS) 101 SO 84 BB
So, what to make of this? Obviously it would be awesome if Wendle would hit like Hafner, and hitting like Hawpe would be a great outcome too. But it would be okay if he ended up like Kouzmanoff, Garko, Shelton, Quinn, or Church too; those were useful players for a time. The other eight major leaguers on the list didn't really amount to anything.
Most of the best players had an OPS over 1.000, so that's a good sign for Wendle, and maybe I should've eliminated players under 1.000. But Wendle's season isn't over, so we'll see how his final numbers look in Carolina. The biggest warning sign in prospects like this looks like the strikeout-to-walk ratio (not surprising). While a 1-1 ratio doesn't appear to mean much in a positive sense, a ratio 2-1 or worse looks like a killer for these types of prospects. Even if the batter walks a lot, striking out 1-in-5 times (like Sing) at this level is bad. But Wendle's strikeout-to-walk ratio and strikeout percentage appears fine. He could maybe walk a little more and create more separation between the batting average and on-base percentage, but that's not a huge concern.
Just for fun, I looked at 24-year-olds too. As expected, the success rate was smaller: 13 players met the criteria, only 5 made the major leagues. Four of them also had familiar names: Ben Zobrist, Josh Willingham, Casey Blake, and Chris Gimenez. Obviously if Wendle turns out like any of the first three, that would be fantastic.