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Marlins hitting prospects who deserved different results

Revisiting last season’s minor league production using Baseball Prospectus’ deserved runs created plus stat.

Charles Leblanc #83 of the Miami Marlins on the field before the game against the Oakland Athletics at RingCentral Coliseum on August 22, 2022 in Oakland, California. The Marlines defeated the Athletics 3-0. Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images

Regular Fish Stripes readers will notice that I often cite weighted runs created plus (wRC+), a FanGraphs statistic, to condense a player’s batting production into a single number. A 100 wRC+ represents the average for that player’s league while anything above that is better than average and anything below that is worse than average. I believe the process behind calculating it is sound and still plan to use it frequently moving forward.

However, for more than four years now, Baseball Prospectus has offered a similarly insightful stat for public consumption: deserved runs created plus (DRC+). It aims to be even more predictive than wRC+ by accounting for plate discipline—strikeout and walk rates—and pumping the brakes on outlier performances. Here is an introduction to DRC+.

My inspiration for the 2021-going-into-2022 edition of this article was José Salas. For the 2022-going-into-2023 edition, it’s Charles Leblanc, who the Miami Marlins just designated for assignment. There was a huge discrepancy between the wRC+ and DRC+ that Leblanc posted last season. That’s true of other hitters in the Marlins organization as well.

Listed below, you will find every full-season farmhand—played with Low-A Jupiter, High-A Beloit, Double-A Pensacola or Triple-A Jacksonville—whose gap between the two stats was larger than BP’s DRC+ standard deviation (their “measure of uncertainty” regarding a player’s deserved results). I set the minimum at 100 plate appearances per MiLB level to qualify.

Deserved better in 2022

Courtesy of Pensacola Blue Wahoos

The wRC+/DRC+ discrepancies for Mesa, Sanoja and Allen in particular are accentuated by their good contact skills. However, a player’s luck is not always destined to turn around without decent quality of contact, or at least the necessary speed to make the most out of balls in play. Allen, whose legs don’t move at the same pace as the other two, was also on this list a year ago. The 2023 season will be make-or-break for him as a viable prospect.

Banfield’s mid-July promotion to Double-A was an eyebrow-raiser based on his surface stats. It turns out that he was deserving of a lot more hits in Beloit than he got (.205 actual batting average compared to .239 deserved batting average). Once he joined the Blue Wahoos, his production began to reflect what was happening under the hood.

DRC+ advises us to feel giddy about the potential of Yiddi—hit 15% better than league average in full-season ball as a 19-year-old while primarily playing shortstop—and not to overreact to Johnston’s lousy cup of coffee at Triple-A.

Better than they deserved to be in 2022

Charles Leblanc #83 of the Miami Marlins at bat against the Chicago Cubs at loanDepot park on September 20, 2022 in Miami, Florida. Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

The majority of prospects in this article are here with the help of small sample sizes. Injuries or other factors limited their playing opportunities in 2022, so water didn’t have enough time to find its level. But that excuse is invalid for Leblanc (360 PA for Jacksonville). Fans and Fish Stripes staffers alike were clamoring for his call-up to Miami throughout the summer, citing his awesome .302/.381/.503 slash line. Leblanc’s deserved slash line? Only .253/.330/.420. DRC+ was dubious of his plate approach, projecting a lower walk rate and higher strikeout rate moving forward unless adjustments were made.

Although Leblanc seemingly proved that he belonged in The Show during his Marlins stint (107 wRC+), it’s not that simple (81 DRC+). In lockstep with Statcast metrics, BP’s special stat disagreed about his rookie success being sustainable—he relied on batted balls to the pull side that weren’t hit particularly hard. Perhaps another MLB team will eventually see Leblanc through a different lens, but he passed through waivers unclaimed on January 11.