Feature photo of James Triantos by Rich Biesterfeld
A couple weeks ago, I introduced a project that I take a lot of pride in — a brand new offensive metric, called BASH, that I spent the entire offseason developing. I dropped this new metric on you guys fairly abruptly, frankly because I didn’t know a better way to go about doing it. I wanted to give you a peek behind the curtain enough so that you knew how BASH was created while also displaying the system leaderboard.
Although I’m sure you were less than shocked to find Pete Crow-Armstrong and Kevin Alcántara among 2022’s top performers, there were a few names and trends on the leaderboard that must have caught you off guard. I want to address a few of those quirks and intricacies here today.
The Age Impact
Let me first dig into the most talked about element of BASH in the days following the announcement. In accounting for age compared to the level at which they are performing in a player’s BASH, we are able to really hone in on rewarding players for climbing up the system quickly.
The most glaring example of this is one player at Single-A Myrtle Beach in 2022 and one who spent all of his time in Triple-A Iowa. Reggie Preciado (92 BASH) had a truly ugly standard stat line when he was healthy last year, posting a .199/.262/.295 slash line with a 37.3% strikeout rate and 5.4% walk rate in full-season ball. What BASH contextualizes is that while Preciado did indeed have a poor year, we can still hold out hope for future seasons. Preciado benefits from two major aspects of BASH — the fact that he was playing in a tough league and tough ballpark for hitters, but most importantly that he was over a full year younger than the average hitter in the Carolina League.
On the other end of the spectrum, John Hicks (79 BASH) was certainly not a prospect in Iowa. He has been around pro ball for quite some time now and is no longer in the Cubs system after his short one-year stay. A year ago, the bat-first catcher posted a certifiably decent .261/.313/.510 slash line in 387 plate appearances. But he did so at age 33 while his peers were, on average, 6.5 years younger. Hicks is the most prime example of a guy being hurt by this fact in my new metric, posting the 7th worst BASH in the system. This isn’t to say he didn’t perform well in 2022. What it does is represent the overarching idea that we shouldn’t necessarily use his performance as an indicator to future big league success.
I’ll add an extra comment here under this category as I received plenty of comments and questions regarding Jake Slaughter’s 2022 performance (109 BASH). While his OPS and stolen base numbers were terrific and the main reason he popped onto radars, his BASH is indicative of the reason why people are skeptical of adding him to top prospect lists. At nearly 26 years old, Slaughter was more than three years older than his peers at High-A. Between that and putting up less than stellar numbers in his short stint at that level, his 94 South Bend BASH weighs down his overall BASH even though he was considerably more impressive, albeit still older than league-average, in Double-A to the tune of a 112 BASH.
Justifying a James Triantos Breakout
So how about individual players? The first player you’ll notice is our main man James Triantos (118 BASH). Frequently pegged as a breakout candidate in 2023, his BASH from last year gives us some evidence as to why that breakout feels inevitable. His BASH was good for 6th best in the farm system (min. 100 PA) behind three Player of the Year candidates (PCA, Mervis, and Canario) and one big bopper with only 129 full-season PAs (Ballesteros).
So why does Triantos grade so much better by BASH than other metrics like OPS+ and wRC+? We know that OPS and OPS+ overvalue guys who slug, a skill that Triantos didn’t quite display yet. We also know that BASH gives the young third baseman a bump up thanks to his league (pitcher friendly), ballpark (even more pitcher friendly), and his age (more than a year younger than average). But where Triantos also thrives is in the other offensive product that BASH accounts for — stolen bases. He had 20 bags in ‘22 while only being caught thrice.
Combine each of those elements, and you’re looking at a guy in Triantos that was tremendously undervalued a year ago and one that’s primed for a big year this season.
Just How Consistent Were Mervis and Canario?
This is actually something you all couldn’t have seen in the introductory post. I held back from posting players’ level-by-level BASH because I didn’t want to overwhelm you with too many numbers. But it’s downright hilarious how Matt Mervis (123 BASH) and Alexander Canario (122 BASH) didn’t skip a freakin’ beat as they were promoted up the ladder to three different affiliates last year. Take a look at the numbers:
Mervis — 120 in A+ | 120 in AA | 126 in AAA
Canario — 121 in A+ | 121 in AA | 131 in AAA
At first glance you’re probably wondering why Canario’s season BASH isn’t higher than Mervis. Calm down, Mash logged significantly more time in Iowa than Canario.
What these numbers really tell me? We weren’t wrong to think “these guys just keep doing the damn thing as they get promoted!” It was true when we were watching highlights of them every night and it’s backed up by BASH here today.
Ethan Hearn is Fast
I really just wanted to a reason to use the war cry of Ethan Hearn (112 BASH), his teammates, and broadcaster Sam Weiderhaft from last year’s campaign in the header. Of course, Hearn’s 13 stolen bases and only one caught stealing helped tick his BASH up a few notches, and for a catcher he is indeed quite speedy. But his base running ability isn’t the only thing that allowed the excitable backstop to finish the ‘22 season ranked 12th in the system in BASH (min. 100 PA).
The eye test told us that Hearn was logging great at-bats and that he was a productive hitter despite his 34% strikeout rate. BASH confirms that feeling and tells us that there’s reason to be optimistic about his development moving forward. Remember, catchers improve at the plate and behind the plate at a different pace than most prospects. At this point, he’s very clearly a pitcher’s favorite and he seems to have all the intangibles down pat.
And if he can continue offensive production as one of the 12 best players in the system, Hearn might be incredibly under-valued by people everywhere.