Pete Crow-Armstrong – Picture by Todd Johnson
Welcome to the first article in what we like to call our “Preseason Extravaganza.:” Over the next three weeks, North Side Bound is going to be getting ready for the 2023 minor league baseball season. The first three articles are going to make some predictions about statistics for hitters, starting pitchers, and relievers. Later this week will see our preseason-All-Star Team over two days – one on hitters, one on pitchers. Then we will pick our 3 players of the year along with a comeback player of the year and some predictions on guys we think could break out. Then, we will roll out our affiliate previews just in time for opening day for each affiliate.
Let’s get started with some hitting statistics predictions!
Probably the biggest thing to keep in mind for our predictions is that some of the best players are not going to be in the minors all season long. Matt Mervis and Brennen Davis are likely to be in Chicago at some point and, once he’s healthy, the same could be true for Alexander Canario. So ,that pretty much the leaves the field for us to look at some stats.
Last Year’s Predictions
How We Actually Did
Click the arrow to see what the staff at NSB wrote for 2023!
It’s taking everything in me to not say Kevin Alcantara here, as the bump up from Myrtle Beach’s pitcher paradise up to South Bend should help him increase from his modest output of 15 dingers from a year ago. But instead, I’m going with a guy that will find himself in the upper levels of the minors, likely between Tennessee and Iowa: Chase Strumpf. While there is an outside shot we see him in Chicago, I think it’s more likely he gets a full season in the minors where he can go from his 2022 total of 21 bombs up to my prediction of 28 tanks this year.
I racked my brain on this one specifically. I think Mervis combines to hit a healthy amount of home runs, but if he does, I believe many of those are coming in Chicago. Alexander Canario is a natural fit but with the injury delaying his debut I’m going with Jake Slaughter who has been smoking the ball this spring. He had a resurgent year in 2022. I’ll guess he finishes with 29 home runs.
Before last season, I thought if a guy hit 25 home runs that would be a great season. The Cubs had two guys hit over 35 last year. I don’t think we’re going to get to that point this year, but Jake Slaughter is my prediction to lead the system in home runs for this year. I think he can get 25 pretty easily, especially if he plays through August at Iowa. My runner-up is going to be in Yonathan Perlaza who should also do well at Iowa with over 20. My wild card is none other than Owen Caissie!
Similar to my home run predictions I’m guessing Slaughter piles up the RBIs. Mark me down for 97 RBIs on the season for Jake Slaughter.
I’m sticking with Kevin Alcantara because he was born to drive in runs. I would not be surprised to see him break 90 this year fairly easily at South Bend. He’s going to be playing in a more hitter-friendly league. My surprise runner-up is going to be BJ Murray who should also drive in a lot of runs between South Bend and Tennessee. I am pretty sure that Owen Cassie is going to be in this mix as well.
The trick here is to go with the guy that will be in the heart of the lineup no matter what level he gets promoted to. Last year the leader in the system (and in all of the minors) was Matt Mervis with 119. No one will reach that number this year but I do think we see Kevin Alcantara run away with this one. His extra-base potential and ability to limit the strikeouts a bit will be important in him driving in a few extra runs instead of leaving the bases juiced after whiffing. I’ll go with 92 RBI for El Jaguar, which would top his total from last year by seven.
I’m going to be sneaky and roll with BJ Murray. His judicious eye at the plate tends to lead to a higher average, as well as his willingness to go the other way. I’m betting .310 for his average in 2023.
As is often the case when talking about contact-oriented outfielders, this category comes down to an internal debate between Darius Hill and Ezequiel Pagan. I think they will each post averages north of .300 so I’ll go with the guy fewer of you readers would probably pick: Pagan. His athleticism paired with a unique ability to put bat to ball is uber impressive. I’ll predict a .309 batting average for him between South Bend and Tennessee.
It’s possibly a bit cheeky to go with Pete Crow-Armstrong here, but his .312 average last season was impressive. I’ll say he follows that up and a bit better to lead the system. Let’s say PCA with a .318 batting average.
Jordan Nwogu will lead the system with a .901 OPS. He fully breaks out this year and is built for this category with his ability to get on base while also slugging both in the form of home runs and doubles/triples.
Jake Slaughter could be in line for a big year. My total line for him is a .302/.378/.565 line with 29 home runs and 31 steals. I have him leading the system in OPS with .943.
I could go with any number of guys, but BJ Murray’s ability to work a walk is probably going to propel him to the title or close to it. The only thing stopping him is he does not hit a lot of home runs. As a result, I think I’m going to go with Kevin Alcantara to win this award, purely on the fact that Kevin’s going to hit a lot of dingers and teams are also going to be reticent to pitch to him. He should be somewhere close to 1.000.
PCA’s ability to score runs and hit should drive his WRC plus up into the 150 to 160 range this year. Alcántara could be close as could Slaughter.
It feels wild that I’m not choosing Pete Crow-Armstrong for any of these categories but I think he will be edged out in this category for another top prospect: Kevin Alcantara. He logged a 124 wRC+ in Myrtle Beach last year (remember that wRC+ isn’t ballpark-adjusted like BASH is) so really that number could have been even higher. A 142 wRC+ isn’t out of the question this year.
I really am buying in to Jake Slaughter in 2023. All the usual names like Caissie, Alcántara, PCA all could have strong seasons, but Slaughter in AAA could rack up the offensive stats. Jake Slaughter with a 146 wRC+ could be must-watch in 2023.
Pete Crow-Armstrong should still be pretty aggressive on the bases at AA. He should be close to 35 nabs this summer. Jake Slaughter, he lead this stat last year, should not be too far behind.
It’s PCA and it’s not close for me. He had 32 last year but I’ll say he adds another 10 to the total to finish with 42. Jake Slaughter ends up at 31.
My answer here is PCA with 39 stolen bases but I want to call out Ke’Shun Collier who might get the full year in Myrtle Beach and is known for his speed coming out of Meridian Community College.
We will be back tomorrow morning with our look at starting pitching stats!