Congratulations to Brandon Waring on winning the Carolina League MVP award this year (that’s High A-Ball). Waring – who came over from the Reds as part of the Ramon Hernandez* deal this off-season – led the league in RBI (90) and OPS (.874), and was second in home runs with 26. Waring hit .273/.354/.520 for the year, which doesn’t look like that much of an improvement from his year in A-Ball for the Reds last year (.270/.346/.467, 20 HR). That’s not exactly the case, however.
* Ramon hit .249/.330/.355 in only 316 plate appearances this year (he got hurt). According to FanGraphs, he’s been worth 0.3 Wins Above Replacement, which you could mostly wash away if you thought his defense behind the plate was bad enough (though he has thrown out 35% of would-be base stealers). For that he’s being paid $8 M ($6 by the Reds, plus another $1 M for his 2010 buy-out). Despite getting nothing from Freel while paying his salary ($4 M), the O’s still come out square even if Waring and Justin Turner (.303/.366/.391 in Triple-A) never make it. They spent $6 M and have two prospects – the Reds spent $7 M and got Ramon Hernandez. Awesome.
The increase in slugging percentage isn’t just the result of more balls clearing the fence. His at bats per home run dropped form 21.9 to 18.2, but his doubles became even more frequent – from once every 19 at bats to once every 13.5 at bats. Waring hit the ball in the air more in 2009, and that resulted in more extra-base hits and a higher ISO (.197 to .247). The guy’s got some power, and he got better at utilizing it. Flyballs turn into outs more often than groundballs and (especially) line-drives, so it was expected that Waring’s batting average on balls in play would suffer. It dropped from .374 to .316, but he was able to keep his batting average at a respectable level by cutting down on the strike-outs (and thus putting more balls in play overall). The 25.6% strike-out rate is still too high, but it’s much better than last year’s 35.4%. Waring also bumped his walk rate up a little, from 8.9% to 9.7%. Some questions do still remain about whether Waring can make it to the majors. At 23 years old, Waring is pretty old for his level (though he is 3-10 with a HR since being called up to Double-A, but with 5 K’s to 2 BB). Also, it’s unclear (doubtful?) that Waring will be able to stay at third-base. His power will play at first-base, but he’ll need to keep the strike-outs down and the walks up against stiffer competition before I’d be comfortable putting much faith in him in the long run. He was great in 2009 though, so we’ll just have to wait and see.