10 July 2012
LF Marc Krauss slipped on most prospect lists after a so-so campaign with Mobile in 2011 (.779 OPS). But in 2012, Krauss has really elevated his level of play, and he may be the best hitter in the Southern League right now. With a batting line of .297/.421/.534, Krauss' OPS of .955 is second in the league, just two points behind teammate Alfredo Marte. Krauss leads the league in Runs Scored (66) and Walks (59), is 2nd in OBP (.421) and Doubles (27), 3rd in RBI (55), 4th in SLG (.534), 5th in HR (13), and 10th in Batting Average (.297). He has also drastically improved his strikeout-to-walk ratio in 2012, with 74 K/59 BB this year compared to 123 K/64 BB last year.
Krauss' offensive season puts him in some pretty select company. Over the last 10 years, only 18 Southern League players have achieved an OBP over .400 and a SLG over .500. The list includes 1B Paul Goldschmidt from last year, as well as current superstars Joey Votto, Miguel Cabrera, and Evan Longoria. Of course, many of these players were significantly younger than Krauss, who is now 24, but the .400/.500 combo is still quite rare (Minimum 300 PA).
|2011||Scott Van Slyke||24||CNG||LAD||529||81||20||92||.348||.427||.595||1.022|
Just missing from the list were Justin Upton (Age 19), who had an OBP of .399, and Matt Kemp (21), Giancarlo Stanton (20), and Jason Heyward (19), who were promoted from AA before reaching 300 plate appearances. Of the 18 players listed above, more than half became Major Leaguers.
If we restrict the list to Southern League seasons at the age of 24 or later, and expand the Player list to include those with fewer plate appearances and a .380/.500 line, we can add some players who might be similar to Krauss.
Combining this group of ten players with the nine older than 24 from the list above, we have a total of nineteen players who had an OBP > .380 and SLG > .500 at the age of 24 or older in the Southern League. Out of these, 6 out of 19 are solidly established Major Leaguers - Josh Willingham, Nelson Cruz, Matt Diaz, Gaby Sanchez, Chris Denorfia, and Chris Heisey. What these players have in common is that they all started in the Minors around the age of 20-21, like Krauss (all went to college except for NCruz). Others, such as Fox and Rosales, had some success in the Majors, while players like Guyer and Van Slyke are still trying to establish themselves. So if Krauss can maintain his .400 OBP/.500 SLG marks in the Southern League, the chances of achieving some success at the Major League level look pretty good, much better than for most 24 year olds in AA ball.