If you look at the statistics of some of the top Orioles’ minor league batters from the 2010 season, one stat that may jump out at you is the strikeout totals.
O’s hitters finished first and second in the Eastern League in strikeouts in 2010 while Baltimore farmhands were first, second and fifth in the Carolina League.
Brandon Waring fanned 179 times last season to lead the Eastern League with Tyler Henson second with 156. Frederick’s Ronnie Welty was first in the Carolina League with 159 with Billy Rowell second at 153 and Kyle Hudson fifth with 129.
It was also a bit of a team-wide issue. While Triple-A Norfolk was just 10th of 14 teams in strikeouts in the International League, Bowie was second out of 12 teams in the Eastern League. In the Carolina League, Frederick was first among eight teams and Delmarva was third of 14 clubs in the Sally League.
Like Mark Reynolds in the Majors, Waring has been a high homer and high strikeout guy in the minors. But while Waring fanned in 26.2 percent of his at bats in 2009, that number grew to 37.9 percent of at bats last year.
While Rowell had the best season of his three in Frederick last summer, his strikeout rate was also a career high and jumped from 28.8 the previous year to 35.1 percent in 2010.
While we can downplay somewhat Reynolds’ big league strikeout totals, because he hits so many homers, only Waring among this group has been a big homer guy with 49 the last two seasons. Since his trade to the Orioles, Waring hit 89 homeruns in 1,678 at bats over four seasons.
Henson, who is now in big league camp for the first time with the Orioles, realizes that strikeout number has to come down for him.
“Throughout my career in the minors, I have hit for a decent average, but you look at my strikeout totals and they’re awful,” Henson said. “I need to work on it and make sure even when I hit off the tee make sure my alignment and everything is like it will be in a game. In the past I never did that and now I’m starting to recognize where the ball is on the plate, which is good.”
Henson feels he needs to work at getting into better situations in the count when at bat this year.
“There are times where, last year I had a month where it seemed like I was in two-strike counts all the time, but would find a hit. But other times I would struggle. A lot of times it is chasing pitches, like that hard slider down and away instead of laying off,” he pointed out.
With three of the O’s four full-season clubs among the top three in strikeouts in their respective leagues, this is certainly a stat worth tracking this season.
There are some fans that put a lot of stock into a minor league pitcher’s strikeout totals as something that could project future performance. Perhaps a high strikeout total for a hitter is a red flag of sorts, as well.
What is your take on these numbers and some of the high strikeout totals for some key O’s minor league hitters?