FanPost

Expect big things from Trevor Plouffe


In between MLB stints, Trevor Plouffe has hit .313/.384/.635 over 220 plate appearances in the AAA International League this year. Reducing that offensive beat down to a single number, you get a wRC+ of 175, which more or less means that he’s produced 75% more runs per plate appearance—taking into account all aspects of offense—than the average hitter in AAA. For comparison, only Jose Bautista has a wRC+ above 164 in MLB this year (a wild 215). Albert Pujols has a lifetime wRC+ in MLB of 167. Barry Bonds was 175 over his career. It’s entirely appropriate to say that Plouffe, while he’s played, has been the Barry Bonds of the International League this year.

So what does that mean? Almost by definition, getting a wRC+ of 170 or higher in AAA in at least 200 plate appearances is very rare. Since 2006 (the first year the data is available on Fangraphs), only 17 players have done it in the two principal AAA leagues. Here’s that list, sorted by age:

NAME

AGE

YEAR

wRC+

LEAGUE

Jay Bruce

21

2008

174

INTL.

Anthony Rizzo

21

2011

177

PCL

Brett Lawrie

21

2011

170

PCL

Travis Snider

21

2009

182

PCL

Carlos Gonzalez

23

2009

171

PCL

Carlos Santana

24

2010

184

INTL.

Trevor Plouffe

25

2011

175

INTL.

John Bowker

25

2009

172

PCL

Kila Ka'Aihue

26

2010

173

PCL

Tommy Everidge

26

2009

176

PCL

Nelson Cruz

27

2008

179

PCL

Jack Cust

27

2006

172

PCL

Josh Fields

28

2011

171

PCL

D'Angelo Jimenez

29

2007

188

INTL.

Wily Mo Pena

29

2011

180

PCL

Dan Johnson

30

2010

180

INTL.

Oscar Salazar

31

2009

179

INTL.

If you look up on the list from Plouffe, almost everyone is considered a major up-and-comer or already has reached star status. The shine has come off of Travis Snider a bit, but all the rest of the guys you’d kill to have in your system. In the other direction, the bottom five guys clobbered AAA so late agewise that it didn’t—or probably doesn’t—really mean much. The ship truly has sailed.

Between those extremes, Cruz and Cust were late bloomers who went on to become feared hitters in MLB. They were also a full two years older than Plouffe when they made their case for permanent MLB status. And there are plenty of other guys you can point to that became true stars without ever showing people they were star material before their mid-to-late 20s: Kevin Youkillis; Edgar Martinez; Joe Nathan; Cliff Lee; Chase Utley; Jose Bautista. Sometimes guys truly just “break out” even when no one sees it coming.

On the other hand, the three guys immediately south of Plouffe are cautionary tales. Bowker, Ka’Aihue, and Everidge were never really considered top prospects. Not before they destroyed AAA pitching, not while they did it, and not after. None ever made a Baseball America top 100 list and none ever stuck in MLB, despite doing more or less what Plouffe has done at a similar age. Plouffe could be another one of those guys.

But he could be star material too. A lot of guys on that list are.
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