Statistically, Kane County outfielder Tyreace House is quite the enigma. The A's 2008 sixth-rounder boasts many skills. He's one of the fastest players in the minor leagues. He has a discerning batting eye. He hits for some average. He's got tremendous range in the outfield.
There's just one problem. He's has no power.
In 456 minor league at-bats, Tyreace House has 122 hits. 116 are singles. The other six are doubles. I don't think I've ever seen a lack of power this unbelievable. You'd think House's speed would at least let him leg out a triple here or there, but no, it hasn't happened.
The purpose of the minor leagues, of course, is to prepare players for the major leagues and figure out who can succeed there. It's usually pretty easy to tell who's succeeding there—the stats show it. But sometimes, the stats get cloudy. Just like pitcher Henry Rodriguez, who I looked at last week, House doesn't have a smooth overall profile. He has a very polarized profile. He has a lot of some skills and absolutely none of one of the most important skills in baseball.
Some statistical indicators, thus, say House is excellent. Others say he's terrible. Anything power-driven, like total bases, extra-base hits, slugging percentage, etc. won't like House. Other metrics, like batting average, OBP, steals, etc. will like him.
So what's the truth? What's House's upside? Does he have any chance of being a major league player?
To answer these questions, we'll need to look at a metric that takes everything into account, and a good one to use is FanGraphs' Wins Above Replacement (WAR). WAR is simply a metric that is broken down into components that say how good a player is at things. There's the batting component, fielding component, positional adjustment component, etc. Ultimately, those are all measured in Runs Above Replacement (RAR), and ten runs equals one win.
Let's assume, to begin, that House plays one full season (let's say 150 games, 600 plate appearances) in center field. Right off the bat, we would spot him 2.2 runs from the positional adjustment and 20.0 from the replacement level adjustment. So House is a 2.22 WAR player (below-average but okay-ish for a regular) over the course of the season, assuming he hits and fields right at the league average.
Of course, House isn't necessarily going to hit or field at the league average.
First, let's take a look at his fielding. House rated dead-average last year in center field in Vancouver according to TotalZone, and slightly above average the year before in the Arizona Rookie League. Let's say he turns out to be a slightly above-average defender in center—call it 2.8 runs above average, to get the overall WAR figure up to an exact 2.5 thus far.
Of course, the original issue with House isn't his position or his defense, it's what the extremes of his hitting add up to. Hitting, of course, is a very fluid skill, and players often have huge upswings and downswings offensively between Kane County and Oakland. Projecting if/how well House will hit as he climbs the ladder is guesswork. Some players turn into Juan Pierre (starters), some turn into Jason Tyner (backups), and some wash out at various points in the minors. Your guess as to which House will be is as good as mine.
However, given all that, let's look at what House needs to be able to do at the plate in order to be a worthwhile major league regular or backup, much like I looked at (last week) how much control Henry Rodriguez needs to have in order to attain various levels of big league effectiveness.
Unlike Rodriguez's analysis, where I just plugged numbers into the FIP formula, this time, this time I am looking at some comparable players to House to see how they fared in Batting Runs Above Average.
Last year, the MLB regular with the lowest Isolated Power (slugging percentage minus batting average) was Mets second baseman Luis Castillo, at .043. Castillo hit .302/.387/.346 in 2009, chipping in 20 steals and a House-like 58/69 K/BB ratio.
That was good for about five runs above average. So, if House can manage to hit .300 and get a good number of walks, he could be a quality player. Those five runs would boost his WAR to 3.0, which is generally the benchmark to be a solid everyday player.
The player with the next lowest Isolated Power in 2009 was Marlins infielder Emilio Bonifacio, who hit a paltry .252/.302/.308. That gave him a ghastly -21.5 Batting Runs over just 509 plate appearances, and a horrific -0.8 WAR overall.
It looks like House will need to hit in the .300 range to be an effective regular given his lack of power. He'll also need to maintain his excellent batting eye and refine his basestealing and defense.
If he can at least keep the walks and hit .275-.280, he could be a serviceable defensive replacement/occasional starter, much like Rajai Davis was used prior to the second half of last year. Pitchers at the upper levels of the minors likely will challenge House more and more, knowing that the worst that can happen is a single. He'll need to hit a lot of singles to make it work, but Castillo made it work in 2009, so you can't rule out success for a player of House's style.