By The Numbers: Parker Vs. Spina

The Stockton Ports are red-hot right now, winners of 11 consecutive games, and they are suddenly in the thick of the playoff race. Corner infielders Stephen Parker and Michael Spina have been important figures in the Stockton line-up all season. Nathaniel Stoltz takes a look at the numbers of the two prospects and sees how they line-up against one another.

Oakland A's prospects Stephen Parker and Michael Spina have many similarities.

They both were mid-round draftees in 2009 (Spina in the 11th round, Parker in the 5th). They both have experience at both first and third base. They both had productive college careers (Parker at BYU, Spina at Cincinnati). They both briefly played in the AZL after signing last year before spending most of the second half of 2009 in Kane County, and both have spent all of 2010 in Stockton. Both have good power. I could go on…

On the surface, that might make Spina and Parker similar prospects, and there are certainly more different profiles than theirs. A deeper examination does reveal some significant differences.

The first is age. Parker is almost a year younger than Spina, and at 22, he's about the normal age for the Cal League. Spina's a bit old for the level—it's not really his fault, as it's nice for anyone to start their first full season in High-A, but it still makes Parker a slightly more attractive prospect at first glance.

Parker has a second slight advantage, as well—he hits from the left side of the plate, while Spina hits righthanded.

While both players hit their fair share of balls over the fence, they approach hitting in strikingly different ways. Spina is an aggressive hitter who looks to crush a lot of pitches, while Parker employs more of a line-drive-oriented, patient approach.

The results are predictable. Spina has a higher homer total (22 to Parker's 17), but he's struck out 129 times in 115 games. Parker's whiffed just 88 times in 119 contests, and his 70 walks dwarf Spina's 47. Parker has also ripped 33 doubles, 12 more than Spina, so if a few of those doubles turn into homers down the line, he could make up the power deficit as well.

What this all means is that Parker has a .389 Weighted On Base Average, while Spina only has a .349 mark, according to Fangraphs. That metric is based on the same scale as OBP, so average is around .330, which means both players are above-average hitters. Still, when you consider Parker's younger age, what side of the plate he hits from, and even his defense (Spina's been moved to first for Stockton, while Parker's at third still), he looks to clearly be the better prospect.

One note in Spina's favor, though, is that last year, the wOBA gap was basically inverted, with Spina posting a .357 mark and Parker just .306. It's fairly common knowledge that some prospects crush the Cal League and can't hit above or below that level, so there's a chance that Parker is one of those and Spina is not. At the least, Spina's proved he can survive in a tough offensive environment while Parker hasn't.

So, what can we conclude here?

Parker's approach looks extremely sound, as he doesn't strike out excessively, walks a lot, and produces a ton of extra-base hits. As long as he keeps hitting in Double-A, he looks like a future major league starter.

As for Spina, the power is nice, but cutting down on the strikeouts is imperative for him. Sure, Jack Cust has made it work for the A's in the past, but Cust is a lefty bat with exceptional plate discipline, while Spina is a righty bat with average plate discipline. It's certainly nice that Spina has plus power, but he's going to need to find more ways to get on base to project as a major leaguer. If he can hold the strikeouts to one per game next year in Midland, while hitting 20+ homers again, then he'll be a serious contender for playing time in Oakland down the line.

To read more from Nathaniel, visit his blog at The Bleacher Report and chickenfriars.com.


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