Does Sean Ratliff = Brennan Boesch?

For today's Minor League Monday, I'm curious about something: If you've read enough of my minor league features on this site, you probably already know that I'm a believer in Binghamton Mets CF Sean Ratliff.  I've remarked on more than one occasion that I think the big lefty is somewhat ignored and underrated in Mets prospects circles despite the very real chance that he could become an impact player for the club in the near future. After a career season with the B-Mets, Ratliff didn't figure into the most recent BA Mets Top 10Fangraphs Top 10 or even BP Top 20.

Well in the Binghamton Season in Review, I made an off-the-cuff comparison of Ratliff to Detroit OF Brennan Boesch and I decided to look into that comp, beyond just the superficial stuff, to see how similar the underlying statistics actually are. Considering how Boesch also managed to sneak under the prospect ranking radar before bursting onto the scene in the AL Central this summer, it could be an interesting little exercise.

First off, let's look at the superficial, on-the-surface stuff: 

Boesch stands 6'6", 210lbs, bats and throws lefty and he plays right field. He was drafted in 2006 in the third round after his junior season at Cal. In college Boesch was a middle-of-the-order threat and along with Cardinals infielder Allen Craig (and Mets prospect Josh Satin), powered a potent Cal lineup. Boesch made a pretty typical climb through the minors for a college hitter, starting in the Lo-A NYPL and stopping at each level before his major league debut in 2010.  Coming into the 2010 season, BA did not rank Boesch in Detroit's top ten prospects nor did John Sickels in his Detroit top twenty.

Ratliff stands "just" 6'3", 225lbs, throws and bats lefty and plays center field. Drafted in the fourth round in 2008 after his junior season at Stanford, Ratliff too was a cleanup masher along with major league guys like Houston catcher of the future Jason Castro and former Phils prospect, current Oakland A Michael Taylor. Ratliff has also had a pretty typical ascent through the minor leagues, starting in the NYPL and stopping at each level so far. Like Boesch, Ratliff did not make any prospect rankings coming into the 2010 campaign. Although one big difference is that Ratliff's footspeed has provided strong OF defense while Boesch's defense has been a weak point.

Next let's take a look at their swings:

Below is video compilation of Boesch's first few homers in the bigs. Although probably the best one for our purposes was a homer Boesch hit in Citi Field off of Jon Niese which you can see here.

 

Useful video of Ratliff is tougher to come by but below is a video recap of a Binghamton Mets game from June 22 where Ratliff hit a pair of bombs.  To skip to Ratliff's homers you can either fast forward to 0:23 or just click here. For another clip of Ratliff homering click here.

 

So it's pretty clear both take really big hacks with extremely long follow-throughs, especially on the pull side. All of these examples from Ratliff are pulled; for a good pull-side example from Boesch take a look at his shot off C.C. at the 0:55 mark. Unfortunately for both of them, these long swings present a lot of potential holes for pitchers to attack. Both also release the bat with their bottom hand on pull-side balls and stay two-handed on shots to the opposite field or up the middle. Both stand pretty tall, starting mostly upright and begin to crouch as the pitch comes in. Ratliff begins a bit more open but closes up as he strides, reaching the same hitting position as Boesch.

Basically they've got really comparable swings.

Now let's take a look at some of the pair's statistical similarities thus far in their minor league totals:                                              

Player AVG OBP SLG
Boesch .273 .319 .434
Ratliff .273 .327 .461

Obviously the two put up pretty similar ratios during their minor league careers.  However, there are lots of ways to skin a cat so let's dig a little deeper into the root causes as to why Boesch and Ratliff seem to profile so similarly.

So we know intuitively that we ought to be looking at the shared key traits in their offensive profiles: high power, high strikeouts and low-ish walks.  So let's see how those categories flesh out:

Player Age League BB% K% ISO BB/K
Boesch 22 MWL (A) 4.2% 15.8% .111 .28
Ratliff 22 SAL (A) 6.1% 28.0% .186 .24

Boesch 23 FSL (A+) 7.8% 21.6% .129 .40
Ratliff 23 FSL (A+) 7.0% 29.7% .158 .26

Boesch 24 EL (AA) 5.8% 24.1% .235 .26
Ratliff 23 EL (AA) 7.4% 25.6% .246 .32

Again, quite similar.  Boesch seemed to start his career with better contact skills but as he climbed he found it harder to put bat on ball.  It seems both were able to improve their patience as their careers progressed and both also grew into more power.  By the time the two reached Double-A their skills were extremely similar.  And what helps this comparison is that 1) their age relative to league seem to follow the same progression and 2) the fact that they played in a few of the very same leagues.

All in all, I feel even better about this comp. From their backgrounds to their swings to their minor league stats, these two players have got a whole lot in common which for a Mets fan, is probably a good thing. Not that Boesch is a superstar but he's clearly shown an ability to have an impact as a power bat in an equally massive park. Considering the Mets' power outage the last couple seasons, having a kid who can step right in and knock balls out isn't a bad thing. Now don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of Ratliff but do I think he'll he be a star? No, he probably won't even bat much above .250. But if he continues to shore up his game against lefties (.333 against them in 2010), hits 15-20 homers while playing strong outfield defense and can even swipe a bag now and then, Ratliff can be a valuable player, more so than most people give him credit for.

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