Some great information became available yesterday, as Dan Szymborski (creator of the ZiPS projection system) posted his minor-league-to-major-league translations for every player season of the past 30 years. Dan works very hard to provide this type of information to the general public free of charge, so I would encourage you to follow the link and make some sort of monetary donation. Anyway, I wandered into the comments and found a brief discussion on Adam Hyzdu‘s excellent 2000 season for Altoona. Dan noted that it was a mistake to have Hyzdu in Altoona that year instead of Pittsburgh. This led me over to Hyzdu’s page at The Baseball Cube, where I discovered more Cam Bonifay ineptitude.
I generally remember Hyzdu as a guy who I naively considered a prospect at the time, when in reality he was consistently excelling at levels he was much too old to be a part of. I was only 15 when the Pirates signed him, and I didn’t exactly follow the farm system too closely. In fact, my only clear memory of Hyzdu is the home run he hit during the one Curve game I attended in 1999. However, when I looked more closely at his minor league stats, I saw a different story. Here are his stats for each level in which he accrued at least 100 at-bats, beginning with his age 21 season:
In 1994, Hyzdu struggled in Double-A for the second consecutive season. He improved the following season at age 23, though he didn’t display the same power as he did at High-A. Finally, in 1996, he broke out with a monstrous season. The following season, he continued to progress in Triple-A. He was a bit old for the level, but not so old that his performance deserved to be ignored. In 1998, he only managed 100 at-bats at Triple-A, so I assume there was an injury. He hit well when he did play, posting an OPS of .969. The Pirates got a hold of him in May 1999. Hyzdu had proved he could hit Triple-A pitching the two previous seasons, so the Pirates did the only logical thing with the 27-year-old. They sent him back to Double-A. Hyzdu responded with a dominant season, posting a zMLE of .271/.333/.517. Apparently the Pirates, who gave 371 plate appearances to Brant Brown that season, had no use for that kind of production. In 2000, the Pirates finished 69-93 while Hyzdu went back to Altoona for yet another year. Hyzdu had a legendary season, while Pirates first baseman Kevin Young posted an OPS of .744. According to Hyzdu’s zMLE translation, he would have hit .273/.375/.581 with 41(!) home runs with the Pirates. In 2001, Hyzdu finally received an extended opportunity at Triple-A. He posted decent numbers, but nothing impressive for a 29-year-old. He essentially became a Quad-A player after that.
Hyzdu definitely had flaws in his game. He didn’t hit for a consistent average, and I don’t believe he was much of a fielder (although he did play some center field later in his career). But he had legitimate big league power, and the type of skill set that should have led to a brief but solid peak in the show. However, Bonifay was unwilling to take a chance on Hyzdu, and he let the slugger waste his prime years in Altoona. Hyzdu became a legend with Curve fans, but he missed out on a decent major league career because of more Pirate mismanagement.
Maybe there is something I am missing with Hyzdu’s career. Maybe there was a legitimate reason for keeping him in the minors, one I am not seeing in hindsight. Again, I barely remember his time in the organization. But going strictly from his numbers, this is another clear mistake by Bonifay.