Vladimir Guerrero Jr. may be the best hitting prospect in recent history, but he learned first-hand just how difficult it is to bat .400 in a Minor League season.Guerrero was batting .410 -- as a 19-year-old in Double-A! -- when he was sidelined for five weeks with a strained patellar
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. may be the best hitting prospect in recent history, but he learned first-hand just how difficult it is to bat .400 in a Minor League season.
Guerrero was batting .410 -- as a 19-year-old in Double-A! -- when he was sidelined for five weeks with a strained patellar tendon in his left knee in early June. After a couple of rehab assignments, a return to Double-A and a promotion to Triple-A, he was hitting .400 as late as August 12, but he went 22-for-72 over his final 18 games, dropping him to .381 for the season and seven hits short of the magic number.
:: Complete prospect coverage ::
Here's a look at players who have hit .400 in the Minors and some of the recent runs at the storied mark:
Erubial Durazo: .404 in 1999
Since the modern era of the Minor Leagues began in 1963, just one batting qualifier in an affiliated full-season league or leagues has achieved a .400 batting average. The D-backs purchased Durazo from the Mexican League's Monterrey Sultans in December 1998 and he broke into the U.S. Minors in spectacular fashion.
Durazo hit .403 for two months at Double-A El Paso and .407 for a month at Triple-A Tucson, good for a combined .404 average before Arizona promoted him in late July. He batted .329 down the stretch for the D-backs, helping them make the playoffs in just their second season of existence. He went on to hit .281 in seven big league seasons, winning a World Series championship with Arizona in 2001.
There have been several .400 hitters in short-season and Rookie leagues, most recently Oscar Hernandez, who batted .402 for the Rays' affiliate in the now-defunct Venezuelan Summer League in 2011. The unaffiliated Mexican League has produced a slew of .400 hitters, led by Willie Aikens' .454 average in 1986 (when he also went 2-for-15 in Triple-A for a combined .443 season average). But Durazo is the lone .400 hitter in an affiliated full-season circuit.
Aaron Pointer: .401 in 1961
Pointer was the last .400 hitter in the full-season Minors before Durazo, batting .401 between Class D Salisbury and Triple-A Houston in his 1961 pro debut. Pointer spent parts of three seasons in the Majors with the Astros between 1963-67, hitting .208 in 40 games. An older brother of the Pointer Sisters singing group, he later became the first black referee in Pacific-10 Conference history and an NFL head linesman.
Rich Short: .383 in 2005
Short made the longest run at joining Durazo in the modern era. He won the 2002 Minor League batting title at .356 and was hitting .402 at Triple-A New Orleans as late as Aug. 19 in 2005, but went just 7-for-35 the rest of the way to finish at .383 and seven hits shy of .400. Already 32 at the time, he homered off John Smoltz and Dontrelle Willis during a September callup and spent the final four years of his career in Japan.
Jose Altuve: .389 in 2011
Altuve owns the highest single-season batting average since Durazo, hitting .389 between high Class A Lancaster and Double-A Corpus Christi in 2011. He was batting .400 on June 23 and .399 on June 27 but lost 10 points off his average in the next three weeks before the Astros called him up on July 18. He since has won three of the last four American League batting titles, not to mention an MVP Award and World Series title in 2017.
.400 hitters in the Minors
Jose Martinez: .382 in 2014
Martinez was unheralded when the Royals signed him as a Minor League free agent following the 2014 season, but he broke out the next year by batting .382 between Triple-A Omaha and a four-game rehab stint in the Rookie-level Arizona League. He was hitting .389 with 10 days remaining in the season before ultimately falling seven hits short of .400. Sold to the Cardinals the following May, he has batted .309 as a semiregular for St. Louis.
LaVel Freeman: .395 in 1987
After Durazo, the second-highest average in modern Minor League history belongs to Freeman, who batted .395 at Double-A El Paso in 1987. He spent only two games in the big leagues, however, going 0-for-3 for the 1989 Brewers.
Bill Krieg holds the all-time Minor League full-season batting record with a .452 average at Class B Rockford in 1895. The mark since 1900 belongs to Joe Schmidt, who hit .441 at Class D Duluth in 1939. Neal Cobb has the highest post-World War II batting average at .432 for Class D Crestview in 1954. Of that trio, only Krieg played in the Majors and did so in the 1880s, before his standout year.
Gary Redus famously hit .462 at Rookie-level Billings in 1978, the highest batting average in a season with a minimum of 200 at-bats. That performance didn't come at the full-season level, however. He spent 13 seasons in the big leagues, never coming closer than 174 points to that mark and batting .252 overall.
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.