10 MLB Hitting Prospects Balancing Power And Approach


Image credit: Red Sox prospect Kristian Campbell (Photo by Tom DiPace)

With each passing week our sample sizes continue to stabilize and the players who are breaking out in 2024 begin to crystallize. The early part of the season is one of the most exciting times of the year for those that evaluate prospects in the public space. After a long offseason, we’re starting to separate the signal from noise when it comes to early season performance. 

As I’ve written about in other data-focused articles over the last few seasons, a tried and true process of evaluating hitters is setting benchmarks for in-zone contact, chase rate and 90th percentile exit velocity. Finding players with average or better skills across the board allow us to see who’s showing major league quality skills at the plate. As we saw with Roman Anthony in 2023, early-season performance numbers can often be skewed by luck as well as a variety of other factors. Underlying data allows us to strip that away and look at who’s truly performing from a baseline skill perspective. 

This allows us to be more predictive, looking instead and who’s set to perform versus just those that are performing well at the moment.  

Adrian Del Castillo, C, D-backs

The former Miami catcher has stood out in his first taste of Triple-A. Del Castillo has showcased above-average bat-to-ball skills (16.6% in-zone miss) with above-average exit velocity data (105.9 mph 90th percentile exit velocity) and some of the best quality of contact (.487 xWOBAcon) in the minor leagues this season. While Del Castillo’s approach can border on overzealous, his chase this season is at a reasonable level. So far into 2024, Del Castillo has checked a lot of boxes. He’s combining contact, power and quality of contact at the highest level of the minors. 

Coby Mayo, 3B, Orioles

Metrically speaking, Mayo is an outlier among prospects. Few players balance contact, quality of contact, approach and power like him. Prior to Mayo’s placement on the injured list, he boasted a 107.8 mph 90th percentile exit velocity with a 16.5% in-zone whiff rate and a 25.8% chase rate. All markers that are above-average to plus when scaled against the league average. Mayo has been more than just an advanced power hitter feasting on fastballs. He’s shown a lower chase rate against breaking balls (21.9% chase) and an in-zone miss rate of 18.4%. Mayo’s hard-hit batted ball events truly shine — he has 44 total and 74% result in either a line drive or flyball. Mayo looked like a ready-made slugger on the cusp of breaking into a loaded Orioles lineup. Now he’ll heal from a broken rib and wait for his return to action. 

Jeral Perez, 2B, Dodgers

It’s no secret at this point that Perez is among my favorite prospects at the moment. Perez has started the season hot, hitting .314/.444/.521 over his first 33 games. His combination of plate skills and power place him among the top “up arrow” prospects in 2024. Perez’s plate skills so far are pristine, with a 13.8% in-zone whiff rate. He’s rarely beaten in the zone. His 104.5 mph 90th percentile exit velocity is multiple delineations above the average for his age. Perez doesn’t sell out for power, but has a well-balanced swing with the ability to adjust the barrel. Perez’s balance or plate skills and quality of contact at such a young age put him on a path to success. These are the types of traits we saw from Gunnar Henderson, Coby Mayo and Corbin Carroll at early points in their MLB careers. 

Kristian Campbell, 2B/OF, Red Sox 

Campbell has been among the biggest breakouts so far this season. He’s currently hitting .279/.389/.523 with six home runs over his first 30 games. A contact-driven hitter at Georgia Tech, Campbell added bat speed over the offseason and has reinvented himself as a hitter. While Campbell swings and misses, particularly in-zone (26% in-zone whiff), his exit velocity data is up by a significant margin.

His 90th percentile exit velocity of 106.3 mph is up a full 3 mph from his 2023 college 90th percentile EV. While the added swing and miss is certainly a red flag to watch as Campbell moves up the minor league ladder, he’s still showcasing well above-average swing decisions. The quality of contact improvement is Campbell’s selling point. His xWOBAcon (expected wOBA on contact) is the fourth highest in this list and is eight highest among hitters in Double-A or below with a minimum of 50 batted ball events. 

Josue De Paula, OF, Dodgers

Over the last two seasons, De Paula has been a popular name among the staff at Baseball America, making multiple breakout lists prior to last season and finding his way onto the Top 100 list prior to the 2024 season. De Paula has displayed excellent plate skills dating back to his pro debut. He has slowly but surely shown signs of developing power over the last few seasons as his four home runs to date eclipse his 2023 total.

While De Paula’s .246/.336/.458 line doesn’t make your eyes pop, he’s doing a lot of good things under the hood. Primarily, De Paula is hitting the ball in the air far more consistently and that has coincided with a dramatic drop in infield flyball rate, typically not two traits that are synonymous. The quality of contact has jumped as well as De Paula’s .459 xWOBAcon rates in the top five among players at either level of A-ball. There’s been a spike in swing and miss but it’s still maintained at average or better contact rates and an extremely low chase rate of 16.6%. The ingredients are there, it’s simply a matter of letting De Paula marinate. 

Carson Williams, SS, Rays 

Over the last few seasons, Williams has cemented himself among the top prospects in the game. A talented shortstop with plus defensive chops, his identity at the plate is based on a patient approach and plus raw power. In 2024, Williams has shown improved bat-to-ball skills and is now making contact at one of the highest rates of his career. His 28.8% whiff rate and 20% in-zone whiff rate are both improvements over last year’s 32.3% whiff rate and a 21.9% in-zone whiff rate. The improvements in contact haven’t come at the expense of Williams contact quality, as his .445 xwOBAcon ranks 10th among all Double-A hitters. Among that group Williams is the only hit with average or better contact and chase rates. Williams .343/.421/.627 line places him among the leaders in a variety of categories. 

Moises Ballesteros, C, Cubs 

Despite a frame that leads to questions about his future defensive position, Ballesteros can hit, simple and plain. Over 35 Double-A games Ballesteros is hitting .278/.356/.461 at just 20 years old. The metrics support Ballesteros’ strong performance as well with excellent plate skills (19.6% miss rate and a 19.7% chase rate) with strong quality of contact metrics and exit velocities. Ballesteros is showing power without selling out his advanced plate skills, and is achieving success. His quality of contact rates highly, though he’s still more of a line-drive hitter than a flyball hitter. 

Agustin Ramirez, C, Yankees

One of the strongest performers over the early part of the season, Ramirez currently leads the Eastern League with 12 home runs. While questions around his defensive abilities linger, his overall plate profile leaves no questions about his hitting ability. After struggling in his initial run at Double-A during the end of the 2023 season, Ramirez has found his footing and his underlying metrics look similar — possibly better than — his A-Ball data.

Ramirez is running an above-average in-zone contact rate of 17.1% with a 24.5% chase rate, an improvement on last season’s 27% chase rate. His 90th percentile exit velocity of 108.4 mph is nearly a 2 mph jump from his 2023 mark of 106.6 mph. Those gains translate to better contact quality and more consistent hard contact. As he’s seen a jump in hard contact rate, his his xWOBAcon jumped by .30 points year over year. Ramirez is showing the ability to handle spin with a 51.2% hard hit rate against breaking balls with four of his home runs coming against sliders, cutter or curveballs. 

Matthew Lugo, 3B, Red Sox 

Lugo is one of the more surprising breakouts of 2024. All but forgotten entering the season, Lugo is having the best run of his professional career with Portland over the first seven weeks. Lugo is hitting .296/.392/.639 with nine home runs. But it’s the dramatic improvement in his plate skills that’s truly impressive. 

YearMiss%IZ-Miss%Chase%90th% EVXWOBAcon

Lugo hasn’t just improved his plate skills across the board but his underlying power and quality of contact metrics have as well. While Lugo still has some swing and miss tendencies with breaking balls he’s done damage against them in 2024 with a .384 wOBA against breaking balls of all types with four home runs to date. Lugo is repeating Double-A but he just turned 23 earlier this month and looks to be on track to recover his prospect status. 

Will Simpson, 1B, Athletics 

It’s smart to be wary of older college bats performing in A-ball and even more so when they’re first base only. Despite this, the Athletics’ 15th-round pick out of Washington is a player of interest. While his contact and chase rates are average across the board with a high rate of hard-hit batted ball events (63.6%). Simpson’s quality of contact is more than just hard hit balls. He shows the ability to consistently elevate on his hard hit batted ball events with a 69% line drive+flyball rate. 

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