Image credit: Daylen Lile(Photo/Tom DiPace) (Pay Tom DiPace)
In the first two articles of the series, we dug deep into the Statcast profiles of some well-known prospects, but also of some prospects whose underlying data suggested that they had the recipes for success in the modern game.
There are three key elements to focus on for a hitting prospect.
1) Pitch recognition — Using chase rate and swing-rate-minus-chase-rate as a proxy for identifying if they are swinging at the pitches they can do the most damage on.
2) Contact rate
3) In-zone contact rate –Identifying their high-level ability to put the bat on the ball and the quality of their contact. We use 90th percentile exit velocity and barrel rate while also considering hard-hit rate, sweet spot rate and launch angles to their pull side, of their hardest hit balls and on average.
Additionally, xwOBA – which serves as a broad aggregate of all three of these elements – is considered.
Past performance is a great predictor of future outcomes. But we also consider what the underlying component elements suggest should have happened when conducting an overall analysis of a hitting prospect’s production to the extent of estimating their true talent level and — as much as possible — their future talent level.
Here are eleven more prospects with some interesting Statcast hitting data.
Robert Calaz, OF, Rockies — Among the players in the DSL who accrued 40 plate appearances or more, the only hitter who managed a contact rate above 71% and a 90th percentile exit velocity above 105 mph is Robert Calaz. With an average chase rate, Calaz’s Statcast data suggests that he is average or better with his swing decisions, contact (and in-zone contact) rate, contact quality and launch angles. Keep in mind Calaz is only 17 years old. Considering his plus speed and a chance to stick at a premium defensive position, Calaz has a chance to grow into a legitimate power/speed threat — one that is even more tantalizing considering he will ply his offensive wares in Coors Field.
Justice Bigbie, 1B/OF, Tigers — Bigbie hit just two homers and stole four bases with a barely league average 103 wRC+ as a 23-year-old in Low-A in 2022. Under the hood, though, there was some optimism lurking. His pseudo-barrel rate – that is percentage of the time he hit a ball at velocity greater than 95 mph and at a launch angle between 10 and 30 degrees, was well above-average at 22%. Additionally, his average exit velocity and 90th percentile exit velocity was also more than a standard deviation above average. He paired it with essentially average contact rates. In 2023, Bigbie improved his average exit velocity, 90th percentile exit velocity, barrel rate, contact rate, in-zone contact rate, and (slightly) his chase rate. Unsurprisingly, these ingredients added up to more production to the tune of a 170 wRC+. He still pulls too many balls into the ground but with his foundation of average chase rates, above-average contact rates (including a strikeout rate in Double-A over 272 plate appearances of less than 15%), and plus contact quality, Bigbie looks like he may be able to profile in a corner outfield spot.
Scott Bandura, OF, Giants — Bandura had solid NCAA metrics before San Francisco signed him for under $200,000 as its seventh-round pick. It’s unsurprising that professional Low-A pitching is likely better than what the right fielder faced in the Ivy League. Still, Bandura has data that is better than average across key metrics with average exit velocity, 90th percentile exit velocity, barrel rate, chase rate, contact rate and in-zone contact rate. For those interested, Bandura’s contact (and in-zone contact) rate is down 10 percentage points, and his 90th percentile exit velocity is down 2.4 mph, from what he put up for Princeton.
Jace Bohrofen, OF, Blue Jays — When the Blue Jays drafted Bohrofen out of the University of Arkansas, he had average contact, chase, strikeout and walk rates paired with plus top end exit velocities. He put up comparable metrics in his Low-A debut for Dunedin while showing his knack for the barrel translated to the minors. In fact, the left fielder had the fifth-highest barrel rate (at nearly twice the league average) among all hitters in Low-A with at least 70 plate appearances. With that high of a barrel rate – and with a plus 90th percentile exit velocity – it should come as no surprise that Bohrofen hit six home runs in his 77 plate appearances. With his discerning eye, good contact numbers and optimized swing for power, it looks like the Jays have a bat with 25-homer potential percolating in the lower minors.
Christian Franklin, OF, Cubs — Another Arkansas product drafted two years prior to Bohrofen, Franklin was known for drawing walks, his power/speed combination and above-average center field defense. The only question was whether he had the hit tool to get to actualize the tools in games. On the surface, a 128 wRC+ in High-A at 23 years old isn’t scintillating. However, under the hood, his barrel rate, contact rate, exit velocities and chase rate are all above-average to plus. He still strikes out at an average rate, but his walk rate is well above-average with his discerning eye. He also finds himself in elite company. There are only two hitters 23 years old or younger with an average exit velocity of 90 mph, a contact rate of over 73%, a chase rate of less than 20%, and a barrel rate of over 20% — Christian Franklin and Wyatt Langford. If you open the age to include 24 years old, Edouard Julien and Ben Rice join the group.
Ivan Melendez, 1B, D-Backs: After winning the Golden Spikes in 2022, the Diamondbacks selected the Texas first baseman in the second round. After a 120-plate appearance professional debut where he only hit three home runs, there were some concerns that perhaps Melendez wouldn’t seamlessly transfer his raw power into professional games with wooden bats. This past year should allay any of those concerns. He put up 18 home runs (and a 148 wRC+) at High-A Amarillo over 256 plate appearances as a 23-year old – which is on par with 30-homer major league power. This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, though as his 90th percentile exit velocity is 107 mph with a recorded max exit velocity of 114 mph. To put that into perspective, these are similar numbers to what Ryan Noda has put up in the major leagues this year. ‘The Hispanic Titanic’ could serve himself well to improve his “hit tool” metrics. His strikeout rate is hovering around 34% with a contact rate of 64% and a chase rate of 35%, which is also worse than average. Still, with a plus barrel rate and an xwOBAcon of over .500, the damage he does on contact looks strong enough to profile at a corner infield spot.
Graham Pauley, 3B, Padres — Of all minor league hitters 22 or younger with at least 200 plate appearances, there are 10 with a contact rate better than 80% with chase rate, barrel rate, and 90th percentile exit velocity better than average. Of these players – which includes Cole Young, Chase DeLauter, Adael Amador, and Ignacio Alvarez – Graham Pauley has the highest xwOBAcon and is tied for the most stolen bases. The 13th round pick in 2022 out of Duke has played mostly third base, mixing in some second base and left field, and made it all the way to Double-A San Antonio, gathering 23 home runs and 22 stolen bases across three levels. Pair that with great reports on his makeup and the Padres look like they have a solid bat capable of putting up 20 home run, 10 stolen base seasons.
Mike Boeve, 3B, Brewers — Of 2023 draftees who had over 100 plate appearances, there were only five who had better-than-average marks for contact rate, in-zone contact rate, chase rate, 90th percentile exit velocity, barrel rate, an xwOBA above .350 and an xSLG above .450: Wyatt Langford, Colt Emerson, Trevor Werner, Charles McAdoo, and Mike Boeve. The scouting report out of college was that Boeve didn’t have much power. Thus far, it seems that those reports may have underestimated slightly as his average exit velocity, 90th percentile exit velocity and max exit velocity are all three mph higher than the average 21-year-old minor leaguer. Once he got to High-A Wisconsin, he had a harder time manifesting into game power and had a 60% groundball rate. But if the statcast metrics are any indication, he has an above-average ability to recognize pitching, makes contact when he swings, and has above-average contact quality and feel for the barrel. Boeve is showing all the ingredients the Brewers wanted to see when they drafted him in the second round and signed him for $1.25 million.
Trevor Werner, 3B, Royals: When the Royals took Werner in the seventh round of the draft, our draft report was that the Texas A&M third baseman had a 90th percentile exit velocity of around 107 mph but had poor contact rates (as evidenced by his career 26% strikeout rate in his college career). Well, in 135 plate appearances in Low-A, Werner has seemingly taken a step forward by putting up contact rates nearly a full standard deviation better than average while only striking out 23% of the time. True to his scouting report, the power has been outstanding, with a 90th percentile exit velocity of nearly 108 mph leading to eight home runs (and eight stolen bases too), and a barrel rate higher than Moises Ballesteros, Abimelec Ortiz, and even Dylan Crews. With surprisingly nimble foot speed for his 6-foot-3, 225-pound frame, Werner might be able to chip in 5 to 10 stolen bases annually, to go along with his 20 to 25 home run power. Look for him to be in High-A Quad Cities early in 2024, if not to begin the season for our Helium prospect from early September.
Johnathan Rodriguez, OF, Guardians — Rodriguez hasn’t ranked in the Guardians Top 30 since checking in at No. 29 in 2019. But RoboScout identifed him in July as someone who was putting up plus to double-plus exit velocities with slightly lower than average contact. After accruing 363 plate appearances in Double-A Akron with a 137 wRC+, the 23-year-old right fielder got the call to Columbus, where he can see if he can repeat the 109 mph 90th percentile exit velocity against Triple-A pitching. The Guardians’ outfield has put up some of the lowest power numbers as a collective over a full season in recent baseball history, so Rodriguez’s thunder in the bat might be a welcome sight for Cleveland.
Daylen Lile, OF, Nationals — There are only six players who are 20 years old or younger with over 100 plate appearances in full season ball that meet the following criteria: A contact rate better than 25%, a 90th percentile exit velocity greater than 101 mph, and a barrel rate above 19%. These are Jackson Holliday, Jett Williams, Jackson Merrill, Moises Ballesteros, Josue Briceno, and Daylen Lile. Although gracing this list is more than enough to convince us that the Nationals outfielder has fantasy-friendly skills, add in the fact that Lile stole 21 bases (with only four times caught), and his fantasy profile becomes even more interesting.