2023 MLB Draft: Analyzing Contact And Chase Data Of 10 Infield Prospects From Jupiter
Hudson Belinsky was Baseball America's lead draft writer from 2015-2017 before spending five years with the Arizona Diamondbacks as an area scout, covering Georgia and Northern Florida. He is the signing scout for 2022 No. 2 overall pick and the top player on BA's draft board, OF Druw Jones.
While some top prospects “shut down” and stop playing as the calendar turns to October, Perfect Game’s WWBA Championship tournament in Jupiter still draws many of the best players in the country. Every year, top prospects make a decision to keep going, or shut it down after the summer. It usually isn’t because of a lack of love for playing the game—top prospects will shut it down to avoid blemishing a resume that’s already gotten them on teams’ radars heading into the spring.
In the era of big data (and big video), however, Jupiter provides an opportunity for players to bolster their stock, adding key data points against quality competition. Even the best high school prospects create a smaller sample of data than their collegiate counterparts. Now, instead of shutting down being a no-brainer for a top prospect, getting to Jupiter can give a high school hitter a chance to stick out over a college player with a longer track record.
In 2021, Termarr Johnson attended Jupiter, using the event to build off his impressive summer and fall performances. Scouts are already comparing Pennsylvania shortstop Kevin McGonigle to Johnson. McGonigle has been one of the best offensive performers on the high school circuit, and he headlines the crop of prospects from the 2022 event in Jupiter.
In seven games in Jupiter, McGonigle went 4-for-21. It wasn’t a great showing for the back of McGonigle's baseball card, but he showed demonstrable skills in his overall discipline and management of the strike zone. According to Synergy, McGonigle swung and missed at just two of the 88 pitches he saw in Jupiter.
Jupiter doesn't provide a large enough sample of pitches seen to prove that high school hitters have certain skills, but it adds meaningful data to the overall picture. Across 33 games tracked by Synergy in 2022, McGonigle saw 418 pitches across 108 plate appearances. He chased just 14% of those pitches and whiffed at just 11% of the pitches he saw in the strike zone.
McGonigle has a simple swing. He has good direction, putting himself in a position to barrel pitches with authority in all parts of the zone. Despite plus bat speed, McGonigle's body and torso remain under control as his barrel erupts through the zone. He has a whippy, consistent two-hand finish. He's shown an advanced ability to control at-bats against higher-level competition.
McGonigle is a steady-handed shortstop with quick reactions, above-average body control and natural instincts and timing. Teams will likely be split on how they view him defensively. His body type and bat are more prototypical of a second base profile—which can lead to some bias in how a player is evaluated by the industry—but his combination of tools and skills suggest he will either stay at shortstop or be an impactful defender elsewhere.
McGonigle is the most famous of the group, but the 2023 high school infield class has plenty of depth, with some players showing all-around tool sets while others show a loud tool or two. Here we will break down some of the better 2023 infield prospects who were in attendance at Jupiter.
|Player||Pitches||Pitch Type||In-Zone Miss %||Chase Rate||Positive Chase Rate|
This table, sorted by fastball in-zone miss rate, includes all pitch data logged by Synergy for each player in 2022. Some of these players have really small samples, while others have seen enough pitches to provide a relatively reliable sample. Positive chase rate measures the percentage of chase swings that were against pitches located within one ball of the strike zone.
With respect to sampling, analysts and evaluators offered varying opinions of how big of a sample they needed to draw meaningful conclusions. Some of these traits tend to stabilize around 250 pitches, but extremes can be telling, even when the sample isn’t big enough to make us feel great about the objective analysis.
We’re isolating these three metrics for a reason: hitters who whiff in the zone as amateurs typically whiff a lot in the zone when they transition to pro ball. Chase rate, however, can be drastically improved (or worsened) in pro ball. Those who expand the zone by swinging at pitches that aren’t close to being strikes tend to have a tougher time adjusting to pro pitching than those whose chases come on pitches that are at least competitive enough to reasonably be called a strike.
Cooper Pratt and Sammy Stafura are two pure shortstop prospects. They each project to stick at the position, and their offensive performances in Jupiter give them a lot of positive momentum heading into the winter, which is important given how teams begin to prepare for their spring coverage plans.
Stafura was one of the top performers of the event, going 9-for-19 in eight games played. Stafura is a well-rounded player, flashing plus speed on the bases and impressive agility and athleticism at shortstop. He moves well laterally and shows the ability to charge the slow roller and backhand balls in the hole cleanly. Stafura has the tools, instincts and game clock to stick at shortstop. He touches on all five tools, and he has solid data to back up what scouts are seeing with their eyes.
Stafura shows a repeatable swing. He has consistent direction and his barrel gets on plane and lives through the hitting zone for a long time. He’s shown the ability to spray line drives to all parts of the field. Stafura maintains excellent posture and his head remains still through impact. He has above-average in-zone miss rates and above-average chase rates, and the majority of his chases come against pitches close to being called strikes.
Stafura’s performance in Jupiter, along with his well-rounded set of tools and skills, could launch him into early-round discussion this summer.
Pratt is a dynamic five-tool talent. He’s lean and projectable, with a pretty, repeatable swing. He runs well, makes it look easy at shortstop and has exceptional bat-to-ball ability. Pratt’s miss rates and limited negative chase suggest his plate discipline and decision-making are among the best in the class.
Pratt seems primed to push himself into first-round discussion this spring. Players this good are very hard to find. He’s got some Troy Tulowitzki to him.
Aidan Miller (Mitchell HS, New Port Richey, Fla.) went just 1-for-6 in Jupiter, but he continued to build on an impressive resume overall. Including Jupiter, Synergy has tracked Miller in 29 games (83 plate appearances, 342 pitches) in 2022. Miller’s in-zone miss rate (9.2%) is elite across a solid sample against good high school pitching. He rarely chases (16% overall), and the vast majority of his chases are within one ball of the strike zone (67% overall; 75% against fastballs).
Miller is at least an average runner, turning in a sub 4.3-second home-to-first time in Jupiter. He hasn’t shown the premium range or body control to be viewed as a shortstop prospect heading into next spring, but appears more athletic this fall and he has the tools to develop into an average or better defender at third base.
Bats like Miller anchor themselves towards the top of the draft. He will see quality competition in high school this spring, and he’s already banked a lot of data and positive results. A good spring at the plate could cement him in the top few rounds of the draft.
Antonio Anderson (North Atlanta HS, Ga.) went 4-for-17 in Jupiter, walking four times and striking out five times. Anderson’s numbers weren’t great, but he showed some solid signs of improvement.
Anderson appears to be coming into his body this fall. He looked more athletic and physical in Jupiter. Anderson’s typical home-to-first times were in the 4.35-4.45-second range, but he did get out of the box well and flashed a sub-4.20 time after rolling over a changeup.
Across the summer and fall, Synergy tracked 21 of Anderson’s games. In that sample, the switch-hitting Georgia Tech recruit slashed .412/.474/.588 as a righthanded hitter and .303/.489/.606 as a lefthanded hitter. His splits and the quality of his at-bats show that Anderson is a very different type of hitter from each side of the plate.
In Jupiter, Anderson had five plate appearances from the right side, three of which came against intriguing lefthanded prospects—one against Tennessee commit Brayden May and two against Virginia Tech commit Blake Dickerson. May threw the kitchen sink at Anderson, using a wicked breaking ball to strike him out. Dickerson struck out Anderson with a back-foot slider in their first battle, but Anderson made a quality adjustment in his second chance at Dickerson, laying off a low breaking ball before shooting a 2-0 fastball down the right field line for a double.
Anderson is a bit more loose, fluid, and rhythmic in his righthanded swing. From the left side, Anderson takes more aggressive swings—presumably trying to get to his power—leading to more tension and less fluidity. The Synergy data doesn’t give us a huge sample of pitches to draw from, but it does corroborate what we can see from a scouting perspective. Anderson’s in-zone miss rate as a righthanded hitter (10.5%) is roughly half of what it is as a lefthanded hitter (20.5%).
Despite his more aggressive lefthanded approach, Anderson does not chase often (10.2%), with roughly half (52.4%) of his chases coming against pitches located one ball off the strike zone. As a righthanded hitter, Anderson chases more often (20.4%), but a larger share of those chases have come against pitches located one ball off (61.9%) the zone.
Anderson played solid defense at third base and shortstop in Jupiter. He has solid actions and plenty of arm strength to profile on the left side of the infield. He lacks long, flashy range, but he’s a solid groundball defender. In a shift-restricted major league game, Anderson profiles best as a third baseman.
Arjun Nimmala (Strawberry Crest HS, Dover, Fla.) went 3-for-7 in Jupiter. He has a controlled, violent swing with good direction. He generates plus bat speed with a loose swing. He creates quality separation and has a whippy, high two-hand finish.
Nimmala took quality at-bats consistently (albeit in a limited sample) in Jupiter, showing selective aggression on hittable pitches early in counts, as well as the ability to control situations where he fell behind into pitcher’s counts. He made quality adjustments against curveballs and sliders, indicating that he has the ability to track breaking balls of varying shapes and speeds.
Nimmala saw only 30 pitches in Jupiter, but Synergy has accumulated 15 games (and 156 pitches) of data on Nimmala in 2022. It’s still a limited sample, but the average fastball Nimmala saw was 88 mph—giving something for us to draw upon from a small sample. Nimmala’s in-zone miss rates were solid (17.7% overall; 17.2% against fastballs).
Nimmala’s chase rates are a bit high on the surface—25.6% against fastballs—but it’s important to distinguish appropriate chases from those that are non-competitive swings. Nimmala had a positive chase rate of 54.6% against fastballs (good, not great) and a positive chase rate of 28.6% against breaking pitches (neither good, nor great). Nimmala’s sample isn’t tremendous, but his chase rates and where his chases come provide a framework for how teams can evaluate him in the spring. Nimmala’s relative youth to the rest of the class—in addition to his tools and upside—will bring him significant attention this spring. If he can prove these traits are moving in the right direction, Nimmala could fly off the draft board next summer.
Nimmala turned 17 shortly after the event. He’s one of the youngest prospects at the top of the 2023 draft class.
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Colt Emerson (John Glenn HS, New Concord, Ohio) bolstered his stock with another strong offensive performance in Jupiter. He went 8-for-13 playing for the Team Elite/Atlanta Braves Scout team.
In the middle of the event, Emerson matched up against South Carolina recruit Tyler Pitzer (South Fayette Township, PA). After falling behind 0-2, Emerson battled and worked a nine-pitch walk. He has a compact, repeatable swing with good balance and consistent posture at the plate. His barrel really accelerates and explodes through the hitting zone, and he's proven capable of squaring up various types of pitching.
Defensively, Emerson showed solid body control and arm strength at shortstop. The Auburn recruit is a well-rounded player, but Emerson's main sell is his polished bat. He projects as a useful defender either at shortstop or third base should he lose agility as he fills out his frame. If Emerson proves himself a capable shortstop this spring, he has the offensive skill set and resume to push himself towards the top of the high school class.
Colin Houck (Parkview HS, Lilburn, Ga.) took a bit of a break from his football season—also a talented quarterback, Houck has thrown for 16 touchdown passes and over 1,300 yards in eight games this fall—to go 4-for-10 down in Jupiter. Houck has a controlled, relaxed swing. His advanced athleticism and strength play in the batter’s box and at shortstop. He isn’t flashy in terms of range, leading some scouts to project him to move to third base, but Houck shows excellent instincts, an elite game clock and plenty of arm strength to stay at shortstop.
Houck’s underlying data is a bit surprising. He’s missed fastballs in the zone at a higher rate than you might expect. Houck plays in one of the most competitive high school regions in the country, and he’ll have plenty of chances to prove himself against quality high school fastballs this spring. Getting away from football and getting into baseball full-time could unlock even more of Houck’s upside.
George Lombard (Gulliver Prep HS, Miami) went 2-for-12 in Jupiter. Lombard's timing wasn't great at this event, and he looked a bit more static in his setup. He created good separation in his swing, but he also appeared to be striding a bit deeper than he did earlier in the summer. This caused his back hip to lunge as he attacked the baseball, ultimately leading to his barrel working through the zone less. In 28 games tracked by Synergy in 2022, Lombard has hit .380/.451/.577. Even after a couple underwhelming offensive performances, he still boasts a strong resume overall.
Lombard is a solid runner and a well-coordinated defender at shortstop. He's got a prototypical frame for third base, but his instincts and game clock play well at shortstop presently. How exactly his body matures will play a large role in determining where he ends up. Lombard is committed to Vanderbilt, but a strong spring in South Florida will make him a sought-after prospect in the draft.
Daniel Cuvet (St. Thomas Aquinas, Miami, Fla.) has an easy, controlled swing with excellent posture and direction. He stays connected well and creates good leverage with extension through contact. He shows advanced strength and projects for plus or better raw power. Cuvet went 2-for-9 in Jupiter, but he swung and missed at just two of the 42 pitches tracked by Synergy at the event.
Across 28 games tracked by Synergy in 2022, Cuvet hit .333/.468/.533, but he struck out in more than a third of his at-bats with an in-zone whiff rate of 21.4%. That number isn’t overly concerning at a higher level of play, but it raises questions about how Cuvet’s present offensive skill set will fare against professional pitching.
Cuvet’s performance in Jupiter wasn’t loud, but he did make contact in the zone against some quality high school pitching. Sustaining an improved contact rate while showing in-game power in the spring could elevate Cuvet into early round consideration, while reverting back to whiffing more frequently could lead Cuvet to college. He completed plays at third base in Jupiter, showing agility and body control to indicate that he could stay at the position. How his body develops in the coming months and years will dictate a lot in terms of where he ends up, but Cuvet has a chance to stay there professionally.