Many of the top position prospects in baseball are descending upon the Phoenix area for the Arizona Fall League. Each year, the AFL boasts a handful of positional players who make an impact in the major leagues the following season.
The positional group is consistently viewed as a deeper talent pool than the league’s pitching corps and thus generates a majority of the excitement around the league. Last week we took a look at the top pitching prospects from a data-based perspective and discussed some of the names to know. Today we return to review the top hitters based on underlying statcast data across a variety of categories.
See our sleepers, full roster analysis and pitchers with intriguing underlying data.
|Player||AFL Team||Org||Level||PA||AVG||Contact Rate|
|Eric Brown Jr.||Surprise||MIL||AA||310||.255||81.1%|
It’s easy to spot the correlation between contact rate and batting average among the top contact hitters in the league. Half the group hit above .300 and all but one (Eric Brown Jr.) batted above .274 this year. Yankees prospect Caleb Durbin stands out even among the best contact hitters with a gap of nearly four percentage points over Jakob Marsee. There’s a sizable gap in plate appearances between the two, and the latter gets the nod for his better overall profile. Guardians 2022 first-round pick Chase DeLauter is another standout name after his impressive professional debut in 2023. James Triantos has shown himself to be a skiller hitter, but has yet to unlock game power. Keep an eye on Padres prospect Graham Pauley – he has one of the best all-around data-based profiles in the minors and balances plus contact skills with advanced approach and average power.
90th Percentile Exit Velocity Leaders
|Player||AFL Team||Org||Level||PA||Isolated Slugging||90%EV|
|Ivan Melendez||Salt River||ARI||AA||426||.306||107.0|
Ninetieth percentile exit velocity looks at the average of the top 10% of batted balls put in play. It’s an excellent way to get a good handle on a hitter’s power upside. This is a one dimensional metric, of course, simply looking at the heights a batter can reach on his best struck contact. It does not account for launch angles, bat-to-ball skills or swing decisions. So it does not measure the quality of the hitter, however there’s a strong correlation between 90th percentile EV and slugging. Abimelec Ortiz and Ivan Melendez are great examples within this group. They rank first and third respectively in isolated slugging among qualified hitters at a full season level. Overall, this group likely possesses the highest power upside even if not all hitters have fully actualized their power in games.
Chase Rate Leaders
|Player||AFL Team||Org||Level||PA||BB%||Chase Rate|
|David McCabe||Salt River||ATL||A+||524||15.3%||17.7%|
The direct link between low chase rates and high walk rates is fairly easy to spot. All of these players discern balls and strikes at an elite rate while rarely, if ever, expanding the zone. There’s often a level of passivity at play as well, which can be a detriment to overall production. Colson Montgomery is the best combination of contact, power, approach and overall skills in this group. The entire group possesses a skill that affords opportunities at the highest levels. Padres prospect Jakob Marsee shows up on a list for the second time, cementing his place as one of the most advanced hitters in the league.
|Ivan Melendez||Salt River||ARI||AA||426||.520|
|Jack Brannigan||Salt River||PIT||A+||374||.454|
|Jace Jung||Salt River||DET||AA||575||.436|
If you’re not familiar with XwOBAcon it’s the expected weighted on-base percentage on contact. In other words, it looks at each individual batted ball event and puts it into a bucket of production (think wOBA) based on the exit velocity and launch angle. It’s valuable because it measures the quality of a player’s contact and isolates it without accounting for bat-to-ball skills. We see many of the same names that were among the 90th percentile exit velocity leaders. Three of the top position prospects in the circuit – Colson Montgomery, Carson Williams and Jace Jung – are among this group. Other names to monitor include Kala’i Rosario, Jack Brannigan and Wes Clarke.
Sweet Spot% Leaders
|Jack Brannigan||Salt River||PIT||A+||374||38.3%|
Sweet spot percentage is a metric that measures the percentage of batted ball events that are hit at a launch angle between eight degrees and 32 degrees, which is considered the ideal range of batted ball angles. This measure correlates directly to a player’s barrel control and consistency within their launch angle, often referred to as launch angle tightness. We can see many of the leaders in xwOBAcon are listed here, as well as many of the same names that appeared on both the 90th percentile leaderboard and the xwOBAcon leaderboard. While this list looks exclusive to power hitters, it’s an overall skillful group.