Brennen Davis, Niko Kavadas Headline 10 Statcast Standouts (May 20)


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Every Monday morning we’ll highlight 10 players who stood out to us based on their underlying Statcast metrics. These are not full scouting reports, but can often serve as good early indicators of prospects who might be ready to break out, or are demonstrating MLB-ready skills.

Last week, we highlighted David Festa as a potential premier pitcher, and dove deep to find you some names that aren’t as well known. This week, we’re going to rejoice in an ascendant comeback, giving a glowing review of a former top prospect who looks to be healthy once again, a deep dive on a converted relief pitcher, a couple of Single-A players looking more and more like future stars, and introduce you to the New Greek God of Walks.

You can access the data below via Baseball Savant.

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10 Statcast Standouts

Brennen Davis, OF, Cubs

Brennen Davis was a consensus Top 100 Prospect for a long time, peaking at No. 16 in 2022. He has since dealt with some very serious back issues that set him backuntil now. Davis is back (pun fully intended) and looks to be rapidly re-establishing himself as a top-tier prospect. After a blistering stretch of games that saw him hit seven home runs in eight games, Davis is now slashing .270/.432/.584 on the season, with a walk rate more in line with what he was doing when he was fully healthy.

If you’re reading this series, you’re probably more interested in the Statcast details powering Davis’ re-ascension to top prospect status. Let’s begin with what Davis does exceptionally well: hit the ball hard, in the air.

Above is simple chart that shows you slugging on contact, by launch angle split apart by various exit velocity buckets. We see that on balls hit 100 mph or harder, 20 degrees of launch angle appears to be the start of optimal contact. This is why I’m not a fan of exit velocity agnostic sweet spot percentage (8 to 32 degrees) as a metric, since if you’re hitting the ball over 100, half of the sweet spot range is a waste!

So let’s take a slightly different angle and look at things in two very similar lenses: First, we’ll look at the percentage of batted balls hit at least 100 mph with at least 20 degrees of loft. Second, we’ll look at the average velocity of balls hit at least 20 degrees, which likely is a good indicator of home run power.

Nobody hits the ball harder than James Wood. However, on balls hit with at least a 20 degree launch angle, Davis averages nearly 2 mph more exit velocity, for a robust 94 mph average, which is also higher than his average of 93. In other words, his best contact is coming on balls he’s lifting, which is a recipe for hitting home runs.

That’s the good. The bad news is he’s still swinging and missing a lot, so he may not be able to hit for a high average in the major leagues. However, he is still working his way back from injury, so it’s possible that will improve as he gets his timing back. I’m very excited for a Davis comeback.

Niko Kavadas, 1B Red Sox

Kavadas reminds me a little of another Red Sox corner infielder who was unheralded as a prospect, but later became known as “The Greek God of Walks”, which is strange, since that wasn’t even his strongest attribute. I say that Kavadas reminds me of Kevin Youkilis, mostly due to their under-the-radar profiles as late-round draft picks, with a mostly first base profile (Youkilis did play a lot of third base), that debuted around age 25, and the connection to walks.

Kavadas’ wRC+ of 183 this season, with a slash line of .307/.463/.663, looks a lot like what he was doing in 2022 when he was demolishing much younger competition, and had a 186 wRC+ in Class A before his promotion to Double-A.

Kavadas does a tremendous job hitting the ball hard and in the air, sitting atop the 100/20 chart, while averaging an incredible 97.4 mph on his batted balls hit at 20 degrees or higher. His 32.8% swing percentage is the second lowest in Triple-A this season. He presents a profile as the classic True Outcomes type of hitter, with most of his plate appearances likely to end up as a home run, walk or strikeout. We may be looking at the New Greek God of Walks.

Michael Mercado, SP Phillies

The Rays get a lot of credit for making savvy trades that net them unheralded pitching prospectss. However, they also traded away Joe Ryan, and recently, Michael Mercado, who looks like he’s transforming himself into a legitimate starter, after looking like a potential relief ace.

Against the Norfolk Tides, Mercado spun five scoreless innings, striking out seven while allowing only a hit and a walk, including two strikeouts against Jackson Holliday, and one against Coby Mayo. Mercado has thrown five innings without allowing a run in two consecutive games. Let’s dig into his arsenal:

Mercado has an average to plus fastball as a starter, with good velocity, averaging 95.5 MPH in his five inning start, with slightly above-average vertical movement given the arm slot. Having a good fastball is a critical base for a starter, and it’s very encouraging to see Mercado’s velocity and shape hold up over a five-inning start.

What makes Mercado exciting is that he has the makings of two plus secondaries, generating swing and miss on his 89 mph cutter, as well as his hard curve at 84; both pitches are getting over 20% swinging strikes per pitch. When batters are able to make contact against the curveball, they are hammering it into the ground with a negative 26 degree average launch angle, suggesting they are generally swinging over the top of the pitch.

He’s mostly using the curve as a chase pitch, which may be a command issue, and he may be taking a Blake Snell approach with the pitch.

The shape of the cutter suggests he might have room in his arsenal for a true gyro slider, closer to 0 inches of IVB, which could give him another weapon to use. He also throws a hard changeup, but it hasn’t been a good pitch for him, so he may struggle a little against lefties, though his fastball-cutter combo should be mostly platoon neutral. He likely needs some time to build up as a starter in Triple-A, but looks poised to be a part of the Phillies rotation at some point in the near future.

Chase Meidroth, 3B/2B, Red Sox

Meidroth is a unicorn. Despite poor raw power numbers (108 peak EV, 87.7 average EV and 100.5 EV90), he currently sits as RoboScout’s No. 22 prospect in Triple-A. Kavadas currently has the second-lowest swing percentage in Triple-A, but Meidroth is right there with him at 32.8% while doing it with a minuscule 9.6% whiff rate (whiffs per swing), giving him an otherworldly 3.2% swinging strike rate (whiffs per pitch). This fully supports the 31 walks to only 19 strikeouts so far this season. Guys like this are often useful major leaguers, as they’ll hit for a decent average and get on base enough to offset a lack of home run output.

Aidan Miller, 3B, Phillies

Miller continues to mash, sporting a .326/.425/.558 slash line, good for an impressive wRC+ of 179, which is particularly impressive for a batter this young, which is built upon an impressive bat-to-ball ability, combine with average to plus power.

Miller’s 106.3 mph 90th percentile exit velocity (MLB average is around 104) suggests that he has plus power, and he’s doing a decent job lifting the ball, averaging roughly 10 degrees of launch angle. Miller’s other exit velocity metrics are currently below average, so while I would tend to lean on 90th percentile exit velocity as the predictive stat for a player this young, it remains to be seen if he’ll continue to have plus power, or if it will settle in as roughly average.

Alfredo Duno, C, Reds

Duno is currently RoboScout’s No. 5 performer in Low-A, behind Lazaro Montes, Jeral Perez, Colt Emerson and Jaison Chourio. I think he’s even better than his current slash line of .270/.382/.440, with absolutely monstrous power, as he’s averaging 91.1 mph on his balls hit 20 degrees or higher, about 2.5-3 mph above the major league average. It’s impressive raw power potential given that he’s only 18, and he isn’t even consistently getting to his power yet. He has a lot of swing and miss right now, but plenty of time to work on it.

Juan Arnaud, RHP, Mets

We only have 165 pitches of data on Arnaud, but what we see is a very interesting fastball/slider combo, with maybe a sweeper. Pitch classification can be a bit messy, but looks like his cutter (FC) is likely a gyro slider, coming in a 87 mph and is basically untouchable at this level. His fastball comes in at 95-96 mph from a low slot with well above-average ride given the release. I’m not sure why he’s throwing a sinker, as it isn’t nearly as good as his fastball. For a pitcher that projects as a relief-only guy, I think he should focus on the four-seam fastball, bullet slider pair. Both pitches look major league quality from a pure stuff perspective. He’ll need to throw more strikes, so perhaps narrowing the arsenal to his two main weapons will help him improve his command.

Thomas Bruss, RHP, Tigers

Should I write about a 25-year-old pitcher in Low-A with a sum total of 200 pitches in the minor leagues? Of course! That’s what this series is all about. Shining some light on players who don’t get a lot of attention.

You may say, ‘but Eli, he had a 5.06 ERA in independent ball last year, and an even worse 6.27 ERA the year before that!’ Well, the Tigers found him interesting enough to put on their Florida State League roster. They’ve had some recent success turning pitchers around (Jack Flaherty), and developing good ones into great ones (Tarik Skubal), so perhaps we shouldn’t judge this book by its cover ERA. With pitchers, tiny differences in pitch shapes and small leaps in command can make massive differences. I think Bruss fits that bill entirely.

Bruss’ 6-foot-8 stature stands out immediately. However, he’s more than just a tall pitcher. He throws the classic high-vert/gyro slider combo, with a decent changeup mixed in. The fastball has plus velo at 96 mph, with about average ride given the slot, though it’s often hard to get a precise reading with pitchers this tall. It’s the type of pitch that goes from roughly average to amazing with 2 inches of ride and 2 mph, which is very easy for me to write into existence, but much harder to actually accomplish as a pitcher. The slider looks great as is, and will play up even more if he’s able to improve the fastball. Essentially, Bruss’ pure stuff numbers look the part, and we’ll have to wait and see if he can execute and turn into a huge win for Detroit’s scouting and player development.

Franco Aleman, RHP, Guardians

I wrote about Aleman about a month ago, and he remains (to me) as much of a mystery now as he was back then. He does a great job attacking the top of the zone with his four seam fastball, which has below-average ride and only about 93-94 mph of velo, but gets great results at the top of the zone.

He also attacks the top of the zone with his sinker as well. His approach of just attacking the top third of the zone, with a fastball and sinker that look extremely similar, is proving to be very difficult for Triple-A batters to handle. Given that the two pitches come out at the same velo, to the same target location, and only differ by 1.5 inches of vertical break and 3 inches of horizontal break, it will be very difficult for batters to guess right on the pitch, especially at the top of the zone.

Neither his slider nor his curveball are any good, and absent him developing a harder version of the slider ideally around 85 mph, it’s an open question if his current sinker/fastball approach will work in the majors. Aleman is currently on the IL, so we’ll likely have to wait a little longer to have those questions answered.

Michel Otanez, RHP, Athletics

Otanez has an electric arm with high-leverage potential. However, I think he’s in dire need of some changes to his arsenal. He throws both a sinker and a fastball, with the former topping out at 102.4 and the latter at 101.2; he’s thrown his sinker 217 times this year, and his fastball only 62 times.

He doesn’t have good command of the sinker, as he’s all over the place with it, to both righties and lefties. The samples are very small for the other pitch types, so we’ll leave them off for now.

What strikes me about his pitch mix is that his fastball gets very good ride given his arm angle, and should play up, especially at the top of the zone, given the top-shelf velocity. His cutter at 88 mph is probably a better pitch than his 85 mph slider, however, I’d love for him to refine the two into a true bullet slider around 90 mph, which would give him a potentially elite pitch given the raw traits. I love the potential with Otanez, though he may need some tweaks to achieve it.

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