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Fantasy: Good Things Come To Those Who Rake

CJ_Abrams_BillMitchell.jpg
CJ Abrams (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

Most hitters must choose one path or the other. Emphasize contact or emphasize power.

Most choose the latter, striving to do damage with every swing, even if it means they hear "strike three” more frequently.

But as with anything, there are exceptions.

In the prospect world, Rays Class A shortstop Wander Franco is perhaps the most notable exception. Not only is Franco the No. 1 prospect in baseball, but the 18-year-old also is Exhibit A for the type of hitter who can employ a high-contact and high-power approach simultaneously.

Thanks to the introduction of swinging-strike rate (SwStr%) data on the minor league leaderboards at FanGraphs.com, we have a good idea exactly how frequently Franco makes contact when he swings at a pitch.

Franco had swung and missed on just 4.4 percent of pitches at which he had offered, a rate that ranked him comfortably inside the top 10 among qualified full-season minor leaguers.

Franco’s .185 isolated slugging percentage (ISO) did not rank among the game’s elite, but (1) it still ranked in the upper quartile of the nearly 1,000 full-season players who had batted 250 times, (2) he had played in the pitcher-friendly Midwest and Florida State leagues, and (3) he’s still just 18 years old.

Franco joins six other midseason Top 100 Prospects who stood out for their bat-to-ball ability and propensity for damage. In the table below you can see the players’ names and percentile scores for SwStr% and ISO in the context of their various leagues.

NamePosTeamLvlLeagueAgePASwStrISO
Wander FrancoSSRaysLoAMidwest1827299%91%
Wander FrancoSSRaysHiAFlorida State18101100%94%
Gavin LuxSSDodgersAATexas2129181%94%
Gavin LuxSSDodgersAAAPacific Coast2110469%100%
Joey BartCGiantsHiACalifornia2220884%94%
Luis Urias2BPadresAAAPacific Coast2233978%83%
Alec Bohm3BPhilliesHiAFlorida State2217782%91%
Alec Bohm3BPhilliesAAEastern2211986%98%
Vidal Brujan2BRaysAASouthern2110397%76%
Nate Lowe1BRaysAAAInternational2329689%75%


But the focus of this piece is not to rehash the greatness of these premium prospects. Instead we will dive into the data to find promising young hitters to place on your dynasty radar. Players are listed here with their league percentile ranks for strikeout rate (in Rookie-level leagues where SwStr isn't available) and isolated power.

1. CJ Abrams, SS, Padres
Arizona League
98% SO | 95% ISO

The fast playing surfaces and inexperienced defenders of the AZL have amplified the best attributes of Abrams, a fast, contact-oriented lefthanded hitter. The sixth overall pick in June has shot up dynasty draft boards with his incendiary pro debut, which includes a .405 average, 13 stolen bases and just 13 strikeouts to go with 21 extra-base hits through 29 games.

2. Johan Rojas, OF, Phillies
Gulf Coast League
84% SO | 93% ISO

The Phillies signed a 17-year-old Rojas out of the Dominican Republic in 2018 and he has steadily gained esteem in the industry. He quickly hit his way out of the GCL this season with 11 extra-base hits and nine walks in 18 games on his way to becoming one of the youngest hitters in the New York-Penn League. The Phillies’ aggressive timetable for Rojas says a lot about their confidence level.

3. Francisco Alvarez, C, Mets
Gulf Coast League
89% SO | 100% ISO

Alvarez proved to be too advanced for the complex leagues, both the Dominican Summer League and the GCL, while making his pro debut. Signed last year out of Venezuela, the 17-year-old showed incredible bat-to-ball skills and opposite-field power as he quickly hit his way to the Appalachian League.

4. Aaron Bracho, 2B, Indians
Arizona League
84% SO | 98% ISO

The Indians signed Bracho as a switch-hitting shortstop out of Venezuela in 2017, but he didn’t make his pro debut until this year after missing 2018 with an arm injury. Cleveland sent him straight to the AZL and reassigned him to second base. No matter. Bracho has thrived by hitting .300 with power and supreme strike-zone judgment.

Francisco_Alvarez_TracyProfittFourSeam.jpg

PODCAST: Fantasy Hipster (8/16)

This week's podcast focuses on prospects Francisco Alvarez, Aaron Bracho and Alexander Ovalles, among others.

5. Alexander Ovalles, OF, Rangers
Arizona League
87% SO | 92% ISO

Whenever a Dominican Summer League prospect is traded for a major leaguer, you can be sure he has an outstanding tool or skill. That’s the case for Ovalles, a sweet-swinging lefthanded hitter whom the Rangers promoted to the Northwest League at age 18 after he hit .377 in 25 games in the AZL. The Cubs signed Ovalles as a 17-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2018 and later traded him to Texas as the player to be named for Cole Hamels.

6. Andrew Vaughn, 1B, White Sox
Low Class A Kannapolis (South Atlantic)
78% SwStr | 80% ISO

Vaughn drew projected 70 future grades for his hitting ability and power capability while at California this spring, making him the rare righthanded college first baseman to be considered for a top three draft pick. The White Sox snagged him at No. 3 overall and pushed him to the South Atlantic League, where he showcased a power and patience approach.

7. Marco Luciano, SS, Giants
Arizona League
63% SO | 98% ISO

Baseball America has written a lot about Luciano—and with good reason. The 17-year-old Dominican shortstop has made a mockery of the AZL by hitting .339 with nine home runs through 31 games. Luciano trailed the league home run leader by one, while showing well above-average bat-to-ball skills.

8. Corbin Carroll, OF, D-backs
Arizona League
59% SO | 82% ISO

Carroll drew acclaim as an amateur for his advanced strike-zone judgment, the best in the 2019 high school class. He also ranked among the top prep hitters, along with Riley Greene and Brett Baty. Carroll’s early production in pro ball, which included 23 walks and 23 strikeouts through 25 games, suggests that praise was entirely deserved.

Special Mention: Blue Jays Class A Catchers

Toronto boasted a .300-hitting catcher and top 10 prospect at each of its Class A affiliates: Mexican Alejandro Kirk at high Class A Dunedin and Venezuelan Gabriel Moreno and low Class A Lansing. Both Kirk and Moreno had swinging-strike rates and isolated slugging percentages comfortably in the 90th percentile.

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