Fantasy Hitters With Intriguing Traits To Follow
Thanks to the introduction of Hawk-Eye data in some minor league parks, prospect analysts are able to measure particular skills at a level that no one would have imagined 10 years ago.
Over the years, my process of evaluating prospects has evolved to a blend of analytics, in-person scouting and video.
I’ve started to appreciate particular skill sets. These biases are noticeably prevalent when discussing hitters. I like position players with a well-balanced skill set: a blend of impact (90th percentile exit velocity), good swing decisions (out-of-zone chase rate), average bat-to-ball skills (contact rate) and the ability to be able to turn that into production.
The minor league hitters presented here caught my eye because of metrics and in-person observation. No player highlighted here ranked as an end-of-season Top 100 Prospect.
For reference, here are the overall minor league averages in 2022:
Chase rate 27% | Contact rate 71%
90th percentile exit velocity 102 mph | Zone contact rate 79%
Miguel Bleis, OF, Red Sox
Florida Complex League
Chase: 27%. 90th EV: 104 mph. Contact: 74%.
The 18-year-old Bleis was one of the most exciting talents in the Rookie-level complex leagues this summer, and the buzz surrounding him should only grow this offseason. He is a speedy center fielder and strong athlete with a combination of above-average contact (86% zone contact), average swing decisions and impact. His well-rounded skill set and ability to make consistent hard barrel contact is rare. A full 20% of Bleis’ balls in play have been hit 95-plus mph and at a launch angle of 10-30 degrees. He is a candidate to burst onto Top 100 Prospects lists next spring.
Samuel Zavala, OF, Padres
Low-A Lake Elsinore
Chase: 25%. 90th EV: 103.5 mph. Contact: 69%.
Zavala spent just 10 games in the ACL this summer before the Padres promoted him to Low-A Lake Elsinore. In 33 games in the California League, Zavala hit .254/.355/.508 with seven home runs and 19 walks to 37 strikeouts. He has a combination of average bat-to-ball skills, above-average swing decisions and plus power. Despite being just 18, Zavala is showing an advanced approach at the plate and more than enough bat-to-ball skills to unlock his plus raw power in games against older competition.
Yainer Diaz, C, Astros
Triple-A Sugar Land
Chase: 38%. 90th EV: 106 mph. Contact: 74%.
On the surface, Diaz has been a highly productive performer over the last two seasons. He has hit .300 or above with a slugging percentage above .500 for consecutive seasons. Diaz pairs above-average bat-to-ball skills and plus raw power, which allows him to work within an aggressive, chase-happy approach. He’s more than likely to stick behind the plate, though he still needs more seasoning.
Dalton Rushing, C, Dodgers
Low-A Rancho Cucamonga
Chase: 21%. 90th EV: 104.7 mph. Contact: 76%.
While Rushing’s pro sample is small and he has beaten up exclusively lower-level competition, his collegiate track record bodes well. The Dodgers drafted him with their top pick—40th overall—out of Louisville in July. So far, Rushing’s elite bat speed has translated into eye-popping production with Rancho Cucamonga. It’s easy to spot his above-average bat-to-ball skills, discerning eye and plus power. Through 17 professional games, Rushing had already put 21 balls in play at 95-plus mph, including a max exit velocity of 109 mph on a home run on Aug. 14. He’s a bat-first catcher with improving defense behind the plate.
Moises Ballesteros, C, Cubs
Low-A Myrtle Beach
Chase: 25%. 90th EV: 104 mph. Contact: 72%.
One of the youngest players in the Carolina League this season at 18 years old, Ballesteros held his own after a standout Arizona Complex League performance earlier this summer. He brings a balanced set of plate skills with average bat-to-ball skills, average swing decisions and exit velocity data. Teenage catchers are difficult to project, but Ballesteros shows an advanced combination of contact, approach and power.
Connor Norby, 2B, Orioles
Chase: 26%. 90th EV: 102.5 mph. Contact: 73%.
Norby has a balanced set of plate skills and has shown the ability to hit for impact in the upper minors. He added strength heading into the season and it manifested in measurable gains in both exit velocity data and game power. Norby has seen a nearly 4 mph jump on his average exit velocity. While his high-end exit velocity numbers are solid-average, his ability to make consistent hard contact stands out. Nearly 42% of Norby’s balls in play were hit at 95-plus mph. That contact quality is paired with above-average speed and above-average contact and chase rates, giving Norby the type of well-rounded skills that play in MLB.