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How Wander Franco, Luis Robert Took Different Approaches To Great Seasons



Rays shortstop Wander Franco ranks first on the Top 100 Prospects and White Sox center fielder Luis Robert ranks second. Both had exceptional 2019 seasons, but they took wildly different paths to get to that success.

Franco was a maestro of controlling his at-bats. Thanks to his selective eye and exceptional hand-eye coordination, he generally got ahead in counts, got the pitcher at a disadvantage and then found a pitch to hit.

Forty percent of Franco’s plate appearances ended with him ahead in the count. And he hit .326/.510/.543 when he was ahead.

Among Top 100 Prospects with 100 or more plate appearances in full-season ball last year, Franco ranked sixth in percentage of plate appearances where he was ahead in the count. Angels outfielder Brandon Marsh was tops with 43.5 percent.

Franco’s youth (18 years old) and level (a half season at each Class A level) adds to the impressiveness of his ability to get ahead.

Robert’s approach was different. He took big swings, doing damage when he connected. He often fell behind in the count, but even when he did, he continued to drive balls because of an exceptional ability to make hard contact when behind in the count.

Both Robert and Franco had roughly one-third of their plate appearances end after zero or one pitches. But in 51 percent of Robert’s plate appearances he faced a two-strike pitch. Franco got to two strikes in just 35 percent of his plate appearances. While 12 percent of Franco’s PAs finished with him being up 2-0, 3-1 or 3-0 in the count, just 5.7 percent of Robert’s PAs finished in those counts.

Among Top 100 Prospects with 100 or more plate appearances in full-season ball last year, only Oneil Cruz had a higher percentage than Robert of PAs that finished with him behind in the count. Robert’s percentage of PAs when he was ahead in the count (26 percent) was also second worst among the 49 hitters studied (Cruz was again worst).

For most hitters, hitting consistently while behind the count is a recipe for disaster. The reason is simple: hitters generally succeed when ahead in the count and struggle when hitting while behind in the count. But Robert made it work because he had exceptional numbers in disadvantageous counts.

In 74 plate appearance resolving on an 0-2 pitch, Robert hit .257/.263/.460. On 1-2, he hit .211/.220/.400. Those numbers might seem unremarkable until you realize that almost nobody is a decent hitter in 0-2 and 1-2 counts. In the major leagues last season, hitters batted .149/.159/.234 on 0-2 and .161/.169/.256 on 1-2.

Robert’s 34 total bases on 0-2 counts was second-best in the minors, behind the Orioles’ Ryan Mountcastle. Robert’s 124 total bases when hitting from behind was tops in the minors by a large margin

Ahead In The Count
Here’s a look at which Top 100 Prospects had the highest percentage of plate appearances when they were ahead in the count when the PA resolved. The study included those hitters who had 100 or more plate appearances in full-season ball in 2019.
PlayerAheadEvenBehind
Brandon Marsh43.40%30.30%26.20%
Nolan Jones42.10%33.10%24.90%
Carter Kieboom40.90%29.10%30.00%
Jarred Kelenic40.60%30.60%28.80%
Alec Bohm40.40%33.00%26.70%
Wander Franco40.00%32.50%27.50%
Gavin Lux39.20%35.00%25.80%
Geraldo Perdomo38.70%34.90%26.50%
Sean Murphy38.60%40.00%21.40%
Isaac Paredes38.00%34.40%27.50%
Top 100 Average34.40%34.50%31.10%
Behind In The Count
Here’s a look at which Top 100 Prospects had the highest percentage of plate appearances when they were behind in the count when the PA resolved. Again the study includes Top 100 Prospects with 100 or more plate appearances in full-season ball in 2019.
PlayerAheadEvenBehind
Oneil Cruz26.70%33.10%40.20%
Luis Robert24.70%35.80%39.60%
Ronny Mauricio28.40%32.70%38.90%
Tyler Freeman29.60%31.60%38.80%
Nico Hoerner30.30%31.60%38.10%
Josh Jung35.20%26.80%38.00%
Drew Waters28.80%33.30%37.90%
Joey Bart32.80%31.70%35.50%
Alex Kirilloff30.40%34.50%35.00%
Nolan Gorman32.40%32.60%35.00%
Top 100 Average34.40%34.50%31.10%
Marco Luciano Zachlucyfourseam

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