Image credit: (Photo by Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images)
With more batted ball data available at the college level, we can dig into the numbers and see which players hit the ball hardest, which players make the most contact and even dig into the swing decision quality of the top hitters in the country—three elements that make up great hitters.
Today I’m replicating an exercise that started for players in the 2023 draft class and putting together a chart that compares 56 of the top college hitters in the 2024 draft class. Among players currently ranked in our Top 100 2024 draft list, only Seaver King—who played the 2023 season with Division II Wingate (N.C.)—is not included here.
Hitters are plotted below with 2023 TrackMan data for 90th percentile exit velocity (y axis), overall contact rate (x axis) and chase rates (plot point shading). If you mouse over individual plot points you can see the data for each player.
In an attempt to contextualize some of this data further, here are the averages for this 56-player sample:
- 90th percentile exit velocity: 104.9 mph
- Contact%: 77.3%
- Chase%: 23.4%
Nick Kurtz, 1B, Wake Forest
While the track record for first round college first basemen might be dicey, Kurtz checks a lot of offensive boxes that still makes him the top-ranked player on our current Top 100 draft board. He is one of only four players among this group of hitters with a chase rate less than 15% and a 90th-percentile exit velocity greater than 105 mph. Of that group of four players, Kurtz’s 108.9-mph 90th percentile mark is nearly three ticks better than the next-best hitter. There’s no real hole I can see in his offensive game. He hits both velocity and breaking stuff at an impressive clip, uses the entire field for over-the-fence power and has walked more than he’s struck out in both of his seasons with Wake Forest. He pairs excellent power with an advanced hitting approach. As you’ll see, that’s a rare combination.
Jac Caglianone, 1B/LHP, Florida
The freakiest of freaks in the 2024 class, Caglianone can do many things on the baseball field that other players only dream of. He stands out on our plot above by averaging the loudest 90th percentile mark of the group at 113.3 mph. Only three players in our exercise today eclipsed the 110-mph threshold, and if you looked at every hitter we have data for in the country in 2023—regardless of draft class or prospect status—Caglianone’s exit velocity is second to only 2023 second rounder Kemp Alderman. While Caglianone’s power is exceptional, and his contact is solid at 76.1%, his chase rate needs to improve significantly in 2024. He is the only player in this exercise to eclipse the 40.9% chase rate mark and he’s one of just 10 hitters here who expands the zone more than 30% of the time.
Rodney Green Jr., OF, California
Green finds himself in what you could call the “Chase Davis zone” at the same stage entering his draft season. With solid power (106.8 mph 90th) and a solid approach (24.7% chase), Green has been a productive hitter for California for two seasons and has posted a .391 on-base percentage. Like Davis a year ago, however, there are contact questions that he’ll need to answer and he has yet to hit over .300 in a single college season. He’s toward the bottom of the barrel when looking purely at bat-to-ball ability, as his 65.3% contact rate is the third-lowest of this group of players. If he can find the barrel more frequently this spring, there’s no reason he couldn’t find himself in the first round on draft day in the same way Davis did. Here are their numbers side by side:
Green: 24.7% chase / 65.3% contact / 106.8 mph 90th
Davis: 19% chase / 68% contact / 107.8 mph 90th
Tommy White, 3B, Louisiana State
White is one of the premier sluggers in college baseball in recent history (and potentially ever) and it’s no surprise to see him here with standout power and contact numbers. He is one of only two players here to manage a 90th percentile exit velocity greater than 108 mph and a contact rate greater than 80%. That combination of thump and contact ability has led to a .369/.431/.741 slash line and 51 home runs in just 121 games. And his unique combination of power/contact has probably allowed him to get away with a hyper-aggressive approach at the plate. It’s worked fine in the best conference in college baseball, but scouts will certainly want to see his 38% chase rate improve a bit this spring in his draft year to have more conviction about how his offensive game will translate to pro pitching and wood bats.
Now let’s take a look at a few different distinct groupings of players from the chart above:
Well-Rounded Offensive Profiles
The upper-right corner of the graph is the place you want to be in this chart, and you’d also like to be there with a plot point that is as dark green as you can get. This group of players primarily includes Kurtz, JJ Wetherholt, Travis Bazzana and Cole Mathis. Each of the first three names are not much of a surprise. Kurtz, Wetherholt and Bazzana top our draft board—in that order—and have developed fantastic reputations as well-rounded hitters. Kurtz has the best power of the trio, Wetherholt has made the most contact, and Bazzana narrowly edges Kurtz for the best chase rate of the group. Pick your preference there.
The name that is a bit more surprising in this cluster of players is College of Charleston first baseman Cole Mathis, who checks in as the No. 95 prospect in the class. Mathis had a sensational year across the board in 2023, when he hit .328/.437/.572 with nine home runs and 20 doubles. He followed that up with a strong summer in the Cape Cod League with Cotuit where he slashed .318/.381/.667 with 11 home runs. Previously, I mentioned that Tommy White was one of just two players with at least an 80% contact rate and a 108 mph 90th percentile exit velocity. Mathis is the other player, and he is the only hitter here who can boast those figures as well as a 20% or better chase rate. It’s an extremely well-rounded offensive profile by the data, and he can also get on the mound and throw 96 mph.
He’s currently the closest to a Nolan Schanuel type of bat in the class, and his small conference status and first base profile makes that comparison even better—though Mathis is a righthander hitter.
Mathis: 17.4% chase / 83% contact / 108.4 mph 90th
Schanuel: 19% chase / 87% contact / 106.3 mph 90th
In the end-of-season exercise for the 2023 class, I noted that only Wyatt Langford and Gino Groover met all three of the following criteria: a 90th percentile exit velocity of 107 mph or better; a contact rate of 80% or better; a chase rate of 25% or better. Mathis was the only player to meet those criteria in this exercise. Expect him to rank higher on our next rankings update.
The Ball Goes Far If The Bat Ever Finds It
This is the same cluster that players like Kemp Alderman, Caden Grice and Nolan McLean from the 2023 class occupied. Each player in this bucket has a 90th percentile exit velocity greater than 108 mph and a contact rate less than 73%.
Mississippi State outfielder Dakota Jordan is the most prominent name here. He has absolutely thunderous bat speed and raw power, but a 69% contact rate and 25% strikeout rate in 2023 meant he only hit 10 home runs, which feels like a surprisingly low number in this offensive environment given his natural strength. His 90th percentile exit velocity was just behind Caglianone among all hitters in the country in 2023. This spring he needs to find a way to make that power more productive.
Others in this group include Texas Christian first baseman Payton Tolle and a pair of Tennessee hitters: Billy Amick has the most egregious chase rate of the group, but brings plenty of thump to Tennessee after he homered 13 times with Clemson last spring, and Christian Moore has a respectable 22.8% chase rate and plenty of pop, but his 65% contact rate is good for second-worst among all players in this exercise.
Contact Or Nothing
There was a fairly distinct grouping of heavy-contact, light-power hitters at the bottom right side of the graph in the 2023 class, including names like Jacob Wilson, Christian Knapczyk, Tommy Hawke, Eddie Park and Michael Carico. That phylum of hitters isn’t quite as obvious in 2024, though both Kyle DeBarge (Louisiana-Lafayette) and Jared Thomas (Texas) managed contact rates greater than 85% and 90th percentile exit velocities less than 102 mph.
Like the group in 2023, both DeBarge and Thomas profile as up-the-middle defenders, which is intuitive considering the prospect caliber of the group. If you don’t hit for much power and you are still included, there’s something else you must be doing well. Adding more power this spring could help both players jump up the board, though I would not expect huge power gains from this demographic in general.
Questionable Offensive Profiles
In contrast with the first bucket of players we looked at, you don’t want to end up in this one. Again, unlike the 2023 class, the questionable offensive profiles of the 2024 class aren’t quite as distinct and are more connected to the main cluster of players, but there are a few names to mention here with various concerns. The player group in descending order of exit velocity is: Florida State third baseman Cam Smith, Florida State first baseman James Tibbs, Florida third baseman Colby Shelton, Vanderbilt shortstop Chris Maldonado, UCLA shortstop Cody Schrier and Texas A&M shortstop Ali Camarillo.
To an even greater degree than our “contact or nothing” bucket, this group of players requires a strong defensive profile or loud raw tools to dream on, and that’s largely the case here with a number of infielders on the left side of the dirt.
Smith is the highest-ranking player of this group and he showed impressive signs of an improved approach and more contact last summer on the Cape, which will be crucial for him to translate to ACC play this spring. Tibbs needs to make more contact, and is one of only five players in this exercise with a contact rate less than 70%. Both Schrier and Maldonado need to add either more power, more contact ability or both, and Camarillo has the weakest 90th percentile exit velocity mark (97.7 mph) while also chasing at a high 30.5% clip.