MLB Prospects Who Cut Their Miss And Chase Rates The Most In 2023


Image credit: Benny Montgomery (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

So far this offseason, we’ve examined multiple data points with the goal of identifying year-over-year skill development among current prospects. First, we examined pitchers who added fastball velocity year-over-year. Next, we looked at hitters who had the biggest jumps in exit velocity metrics year-over-year

After spending our first two posts examining added power for pitchers and hitters, today we’ll take a deeper dive into players who developed or improved upon skills previously. 

How do we define skills? For a hitter, it’s simply the ability to put bat-to-ball and discern balls from strikes without expanding the strike zone. Today, we’ll look at which hitters saw the greatest improvements in their bat-to-ball skills as well as their rate of swings outside the zone, or chases. 

As we have with previous samples, we looked at hitters with a minimum of 250 plate appearances in each of the last two seasons (2022 and 2023). 

For this reason we avoid a lot of complex league players and 2023 draftees. These players typically have smaller, less reliable samples, but also make up a large chunk of professional players aged 18 or younger. Players in that age range have shown they have the most rapid skill and power development of any age group among professionals. 

Miss Rate Droppers

This is an eclectic group, as two players listed below were already above-average to plus contact hitters, who raised their bat-to-ball skills to double-plus levels. The remaining eight were all players with fringe-average to below-average contact skills, who took a leap into above-average territory. Jumping a full grade on the 20-80  scouting scale when applying contact rates. 

PLAYERORG22 Miss%23 Miss%Con% +/-
Luis MatosSF25.70%14.40%-11.30%
Aaron BrachoCLE34.10%24.10%-10.00%
Jheremy VargasMIL31.40%21.60%-9.80%
Jackson ChourioMIL33.00%23.30%-9.70%
Jose AlvarezSTL31.80%22.90%-8.90%
Viandel PenaWSH32.90%24.10%-8.80%
Xavier EdwardsMIA19.90%11.20%-8.70%
Lawrence ButlerOAK33.70%25.20%-8.50%
  • One of the most underdiscussed elements of Jackson Chourio’s 2023 was his ability to substantially improve his contact rate while dealing with the tacked balls in the Southern League during the season’s first half. This is welcomed growth from a player with plus power and tools. It also hints at untapped potential still lurking under the surface of one of the top prospects in the game. 
  • Xavier Edwards was already a plus contact hitter, but he pushed himself into elite territory this season with a 11.2% miss rate, meaning nearly 90% of pitches Edwards swings at he makes contact with. Edwards lacks power, but his elite contact skills and rediscovered running ability make him an interesting player in the slash and dash archetype. 
  • Luis Matos recaptured his prospect pedigree after a difficult 2022. Matos rode an improved contact rate to early success in the minor leagues and a MLB debut by mid-June. The contact skills held true in the major leagues as well, as Matos produced a 84.9% contact rate across 253 plate appearances with the Giants. 
  • Another young player who slashed his miss rate year-over-year is Lawrence Butler. The athletic and powerful outfielder has steadily improved during his time as a professional, and in 2023 he drastically improved one of the biggest weaknesses in his game. Butler had long struggled with contact. Despite raw power, athleticism and explosiveness, bat-to-ball skills eluded him. In 2023, that all changed as Butler slashed his miss rate from a below-average 33.7% to a slightly above-average 25.2% miss rate. At 23, Butler is far better positioned for potential major league success now that he’s making consistent contact. 

Chase Rate Droppers

For many players, improving swing and miss is less about baseline bat-to-ball skills and more about the players swinging themselves into outs. Hitting the ball is important, but knowing which pitches you can and cannot hit may be of equal or greater importance. Less chases also correlate to more walks, and generally better production. Hitters who avoid chasing bad pitches put pressure on the pitcher to operate in the strike zone, which creates potential for more missed spots in the zone, in turn leading to better pitches to hit. Below, you will find listed the ten biggest drops in chase rate year-over-year. You will notice almost exclusively these players had below-average to poor approaches in 2022, and all but one (Rainer Nunez) have lowered that number to an average or better rate in 2023. 

PLAYERORG22 Chase%23 Chase%Chase%+/-
Benny MontgomeryCOL42%23.90%-18.10%
Cristian SantanaDET31%16.60%-14.40%
Kahlil WatsonCLE36%22.90%-13.10%
A.J. VukovichAZ39%27.50%-11.50%
Jeremy RivasSTL37%26.00%-11.00%
Rainer NunezTOR44%33.20%-10.80%
Fabian PertuzCHC40%29.80%-10.20%
Tyler WhitakerHOU27%16.80%-10.20%
Jose RodriguezCWS35%25.30%-9.70%
Hunter GoodmanCOL38%28.40%-9.60%
  • This list features Rockies on bookends of this list with very different styles of play. Benny Montgomery saw the biggest year-over-year growth at the plate of any hitter in baseball and has enjoyed a solid showing in the Arizona Fall League. Montgomery was as raw as any high-profile American prep player in recent memory. This is a great sign he’s taken a massive step forward from an awareness and approach standpoint at the plate. Montgomery grew from a well–below average chaser a year ago to an above-average chase rate in 2023. 
  • The other Rockies’ prospect is Hunter Goodman, a power hitter with positional question. Goodman enjoyed a strong 2022, but his underlying contact and plate skills left lingering questions around his power’s viability heading into 2023. The power hitter tightened up his approach, and enjoyed a successful 2023, reaching the major leagues by the summer. Low-contact, high-chase power hitters with positional questions hardly make it, meaning Goodman’s chase rate improvements have improved the viability of his career. 
  • Both Cristian Santana of the Tigers and Kahlil Watson of the Guardians entered 2022 with high expectations but saw substantial crashes to their prospect status following the season. Neither has regained his lofty status, but each has proven to have the ability to improve. Watson had a solid season across two High-A stops, while Santana struggled in a second season in the Florida State League.

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