Numbers Game: Power Players
A home run is perhaps the most valuable—and exciting—play in baseball. Thus home run hitters are among the most valuable—and exciting—commodities in baseball.
Even more valuable is a slugger with true all-fields power. Such hitters tend to be less prone to slumps and also are more likely to go deep even when hitting to the middle of the field or taking a pitch the other way.
The Cubs, to cite one example, have found success by drafting college hitters with all-fields power, such as Kris Bryant in 2013 and Kyle Schwarber in 2014. The draft class of 2016 featured all-fields power hitters Nick Senzel (Reds) and Kyle Lewis (Mariners), who came off the board early and are currently Top 100 Prospects.
With this year’s draft class skewing heavy on quality college bats, we examined home run spray charts to identify which hitters are pull-oriented and which use all fields. The sample includes the top 20 college hitters, according to the BA 500 predraft ranking (displayed as No. below), who had hit at least seven home runs prior to regionals. In other words, these are the top draft-eligible, college position prospects who had hit at least seven homers.
HOME RUN LOCATION TRACKER FOR TOP DRAFT-ELIGIBLE COLLEGE HITTERS
|HR Location Tracker For Top College Hitters|
|6||Alec Bohm||3B||Wichita State||R||16||3||6||3||3||1||18.8||75.0||6.3|
|8||Joey Bart||C||Georgia Tech||R||16||3||3||3||4||3||18.8||62.5||18.8|
|9||Travis Swaggerty||OF||South Alabama||L||13||1||1||2||3||6||46.2||46.2||7.7|
|26||Jeremy Eierman||SS||Missouri State||R||10||5||2||2||1||0||50.0||50.0||0.0|
|27||Trevor Larnach||OF||Oregon State||L||17||6||1||6||3||1||5.9||58.8||35.3|
|29||Greyson Jenista||OF||Wichita State||L||9||2||1||1||3||2||22.2||55.6||22.2|
|68||Tyler Frank||2B||Florida Atlantic||R||12||8||3||0||0||1||66.7||25.0||8.3|
|69||Luken Baker||1B||Texas Christian||R||9||6||2||1||0||0||66.7||33.3||0.0|
|89||Gage Canning||OF||Arizona State||L||9||0||0||1||5||3||33.3||66.7||0.0|
|92||Kyle Isbel||OF||Nevada-Las Vegas||L||14||0||0||0||5||9||64.3||35.7||0.0|
|96||Cal Raleigh||C||Florida State||B||13||4||0||0||2||7||53.8||15.4||30.8|
Note that Florida Atlantic second baseman Tyler Frank hit a home run that was not tracked and, therefore, does not display in his total.
To summarize the results, we broke each hitter’s home run output into three categories: pull side (Pull%), middle of the field (Mid%) and opposite field (Opp%). All home runs hit to left-center, center and right-center field are classified as middle of the field.
Illinois first baseman Bren Spillane led all hitters in the sample with nine opposite-field homers. He hit nine, which was three more than the next closest player. Spillane also showed an ability to hit for power to all fields, with at least three homers hit to each field except center, where he came up empty. He also led the field by hitting 39 percent of his homers to the opposite field.
Wichita State third baseman Alec Bohm showed a remarkable ability to hit to all fields. While he hit only one home run to the opposite field, he hit at least three to each of the other fields. In fact, he led the sample by hitting 75 percent of his homers to the middle of the field.
Florida third baseman Jonathan India also demonstrated the ability to hit to all fields. He hit multiple homers to each field and hit 53 percent of his homers either to the middle of the field or the opposite field.
Oregon State outfielder Trevor Larnach hit 16 of his 17 home runs—that’s 94 percent—to the middle of the field or the opposite field. He hit six home runs to straightaway center, which was easily the highest number in the sample. Larnach should have no trouble translating his power to pro ball.
Georgia Tech catcher Joey Bart smashed 13 of his 16 home runs (81 percent) to center or the opposite field. Only Larnach and Spillane had a higher percentage of homers that weren’t pulled.
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Maryland second baseman Nick Dunn was by far the most pull-oriented power hitter in our sample. He pulled all 10 of his home runs to right field.
The next most pull-heavy power hitters were Kentucky outfielder Tristan Pompey (71 percent), Texas Christian first baseman Luken Baker (67 percent) and Tyler Frank (67 percent).
Nevada-Las Vegas outfielder Kyle Isbel, Duke outfielder Griffin Conine and Clemson first baseman Seth Beer—a trio of lefthanded sluggers—all hit nine home runs to their pull side, even though their overall home run distribution didn’t skew dramatically to the pull side.
In baseball’s age of analytics, home run location information can give fans an idea of what to expect from top college hitters when they enter pro ball.