Plotting Out Contact and Power Standouts At The MILB Level
One of the most common questions asked around any article discussing statistics, metrics or measurements is flatly “What does it mean?” Other times it’s a matter of putting a number like exit velocity, induced vertical break, spin rate or launch angle into context—“What’s a good number?” These questions often have complex and confusing answers making it hard to put things into their proper context. Analytical articles can further complicate things by looking at two or more metrics in unison to measure a combination of skills. Examples include articles of my own that look at contact and power or power and speed. While words and numbers can often illustrate abilities, it’s hard to put it in the context of that player's skills versus his peers.
Luckily we have visual aids for that. Today we’ll take a look at five players that stand out for their combination of elite power and above-average contact skills. The graphs below were created using sourced data and include all players with a minimum of 100 plate appearances this season in MiLB.
The five players discussed have been highlighted below in yellow. As you can see, these players have the rare combination of elite raw power—measured by 90th percentile exit velocity—and bat-to-ball skills—measured by contact rate.
Oneil Cruz, SS, Pirates: Cruz graduated from prospect status this season but played 55 games at the Triple-A level. While his 34.9% strikeout rate at the major league level is concerning, he’s shown the ability to hit for contact and power as recently as this season. Few players possess the true 80-grade raw power Cruz does. In fact only one player in the minors leagues had a higher 90th percentile exit velocity. His 74% contact rate in concert with top-of-the scale exit velocity data hints at immense power upside for Cruz in the coming years.
James Wood, OF, Nationals: Few players burst onto the scene in 2022 like the former Padres second-rounder. Wood was a standout in the California League and was eventually a key piece in the trade that netted Juan Soto. Wood’s tape measure power was well known during his time as an amateur, but his issues with swing and miss left many concerned heading into the 2021 draft. Thus far as a professional Wood has shown very little issue making contact, running above-average contact rates with elite exit velocities and excellent plate discipline numbers. Below you can see just how well Wood’s combination of contact and power measure up.
Marty Costes, OF, Astros: The most off-the-radar name on this list is Costes, an older prospect who's dealt with a variety of injuries in recent seasons. Costes hits the ball hard, makes a lot of contact and has shown advanced plate discipline throughout his professional career dating back to 2018. While Costes' exit velocity and contact ability are impressive his groundball rate this season was well above 50%. At 27 years old entering 2023 this may be who Costes is, but it’s still interesting to consider what he could do with his combination of plate skills and exit velocity with just a little more loft in his swing. There are likely some parallels to fellow late bloomer Yandy Diaz of the Rays.
Michael Harris, OF, Braves: As if we needed another reason to celebrate the standout season of Harris, here is another. Before Harris showcased his elite combination of contact and power in the major leagues, he impressed during his 43-game stint with Double-A Mississippi. With elite defense, speed and a special combination of contact and power Harris is potentially headed to superstardom.
Royce Lewis, SS, Twins: In what has come to be an unfortunate constant in Lewis' career, injury brought his promising 2022 season to an end. Before impressing in his brief 12-game stint in the major leagues, Lewis flashed impressive power in both the minor leagues and the majors, with top-of-the-scale exit velocity data—his 90th percentile exit velocity was in the 99th percentile among MiLB players. Lewis managed to do this without sacrificing contact, hinting at the ability to hit for power and average when healthy.