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Revisiting Power, Contact And Chase Rates For Top 2024 College Baseball Hitters


Image credit: Vance Honeycutt (Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics)

Before the college season started this season, I looked into how the top hitters in the class stacked up in terms of contact, power and swing decisions. With more data available for college hitters in recent years it’s been interesting to look at who excels in various areas that teams value for hitters.

Today we’re revisiting that preseason plot and folding in more players now that we’ve expanded to the top 500 players in the class. Below you can see hitters with available 2024 TrackMan data plotted by overall contact rate (x axis), 90th percentile exit velocity (y axis) and chase rates (plot point shading). You can mouse over individual plot points to see specific data for each player.

It’s worth noting that college data is filled with more noise than professional data. That noise comes from both precision and tracking issues as well as the fact that the current offensive environment in college baseball is… loud. Geoff Pontes recently talked with analysts to get a better sense of how teams are translating college metrics to pro expectations with wood bats and when factoring in player projections. That piece will be useful in contextualizing what you see below. 

I’ve downgraded my level of confidence in these college 90th percentile exit velocity numbers as pro predictors, both because of the unusual offensive environment and because of players like Nolan Schanuel—who graded out excellently but look drastically different as pro hitters with wood bats against better competition. 

There are 145 players in the sample above. Below are the averages for each metric to provide a bit more context as you explore the chart:

  • Contact%: 77.9%
  • 90th-percentile exit velocity: 105.6
  • Chase%: 23.2%

Let’s buck some players on the extremes of all four points of the graph if possible and see what we can find.

Well-Rounded Offensive Profiles

There’s a decent cluster of hitters in the upper-right quadrant of the graph who stand out as having strong metrics in every category. You could draw the line at a few different places to include more or less players, but I am focused on seven.

These players have a contact rate greater than or equal to 80%, a 90th percentile exit velocity greater than or equal to 108 mph and a chase rate less than or equal to 23.2%:

Four of the players above are expected to be top-10 overall picks. Six of the players have a chance to be first-rounders. Perich is the name who stands out, as the No. 418 player on our draft board. He’s the only player who doesn’t play in a power conference, so his numbers might be more heavily scrutinized. But he just put up a .379/.492/.569 slash line with more walks than strikeouts and six home runs this spring with Lehigh. 

Perich could potentially be a sneaky pick for a data-heavy team. His overall batted ball quality might suggest he has some more in-game homer power in the tank if he’s able to elevate the ball a bit more than his career 54% ground ball rate. 

Players who just missed this bucket include James Tibbs III (107.7 mph 90th-percentile), Blake Burke (33.3% chase), Sean Keys (107.6 mph 90th-percentile), Edgar Alvarez (107.4 mph 90th-percentile), Cole Mathis (107.5 mph 90th-percentile) and Jac Caglianone (79.9% contact, 38.3% chase).

The Ball Goes Far If The Bat Ever Finds It

Our boom or bust bucket of players includes eight players who have at least a 108 mph 90th percentile exit velocity and also a contact rate less than 70%. Two of these players are potential first-rounders—and polarizing ones at that given their contact issues—and all of them are either outfielders or likely first base defensive profiles. 

The inclusion of Honeycutt and Jordan in this bucket is illustrative of the challenges teams will have on draft day when they are deciding whether or not to make the dynamic right-right hitters first-round picks or not. They have more swing-and-miss questions than typical first-round outfielders, but both also provide exceptional raw power (Jordan), great defensive ability (Honeycutt), speed (Honeycutt) and athleticism to dream on (both). 

Jones is intriguing here as a three-true outcome hitter who has the fourth-best 90th percentile exit velocity of the 156 players and he’s also the only player in this boom/bust bucket with above-average swing decisions. He’s truly an extreme offensive profile. 

Obee’s inclusion here was surprising to me because I didn’t expect the Duke outfielder to have this sort of power, while Linn could have one of the worst combinations of contact (67.7%) and aggression (37% chase rate) of the class.

Contact Or Nothing

If the previous player bucket was an outfielder and first base group, our contact or nothing bucket is definitely a catchers and middle infielders group. There are six players with contact rates greater than or equal to 84% but a 90th percentile exit velocity less than or equal to 102 mph. All of those players either player shortstop, second base or catcher:

O’Ferrall is the lone player of this group who is projected to be a top-three round pick, thanks in part to his three-year performance with Virginia, a summer with USA Baseball and his defensive actions in the infield. He does stand out among this contact heavy group as having an aggressive approach (31.8% chase). 

Other players close to this group but not quite in it include Dalton McIntyre, Hudson White, Jon Jon Gazdar, Zach Ehrhard, Joshua Kuroda-Grauer and Sam Antonacci.

Questionable Offensive Profiles

This is the opposite end of the spectrum as our first category and one that you certainly don’t want to fall in as a position player prospect. Hitting is the most important aspect of being a position player and the following group has real concerns with both contact quality and impact.

There are 11 players with a contact rate less than or equal to 74% and a 90th-percentile exit velocity less than or equal to 105 mph.

McCants, Heyman, Schrier, Vastine and Carey fall into the triply bad tier of pair below-average contact and impact numbers with aggressive approaches. Others like Nicklaus, Petersen, Winnay, Barthol and Hipwell make up for some of the poor batted ball data by making strong swing decisions.

I’ll also flag Hipwell, Tobias and Heyman specifically as players who could have sample size issues based on the number of batted ball events we have for them in this data set. 

Now let’s look at year-over-year changes between the 56 players we examined before the season to see who’s improved—or regressed—the most.

No player has remade himself more this season than Cam Smith. He started the year in our “questionable offensive profile” bucket and finished the year as one of seven players I designated for our “well-rounded” bucket. He led all players in chase rate improvement (-12%), was second in contact improvement (+11.5%) and also led all players in 90th-percentile improvement (+4.8 mph).

Below are the players who added more than three mph to their 90th percentile exit velocities:

PLAYERposschool2023 ev2024 evchange
Cam Smith3BFlorida State106.5111.34.8
Braden MontgomeryOF/RHPTexas A&M106.8111.14.3
Dylan DreilingOFTennessee102.71074.3
Vance HoneycuttOFNorth Carolina105.4109.44
Ali CamarilloSSTexas A&M97.7101.74
Jared ThomasOF/1BTexas101.6105.13.5
Ryan CamposCArizona State102.4105.93.5
Austin OvernOFSouthern California100.3103.73.4
Nick McLainCFArizona State100.3103.73.4
Christian Moore2BTennessee108.6111.83.2
JJ Wetherholt2BWest Virginia105.1108.23.1

Below are the players who added more than five percent to their contact rates: 

playerposschool2023 contact2024 contactchange
Christian Moore2BTennessee65.00%77.00%12.00%
Cam Smith3BFlorida State70.60%82.10%11.50%
James Tibbs1BFlorida State69.80%80.50%10.70%
Malcolm MooreCStanford73.30%83.10%9.80%
Chris StanfieldOFAuburn73.30%80.50%7.20%
Griff O’FerrallSSVirginia82.00%88.90%6.90%
Carson BengeOF/RHPOklahoma State77.60%83.80%6.20%
Hunter Hines1BMississippi State61.30%67.00%5.70%
Kevin Bazzell3BTexas Tech84.10%89.50%5.40%

Below are the players who decreased their chase rates by more than four percent: 

playerposschool2023 chase2024 chasechange
Cam Smith3BFlorida State33.50%21.20%-12.30%
Malcolm MooreCStanford30.00%22.20%-7.80%
Will TaylorOFClemson22.00%14.30%-7.70%
Ali CamarilloSSTexas A&M30.50%23.20%-7.30%
Tommy White3BLouisiana State38.00%32.00%-6.00%
Walker JanekCSam Houston State30.10%24.70%-5.40%
Derek Bender1B/CCoastal Carolina34.20%29.40%-4.80%
Rodney Green Jr.OFCalifornia24.70%19.90%-4.80%
JJ Wetherholt2BWest Virginia18.40%14.10%-4.30%

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