Reds prospects: Contact ability and power Doug Gray September 18, 2018 17 Comments If you were to design the ideal baseball player there are a lot of things you’d want that player to do. At the plate two of the things you would like that cyborg to be able to do is make tons of contact, and also hit for a bunch of power. That’s a very rare skillset for a player to have, historically. Players tend to balance a trade off of swinging hard enough to hit the ball with some authority. Finding players that have the ability to hit the ball with authority, but also have the bat control to make contact at a high rate is ideal. With all of that said, I chose to take a look at the data for the Cincinnati Reds prospects in both their strikeout rate and their isolated power (SLG-AVG). There were no adjustments made for the isolated power numbers for the leagues played in. Try to make a note in your head, though, that the Florida State League where Daytona plays suppresses power quite a bit, and that the Pioneer League where Billings plays boosts power quite a bit. Also keep in mind that generally speaking, each level up the ladder sees more overall power. That’s usually because players mature physically, as well as mentally to what they can and can’t do damage on. I chose to make a graph plotting out how every player with at least 150 plate appearances on the year performed in these two categories. For the Top 25 prospects at midseason I used their headshots to mark where they fall on the chart. The lower and further to the right on the chart, the better. The higher up the chart, the higher the strikeout rate. The further to the right, the more power a player hit for. When looking at the chart, two players stand out. The first, is Ibandel Isabel. He was not a Top 25 midseason prospect, but given just how much his data point stood out, I chose to use his headshot on the chart. He’s so far ahead of everyone on the isolated power that it’s ridiculous. Toss in that he also spent the entire year in the Florida State League and it begins to get even more comical. With that said, his strikeout rate was also incredibly high. The other player that stands out on the chart is Mariel Bautista. He got the nod over Isabel on the Position Player of the Year Award. He’s that lone head low and to the right. He did play in the hitter friendly Pioneer League, so you may want to mentally adjust the power a tad, but his contact rate was among the best in the entire organization, too. Below is the full list, sorted by isolated power. Top 25 Midseason Prospects are in bold (name only) Name Age Team PA IsoP K% Ibandel Isabel 23 DYT 420 .308 36% Danny Lantigua 19 RDL 215 .244 35% Fidel Castro 19 RDS,RDL 214 .239 30% Rylan Thomas 21 GRE 225 .235 22% Brian O’Grady 26 PEN,LOU 376 .232 21% Hendrik Clementina 21 DAY 376 .229 26% Brandon Dixon 26 LOU 193 .224 28% Mariel Bautista 20 BIL 233 .211 12% Jose Siri 22 PEN,DYT 409 .210 30% Aristides Aquino 24 PEN 445 .208 25% Bren Spillane 21 BIL 184 .203 41% Phillip Ervin 25 LOU 202 .202 19% Nick Senzel 23 LOU 193 .199 20% Josh VanMeter 23 LOU,PEN 483 .194 19% Jonathan India 21 DAY,GRE,BIL 184 .193 24% Jonathan Willems 19 GRE,BIL 251 .191 23% Juan Martinez 19 BIL,GRE 216 .190 20% D.J. Peterson 26 LOU 453 .185 26% Steve Selsky 28 LOU 300 .183 26% Gabriel Guerrero 24 LOU,PEN 539 .181 23% Edwin Yon 19 RDL,GRE 162 .180 35% Drew Mount 22 BIL 265 .178 15% Taylor Sparks 25 PEN,LOU 453 .177 40% Debby Santana 17 RDL 200 .176 22% Zeek White 21 BIL,GRE 219 .164 29% Malik Collymore 23 DYT,DAY,PEN 208 .161 32% Pabel Manzanero 22 BIL 263 .159 21% Dilson Herrera 24 LOU,DYT 300 .157 23% Reshard Munroe 22 BIL,DAY 227 .151 23% Shed Long 22 PEN 522 .151 24% Narciso Crook 22 PEN,DAY,DYT 332 .149 24% Jeter Downs 19 DAY 524 .145 20% Stuart Fairchild 22 DAY,DYT 518 .143 25% Tyler Stephenson 21 DYT 450 .142 22% Daniel Sweet 23 DYT,PEN,LOU 295 .142 21% Mitch Nay 24 DYT,PEN 540 .138 19% Mason Williams 26 LOU 356 .138 16% Gavin LaValley 23 PEN 446 .135 27% Taylor Trammell 20 DYT 461 .129 23% Montrell Marshall 22 DAY 262 .129 34% Michael Beltre 22 DYT,DAY 429 .124 20% Dylan Harris 23 BIL 247 .121 12% Brantley Bell 23 DYT 448 .118 17% Chris Okey 23 PEN,DYT 317 .116 25% Leonardo Seminati 19 RDL,BIL 150 .115 25% Miles Gordon 20 DAY 233 .113 20% Leandro Santana 21 DAY 442 .111 28% Cash Case 19 BIL,GRE 164 .103 21% Alfredo Rodriguez 24 DYT,PEN,RDL 172 .102 19% John Sansone 24 DAY,DYT,LOU 336 .102 28% Andy Sugilio 21 DAY 387 .102 16% TJ Friedl 22 PEN,DYT 570 .100 18% Mark Kolozsvary 22 DAY 310 .099 25% Jose Garcia 20 DAY 517 .099 22% Mike Siani 18 GRE 205 .098 17% Miguel Hernandez 19 GRE,BIL 262 .094 15% Danielito Remy 20 RDL 164 .090 23% Bruce Yari 23 DYT 449 .087 23% Alejo Lopez 22 DAY 260 .085 12% C.J. McElroy 25 LOU,PEN,RDL 297 .084 19% Hernan Iribarren 34 LOU 271 .084 18% Chad Tromp 23 LOU,PEN 293 .081 14% Luis Gonzalez 23 PEN,DYT 456 .077 17% Nick Longhi 22 PEN,LOU 291 .076 22% Brian Rey 20 GRE 193 .076 7% Reyny Reyes 19 RDL 167 .070 22% J.D. Williams 21 DAY 174 .069 21% Nate Scantlin 19 GRE,DAY 174 .068 22% Lorenzo Cedrola 20 DAY 188 .065 15% Reniel Ozuna 19 GRE,BIL 276 .063 25% Blake Trahan 24 LOU 510 .057 20% Ranser Amador 19 RDL,RDS 176 .048 28% Jay Schuyler 21 BIL 230 .047 13% Carlos Rivero 21 BIL,DYT 318 .040 29% Claudio Finol 18 GRE 192 .039 17% Alberti Chavez 22 DYT,PEN 184 .035 24% Randy Ventura 20 DYT,DAY 312 .024 19% While the ideal player would be outstanding in both the contact and power category, it’s not too realistic for most players. The guys who can do both are among the best hitters alive (Jose Ramirez, Mookie Betts, Alex Bregman are the only three players with an IsoP over .250 and a strikeout rate under 15% this season). But being outstanding in one area or the other, can result in strong future results. Having a high strikeout rate works for some hitters, but it’s almost always the guys with big time power. Among the top 60 hitters in Major League Baseball in terms of isolated power (.190 or better), only two of them are below-average hitters as measured by wRC+. Those two players are Jonathan Schoop and Salvador Perez – both who are among the lowest walk-rate players in baseball, and thus have very low on-base percentages. When it comes to making contact at a high rate, things aren’t quite as telling. There are 31 qualified hitters in baseball with a strikeout rate under 15% this season. 12 of them are below-average hitters by wRC+, with 2 more sitting at 99 – which technically would make them below-average by definition, but wRC+ isn’t 100% perfect, so I’ll count a 99 as average. One of those players, for the record, is Reds shortstop Jose Peraza. Power certainly seems to be more important to being an above-average hitter than contact rate does. Which makes sense. Power does more when it comes to producing runs. But that doesn’t mean contact is unimportant. It does mean it’s less important, though. With both things, there are limits. Simply getting the bat on the ball isn’t enough. You’ve got to do so with enough authority to get the ball into the outfield, and generally show enough pop to keep the outfielders honest or they’ll play in enough and take everything away from you that you float over the infield. Likewise, you can show tons of isolated power, but if you can’t make enough contact to counteract a lower average/on-base percentage, it won’t matter enough, either. The balance between power and contact leans more on the power side of the scale. But being able to have both is usually something that is going to lead to very strong results. 17 Responses Michael Smith September 18, 2018 Excellent write up Doug. Greenfield Red September 18, 2018 Really interesting. I wonder if their is a way to put a multiplier on it to make an effective stat. Kind of like how OPS combines slugging and on base. Maybe something along the lines of taking the power and a negative multiplier for the strikeout percentage? Norwood Nate September 18, 2018 I agree that would be interesting. Greenfield Red September 18, 2018 I was thinking of using something like a 25% strikeout rate as the norm. Subtract or add a .04 factor per strikeout rate below or above the 25%. That would make Isabel’s power/strikeout number .173. It would make Bautista’s .336. Trammell would have a .139. I guess it needs to be tweaked a little, but that’s the idea. SultanofSwaff September 18, 2018 Great work! another bob from nc September 18, 2018 Brian Rey’s strike out rate of 7%. Wow! Small sample size, in line with his amateur numbers, or I’m just showing my lack of baseball knowledge? Stock September 18, 2018 This post explains why I am so excited about Debby Santana. He is young for US ball so I understood the adjustment period to playing and living in the USA. However in August his ISO was .260 and his K% was 14.10%. That is rare air. Jon Ryker September 18, 2018 Contact is more important. Power is over-rated, because lots of power happens when it doesn’t matter. Strikeouts never help. Often, ground balls and fly balls do. Doug Gray September 18, 2018 Nearly half of the Top 30 hitters in baseball ranked by contact rate are below-average hitters. 28 of 30 of the top hitters ranked by power are rated as above-average hitters. Try again. The evidence is overwhelming. Jon Ryker September 19, 2018 But how do you rate them as above or below average? If you refuse to put context into your analysis and esteem power for its own sake, you will, of course, come up with power hitters as the most productive. But the fact is, many homers aren’t productive, strikeouts never are, and often fly outs and ground outs are. Actual production is situational. Doug Gray September 19, 2018 It’s literally in the article, Jon. And the fact that you said many homers aren’t productive is insane. Literally every single home run produces at least one run. No other hit is directly as valuable as a home run. Stock September 18, 2018 Really? Don’t lots of strikeouts happen when it doesn’t matter either? I would think no scout would agree with this. HR are very important. You need a balance but even Joey Gallo has a WAR of 2.7 so far this year and 2.8 last year. That is with a whopping 35% K rate. Jon Ryker September 19, 2018 WAR is not valuable. It is devoid of context and is based on runs-created, which is a bogus statistic. Strikeouts can come at unimportant times, but they are never productive. Actual winning happens in situational contexts. Dave Bell September 19, 2018 Strikeouts can be helpful, if the alternative is hitting into a double play. Years ago, in one of his Baseball Abstracts, Bill James attempted to measure the value of a strikeout. I recall his making the DP point in his preface, pointing out that it was theoretically possible that, on average, a K could have a positive value. His study didn’t reveal that, if I recall. But I believe he concluded that every 100 strikeouts was only the equivalent of a loss of one run versus a normal distribution of other kinds of outs. They do have some predictive value, especially for players moving up the system and encountering increasingly skilled pitchers, and probably for aging Major Leaguers, for whom a spike in K rate often signals the beginning of the end. But the cost of a strikeout, in and of itself, is nominal. Joe September 18, 2018 So I guess this how it’s Gona b for next 5years Christian yelich th man pretty much every reds fan wanted to trade for is jus gonna ops .2000 against us BurgRed September 19, 2018 Pretty much he will haunt us for eternity! Mjc September 18, 2018 Doug, lotta work in this article and it shows. Great job.