What can we expect from the core hitters at Wilmington?

If you follow the site on Twitter, you may have seen this thread the other day:

Using Microsoft Excel, I was able to cross reference hitters that recorded 300 PA in the South Atlantic League (A) in one season, and 300 PA in the Carolina League (A+) in the next season. The goal of this project was to answer a couple of questions:

  1. How have past Royals prospects fared compared to their peers when moving up to Wilmington?
  2. What can we reasonably expect from this next wave of Royals prospects as they make their move to Wilmington?

Nick Pratto, MJ Melendez, Seuly Matias, Brewer Hicklen, Jeison Guzman, Sebastian Rivero, and Kyle Isbel all figure to be making their way to Wilmington in 2019. I wanted to figure out what hitters in the past have done as they make their way from Low-A to High-A to get an idea of what to expect from the Royals core of position player prospects this year (we’ll do pitchers later).

For starters, here is the group I researched:

  • Ages 17-22 in the Sally, 18-23 in the Carolina League
  • 300 PA in the Sally, followed by 300 PA in the CL in consecutive seasons since 2012

Here is what I found were the average changes among 106 hitters who qualified for the study:

0.005028 -0.00506 0.038962 -0.00294 -0.00015 -0.00429 -0.00443 -0.00136 -0.006236 -2.33962 -0.0335943

What you’re looking at here is a table of stats and the average change of all 106 qualifying hitters. The average hitter saw their BB% increase by 0.5028%, their K% decrease by 0.506%, and so on. In the tweets above, you can see where I compared Khalil Lee to not just every hitter to make the transition from Low-A to High-A, but compared him to just teenagers as well. Here’s what the table looks like when you isolate teeangers making the move:

0.003 -0.00841 0.01931 -0.00207 0.000207 -0.00738 -0.00721 -0.00541 -0.004621 -2.75862 -0.034

As I’m sure you can see, there are some subtle differences in the charts. Prospects that are teenagers in the Sally and make the move to Wilmington (where they could be 20) don’t typically fare as well as their older peers. Makes plenty of sense, right? That’s part of what made Khalil Lee’s 2018 season so impressive, he significantly outperformed his peers of a similar age.

I was trying to find some connections between guys who saw their wRC+ shoot up and guys who saw it plummet, and found that the correlation between BABIP and wRC+ improvements came out to R2 = 0.4604. Pretty good correlation there, meaning a lot of the guys who drastically improve could potentially be getting a bit lucky in terms of batted ball success, or they’ve started hitting the ball harder, using more of the field, etc.

So anyway. That’s what prospects in the past have done, what can that tell us about our current core of hitters heading to Wilmington for 2019?

Let’s break down each of the core’s 2018 stats, and then get into room for improvement and regression.

Nick Pratto

2018 Stats: .786 OPS, 0.3 BB/K, 124 wRC+, .375 BABIP

Based on hitters in the past that post BABIPs like Pratto’s, we can expect a little regression next year, but not much. Chance Sisco, Nick Williams, and Trey Michalczewski all posted outrageously high BABIPS in the Sally like Pratto, but only lost a combined 20 points to their wRC+ the next season, 15 of those coming from Williams. Definitely expect some BABIP regression here, but I would think that some improved plate discipline could offset that.

MJ Melendez

2018 Stats: .814 OPS, 0.3 BB/K, 128 wRC+, .327 BABIP

There aren’t a ton of guys that fit MJ Melendez’ profile. That may be a given seeing as he set a HR record in the Sally last year, but it’s still hard to compare him to too many guys nonetheless. One guy who is close is a guy I really like. Luis Alexander Basabe posted a .772 OPS, 0.34 BB/K, 120 wRC+, and .330 BABIP in his go at the Sally. He then went to the Carolina League and got BABIP murdered. His BABIP dropped down below .300 and his overall production went with it. Assuming Melendez doesn’t get wildly unlucky as well, we should be able to see some real improvement on his end this year, specifically in terms of plate discipline, hopefully.

Seuly Matias

2018 Stats: .853 OPS, 0.18 BB/K, 138 wRC+, .264 BABIP

Home runs don’t count towards BABIP so Matias’ numbers are going to be incredibly hard to match up with. Joey Gallo is the only player with numbers even close to what Matias put up in Lexington last year, and even Joey Gallo posted a .305 BABIP in the Sally.  If Matias can just not strike out 35% of the time (even Gallo got his K% under 30% in High-A), he’ll almost certainly see an improvement in his BABIP. Any improvement Matias sees in his BABIP is just going to propel him even further up national prospect rankings.

Kyle Isbel

2018 Stats: .779 OPS, 0.28 BB/K, 123 wRC+, .377 BABIP

Hitting the ball hard to all fields and running as well as Isbel does will give a player a pretty lofty BABIP. Isbel’s game could use a boost to the BB/K department, and I think we’ll see that in a big way in 2019. His BABIP is almost certainly going to come back to earth a bit, but much like Nick Pratto, I think any decline in offensive production caused by a regressing BABIP just easily be offset with some improved plate discipline.

So there ya go. There’s a few examples of what you should expect to see from this Royals core of hitting prospects as they move into Wilmington in 2019. I expect all four of these guys will be in AA Northwest Arkansas by the end of the season. Stay tuned for a similar article regarding pitchers making the jump to Wilmington.


Photo Credits: PLPhoto2015 (@PPhoto2015)



One thought on “What can we expect from the core hitters at Wilmington?

  1. Pingback: Minor League Minutes for 2/23/19: Spring Training Opening Day | Royals Farm Report

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