As I’ve mentioned the last couple of Monday’s in our weekly leaderboard update, MiLB stats simply don’t matter that much yet. It’s not been a big enough sample to gauge anything, really, and with the lack of a 2020 season, it throws an even bigger kink in the evaluation process. J.J. Cooper at Baseball America recently wrote about how sloppy MiLB has been so far this spring and I think it’s a really good reminder that trying to take too much away from the first two weeks of games is an imperfect process.
What we’re going to do here is just kind of highlight some guys that have been really good so far, some guys that have struggled, and add some context to their starts. Is Edward Olivares’ 208 wRC+ legit? Should we be overly concerned about Seuly Matias’ 34.7% K%? What about all of those walks Asa Lacy gave up? Let’s talk about it.
Edward Olivares is off to a roaring start for AAA Omaha. He’s currently slashing .382/.477/.691/1.168 with 4 HR, 8 XBH, 5 SB, a 208 wRC+, and a 0.9 BB/K. He’s also running up what is probably an unsustainable .415 BABIP, but even if that comes down to like .350-.360, Olivares is still going to be hitting at an insane rate. He’s hitting the ball hard and finding ways to get his barrel on seemingly everything.
Is this pace sustainable for Olivares? Probably not. It may not matter though because I doubt he’s in Omaha long enough for some of this to regress. His max exit velocities have been in the 70th percentile and, like I said, he’s getting his barrel to just about everything right now. He runs well and plays a good outfield so long as he’s in the corners. I don’t know exactly where he would play, because he’s probably a below average defender in CF in the big leagues, but his bat is simply getting to the point that it’s too good for MiLB.
I am so happy to be watching Rudy Martin healthy and playing good baseball again. The kid is electric on the field and is a great dude to root for. He’s slashing .394/.500/.576/1.076 with 1 HR and 3 2B, a 0.55 BB/K and 205 wRC+ in 41 PA for Northwest Arkansas. The issue moving forward is going to be the K%. Martin has struck out in 26.8% of his PA so far which is…less than ideal for a guy that you don’t expect a ton of power from. He’s also running up a BABIP over .570 which means natural regression is coming. Still. If Martin can just be a league average guy offensively, he’s going to have a place to play baseball.
Meibrys Viloria is still 24 years old. That seems kind of crazy but you have to remember he was yanked out of A+ a few years ago because he was on the 40 and the Royals needed help behind the plate. Viloria is currently hitting .343 with a 143 wRC+ which sounds fantastic. He’s also striking out in 40% of his PA and running up a .611 BABIP. None of that is good long-term. The great news for Viloria is that he’s only hitting the ball on the ground 36.8% of the time. He’s ran up GB% of 50% or worse in almost every stop he’s made in pro ball, so it’s good to see he’s trying to make some adjustments. Maybe we can chalk up some of his swing-and-miss issues to a new swing adjustment or two. Like we mentioned, it’s too early to know anything, but Viloria’s start seems unsustainable for now.
I really thought we were gonna lose Collins for a while the other day. He slid into third and looked like he was in some serious pain. Then he came back a couple days later like nothing happened. He’s currently slashing .326/.420/.395/.815 with a 0.7 BB/K and 142 wRC+. His 20% K% may seem a bit high, but its the 27th best mark out of 148 batters who currently have at least 20 PA in the Low-A East league. His .326 BA is good for 18th and .420 OBP is 19th. There are only 18 teenagers playing consistently in the league at the moment and Collins’ 142 wRC+ is the 3rd best mark of the bunch. This kid is legit, and while the power hasn’t quite come along yet, his frame suggests there is power to come as he gets older and stronger.
Collins’ teammate in Columbia, Garcia is slashing .314/.419/.392/.812 with 4 2B and 4 SB on the year with a 1.11 BB/K and 141 wRC+. His BABIP is high at .372 but that’s really not that crazy. What’s interesting to me regarding Garcia is that he’s keeping his K% below 15% and his SwStr% below 8% despite taking some pretty aggressive hacks. He “steps in the bucket” a bit on his swing, which you’d think would give him some pull tendencies, but he actually goes the opposite way more than he pulls the ball. He’s a solid defender at SS and has really come a long way with the bat. Given his frame (listed at 145 lbs.) and swing, there’s power to come for the young Venezuelan SS. He’s gonna be a bonafide top-20 prospect in this system soon.
I was really excited for Michael Massey coming into this season, he’s just struggled to get anything going offensively. He swings a little too much, hasn’t hit the ball with a ton of authority, and currently owns the worst wRC+ in the Royals system (26). I love the athlete. The swing is starting to show some holes and while I’m extremely confident they can be fixed, we’re just going to have to put a “wait and see” label on this one.
Cancel has been pretty good about being more selective this year (12.5% BB%), but his swing and miss issues have become more apparent at AAA. I still think there could be an opportunity for him to get a cup of tea hitting LHP in The Show, but he’s got some holes in his swing that are gonna have to be ironed out first.
Bobby Witt Jr.
Of all the “Who’s Not?” participants in this edition, Bobby Witt Jr. is the guy that I am least worried about. He’s already made a few significant strides since arriving in Northwest Arkansas and despite hitting just .173/.271/.231/.502, he’s still hitting the ball with some authority and he’s cut his K% down nearly 10% over the last week or so. He’s struggled so far but I’ve seen nothing that concerns me lately.
I couldn’t have been more excited for Seuly Matias this spring. I thought the adjustments he made to his swing were noticeable and I really believed his 2019 season had legitimate built-in excuses to explain his struggles. He’s just not been very good for Quad Cities in the early going. He swings through a lot of strikes (25% SwStr%) and has beat the ball into the ground a ton this year when he does make contact (60.9% GB%). His hard hit rates are still off the charts, but his overall batted ball profile needs some help and his hit tool just may not be enough at present to matter. He’s not going to totally fall out of the top 30 or anything. 80-grade raw power is still hard to find. I just really thought we might see some quick results from Seuly after what sounded like a really promising offseason. (Here’s to hoping for a quick reverse-jinx and multi-homer game from the kid tonight.)
Photo Credits: Doc Riddle (@TheGrandOldGame)