Thanks to our friends over at “Down on the Farm” on Twitter (@downonthefarm12), we’re able to look at the swing rates of some of Kansas City’s top prospects compared to the swing rate of the average big leaguer in 2022.
Last week I wrote an article about how the big league club was swinging entirely too much. You can read that here. Not long after I wrote that the Royals fired their big league hitting coach which is probably related (jk). Here was the gist of the article:
Okay. Let’s start here. The Royals have the 4th highest team Swing% since Terry Bradshaw was hired in 2018. Here is how they have ranked in each individual season:
Again, thanks to our guy at “Down on the Farm”, we’re able to now look at how some of the Royals top prospects stack up against the average big leaguers Swing%. Let’s start in Columbia:
I can’t help but laugh at Carter Jensen. I mentioned on Twitter that Jensen is being pitched as if he’s the most dangerous hitter in the league and the kid is just 18 years old. The amount of respect he’s demanding from opposing pitchers at such a young age is ridiculous. I sort of feel bad for the kid. There are 362 hitters in Low-A with at least 50 PA this year. Jensen is one of just 10 players in the league to have a BB/K over 0.5 and an ISO over .200 as a teenager. His swinging 11% less than the league average hitter suggests that he’s got a good approach, but it also tells us about the approach opposing hitters are taking against Jensen. They aren’t giving him much to hit, and Jensen isn’t getting out of his approach by chasing bad pitches. I’m truly impressed by the kid despite the mediocre overall numbers at the moment. Give him a few months and he’ll be just fine.
The Fireflies don’t have a ton of top prospects on the roster at the moment, so that’s a big asterisk in the grand scheme of things, but they have pretty well swung at more pitches than any other affiliate thus far. Jaswel De Los Santos is on the right side of that graph, Darryl Collins and Erick Pena are in pretty good shape, but then you have a few guys who are just up there HACKIN’. They’re young, it’s not to be unexpected, but it could serve to explain some of the overall struggles that the Fireflies offense has gone through at times this year.
Next up we have the Quad Cities River Bandits:
This may be a Captain Obvious statement, but the River Bandits are a much more disciplined offense than the Fireflies at the moment. Most ever big prospect is on the correct (left) side of the middle of that graph, save for Kale Emshoff. Luca Tresh, Tyler Gentry, Peyton Wilson, and Tyler Tolbert all look to be in great shape. Meanwhile, Diego Hernandez is apparently addicted to swinging the bat. Kid has never seen a pitch he hasn’t liked.
One thing to keep in mind, A-ball pitchers are A-ball pitchers for a reason. They’re typically either lacking in stuff, or more likely lacking in command. Swinging too much against pitchers who struggle with their command is not normally a good thing. This isn’t exactly universally applicable to all levels of baseball, but especially in the lower levels of minor league baseball, patience is usually almost always a good trait for hitters.
Again, a much more balanced approach up and down the lineup. You’ve still got some free swingers at the top, including high-profile prospects like Michael Massey and Seuly Matias, but you’ve also got some super picky hitters down at the bottom. Once you get to AA pitchers generally have a better command of the strike zone, but it’s still nothing like AAA and certainly not the big leagues. The reason we’ve talked about Michael Massey’s plate discipline in the past is pretty clear in the graph. He swings a LOT. This isn’t inherently negative. There are a lot of really good big league hitters who swing a lot. Salvy Perez, Javy Baez…those guys also have double-plus raw power. Michael Massey has legitimately good power, but it’s nothing like that. I’ve watched probably 60% of his at bats at AA so far, and I can honestly say that I don’t think Massey chases bad pitches too often. He’ll chase like anyone else, but he really has decent plate discipline on pitches OUTSIDE the zone. The biggest adjustment he’ll have to make moving forward is targeting the most efficient pitches to swing at INSIDE the strike zone. We’re seeing that a little bit with Bobby Witt Jr. at the big league level right now. Just trying to do too much with too many pitches instead of sitting on a specific pitch or two early in the count. More advanced pitchers will take advantage of free swingers long-term. Like I said, it’s not like it’s an inherent negative, but it certainly can be. Something to keep an eye on long-term.
Omaha Storm Chasers:
Now that is one disciplined lineup…holy cow. It’s literally Jimmy Govern, Gabriel Cancel, and everyone else. You almost have to force Nick Pratto to swing the bat. I mentioned it last week in an “11 numbers I’m watching” article, but Pratto actually ought to think about swinging MORE frequently. Here’s a blurb from that article:
Nick Pratto’s SwStr% at AAA is currently 11.6%. Emmanuel Rivera’s SwStr% at AAA was 12.3% before he was promoted. Nick Pratto is striking out in 33% of his PA and Emmanuel Rivera was striking out in just 17.1% of his. Pratto’s issues so far haven’t been about swinging and missing. He has almost been TOO passive at the plate, something that is hilariously ironic given this article I wrote earlier this week, so he winds up in more two-strike counts than he needs to be in.
Nick Pratto doesn’t have too big a swing and miss issue right now. He’s just in way too many two strike counts and pitchers haven’t been working around him because he’s been in the 2-hole in Omaha’s lineup. Meaning, there are several really good hitters behind him and pitchers can’t afford to walk Pratto like they could when he was batting in the 4-hole last year. You almost have to have a different approach when you move from the 4-spot to the 2-spot for this reason.
Like I mentioned last week, just because advanced stats suggest that swinging too much is bad doesn’t mean that it’s inherently bad for *everyone*. Here are the top five swingers in MLB right now, followed by their wRC+:
- Tim Anderson, 152
- Avisail Garcia, 68
- Luis Robert, 133
- Ryan Mountcastle, 103
- Bo Bichette, 89
Those are the game’s freest swingers this year and they vary in terms of overall production. Again, swinging a lot is not *inherently* negative, it’s just normally less than ideal, especially at the lower levels of Minor League Baseball where pitchers are still learning to command the strike zone. Swing% and Chase% are really tough to get, which is why we’re super thankful for “Down on the Farm” for their help in getting us these numbers, but they’re also super under rated in terms of predicting potential success as hitters move up the organizational ladder. It’s REALLY hard to teach plate discipline. It’s not impossible, but it’s really hard to do. The better a hitter can naturally command the zone and the more naturally picky they are in the zone, the better they’ll generally perform at the higher levels of baseball. Not all strikes are created equally.
Photo Credits: Josh Franzen (@PrtTimeFranimal)