10 stats that I’m really excited about early on

I was going to tweet this out but the thread looked like it was going to get unnecessarily long so here it goes:

#1: Vinnie Pasquantino’s .238 ISO

In the 10 MLB seasons before 2023, there were 1,396 qualified hitters. Only 40 of them had a BB/K ratio of at least 1.00 and only 17 of them had an ISO over .225. Vinnie Pasquantino managed to run up a BB/K ratio of exactly 1.00 in his rookie season last year, but his was just .155 as he never really seemed to find his power stroke as he adjusted to big league pitching. That has not been an issue whatsoever to begin his sophomore campaign and the Pasquatch looks like he could add his name to this list if he keeps doing what he’s doing:

  • Victor Martinez
  • Joey Votto
  • Juan Soto
  • Alex Bregman
  • Jose Ramirez
  • Edwin Encarnacion
  • Freddie Freeman
  • Bryce Harper
  • Jose Bautista
  • Mike Trout
  • Anthony Rendon
  • Anthony Rizzo
  • Carlos Santana

It’s important to note that Soto, Freeman, and Harper only accomplished that 1.00 BB/K and .225 ISO feat during the shortened COVID season in 2020, so, really, only 10 hitters have done it for a full MLB season since the beginning of 2013.

Anyway. You get the point. Vinnie’s plate discipline was never in question, but I did legitimately wonder what kind of power hitter he would grow into at the big league level. Would he be able to consistently hit 20+ home runs? Or would he hit more like Billy Butler and get his power in the way of doubles? It’s early, less than 100 plate appearances, but I am stoked about how much power Vinnie has hit for already this season while actually improving on his BB/K from 2022.

#2: Jordan Lyles is 3rd in MLB in innings pitched

This is exactly what the Royals paid Lyles to do. Eat innings. For the next two seasons, all Jordan Lyles has to do is throw 180+ innings and he is worth the contract. If Lyles can maintain his 3.91 ERA over those innings, fantastic, that would be most excellent and more than justify the money. As it is, Lyles has taken a ton of pressure off of the Royals bullpen early on and especially off of the rest of the rotation by eating innings, even when they’re not going so well.

#3: Nick Pratto’s 8.3% SwStr% and 45.7% Oppo%

Pratto hasn’t hit for much power yet this year, though he did hit an opposite-field home run last night, but that ought to be the least of Royals fans concern for the future first baseman. We know Pratto can hammer baseballs and I am 100% confident that the power will return soon. What I was less confident about heading into 2023 was Pratto’s bat-to-ball skills translating to the big leagues and his ability to shorten up and go the other way with regularity. Well, so far this season Pratto has significantly cut down on his swings and misses, increased his line drive rate, and gone to the opposite field more than he ever has in his minor league career. The man is obviously working on a plan that will help him cut down on the strikeouts at the big league level and I can not WAIT to see him put it all together.

#4: Cayden Wallace’s 20.9% BB%

I had some questions about Wallace’s approach last year when the Royals made him their 2nd round pick, but he has shown a very obvious improvement in his pitch selection so far this year that could take him from fringe big league starter to no-doubt starter, in my opinion. We’ve talked about this plenty so I won’t beat a dead horse, but you just cannot get away with Michael Massey’s “swing at everything approach” in the big leagues anymore. Pitchers will simply stop throwing you strikes. It is proven over and over and over again. If Wallace can just not do THAT, he’s got a great change to be an every day guy.

#5: Bobby Witt Jr.’s 15.4% K%

Bobby Witt Jr. has done a fantastic job of limiting the free outs. He wasn’t squaring the baseball up early on in the season as often as he’d like, I’m sure, but he has started to find his power stroke of late and hasn’t had to sacrifice the strikeouts to do so. In fact, over his last 36 PA, Witt has raised his ISO to .257 while lowering his K% to 8.3%. The approach still has room to grow, but his ability to make contact has improved significantly and should be hugely beneficial in the long run.

#6: Nicky Lopez’ 27.6% LD%

Lopez will likely never be an average hitter over an entire season again, but if he can just get close, his defense creates a ton of surplus value while he’s still on his rookie contract. Part of Lopez’ problem in the past is just hitting too many weak outs at inefficient launch angles. So far in 2023, he’s limiting soft contact in rates similar to 2021 and he’s hitting more line drives which *should* help his BABIP progress to the mean in a larger sample size. For now, Lopez should probably be playing most days as his defensive abilities are a significant boost to the infield.

#7: Luca Tresh’s .314 ISO

Tresh, the steal of the 2021 MLB Draft, has shown off plenty of his defensive prowess in his time with KC, and now he’s starting to really show off at the plate as well. It’s not that he wasn’t hitting before, he had a 130 wRC+ at High-A last year as a 22-year old, but it was just kind of impressive. What he’s doing to start off 2023 is REALLY impressive and the kind of improvement that takes Tresh from a backup catching prospect to a “maybe this guy could start 80-90 games a year” type of prospect. If he can keep this up, which I’m still a *little* skeptical of, he’s a definite top-10 prospect in the system.

#8: Nick Loftin’s .275 ISO

If Loftin’s overall offensive production weren’t kind of stagnant at the moment, I’d be a lot more excited about the power increase. As it is, I think the increase in hard hit balls projects very well for his chances to be an everyday big leaguer, but I don’t like that it’s come at the expense of his ability to be patient at the plate and spray line drives all over the field. His Oppo% continues to decline, as does his LD%, but it’s impossible to deny that hitting the ball harder is a good thing. We’ll see how it plays out, and I am legitimately thrilled to see him hitting for more power, I’m just kind of curious to see how the entire picture plays out.

#9: Daniel Vazquez’ 0.71 BB/K

Vazquez, one of the most talented athletes in the Royals system, is still just 19 years old. He was thrown into the fire last year at the age of 18 and was clearly overmatched by the pitching in full-season baseball. He still isn’t hitting for any power (.000 ISO) but he is making more contact and his approach has been infinitely better than it was last summer. Vazquez is a tremendous defender at shortstop, a legitimate big league talent, but the question will remain about his bat for the foreseeable future. If he continues to approach his plate appearances like this, he shouldn’t have any issue growing into power as he grows into his body.

#10: Franmil Reyes’ 96.7 mph Average EV

Look…Reyes’ approach at the plate sucks, he swings entirely too much, and he is beating the ball into the ground like he’s never been told to hit the ball in the air. HOWEVER…he is currently hitting the ball harder than everyone in Major League Baseball not named Joc Pederson and Matt Chapman. I won’t waste too much more of your time because I know everyone is tired of hearing about hard hit balls that aren’t base hits. Hitting the ball hard, in the long run, WILL lead to more base hits. It’s just a matter of time.


One thought on “10 stats that I’m really excited about early on

  1. Pingback: Royals Rumblings – News for April 21, 2023 - Balance Sportscast

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