The (Current) Best Hitter in Double-A
Deciding what to discuss this time out was a no-brainer for me. As of this writing, Kevin Kramer leads all of AA with an amazing 191 wRC+. That is a previously light-hitting second sacker smacking the ball around like a slugger after a full month-and-a-half of plate appearances. For a 2nd round pick, he has not received a lot of recognition in digital land, but I feel that is about to change.
Here’s what everyone should’ve known about Kramer coming into the year:
- 2nd round pick
- SS at UCLA
- Shoulder injury in college
- Utility player profile
- Less than 40 grade power
So far this season, Kramer is doing his best to change those last two bullet points. The .219 ISO produced by the heavy hitting K-squared more than doubles his career ISO rate. He is also slashing .360/.452/.579 with a .458 wOBA. 30 games is definitely SSS theater, but it is also too good to ignore. According to one of my favorite stat sites, MLBfarm.com, Kramer’s 28.8% line drive rate is up 11% from last year. For context, a total of just 10 major leaguers have bested Kramer’s mark this season. His GB% has also precipitously dropped from 58% to 37% over the last year, a good way to increase one’s power output. At 18.5%, he’s also currently posting the highest K% of his short pro career, a trade-off that led to the increased pop. On the flipside, his walk rate hasn’t suffered one bit, and currently sits at 8.9% percent.
Sadly, video availability is not on our side in attempting to determine if Kramer has employed either a swing change or is simply in better physical condition this spring. Here are the best of the available, both from earlier this year:
It appears he is more stout than in years past, but I cannot definitively ascertain a real change in his swing. What I can see from the video and the numbers is that he employs an all-fields approach with his sound swing. One thing to watch moving forward are Kramer’s stats vs LHs; in 2016, LH owned him to the tune of .211/.294/.284 in 95 at bats, and although that is up to .387 in 31 at bats, it comes with just two extra base hits this season. Speaking of XBH, 39% of his total hits are going for extra bases compared to 25% in 2016.
Coming into the year, Kramer reminded me of Tommy La Stella. That future would still make him a damn fine ballplayer. La Stella has had stretches of fantasy relevance and his grinder mentality is often a favorite of managers. On the other hand, if the added K’s are a part of a concerted effort to drive the ball, Kramer’s ceiling may need to be reevaluated. MLB.com slapped a Neil Walker ceiling comp on him and I am beginning to believe. I would recommend Kramer is large leagues of 14 or more teams with deep minor league rosters.