Prospect Talk

Prospect Profile: Robert Hassell III, OF San Diego Padres

Dynasty redrafts are an exceptionally exciting part of the dynasty season. So many new players ready to show their worth at the professional levels, and dynasty redrafts are a fantasy owner’s chance to select the next piece of their championship team. I’ll be doing a more in-depth look at some of these players over the next few months, starting with nouveau Padre, Robert Hassell III.

Background

A left-handed hitter, the San Diego Padres drafted Hassell 8th overall in the 2020 MLB First-Year Player Draft back in June. He’s currently 19 years old (born Aug 15, 2001) and measures in at 6’2”, and 195 lbs. A graduate of Independence High School in Thompson’s Station Tennessee, he was a verbal commit to Vanderbilt but signed with the Padres for $4.3 million, over $800,000 below the slot value for the pick.

Hit Tool

You’ll hear many people say Hassell is the best pure prep hitter in the draft, and it’s evident when you see his swing. He starts with a quiet but balanced stance, rocks back slightly with a small leg kick loading the hips, then uncoils with little horizontal or vertical head movement. He has excellent use of his hands staying in a good hitting position and his athleticism allows him to adjust and barrel balls in varying parts of the strike zone. He has a quick bat, which measured in the 95th percentile by Perfect Game and a long zone time, meaning his bat enters the strike zone early and through the swing, elevating his ability to make contact.

Nearly all good hitters seem to like to pull the ball, as does Hassell, but he also seems comfortable hitting the ball back up the middle and the opposite way with relative ease. He doesn’t just use the entire field, but he’s aggressive and deliberate with each swing. He frequently hits the ball with the good part of the bat with his escalating line-drive stroke. His stride could be a bit longer, but with such long legs, it’s possible another half foot changed his balance.

In doing research, I found an interesting tidbit on Robert’s dad trying to teach him at four years old how to hit right-handed, and it just wasn’t working. Then trying something different they switched to lefty, and he “just started hitting everything”. I find this storytelling of what it’s like to see Hassell swing, it’s very natural, seems effortless, and he hits just about everything in the strike zone. I know he’s spent countless hours getting to where he is now, but the greats make it look natural, and I think there’s a glimmer of that here.

Approach

I wasn’t able to head down to Tennessee to see Hassell in person, but the limited game tape I saw on him shows good plate discipline. He lays off close pitches that are called balls and doesn’t appear to chase or have a swing first attitude. He seems confident he can work the count and doesn’t swing and miss much. I did see him fooled by breaking balls in the zone a couple of times, but certainly not regularly. I don’t normally look too deeply at walk rates of prep players, given the inconsistent competition and command they face. It is encouraging to see the player have a strong idea of what a ball and strike is, and what he’s able to get the bat head-on.

Power

The recurring question regarding Hassell’s game is how much power will he eventually have? Some evaluators feel he’ll grow into some power, while others feel he’ll max out at 20 home runs a year at the big-league level. Hassel does hit a lot of balls in the air and has a swing that’s built to generate loft, so we’re not looking at a slap hitter who has to re-develop himself to generate power. It seems like he’d benefit from some additional strength, and as a 6’2” high school grad he has the frame and youth to do it.

There are many things he could tinker with, and it will be interesting to see what professional coaches can do with Hassell. If he’s able to add some forearm strength the Padres might have him keep his hands back longer, reducing his zone time and have him attack the ball more. I see many current players do this generating some extra power, whipping the bat through the zone with a wrist snap just before meeting the ball while sacrificing some contact. The beauty of this technique is Hassell could presumably use both swings as it’s only a small mechanical change to the hands and could create some interesting approaches given different game situations.

It’s important to highlight Hassell has some power and is able to hit home runs already. The question is how much will he top out with? As mentioned, the frame is there for him to add some strength, and the swing is already conducive to hitting the ball in the air. I really believe there’s an opportunity to add some more power should the team and player want it to be a bigger part of his game.

Speed

While not a true burner, Hassell is quick on his feet and batted leadoff most of his high school career, with stealing bases being part of his game. Perfect Game has his 60-yard dash at 6.54 seconds (97th percentile), and 10-yard split at 1.60 (1.71 class average). He’s light on his feet and a long-legged athlete, who projects to maintain good speed as he leaves his teen years behind, or even if he were to add some muscle.

Defense

Hassell is expected to stick in centerfield but has the arm and instincts to play all three outfield spots. This is good news for fantasy owners, as it brings optimism Hassell would not be lifted for defensive replacements late in games, possibly giving him some additional plate appearances over a lesser defender. Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin suggested on the MLB Network draft show Hassell could have also been drafted later as a pitcher, but that the bat and defense guaranteed that wouldn’t happen. He played 1B in little league, though I haven’t seen it mentioned he’d ever play there for the Padres, and Hassell himself seems determined to stick in CF.

Summary

I don’t like to use pro comparisons, and this is not one. It’s more of an example of success. Christian Yelich at 6’3” 195 lbs, is an example of a similarly-sized player who had a great hit tool out of high school in 2010, and questions about his ability to hit for power at the time. Yelich, of course, was a very good player–both in fantasy and in real life–with the Marlins, who grew into an MVP with forty homer power with the Brewers. Having a natural hit tool can bring you a long way, and open doors in developing power, especially with the hel05p of the advanced analytics and measuring tools in the game today.

Most evaluators seem to feel it’s easy to project 20 homers and 15 stolen bases on Hassell, with a high average. In my opinion that makes him an easy first-round talent in dynasty redrafts. If the power emerges, Hassell could be a perennial all-star and maybe more.

The Author

Ken Balderston

Ken Balderston

20+ years of fantasy baseball experience & currently only playing in dynasty leagues. Christian, proud father of 3, husband to the strongest woman in the world, accountant, golfer, cook.

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