Finding Prospects with Power Potential: 2021 Review
The first skill I look at is the hit tool when analyzing prospects. I believe that this is the most crucial tool for hitters, as everything else is tied to it. What good is 80-grade power if you cannot make contact with the ball? How many bases can plus speed steal if a hitter cannot get on base? Traditionally, players with good or better hit tools do not have much power. And while that may be the case with some hitters, others are so good at getting the barrel of the bat on the ball more power can be unlocked with a few minor adjustments.
Several prospects have gone from having an average power projection to having 20+ home runs seasons with good batting averages. Corbin Carroll has more power than expected. Jarren Duran’s scouting report said he lacked “over the fence power.” Jose Miranda was a hit-over power-type player until 2021.
Using the below criteria, I searched 2021 stats to find players that made contact at an elite level, had some power, and could lift the ball.
24 years old or below
150 or more at-bats
ISO above .150
Swinging Strike % below 10%
Ground ball rate below 45%
Line Drive rate above 20%
Contact rate above 80%
|Vinnie Pasquantino||KCR||A+, AA||23||.263||23%||34%||8%||80%|
|Nick Sogard||BOS||A+, AA||23||.185||22%||38%||8%||80%|
|Jorbit Vivas||LAD||A, A+||20||.184||24%||45%||9%||87%|
|Brendan Donovvan||STL||A+, AA, AAA||24||.151||23%||43%||8%||80%|
|Miguel Vargas||LAD||A+, AA||21||.207||23%||30%||9%||82%|
|Richie Palacios||CLE||AA, AAA||24||.174||23%||37%||9%||80%|
|Steven Kwan||CLE||AA, AAA||23||.199||26%||37%||3%||90%|
|Dustin Harris||TEX||A, A+||21||.215||26%||37%||8%||82%|
|Cameron Cannon||BOS||A+, AA||23||.156||21%||38%||10%||87%|
|Adley Rutschman||BAL||AA, AAA||23||.217||20%||36%||7%||80%|
|J.C. Correa||HOU||A, A+||22||.155||21%||44%||8%||86%|
|Carlos Perez||CHW||AA, AAA||24||.152||22%||39%||6%||89%|
|Diego Castillo||NYY||AA, AAA||23||.209||21%||38%||7%||86%|
|Jose Miranda||MIN||AA, AAA||23||.228||27%||44%||9%||86%|
Some of these names need no introduction. Adley Rustchman is a top 3 prospect. Keibert Ruiz is a top rookie ready for his first full season in the big leagues. I wrote about Pasquantino in this spotlight piece.
In addition to the above stats, we’ll also use Phil Goyette’s Estimate Barrels Percentage (Brl%) and Estimated Expected Weighted on Base Average (xwOBA) to grade some select hitters. Barrels is a Statcast term and is a type of batted ball that has an exit velocity of at least 98 MPH and a launch angle between 8 and 50 degrees. Since 2016 barrels have had a batting average of .822 and a slugging percentage of 2.386. xwOBA combines the barrel rate with strikeouts and walks. Phil does a much better job explaining how he created this formula, and I highly encourage following him on Twitter and reading his work. But in short, he founds stats that correlate the most with Brl% and adjusted them for league and park.
This will be an ongoing series throughout the year. We’ll be checking in on names from 2021 to see how they are performing and go over new players who meet the standards set above. But here are several players that we thought were the most interesting from the 2021 season.
Dustin Harris, 3B, TEX – 8% SwStr%, 26% LD%, 37% GB%, .215 ISO, 82% Contact%
Dustin Harris will be THE breakout prospect of 2022. He is one of 2 players who hit at least 20 doubles, 20 home runs, and stole 20 bases while striking out under 100 times. Harris did this while hitting .372 with a .943 OPS between the two levels. Those are elite fantasy contributor numbers, and I feel like we see another level in 2022. His 9.73 Barrel% in Low-A was in the 70th percentile, and his .377 xwOBA was in the 80th. These numbers got even better in High-A – .394 xwOBA (90th percentile) and a Brl% of almost 14% (80th percentile).
Harris already has some hype, but there doesn’t appear to be too much, as he’s only cracked the bottom portion of some top 100 lists. Now is the time to acquire him in all league sizes and formats.
Steven Kwan, OF, CLE – 3% SwStr%, 26% LD%, 37% GB%, .199 ISO, 90% Contact%
Steven Kwan has become a popular name in deeper dynasty leagues after a breakout 2021 season, hitting 12 home runs between two levels. The excellent news with Kwan is that his hit tool is elite. His swinging-strike rate was an absurdly low 2.7% last year. He also showed his excellent approach with 10% plus walk rates in Double-A and Triple-A. However, despite making this list and hitting a career-high 12 home runs, I have some questions about his power. Kwan does not have as much raw power as others on this list. His Brl% in Double-A North East was only 6.5%, below the league average of 8.3%. In Triple-A, it was just league average. And while Kwan gets rave reviews on his speed, it hasn’t translated to the high amount of steals you would hope for. His career-best was 11 in 2019. In 2021 the steals dropped to six.
Kwan strikes me as a volume hitter. He doesn’t have the pure raw power of other prospects, so he gets by on making so much contact overall he doesn’t need to make quality contact. He’s likely not available in most leagues, but if he is, Kwan is worth a speculative add in deeper formats and someone to put on your watch list in shallower leagues.
Miguel Vargas, 3B, LAD – 9% SwStr%, 23% LD%, 30% GB%, .207 ISO, 82% Contact%
Vargas has always been a natural hitter. In 297 minor league games, he’s posted a .316 batting average. Before this year, the swing had been flat and geared for line drives and an opposite-field approach, with little power.
Vargas’ power broke out in 2021, hitting 25 across two levels. Like many players on this list, he has an excellent approach. Vargas joined team launch angle in 2021, raising his flyball rate to above 45%, which also increased his HR/FB rate. Vargas also started turning on pitches and being able to pull the ball. The barrel rates at High A and Double-A were above average (11% and 9%), and his xwOBA’s were solid (above .350).
While the quality of contact is good, it’s not quite elite. Vargas will likely be an above-average hitter with mid 20’s home run power. A good player but not an elite power hitter. The best part about Vargas is that not many managers seem to know how good he is. If the Vargas owner in your league is sleeping on him I would pounce.
Brendan Donovan, OF/2B/3B, STL – 8% SwStr%, 23% LD%, 43% GB%, .151 ISO, 80% Contact%
Donovan is the type of player that should be your bread and butter in deeper dynasty leagues. A boring player that has no carrying tool but does everything well. He hit a career-best 12 home runs in 2021 while maintaining his great approach and stole 19 bases. While Brl% is a bit concerning, as it was below 5% in High-A and Double-A, it did get to above 9% in Triple A. Funny enough, Donovan hit the same amount of home runs in 33 games in Triple-A as he did in 75 games at lower minor league levels.
What’s to be expected from Donovan in 2022? It’s going to depend on playing time. Donovan is already 24 and is on the 40 man roster. He’s spent time in left field, second base, and third base. It will be hard for Donovan to get into the Cardinals lineup, but I could see him getting up to 400 at-bats as a utility player. If the quality of contact he showed in Triple-A is really who he is, he could provide double-digit home runs and steals off the bench. A handy player in deeper daily moves leagues. And remember, the Cardinals have had success with these types of players before.
Jose Miranda, 3B, MIN – 9%, SwStr%, 27% LD%, 44% GB%, .228 ISO, 86% Contact%
Jose Miranda is the poster child for this filter. His career-best home run output before the 2021 season was 16. He has always been an aggressive, high contact hitter. But he added more raw power to his game and became more selective at the plate. His line-drive rate increased to 27% last year, and he also swung and missed less than ever. His Brl% in Double-A was an absurd 15%, and his .413 xwOBA was elite. The numbers dropped in Triple-A; 9% Brl% and a .360 xwOBA, but both are above average.
With Minnesota’s additions this offseason, Miranda is not guaranteed playing time this year. He’s defensively limited, so he needs an injury or trade to get into the lineup. Despite his success, I don’t know if he’s genuinely a 30 home run bat. The drop in Brl% when moving up levels makes me pause, and while the GB/LD rates meet our criteria, it’s not ideal for big home run numbers. Honestly, if someone in my league believed those 30 home runs, I would be listening to offers.
To be clear, this is not me saying Miranda won’t be a good hitter. I’m expecting a high batting average slightly above average power bat. He should be a solid everyday player.
Richie Palacios, 2B, CLE – 9% SwStr%, 23% LD%, 37% GB%, .174 ISO, 80% Contact%
Entering his 5th year of professional baseball, Richie Palacios just qualified to profile with a contact rate of 80% on the nose last season. Although his contact rate was “low”, he still hit a combined .297 between the levels and struck out only 16% of his plate appearances. But his hit tool is not the concerning attribute when trying to gauge Palacios as a fantasy-relevant prospect; it’s his power.
His ISO last year was more than acceptable at .174 combined in both levels. While that’s an indicator of his modest power potential, it translated into only seven home runs total, and just one of those came at Triple-A. The easiest issue to identify why he hit so few homers is his estimated barrel rate. Richie barreled only 1.37% of his batted ball events based on Phil’s work. This would rank in the bottom 3% of the MLB, between sluggers Kevin Newman and Myles Straw.
On the positive side, Palacio’s LD% is on par with major leaguers Brandon Crawford and Tim Anderson and ahead of a few surprising names like Hunter Renfroe and Max Muncy. My interpretation of this LD% vs. Brl% discrepancy is that Palacios is either flashing his ultimate “doubles” power or that he has untapped home run potential with some swing adjustments and more seasoning in the minors.
The more seasoning portion, I feel is essential with Palacio. He has only played in 2 full minor league seasons, despite being in pro ball for four years. He missed all of the 2019 season due to injury, plus the fiasco that was the 2020 minor league season. Neither of those will help any prospect reach their full potential. The Guardians are doing their best to get him reps, though. Last year he spent a lot of time in the outfield, which shows the organization wants to get him as many opportunities as possible.
All in all, I’m hesitant to buy in entirely that Richie Palacios will have a power explosion in 2022. If you’re in league with 200+ prospects rostered, I think he’s worth a flier to see what happens this year. His hit tool is above average at each level, and he does add the potential of 10+ stolen bases. Remember that the Guardians seem to have more middle infield prospects than dollars on their payroll, so he may not have a long leash when he gets his shot in the majors.