Last week, I took a look at how Reds prospects were doing with plate discipline. This has become a pet topic of mine because of the research that’s been done showing that control of the strike zone is the most predictive factor for major league success. Not power. Not hitting for average. Not defense. Not speed. Strike zone control. That isn’t to say that players never contribute without good strike zone control. Only that their ability to control it is the best sign you can hope for from a prospect.
So, to that end, I though it would be interesting to look at the current lineup and which bucket they would have fallen into when they first came up. I’m not going to repeat the full breakdown of the categories here, but if you missed that piece, go take a gander. Again, we’re looking at MINOR LEAGUE performance here. Not major league.
Tucker Barnhart: MedBB/MedK
Well, color me surprised. I’ve never been a believer in Barnhart, but this plus his adequate ML performance is enough to make a person wonder. He walked in 10.6% of his minor league at bats, which is 0.4% away from putting him in the same bucket as Joey Votto. He’s never going to be a world-beater with the bat, but he doesn’t have to be (catchers are 17% worse than league average as a group). Add to it that he was young for the league as he rose through the minors and the Reds might have someone who can keep things warm until one of the prospects works his way up.
Joey Votto: HighBB/MedK
This shouldn’t really surprise anyone. Votto controls the strike zone and he’s been one of the best hitters in baseball because of it.
Brandon Phillips: MedBB/MedK
Much as he has a reputation for free-swinging, Phillips had okay discipline in the minors. His BB% only barely squeaks into the medium bucket, but it’s there never the less. He’s always been a contact hitter and it’s only in recent years, as his bat has slowed, that his walk rate has started to fall to unacceptable levels.
Zack Cozart: LowBB/MedK
Cozart is the first every day player who falls into a bucket with a lower than 40% success rate in the majors. And, of course, before his recent adjustment, he very nearly hit himself out of the lineup.
Eugenio Suarez: MedBB/MedK
This is why I am not ready to give up on Suarez (though I’m ready for him to not play third anymore). Like Barnhart, his walk rate is on the high side of the medium bucket, but unlike Barnhart, he has power. His walk rate is the thing that has yet to carry over to the majors. 60% of the players in this category do end up as offensive “busts” (no prospect is a sure thing, after all), but given his power, history, and the fact that he isn’t quite 25 yet, Suarez still deserves to be given some time.
Adam Duvall: MedBB/MedK
Duvall just does squeeze himself into both of the medium buckets, but he’s very close to being LowBB/HighK. In his later years in the minors, his walk rate, especially, dropped off. Still, if he could regain a little bit of that plate discipline, I’d be a lot less skeptical. Maybe he’ll prove me wrong (if only he were 3 years younger!). I hope so.
Billy Hamilton: MedBB/MedK
It’s so strange to see Hamilton and Duvall next to each other here. Of course, they are radically different players who derive their value in entirely different ways. Hamilton has kept a solid K rate in the majors, while seeing his walk rate fall off (because no one wants to walk him and he doesn’t have enough power to scare anyone). He’ll probably always register as an offensive “bust” but as long as he keeps being super-elite with defense and baserunning, he’ll provide enough value to play.
Jay Bruce: MedBB/HighK
This is fascinating to me because of the comparison it is possible to make between Bruce and Votto. Both came through the system at the same time. Votto was the patient hitter with solid power who was supposed to be pretty good. Bruce was the less-patient guy with insane power who was supposed to save us all. See what happened? Further, only 23% of the players in this category manage to be at least average major league hitters. It’s a testament to his talent that he’s managed to be an above average ML hitter over his career.
This is mostly for fun, but there’s a nice cross section of veterans and young guys in the lineup right now and given what we would have predicted from the veterans given these numbers, it may well remind us to be a little more patient with the kids, who are still growing into themselves a little.