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MLB Prospect Analysis: The Missing Link – Hit

This week is the third installment in the miniseries examining various scouting notes among hitting prospects. The goal is to identify players with similar skills who lack a particular tool. There are different degrees of lack, so not all players have the same precise combination. A top prospect like Bobby Witt Jr. or Oneil Cruz doesn’t have the same contact issues as some players on this list. But their strike tool falls short of their power/speed potential as it currently stands. It’s not an exact science, but I think it’s an intriguing exercise in putting various players into groups and evaluating. I have personally used this method over the years to discover sleepers who might be neglected or about to breakout. It’s by no means perfect, but familiarizing yourself with scouting notes and understanding what they entail can only improve your prospect identification abilities.

There have been many players throughout baseball history who have brought the alluring combination of power and speed to the table. Some of the great players currently residing in the major leagues share these tools. On the other hand, some players hit the ball hard, run fast, but never manage to make enough consistent contact for their advantage to materialize. Some of them ended up being forgotten. The lesson in all of this is that it doesn’t matter how electric the home run and stolen base threat are. If they can’t get to the point where their punching tool isn’t a liability, they won’t be able to grow their power and athleticism. If a prospect is having trouble getting in touch with a lower level pitcher, it’s an uphill battle to reach the highest level in the world and compete against pitchers who throw upper 90s whiffle balls.

Things look bleak now, but there will be baseball in 2022! Why not get a head start and jump into a Fantrax Classic Draft contest? Jump into the season with a Best Ball league or maybe a Draft and Hold. Or put some green on the line with a new season-long league to try and conquer. There’s no better time than now to put on your baseball!

Top MLB Prospects With Hit Tool Problems

The upper level

♦ Bobby Witt, SS, KC (21/AAA)
♦ Oneil Cruz, SS, PIT (23/MLB)
♦ Brennen Davis, OF, CHC (22/AAA)
♦ Josh Lowe, OF, TB (24/AAA)

This group is ranked high on virtually every list. There may be differing opinions as to their exact position on the rosters, but they are all considered high-end prospects for a reason. Every player (except maybe Davis) should see enough major league time in 2022, which will give them an extra boost of closeness. They have all had long periods of surpassing their qualities as successful tools. I don’t think such talented players “miss” the punch tool. It’s just their weakest tool when stacked against Power and Speed. They all have the pop and athleticism to impact the home run and stolen base categories. The only question that remains at this point is how each will ultimately settle against the best pitchers in the world. It’s important to remember that there is a difference between a power/speed player hitting .240 and one hitting .275 or better. The ability to make contact is essential, so there is still a wider range of outcomes for players like this compared to other premium prospects. On the other hand, if one of them settles with a solid K% at the top level, the production potential in five categories is a virtual certainty.

The next wave

♦ Royce Lewis, SS, MIN (22/AA)
♦ Elly De La Cruz, 3B, CIN (20/A)
♦ Pedro Leon, SS, HOU (23/AAA)
♦ Everson Pereira, DE, NYY (20/A+)
♦ Joey Wiemer, DE, MIL (23/A+)

We have a very intriguing mix of players here who have the potential to be considered a top option. Each of these players has a strong enough record to be rated as a top 100 prospect despite current flaws that keep them from the top tier. Leon and Lewis (if healthy) should see their first major league action and are solid investments if you want someone up close who won’t cost as much as a premium prospect. Players who have questions about injury, age versus level, or proximity may cause differing views (and opportunities). You may find that some managers take a more conservative approach and are slower to push a few of these young players up. The ability to land one or more of these players before they really spawn makes them very intriguing targets beyond their actual skill set. Once players are in the top 100 on virtually every roster, the same opportunities don’t always present themselves. Developing the skills to identify players with the right mix to become fast risers is essential. Even if they fall short of the growing hype, there is still a window to use their popularity to shake things up in the trading market.

At the crossroads

♦ Garrett Mitchell, DE, MIL (23/AA)
♦ Travis Swaggerty, DE, PIT (24/AAA)
♦ Greg Jones, SS, VG (23/AA)
♦ Kristian Robinson, DE, ARI (21/A)
♦ Hunter Bishop, DE, SF (23/A)
♦ Peyton Burdick, DE, MIA (24/AAA)
♦ Kameron Misner, OF, VG (24/AA)
♦ Brenton Doyle, DE, COL (23/A+)

You will find this group scattered on lists in various places. Each of them offers intrigue but also a certain level of angst. Many of these prospects are older for their competition and find themselves entering a “prove it” season. Whether it’s injury, blockage, or off-field issues, something controls their value. Some of their bestselling tools are more advanced than others. Managers who prefer prospects at higher levels might find attractive options here. A few of them have made an appearance in the top 100 for power/speed, but the hype is minimal compared to top players. In general, handle this group with relative caution when paying for their services. Some legitimate fantasy contributors might emerge from this group, but it’s better to treat them as cheap candidates than to break the bank to acquire them. Every player has concerns that keep them from being valued on every level, but that doesn’t mean they’re lost causes.

Rookie Bullet Hideouts

♦ Harry Ford, C, WED (18/CPX)
♦ Kevin Alcantara, DE, CHC (19/CPX)
♦ James Wood, DE, SD (19/CPX)
♦ Benny Montgomery, DE, COL (19/CPX)
♦ Pedro Pineda, OF, OAK (18/CPX)
♦ Lonnie White, DE, PIT (19/CPX)

The majority of this tier consists of first-round prep picks from the 2021 MLB Draft. If you’re in rebuilding mode or like to target younger players with an edge, this group is for you. Each player is recognized within the Dynasty community and receives varying levels of praise. It is more difficult to evaluate the success tool in the beginning due to the lack of professional data compared to older prospects. Some have already shown promising signs, but the picture will become clear once they play ball all season. There is an opportunity in this lineup each season to find a player who is considered the full package once we can see a larger sample. Some of these players will die out on their way to the top, but you may also find the next “must have” prospect lingering here. Proximity to Majors is a factor that should be considered when evaluating players, but it’s not the most crucial aspect. Many people may not have the patience to wait for these players to grow and contribute to fantasy rosters. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t wise investments, whatever your preferred style. There will always be a healthy commercial market for the next generation of power/speed threats.