Baseball is about scoring runs and stopping the opposite group from scoring runs, and the whole lot a participant does on a baseball discipline contributes (positively or negatively) to a type of two issues. In fact, it’s not that easy; gamers can contribute to scoring runs in quite a lot of alternative ways. As an example, efficiently stealing a base contributes to scoring a run. So does taking a stroll, or hitting a house run. Likewise, a defender can contribute the opposite method with a very nice outfield arm or by minimizing errors. Fairly simple.
Not the whole lot a participant does has the identical worth, which can be comparatively apparent. Taking plenty of walks is extra necessary than stealing a bunch of bases, and hitting for energy is healthier than having nice defensive vary. There may be, due to this fact, an idea I wish to name “path to viability.” Several types of gamers could be stable MLB contributors so long as they’ve the proper talent combine. For those who take walks at an 18% charge, for instance, you may afford to hold a decrease batting common and play as a primary baseman. However in case you hit for a comparatively empty .220, properly, you higher play a premium place at a Gold Glove degree.
You possibly can take this to extremes, too. Let’s say you may have an outfielder who by no means breaks into something greater than a leisurely stroll when the ball is hit in the direction of him. He’d be an enormous legal responsibility—besides if he hit like peak Barry Bonds, by which case he’d nonetheless be an All-Star.
On a extra sensible degree, we’re watching an experiment unfold: what occurs in case you flip a participant’s energy as much as 11 whereas additionally turning down actually each different dial beneath common? As a result of that’s what’s going on with Nelson Velazquez, who on Sunday hit his sixteenth and seventeenth house runs on the yr in solely 49 video games. Velazquez has hit 14 of them with Kansas Metropolis, and he has an opportunity to have the third-most house runs on the group regardless of solely enjoying in 1 / 4 or so of the group’s whole on the yr.
This yr, Velazquez has been a ridiculous energy hitter. His remoted slugging proportion stands at an nearly unbelievable .390. He’s within the 99th percentile in barrel %. And it’s resulted in a wRC+ of 146, deservedly so. He’s crushed the ball. It’s no fluke, both; take a look at his profession and also you’ll see an ISO north of .250 and a wRC+ of 113 throughout 369 plate appearances.
The issue with Velazquez? All the pieces else. We’ll once more take a look at profession numbers right here, as a result of we’re at a small pattern dimension already. He strikes out rather a lot—at a tick over 29%—however carries a single-digit stroll charge at 8.9%. His profession batting common is .221, and he carries a profession OBP just under .300. And defensively, it’s one massive yikes. He carries a -10 Defensive Runs Saved and a -4 Final Zone Score in not but 700 outfield innings.
That bought me considering: what number of gamers have their been who’ve accomplished what Velazquez is doing to date in his profession? I pulled up Fangraphs to have a look, filtering solely certified hitters since 1995 with greater than 500 plate appearances, an ISO above .250, and an OBP beneath .300. Not plenty of gamers threaded that exact needle.
Energy hitters with sub-.300 OBP seasons
Instantly, the Adam Duvall comp makes plenty of sense. Like Velazquez, Duvall is a comparatively average-sized, right-handed hitting outfielder with massive energy however not as a lot plate self-discipline as you’d anticipate from a slugger. Duvall reveals up twice on this record, however he’s additionally put up the requisite .250+ ISO and a <.300 OBP since 2019, a time period measuring 1547 plate appearances. In different phrases, it may be accomplished.
However there’s a problem right here. Duvall is a legitimately good defensive outfielder who has gained a Gold Glove award. Velazquez…will in all probability by no means do this. Even with Velazquez hitting the crap out of the ball this yr, he’d solely be on tempo for two.5 WAR over a 150-game season. If Velazquez was even a mean outfielder, his ceiling could be immense. However he isn’t, and that’s why the Royals have been in a position to nab him for Jose Cuas, a 29-year-old substitute degree reliever.
So what does Velazquez’s path to viability seem like? Effectively, it seems rather a lot like what he’s doing this yr: elite energy relatively than nice energy and a better OBP achieved via, probably, a better batting common. Certainly, if we increase our search to incorporate gamers who’ve achieved an OBP between .300 and .350 in addition to an ISO above .350, we provide you with a number of examples.
Energy hitters with sub-.350 OBP seasons
Khris Davis is one other fairly good comp—one other common sized right-handed hitter. For his profession, he had a .249 ISO and a .314 OBP, and like Velazquez was a poor defensive outfielder.
What do all these numbers imply, then? Effectively, they imply that we could be fairly positive Velazquez won’t ever be a celebrity, and although he may need some stable years in him, he’s unlikely to be a reliably above common participant. He simply doesn’t get on base sufficient and he doesn’t play ok protection.
Velazquez is actually enjoyable to look at, although, and he’s greater than earned an extended look subsequent yr. And getting him for a man like Cuas, who had no future with the Royals, is strictly the form of transfer the entrance workplace ought to proceed to do. In any case, Velazquez is barely 24 years and eight months previous, youthful than Michael Massey, Nick Loftin, MJ Melendez, Samad Taylor. Nick Pratto, and Vinnie Pasquantino. If different groups can get stable gamers in shrewd strikes, nothing’s towards the principles the Royals can’t find yourself on the receiving finish of the great participant this time.