Statcast is a really exciting product to have at our fingertips when analyzing players. It has given the public a whole new vocabulary with which we can talk about baseball. How many times did you hear the terms “spin rate,” “exit velocity,” or “launch angle” before a couple years ago? Now these terms are everywhere.
The trouble with Statcast is that analysis is limited to recent major league seasons, so we don’t have the ability to build context around these numbers like we do for on-base percentage or swinging strike rate, for example.
Enter Synthetic Statcast. This is a product Baseball Info Solutions (BIS) unveiled at the SABR Analytics Conference this past March (audio here, slides here) that estimates exit velocity, launch angle, and spray (i.e. horizontal) angle from the hit location and timing of batted balls. This data gets really interesting when we start applying it to time periods and leagues where Statcast doesn’t exist, because we can now talk about these new statistics in those contexts as well.
Using Synthetic Statcast exit velocities, here are the Average Exit Velocity and Hard Hit Rate leaderboards for Double-A and Triple-A this season. In this case, Hard Hit Rate is the percentage of at-bats in which the player hit a ball at least 95 miles per hour.
High Minors Average Exit Velocity Leaders, 2018 (min 100 AB)
|Player||Level||Org||Avg Exit Velo|
High Minors Hard Hit Rate Leaders, 2018 (min 100 AB)
|Player||Level||Org||Hard Hit Rate|
There are a few hotter prospect names on or just short of making these lists. MLB.com top ten prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. is seventh on the exit velocity leaderboard. He has a strong power profile but has struck out more than 30 percent of the time since graduating to Double-A. Recent A’s callup Dustin Fowler had his major league debut foiled by injury last season, but slugging over .500 in 100 games at Triple-A has earned him more than just a cup of coffee in the majors. Peter Alonso is one of the Mets’ top prospects, slugging over .500 and striking out less than 20 percent of the time at every level so far. And Blue Jays farmhand Vladimir Guerrero Jr., perhaps the best hitting prospect in the league after Ronald Acuna’s call-up, is 14th with a 24 percent Hard Hit Rate.
It’s not very surprising to see Dylan Cozens and Chris Carter as exit velocity leaders. They are both high-strikeout sluggers who crush the ball when they do hit it. Notice that they aren’t at the top of the Hard Hit Rate leaderboard because they don’t make a lot of contact. Jacob Wilson, Mike Ford, and Victor Roache are notable because they appear on both lists, but Ford hasn’t harnessed that power yet and the other two have limited upside because of their age.