by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Entering play on Saturday there were eight hitters who had a groundball rate of 60% or greater, and some of the names may surprise you. It gets even more surprising when we look at #9 on the list, who fell just short of 60% but not by much. Obviously there are names that we are happy to see included, like Billy Hamilton and Orlando Arcia. Those are players who don’t have much power, and instead should be focusing on putting the ball on the ground and utilizing their speed to get on base.
It’s the power hitters that are going to grab our attention, because how many home runs can they hit when they are driving the ball into the ground instead of putting it in the air? With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at the Top 10:
|1.||Stephen Piscotty||Oakland A's||69.2%|
|2.||Ian Desmond||Colorado Rockies||67.6%|
|3.||Billy Hamilton||Cincinnati Reds||66.7%|
|4.||Cesar Hernandez||Philadelphia Phillies||63.0%|
|5t.||Orlando Arcia||Milwaukee Brewers||62.9%|
|5t.||Lewis Brinson||Miami Marlins||62.9%|
|7.||Andrew Benintendi||Boston Red Sox||60.5%|
|8.||Yolmer Sanchez||Chicago White Sox||60.0%|
|9.||Kyle Schwarber||Chicago Cubs||59.3%|
|10.||Ryan Flaherty||Atlanta Braves||58.6%|
The concern for Schwarber is supposed to be based on his strikeout rate, not his groundball rate. Don’t get us wrong, he is racking up the strikeouts (30.4% courtesy of a 14.2% SwStr%), and he’s never shown this type of elevated groundball rate before (40.5%). Chances are this is nothing more than a small sample size outlier, but it’s something to keep in mind.
The strikeouts aren’t going anywhere, but as groundballs shift to fly balls (25.9% vs. career mark of 43.6%) his BABIP will likely plummet. Currently maintaining a pedestrian .292 BABIP, leading to a .244 average, he’ll need a big boost in power in order to maintain even that mark. Considering his 24.0% HR/FB led to a .211 average last season, there’s cause for concern.
Verdict – Moderately Concerning
He’s not a big-time power hitter, but that doesn’t change the concern. However it looks like he’s simply trying to find himself at the play, with a minuscule 10.5% Hard% and 22.2% popup rate. Neither of those numbers are likely to continue, and as he’s showing a tremendous approach (4.0% SwStr%, 27.2% O-Swing%) this may represent the best time to try and buy low. He continues to maintain 20/20 talent and when he starts barreling up the baseball he’ll emerge as one of the best in the game. Kick the tires and see if you have an opportunity to grab him for less than full price from a frustrated owner.
Verdict – No Concern (Buy Low if possible)
Desmond has a history of elevated groundball rates (51.6%), though this seems extreme. At the same time he was at 62.7% last season, and while we wanted to attribute that to the wrist injury it’s possible there’s more too it. He’s shown power thus far (3 HR in 51 AB), but it’s come courtesy of a 37.5% HR/FB. We all know that’s not going to continue, and with his approach also off (15.3% SwStr%, 40.2% O-Swing%) the concerns only grow. No one is about to say that he can’t turn it around (specifically the approach), but after last year’s groundball rate there are reasons to question the power potential. Without that and with playing time not a guarantee, Desmond may be a prime sell candidate.
Verdict – Highly Concerning (Sell if the price is right)
His name doesn’t hold the same appeal as the others, but the hope was he’d provide power to the middle of Oakland’s lineup. That’s not going to happen with this type of number, and without elite speed what exactly does he bring? There were already questions about the groundball rate, after he posted a 49.2% mark last season, and barring a significant change the results simply won’t be there.
Verdict – Highly Concerning
Source – Fangraphs
Missed our Top 100 prospect rankings? Make sure to check it out by clicking here.