by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
The NL East is filled with impressive young middle infielders, many of which appear to be establishing themselves as future stars. Let’s take a look at three of them and try to determine if their starts to 2018 are for real and what to expect moving forward (all stats are through Tuesday, unless otherwise noted):
Ozzie Albies – Atlanta Braves
2018 Stats – .310 (22-71), 5 HR, 11 RBI, 16 R, 1 SB
The big development for Albies has been a spike in power, as he’s carrying a 19.2% HR/FB. Outside of that, exactly what has changed? If you compare his plate discipline and batted ball profile to what he did in ’17 (over 244 PA), it’s not much different:
Line Drive Rate
Fly Ball Rate
There was hope that he could grow into some power this season (though not reaching his full potential) after combining for 30 doubles, 15 triples and 15 HR between Triple-A and the Majors in ’17. While it’s hard to imagine him maintaining this type of pace, the fact that he’s flashing the upside isn’t surprising.
What’s more important is his short-term improvement in making contact against offspeed pitches. While it isn’t reflected in his walk rate (2.7%), through Monday he’s seen his Whiff% against offspeed pitches go from 17.98% to 11.63%. That was among the biggest issues, and if he can maintain the improved mark, even when the power regresses the production is going to remain.
Albies has always been viewed as a potential star, and in the early going he’s showing why. While he may slow down a little bit, it’s easy to conclude that he’s going to be a highly productive option all season long. Consider us all in for 2018 and beyond.
Scott Kingery – Philadelphia Phillies
2018 Stats – .255 (14-55), 2 HR, 12 RBI, 9 R, 3 SB
It was a surprise when he made the Opening Day roster due to the lack of clarity as to where the AB would come from, but Kingery’s been moved around the diamond and is getting ample opportunity to establish himself. His biggest problem has been an inflated popup rate (22.2%), but also his plate discipline has been lacking:
- SwStr% – 13.9%
- O-Swing% – 35.9%
Early on pitchers have been feeding him a steady diet of breaking balls (35.83%), and you have to wonder how much that’s impacting his timing as he’s struggled to make contact against all types of pitches (Whiff%):
- Hard – 13.74%
- Breaking – 19.77%
- Offspeed – 21.74%
Long-term no one is going to question his potential/upside, but it seems likely that he continues to go through some growing pains moving forward in ’18. Couple that with continued uncertainty about his playing time and he could ultimately disappoint this season. That doesn’t mean to give up on him, but he has a lot to prove.
Amed Rosario – New York Mets
2018 Stats – .240 (12-50), 0 HR, 7 RBI, 7 R, 0 SB
Rosario continues to struggle with his approach at the plate, with a 14.5% SwStr% and 41.4% O-Swing% leading to an unsightly 29.6% strikeout rate and 3.7% walk rate. Considering his best “asset” is his speed it’s nice to see a line drive (23.5%) and groundball (52.9%) approach, but with the strikeout/walk rates where they are he’s not going to be able to tap into it nearly enough.
Hitting ninth in the order on most nights he could conceivably score runs, but he simply isn’t getting on base enough. There’s long-term appeal, without power and barring sudden growth it’s impossible to imagine him tapping into it this season.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball
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