Hitter Rookie Review, Part 2 — May 14, 2024

Yesterday, I reviewed the seven rookie hitters who had recorded the highest plate appearance total so far this season. Let’s continue on down the PA column for a final six.

Rookie Hitters
Brayan Rocchio 132 0.202 0 16 6 6 0.260
Jackson Chourio 127 0.214 4 15 13 6 0.266
Masyn Winn 124 0.275 0 10 7 6 0.307
Colt Keith 124 0.177 0 7 10 3 0.206
Wilyer Abreu 120 0.282 3 18 14 5 0.373
Colton Cowser 120 0.257 6 14 20 3 0.365

Brayan Rocchio earned a cup of coffee with the Guardians last year, but kept his rookie eligibility and ranked as the team’s second best prospect and 59th overall heading into the season. However, his scouting grades didn’t exactly excite us fantasy owners, with only his Hit grade above average, and that’s the one I pay least attention to as I’d rather just look at strikeout rate and BABIP history. In the minors, Rocchio showed a touch of power and a willingness to steal bases, as he swiped 25 last year.

Serving as the team’s starting shortstop, he has shown good plate patience, while posting a better than average strikeout rate and batted ball distribution that suits his skill set. Unfortunately, the results haven’t been there. Even with a strong BABIP profile, that mark sits at just .250, while he has shown limited power. His ISO sits at just .070, he hasn’t homered yet, and his 106.7 maxEV and 3.2% Barrel% suggest any sort of increased power output isn’t coming anytime soon. He has stolen six bases in eight tries though so he hasn’t been completely useless in fantasy leagues. A .296 xWOBA also suggests better results, though most of that is on the batting average side. I don’t see him any more than an AL-only starter.

The third best prospect in baseball and the Brewers’ best, Jackson Chourio recorded just 24 Triple-A plate appearances before winning the starting right field job as a 20-year-old. Unlike Rocchio, Chourio’s scouting grades jump off the page and hint at fantasy (and real baseball) stardom in his future. Of course, it should surprise no one that it hasn’t been an easy transition to the Majors.

While his walk rate has only take a minor hit, his strikeout rate has risen compared to his time at Double-A last year. He has also struggled to hit line drives, posting the 16th lowest mark among 168 qualified hitters. He hasn’t hit a pop-up yet, which should have helped offset some of the lack of line drives on his BABIP, but that BABIP still stands at just .269. His historical BABIP marks have been all over the place, so it’s tough to gauge his current true talent level is there.

His power has been mediocre, with a low teens HR/FB rate, backed by a 108.6 MPH maxEV and 6% Barrel%. That’s respectable for a 20-year-old, but a far cry from what his 60/70 Raw Power grades suggest he’s capable of. Like Rocchio, he has also stolen six bases, so despite his ugly .266 wOBA, he has been more valuable to fantasy owners. The concern now is whether he gets demoted to the minors. He has only started twice over the last six games, which makes absolutely no sense. Clearly, he should be playing every day, so it’s inexcusable to push him into a reserve outfielder role rather than send him to Triple-A. I think we should want to see him dominate Triple-A pitching first before calling him a future all-star.

Masyn Winn was the Cardinals’ second best prospect and ranked 27th overall. He enjoyed his first cup of coffee with the team last year, just missing the minimum to lose his rookie eligibility. He has shown a bit of power in the minors, with HR/FB rates just into double digits at Double-A in 2022 and Triple-A in 2023, along with some speed that almost have him go 20/20 between the minors and Majors last year.

This season, he has continued to make excellent contact, though his strikeout rate is a bit higher than you might expect given the elite SwStk%. He has also produced an incredible 32.9% LD%, which actually leads qualified hitters. That huge line drive rate has resulted in a .345 BABIP and acceptable .275 average. However, there hasn’t been any power, as he’s still searching for his first home run, after hitting two in a similar number of at-bats during last year’s debut. His maxEV of 108.4 MPH is fine, but has has yet to hit a barrel. He has already stolen six bases though, joining the other names on the list who have delivered speed and not a whole lot else. I’m guessing more power will show up, giving him 10/15 potential and deep league value.

Colt Keith was the Tigers third best prospect and ranked 46th overall. With 70/70 Raw Power grades, he was a popular sleeper when it was assumed he would open the season as the team’s starting second baseman, which he did. Unfortunately, that power has been nowhere to be found! He hasn’t homered through 113 at-bats, his maxEV is only 107.7 MPH, and his Barrel% is mediocre at 7.5%. In 2022 and 2023 in the minors, he posted HR/FB rates between 14.8% and 20%, along with ISO marks in the mid-.200 range. Those are good, not great, numbers, but obviously suggested more power than he has displayed with the Tigers so far.

The one bright spot is he has cut his strikeout rate to a career best, which is surprising to see for a rookie. It’s possible he has intentionally tried to make more contact and that has hampered his power, but there’s no way of knowing outside of asking him. A .215 BABIP is also killing his production, leaving him with a putrid .206 wOBA. I guess the optimistic view is an xwOBA of .292, but that’s still disappointing. He does have three steals, which match what he swiped throughout all of last year, so that’s a surprise bonus. But I don’t know where the power is or if and when it’s coming. On a weak Tigers offense and playing half his games in the third worst park for left-handed home runs, I wouldn’t be holding my breath expecting fantasy relevance this year, outside of AL-Only leagues.

Wilyer Abreu is the first name that was not a top prospect, ranking just 17th among Red Sox. And yet, he has had a strong minor league career offensively. Last year, he showed his best power yet, and paired it with a nice improvement in strikeout rate, while continuing to walk at an elite clip. Patience + at least average contact + power = hitting star?!

So far this season, he has repeated last year’s strikeout rate when he made his Red Sox debut, which is higher than his Triple-A mark, but in line with his 2021 and 2022 seasons. He’s still walking a lot, which he’ll need once BABIP regression rears its head. He has posted an absurd .382 BABIP, despite a low LD% and a fly ball tendency, which seems really hard to do! It’s why his xBA is just .223 versus a .282 actual mark. His power has been weird, as a 114.4 MPH maxEV is elite, while a 9.9% Barrel% is good, but it comes with just a 9.7% HR/FB rate. I would expect his home run pace to improve, while his BABIP and batting average decline. He gets a massive boost in OBP leagues, especially when his BABIP craters.

Like Langford, Colton Cowser put on a power show during spring training, launching six homers as well. It earned him a roster spot, but he didn’t immediately become a regular. Cowser’s scouting grades are surprising, as they include just 40/50 Game Power and 45/50 Raw Power grades, despite a 30.4% HR/FB rate at Triple-A in 2023 and a 110.3 MPH maxEV. In 105 at-bats so far this season, he is doing his best to prove his power potential is much greater. He has posted a 23.1% HR/FB rate, backed by a strong 113.6 MPH maxEV and elite 17.4% Barrel%.

While he has struck out just over 30% of the time, it hasn’t been driven by a crazy high SwStk%, and he has also walked 10% of the time to continue his streak of double digit walk rates. He has also posted a .333 BABIP and while his LD% is a bit low, he hasn’t popped up yet. Overall, Statcast is buying what Cowser is doing, as his xwOBA is almost a perfect match to his actual mark. It’s hard to find anything fluky here, but the Orioles are loaded with talent, so any sort of extended slump could lose him playing time.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
14 days ago

“any sort of extended slump [by Cowser] could lose him playing time.”

Since his last homer on April 22, he is 7 for 53, .132/.321/.189 4/0/3.

Since Heston Kjerstad is more or less the same player (lefty left fielder w/power) the Os might as well see if he can outproduce Cowser going forward. In other words, Cowser has slipped from a Cinderella all-leagues no-doubter to a pumpkin beyond the fringe of a shallow mixer in, like, three weeks.

Last edited 14 days ago by Sculpin