Let’s Talk Triple-A Hitter HR/FB Leaders

With the trade deadline only a couple of weeks away, we’re likely to see a slew of minor leaguers get their opportunity to ascend to the Major Leagues. Since the timing of these promotions are unpredictable and heavily depend on a roster slot opening up, it’s never too early to gather a list of names to monitor so you’re the team that picks them up before having to spend lots of FAAB while competing with your leaguemates.

I initially intended to review the Triple-A wOBA leaders, but many of those marks were driven by inflated BABIP marks, which aren’t going to last. Instead, I’m all about power as that skill has the best chance to deliver fantasy value over a small rest of season sample. So let’s review the six Triple-A hitters who have posted a HR/FB rate of at least 30%…not named James Wood (who ranks first with an absurd 37% HR/FB rate), who was just promoted to the Nationals.

Triple-A HR/FB Leaders
Name Team Age Org Rk HR/FB
Luke Ritter NYM 27 33.3%
Johnathan Rodriguez CLE 24 30 31.3%
Alexander Canario CHC 24 25 30.8%
Jordan Diaz OAK 23 14 30.3%
Will Robertson TOR 26 35 30.2%
Drew Lugbauer OAK 27 26 30.0%

Clearly, this list isn’t littered with top prospects. Ranking first among Nationals prospects and third overall, Wood would have elevated the quality of these names, but alas, he was just recalled, making his highly anticipated MLB debut last Monday.

So, the Mets might want to look for an alternative to Jeff McNeil, who has posted a weak .262 wOBA, at second base? Perhaps Luke Ritter fits the bill! Ritter has actually played all over the field this year, recording at least a game at first, second, and third bases, as well as left field. But incredibly, despite having posted the second highest HR/FB rate across Triple-A this season, he has failed to make any of our prospect reports and we have no news on him either.

His power isn’t a fluke. He posted a 32.6% HR/FB rate last year at Double-A, followed by a 25.5% mark after he was promoted to Triple-A. His 110.2 MPH maxEV doesn’t exactly match his elite HR/FB rate, though his HardHit% is better, so perhaps he’s just posted a high rate of pulled flies, resulting in more flies leaving the yard than you would expect.

Looking at his stats history, I’m not sure why he hasn’t gotten a chance in the Majors. He’s walked at a double digit clip everywhere he’s played, except for at High-A back in 2021. His strikeout rate has been high, but not alarmingly so, generally hovering around 30%. He’s struggled with BABIP at times, but he’s posted marks over .300 during his last two stints at Triple-A. Maybe his defense is poor? This is why I’m not an MLB GM, as I don’t understand why you wouldn’t just give this guy a chance, rather than continue to run out a guy like McNeil who has been poor defensively this year and never had any power to begin with.

In late May, Johnathan Rodriguez made his MLB debut, was sent back to the minors for a couple of weeks, came back to the Guardians to appear in five games, and then returned to the minors again. Rodriguez is exactly the type of guy I want to take a chance on if given regular PAs. He posted a crazy 42.3% HR/FB rate last year at Triple-A, and is at it again with his 31.3% mark this season. Unlike Ritter, Rodriguez’s HardHit% of 52.9% and maxEV of 116.8 MPH at Triple-A fully confirm his immense power skills.

Rodriguez has also maintained his walk rate spike first experienced last year upon his promotion to Triple-A, as he’s now posted his highest mark since his Rookie league debut back in 2017. Perhaps even more exciting is he’s reduced his strikeout rate after last year’s surge at Triple-A, while his SwStk% has dropped into single digits for the first time in his career. That’s quite important as he’s able to combine improved contact without sacrificing power.

There is a con here though when it comes to his power potential — he has oddly and suddenly become a low fly ball rate guy. His FB% has slipped below 30% at Triple-A, and has really bounced all over the map over his minor league career. So it’s tough to get a read on what to expect from him, as that will directly affect his home run potential. However, the lower FB% has really helped his BABIP, which has been excellent during most of his stints.

With power, plate patience, and BABIP ability, I’m definitely willing to speculate here if he gets a chance at a full-time role. He’s especially intriguing in OBP leagues given his double digit walk rates at Triple-A.

Alexander Canario made his MLB debut last year, recording 17 PAs with the Cubs, and then earning another 25 so far this year. He’s posted consistently strong HR/FB rates in the past, but like Ritter, hasn’t produced the maxEV you would expect paired with a 30.8% HR/FB rate. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have power, just that there’s little chance he would be able to maintain a rate that high in the Majors without hitting the ball harder, more frequently.

Canario swings and misses a lot, as he has posted a 17.9% SwStk% at Triple-A this year, producing a 31.1% strikeout rate. I would be worried about him making contact in the Majors, and we’ve already seen the results over a tiny sample size (45.2% strikeout rate, 22.6% SwStk%). He does walk though, generally posting double digit marks, which suggest more OBP format value, if he is ever given enough ABs to make him worth a pickup. I’m not too excited here given his contact deficiency.

Somehow, some way, I feel like the Athletics have actually become…fun?! Jordan Diaz made his MLB debut back in 2022 and then recorded about a half season worth of PAs last year. He showed power, but that was limited by a below average FB%, and not much else. Then in late May, he was DFA’d by the team. At the time, his Triple-A slash line looked ugly, so he must have gone on quite the tear to end up where he is now.

He has posted a professional best HR/FB rate after peaking in the low-20% range previously during his prior two Triple-A stints. However, his maxEV and HardHit% are actually lower this year than last year’s time at Triple-A, so it doesn’t seem as if his power has actually increased, even if his HR/FB rate has spiked. What is encouraging is a big surge in walk rate, especially given that he hasn’t been much of a walker in the past, outside of his Rookie league stint back in 2018 when he posted his only double digit mark.

What has really held back his power upside is his penchant for grounders though. He has posted just a 19.8% FB% at Triple-A this year, so despite an elite 30.3% HR/FB rate, he’s only on pace for about 25 home runs over 600 PA at Triple-A. He last posted a FB% over 30% back in 2021, so it’s anyone’s guess if the flies will return. Since he doesn’t steal any bases, he’ll need to show big power to interest us fantasy owners. I wonder if his performance since being DFA’d will get him another chance this season.

Sporting a career best HR/FB rate previously of just 15.3%, Will Robertson has nearly doubled that mark so far this year. With both his walk rate, strikeout rate, and SwStk% all spiking, perhaps he has altered his approach for better power results. We have no history to compare to, but his HardHit% is good, while his maxEV is pretty good, but not elite. I would guess that his power has legitimately improved this year, but he’s probably not fully deserving of the 30%+ HR/FB rate.

What’s weird here is that his FB% has slid to its lowest since his Low-A debut in 2019. That mark sat over 40% the past two seasons, so it’s odd to see it drop down to just 31.2% at the same time that his HR/FB rate has spiked.

It’s also interesting to point out that his ISO is actually lower than last year, partially because of the decline in FB%, and also because his doubles rate has declined. Even with the power spike, his wOBA sits just below last year’s mark at a decent .351. It’s not impressive enough to demand a recall, especially given his lack of prospect status.

We have another Athletics hitter in the house in Drew Lugbauer, who was previously in the Braves system. Since last year in Double-A, Lugbauer has hit for a ton of power. He posted a 42.3% HR/FB rate last season, driving a .356 ISO, but has seen a decline in both marks after moving up to Triple-A.

There’s one massive red flag here that might prevent Lugbauer from ever reaching the Majors — strikeouts. He has struck out at a mid-to-high 30% clip everywhere he has played, including at a 38.4% rate at Triple-A this year. This hasn’t just come from passivity either — he just majorly struggles at making contact. For three straight seasons, he has posted a SwStk% of at least 20%. This might actually be the most swing and miss prone profile I’ve ever seen!

Sometimes, if he walks enough and manages to post an inflated BABIP, it could all work, like at Double-A last year when he displayed massive power en route to a .439 wOBA. But when any of those skills decline to more reasonable levels, his wOBA tumbles, which sits at just .332 right now. I would be surprised if he ever made it to the majors.

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.

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11 days ago

Deyvision De Los Santos!!!????? Pls commeny why ink . as a whole, has ignored a 20 yrae old whose stats (not just HRs, ALL stats) , age, competition have mirrored Yordan Alvarez. This particular population DDS has a 30,8% in 174 ABs AAA, and another 48.2 in 162 AA ABs.

Giant Slormember
11 days ago
Reply to  Robert

Poor approach, poor defense, and not on the 40 man roster are holding his value back for this year.

11 days ago
Reply to  Giant Slor

The subject is HR/FB…..

Giant Slormember
11 days ago
Reply to  Robert

The subtitle on the main page and purpose for identifying these hitters is “Who might get recalled soon?” — so those factors seem relevant.