Let’s Talk Triple-A Hitter wOBA Leaders

Yesterday, I discussed the Triple-A hitter HR/FB rate leaders, and uncovered a few names that might be worthwhile pickups if they get recalled. In that post, I mentioned that I pivoted away from reviewing the wOBA leaders because many of those marks are driven by unsustainably high BABIPs. I have decided to run that list anyway since overall performance ultimately is what leads to a callup, and the first step to accruing fantasy value is getting to the Majors to begin with! So let’s review the Triple-A wOBA leaders who have recorded at least 200 PAs at the level and are not currently in the Majors.

Triple-A wOBA Leaders
Name Team Age Org Rk Ovr Rk wOBA
Niko Kavadas BOS 25 0.426
Coby Mayo BAL 22 3 21 0.422
Jackson Holliday BAL 20 1 1 0.420
Brewer Hicklen MIL 28 0.411
CJ Alexander KCR 27 0.405
Michael Helman MIN 28 0.401

First baseman Niko Kavadas was last ranked back in 2022 as the Red Sox 25th best prospect. He hasn’t appeared on a top prospect list since. With Triston Casas still on the IL and Dominic Smith, with his .296 wOBA, currently holding down the fort at the position, there was and clearly still is, an opportunity for someone else to be recalled to try their hand at filling in. So far, Kavadas must still not be doing enough to be given that opportunity.

Kavadas has recorded a fascinating stat profile this year (and historically as well). He has always shown good power, so his 27.5% HR/FB rate and .257 ISO is nothing new. He has also posted an elite 55% HardHit%, which seems hard to do considering his maxEV is only 109.4 MPH. That said, it’s pretty clear he’s got serious power. What’s interesting is his walk and strikeout rates. He has always walked at ridiculously high rates and this year has been no different. He’s at an 18.3% walk rate and has been as high as 21.5%. In fact, he’s never walked at lower than a 16% rate!

Along with the walks come tons of strikeouts. He’s at a 33.5% strikeout rate now and hasn’t posted a mark below 33.2% since his stint at High-A in 2022. But it’s not like he has contact issues, as his SwStk% is actually just 9.8% this season, a professional best! While I don’t know what the minor league averages are for the plate discipline metrics, we find that his Z-Swing is lower than the lowest MLB mark right now! So he simply just doesn’t swing. Perhaps he went to the Nolan Jones School of Passivity. It’s a bizarre approach, especially given that when he does swing, he makes pretty darn good contact.

While it’s unlikely that he will suddenly get a chance now after the team has gone with Smith to replace Casas, I’m intrigued by what Kavadas could do in the Majors, especially if he started swinging at pitches inside the strike zone more.

You want a top prospect, you got a top prospect! Coby Mayo is yet another top prospect that’s part of the Orioles’ embarrassment of riches. They already have too many hitters deserving of a starting job in the Majors, but it wouldn’t be a travesty if Jorge Mateo and his consistently sub-.300 wOBA found himself on the bench to make room for Mayo at third, with Jordan Westburg becoming the every day second baseman. I’m guessing there are defensive reasons for this not to have already happened, because Mayo’s offense screams promotion.

With 55/70 Game Power and 70/70 Raw Power grades, he’s the type of hitter you stash on your bench, even in shallower leagues, hoping for an imminent recall. He has pushed his HR/FB rate up to a career best of 23.4%, while his ISO has surged to an elite .309. While his HardHit% isn’t as impressive, his maxEV of 114.9 MPH supports the big power. Furthermore, he has taken full advantage of the power by posting a mid-40% FB%. That’s what I want to see from a guy with this type of power as it could lead to a flurry of home runs.

He also doesn’t have any contact or strikeout issues, while maintaining a double digit walk rates during most of his minor league stops. He has even managed a .346 BABIP, and a mark consistently well above .300 for the most part, despite the heavy fly ball tendency. It’s a really strong offensive profile and one that fantasy leaguers should be eagerly anticipating. Unfortunately, the Orioles seemingly have no problem calling up top prospects and then not playing them much (see Heston Kjerstad now), so you never know how Mayo’s playing time will shake out, even if he does get recalled. For now, I’d stash him if you have the room and he’s still floating around your free agent pool.

Seriously, the Orioles also have the game’s best overall prospect in Jackson Holliday?! He actually made his debut in early April, but it took all of 36 weak plate appearances for the team to send him back to Triple-A. Since, he’s been crushing it, showing astounding plate discipline for a 20-year-old. In fact, he has walked an insane 24% of the time, while striking out 22.3% of the time. I love seeing more walk than strikeouts.

The power right now seems good enough, but far from elite. He has posted a 17.8% HR/FB rate this year with just a 108.2 MPH maxEV, but his HardHit% is actually higher than Mayo’s! I don’t know what to make of that, but it’s clear he both has some decent power now and there’s ample room for growth. Holding back his power output is a low FB%, which sits just below 30% right now.

He has some speed, but hasn’t been a big basestealer this year, after swiping 24 bases over multiple levels last year. So rather than stand out in any particular category, he looks more like an all-around contributor whose value is higher than perception, perhaps with 15-10 near-term potential. While he has posted some strong BABIP marks, his massive walk rates suggest he’ll be worth significantly more in OBP leagues.

I don’t know what else he needs to do to convince the Orioles he’s ready for his second chance, but with Gunnar Henderson entrenched at shortstop, Westburg deserving of regular at-bats, and Mayo looming, there are only so many starting spots to hand out. The Orioles would have an easier time if Ryan O’Hearn proved last year was a fluke and he didn’t actually improve even more this year!

It was fun talking about two top prospects, but now we’re back to names that haven’t made a prospect list for some time. First up is Brewer Hicklen, who yes, now does call the Brewers organization home. It took a while, but he is finally where he was always supposed to be. Hicklen was last ranked 30th back in 2022 among Royals prospects, with 55/55 Raw power and 70/70 Speed grades. That sounds like a fantasy owner’s dream!

Amazingly, it looks like his power potential may have been underrated, as he has posted a 25.4% HR/FB rate and .291 ISO this year, though with slightly less impressive HardHit% and maxEV marks. He has walked often and the strikeouts haven’t been alarming, while he hasn’t relied on a crazy BABIP to post his .411 wOBA.

Oh, and he’s put his speed on full display as he’s already stolen 25 bases in essentially half a season. The Brewers are already trying to rotate four outfielders for three spots and have head-scratchingly sat top prospect Jackson Chourio way more often than makes sense to me. So, it’s doubtful Hicklen gets recalled soon, and even if he does, he probably won’t play all that much. That said, if he somehow does find himself with meaningful playing time, color me intrigued. Of course, he’s been playing at Triple-A since 2022, so perhaps his current line should be taken with a couple of grains of salt.

CJ Alexander hasn’t made a prospect list since 2021, but he finally got a chance in the Majors, recorded eight plate appearances over the last couple of weeks, before being sent back down to Triple-A. Much of his strong Triple-A results has come from his .399 BABIP, and while he has no shot of sustaining that in the Majors, it’s actually driven by an unbelievable 35.3% LD%. I don’t know where that’s come from though given he has never been a big line drive guy in the past and his BABIP has hovered around league average for years.

His home run power has been perfectly fine, but a solid doubles and triples rate has pushed his ISO well above .200. He doesn’t walk a whole lot though, which is going to kill his OBP once his BABIP collapses. He has also only stolen two bases this year, so for him to accrue fantasy value, he’d need to show more home run power and/or maintain a hefty BABIP. I’m not really interested here.

It was all the way back in 2019 when Michael Helman was last ranked on a top prospect list. This year, his power has surged and BABIP has jumped during his third tour of Triple-A. He has shown some speed in the past and has swiped nine bases already this year to go along with 12 home runs in about a third of a season. That’s some pretty good fantasy contributions! However, his HardHit% and maxEV are unimpressive and suggest the HR/FB rate spike might be a fluke.

Helman has played all over the field, having played at every single defensive position except catcher during his career. So perhaps he eventually gets promoted to serve in a utility role, but it’s hard to imagine him carving out any meaningful playing time to interest fantasy owners.





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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alec_eiffel
10 days ago

Orioles could use a FIFA style loan for a year for a player like Mayo to an NL contender like the Brewers or Cardinals just to get him needed MLB at bats. Absolutely nothing left to prove in AAA, and blocked this year at the major league club.

Jimmember
10 days ago
Reply to  alec_eiffel

One reason Mayo is in AAA is that Mateo is needed to back up Henderson at SS.

Rip2632member
10 days ago
Reply to  Jim

which is silly because Westburg has played some SS…either Urias or Mateo has got to move on

synco
10 days ago
Reply to  Rip2632

Yeah, if you’re a serious contender and can’t call a guy up because Jorge Mateo is blocking him, you’re doing it wrong. Either way, you don’t need two 30-year-old backup middle infielders on your roster.

Anon
10 days ago
Reply to  Jim

No reason they can’t keep Mateo and trade Urias as part of the package to get some pitching. They would still run 2 deep at every position.

Urias has been much better lately posting a .259/.344/.370 and 120 wRC+ over the last 30 days. Perfect time to trade him.