The Change: Identifying Potential Young Surgers

Earlier today, we published my conversation with Joey Votto about aging, and within the post is a graph that didn’t necessarily fit the narrative but should contain an interesting tidbit for we fantasy players.

Take a look at this graph again, except instead of looking towards the end of the graph where the old guys are hanging out, look at the beginning of the graph. Under 25, it looks like hitters with pull percentages under 45% have a little more growth left in them than their pull-heavy counterparts.

4Eno_aging_curve

The red line has a larger sample at every location, so it’s not necessarily a sample thing. It might make sense from a development standpoint — if you have a good up the middle approach but need to fill out or figure out when to swing and take full advantage of your power, maybe you’ll have middling results but still massive potential. If you paired this with good minor league power numbers, you’d have a list of young hitters with the potential to surge and break out next year.

So, below, you’ve got all the players 24 and under that hit the ball up the middle and underperformed their minor league slugging numbers. They’re ranked by how much they underperformed, and by only looking at underperformers, we are losing some power breakouts that already happened (Devon Travis, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa and Greg Bird were on the total list).

Potential Young Power Surgers
Name Age PA HR SB BB% K% Pull% Hard% AVG OBP ISO wRC+ MiLB ISO
Jorge Soler 23 383 8 3 7.8% 29.8% 40.3% 35.6% 0.265 0.326 0.127 94 0.336
Marcell Ozuna 24 444 9 2 6.1% 23.4% 35.7% 35.7% 0.249 0.297 0.128 83 0.241
Yasiel Puig 24 306 11 3 8.5% 21.2% 35.7% 31.9% 0.256 0.324 0.184 112 0.286
Kris Bryant 23 597 25 13 11.9% 31.0% 42.8% 36.5% 0.273 0.369 0.223 137 0.324
Jake Lamb 24 356 6 3 9.0% 25.0% 38.9% 36.8% 0.274 0.340 0.134 100 0.233
Marcus Semien 24 564 13 11 6.9% 22.0% 41.8% 27.5% 0.255 0.307 0.138 95 0.235
Addison Russell 21 481 13 2 7.5% 29.1% 42.1% 27.5% 0.239 0.300 0.153 88 0.242
Yasmany Tomas 24 403 8 5 4.2% 26.1% 32.3% 31.2% 0.282 0.315 0.128 94 0.191
Gregory Polanco 23 599 9 26 8.5% 18.7% 40.5% 29.4% 0.255 0.319 0.127 94 0.176
Wil Myers 24 224 8 4 9.4% 21.0% 43.9% 34.2% 0.272 0.344 0.193 127 0.234
Kolten Wong 24 577 11 15 6.1% 15.9% 40.9% 28.3% 0.264 0.326 0.126 98 0.163
Wilmer Flores 23 496 16 0 3.8% 12.3% 39.6% 29.4% 0.264 0.298 0.149 97 0.183
Stephen Piscotty 24 220 5 2 7.7% 22.3% 32.7% 36.6% 0.310 0.364 0.180 133 0.203
Cory Spangenberg 24 300 3 9 7.0% 21.7% 32.7% 24.6% 0.264 0.320 0.121 96 0.139
J.T. Realmuto 24 432 10 7 3.9% 15.7% 37.7% 29.3% 0.252 0.283 0.147 83 0.162
Nick Castellanos 23 550 15 0 7.1% 26.2% 34.2% 32.5% 0.248 0.300 0.165 92 0.174
Jake Marisnick 24 343 9 21 3.8% 28.6% 42.8% 24.9% 0.243 0.276 0.151 80 0.157
Eugenio Suarez 23 347 12 4 4.9% 22.2% 40.4% 29.2% 0.286 0.326 0.180 113 0.182
MiLB ISO = Isolated slugging percentage from last substantial minor league stop

I almost titled this post “Good God He’s Writing About Jorge Soler Again” when his name floated to the top of this list. You all know how much I like the young cub, but it’s nice to see him show up again. Dude has the fifth-highest hard-hit rate on this list, and the third-lowest ISO. He hits the ball hard, and he hits the ball hard up the middle, and in the past those hard-hit balls have found better results. Hard is the key word here.

Marcell Ozuna does checks most of these boxes and has had a better time making contact. You’d like him more if he wasn’t in Miami, and supposedly he’s on the trade block. If he left that park, there would be little reason not to like him next year. Particularly once you factor in cost.

If Yasiel Puig and Kris Bryant did more next year, I doubt we’d call it surging. We’d call it natural progression or, in Puig’s case, a bounce-back. You probably won’t get them very cheap, so we’ll move on down the list.

Marcus Semien hasn’t really brought in his minor league patience, but he’s slowly curbed those strikeouts to the point that he could put up a decent batting average if his power numbers went up. There’s risk here — his power numbers have plateaued in the major leagues and his defensive numbers might mean a change in role and position — but as a late-game, low-cost acquisition next year, he actually has enough upside to be interesting if this list can be believed.

I’ll confess to be more head over heals in love with the next guy on the list — have been for a while — and perhaps because he put up that MiLB ISO more recently. Addison Russell is also three years younger, so if anything is true for Semien, it’s way more true for the younger guy.

Raise your hand if you thought Yasmany Tomas would have this much in common with Gregory Polanco. You’re lying. To be fair, Polanco has a less impressive Hard% and neither is really in a good place by that stat, but they both hit the ball up the middle and have growth left considering their age. I’ll take the guy with speed and better plate discipline, but there’s hope for more.

Wil Myers, Kolten Wong, and Stephen Piscotty all have the complication that is a tough home major league park after stops in the Pacific Coast League in the minors. So maybe their last MiLB ISO overrates their upside. But if you watch Kolten Wong, it really looks like he has what it takes to tap into the most power he could get out of that frame. He’s got an aggressive leg step, a swing that can produce power, and decent command of the zone. Piscotty sounds about the same when you ask him about power. All three are also on the older edge for this list, so their growth may be modest. But they have good approaches.

The last group is within spitting distance of their minor league ISOs, and are generally 24, so it’s probably not worth putting too much stock in their growth. But the 23 year old down there with the best hard-hit rate of the group is a guy we’ve loved on the podcast before — Nick Castellanos. Hitting the ball hard, up the middle, with growth left.





With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.

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Is Ozuna a “breakout”? or next years Oswaldo Arcia???