Good afternoon baseball fans and welcome to the Wednesday edition of Baseball Prospect Notes. Here are some interesting news items from around major and minor league baseball.
****Tampa Bay Rays rookie outfielder Steven Souza is having mixed results in his first full big league season, hitting .228/.343/.395 in 33 games, 114 at-bats. He's showing the expected power (five homers, .173 Isolated Power) and he's even drawing some walks, but the batting average is low and he's having considerable trouble with strikeouts, whiffing 49 times in those 114 at-bats.
Over at DRaysBay, SB Nation's Ian Malinowski dove deep into Souza's PITCHf/x data this morning to figure out what the trouble is. Malinowski's analysis is excellent and this is a must-read, a brilliant example of the new frontiers in analysis made explorable with this type of strike zone data.
Using PITCHf/x, Ian breaks down what Souza is swinging at and missing and which part of the strike zone, exactly, that Souza is having trouble with. Malinowski's conclusion:
There are two main issues driving Steven Souza's high strikeout rate. The first is an abnormally high whiff rate on pitches outside of the zone, and this is primarily attributable to getting fooled on pitches over the outer half of the plate but below the zone. That's a tough pitch for anyone to hit, and when Souza tries to hit it, he nearly always fails.
The second issue is that he's taking too many fastballs on the outer portion of the zone. This doesn't show up in the overall plate discipline numbers because Souza has such a good conception of most areas of the strike zone that he still looks above average in terms of discipline even with this persistent error, but it's a hole in his approach, and it's one that is being exploited.
You really need to read the whole article. There are pretty graphs and charts to keep the math majors and scientists happy but Ian breaks everything down into plain language that us humanities majors can understand. Go read it.
****Here is the flip side. PITCHf/x is a few years old now and we have an increasingly good grasp of how it works and what it means and what we can do with it. However, the hot new thing is batted-ball data and information from Statcast and Inside Edge about stuff like hitter's exit velocities, hard vs. soft contact, etc.
At Beyond the Boxscore, Henry Druschel asks what can be learned from such data. The answer: it is too early to tell.
The BIS data on FanGraphs is useful, but don't despair if your favorite player isn't on a Mark Simon tweet or is at the bottom of the StatCast leaderboard, and don't try to use their average hit velocity to explain a low BABIP. Until much more granular data is available, or the processes behind the qualitative data are more clearly explained somewhere, the explanatory power of this data is limited at best.
That makes sense to me. When a seemingly-revolutionary new data set or form of analysis becomes available, it takes time for everything to shake out and for the true implications of the information are understood.
****The Texas Rangers sent down struggling sophomore Rougned Odor yesterday, replacing him with 28-year-old Tommy Field, who has been bouncing between Triple-A and major league rosters since 2011 but is still a rookie. Field is somewhat interesting in a utility player sense and I think I'll write something up about him.
****Tampa Bay Rays pitching prospect Blake Snell has now thrown 40 consecutive shutout innings in 2015. He is obviously due for a write-up as well.
****It was a good night for Rays pitching prospects apparently: Buddy Borden threw a seven-inning no-hitter for High-A Charlotte last night.
****In the work queue here at Minor League Ball, I am working on articles about Snell, Borden, Mike Foltynewicz, Stephen Vogt, Carson Smith, Arquimedes Caminero, Michael Taylor, Tommy Field, Odubel Herrera,and Matt Duffy, along with a 2015 mock draft (not the community mock) that will go through the comp rounds.