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A Visual Scouting Primer: Pitching, Part Two

Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to another round of scouting lingo! If you’re new here, be sure to check out the first installment of the pitching visual scouting primer, which includes an introduction to this series, along with parts one, two, and three of the hitting visual scouting primer, to catch up on what I’ve already covered.

In this installment, we’re making our way back to the mound to delve into the rich world of pitch shapes, specifically those of four-seam fastballs. As usual, much of this may be familiar to you, but my hope is that these visual examples can serve as a reference for the various ways we distinguish between different pitch shapes in scouting reports. Read the rest of this entry »

A Visual Scouting Primer: Hitting, Part Three

Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back for another installment of FanGraphs’ Visual Scouting Primer! For previous editions, or an introduction explaining the concept of this ongoing series, you can click here, here, and here, but in an effort to tamp down my word count, I’m diving right into it this time. Read the rest of this entry »

A Visual Scouting Primer: Hitting, Part Two

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this week, in the second installment of this ongoing series, I started picking apart the language used to describe baseball swings. But given how many elements make up a player’s swing, and therefore how much terminology exists to describe the subtle (and not so subtle) differences between them, I could only fit so much into that post before I had to cut myself off.

I’m skipping the preamble this time, so if you’re not quite sure what you’ve stumbled into with this primer, you can catch up with the first and second editions of this series, and meet me back here when you’re ready. I will, however, reiterate that the point of this is not to identify “good” or “bad” elements of baseball mechanics, but rather to define these terms as descriptive tools, as opposed to value-based judgements. And just like in my last post, I’m focusing on big leaguers for this one, thanks to the availability of side views of their swings, which are featured in MLB broadcasts, but missing from most MiLB game feeds.

Now, as promised, I’ll pick up exactly where I left off.

Short Swing vs. Long Swing
In Hitting, Part One, I dug into players’ loads, i.e. where a player’s hands come set before he starts his forward motion toward an incoming pitch. When a swing is described as being either “long” or “short” to the ball, that is referring to how quickly and directly a player can get the barrel of his bat to the ball. There’s some debate as to whether the length we’re describing is a measure of time, or of distance, but in either case, a “short” swing is one where a player’s bat moves directly to the ball, while a “long” swing is one where the bat’s path is less direct.

Typically, being short to the ball is favored, in the same way that a pitcher’s repeatable delivery is often more favorable than a violent one (see Pitching, Part One, for more on that). Of course, there are many exceptions to that rule, but generally, being short to the ball is considered a good thing. This is largely due to the fact that the simplicity of a short swing is often seen as more reliable and sustainable, particularly as a player is still developing in the minor leagues. A short swing allows a player to wait longer before deciding whether to swing at a given offering, which can be valuable by way of pitch selection, and for a minor leaguer who hasn’t yet faced advanced pitching, that bodes well for how he’ll fair as opposing pitchers’ velocities increase and their command becomes more precise.

Short swings come in many flavors. Here are some examples:

Short to the Ball, With Power: Yordan Alvarez

Yordan Alvarez’s simple load and short bat path allow him to attack pitches and get the sweet spot of his bat to the ball quickly. He guides the knob of his bat directly to where the pitch is coming at him, and the barrel of his bat quickly follows the same route.

Short to the Ball, Without Power: Steven Kwan

Kwan is short to the ball, but his swing differs from Alvarez’s cut. Whereas the appeal of Alvarez’s being short to the ball allows him to apply his upper body strength to pitches throughout the strike zone, Kwan’s swing is more about simply getting his bat on the ball, even if he’s not trying to send it out of the park. As such, a side-by-side look at their respective swings shows similarly short bat paths, but by the time they’re making contact, their postures are very different, illustrating the difference between a power swing and a contact swing (more on that later).

Sometimes, adding length to a swing is valuable. For example, Fernando Tatis Jr.’s deep load, and Junior Caminero’s bat wrap (both featured in my previous entry), create a longer distance for their bats to travel, but are also contributors to those players’ bat speed and power production.

Long to the Ball: Davis Schneider

In Schneider’s case, his long swing isn’t due to a particularly deep load or a bat wrap. His bat simply takes a longer route to the strike zone from his load to his point of contact.

A side-by-side comparison with Alvarez’s direct bat path makes this easier to see. Switching back to a front view of their respective swings (the camera movement in Schneider’s side view makes for a nauseating side by side), keep an eye on the heads of their respective bats. You’ll first see the swing all the way through, then with a few freeze frames thrown in to illustrate the moments when their bat paths differ the most, with Schneider’s dipping down behind him, rather than making a straight line to the ball.

Thus far, Schneider has used his long swing to optimize his launch angle, despite his middling average exit velocity. Because he raked during his first taste of the majors last year, albeit in just 35 games (141 plate appearances), it is acceptable for him to maintain his current mechanics (weirdos welcome!), but if he encounters timing issues in the future, he may have to adjust to shorten his swing.

Shortening Up: Alec Bohm

Adjusting swing length can make a huge impact on a player’s ability to consistently get to his power in a game. After a headline-making 2020 season, Bohm’s power dipped significantly the following year. This may have been due to his swing becoming too long.

Here’s a look at his swing in 2020:

And here’s what it looked like in 2021:

And to make it even clearer, here’s a side by side, first all the way through, and then with some handy freeze frames:

These camera angles are slightly different, so I can’t overlay these videos to make my point, but you can see that his 2021 swing starts earlier, and begins with his back elbow dipping, and his bat head looping back toward the catcher, whereas in 2020, his hands and bat moved directly to the ball. As of 2023, his power was back, as was his short swing.

Power vs. Contact Swing
As I hinted above, in the Alvarez-Kwan comparison, players will often develop swings that are geared specifically toward either power or contact. The reasons why players do this are relatively self explanatory, and based on body type, speed, positional profile, or countless other attributes that may make a player more valuable if he focuses on either power or contact, rather than both.

Power Swing: Kyle Schwarber

Schwarber generates power with a stable, balanced lower half, with his weight evenly distributed, if not slightly shifted toward his back foot. He uses his strong hands and arms to generate bat speed without sacrificing that stable base. Schwarber’s swing has always been geared for power, though he has simplified it in significant ways since he came up with the Cubs.

Schwarber’s old swing included a much noisier load, an obvious hitch (or trigger), and a more pronounced leg kick. The leg kick, in particular, caused Schwarber to shift his weight during his swing, whereas his current mechanics finish with his weight distributed in more or less the same way as before he starts his swing, allowing for an even stronger and more stable base. In other words, while it’s always been a power swing, the simplifications he’s made over the years have enhanced the power-driven aspects of it.

Contact Swing: Luis Arraez

Arraez is MLB’s current king of contact. Dating back to his debut in 2019, he’s never finished a season with a contact rate below 90%. He’s short to the ball, and adjusts the barrel of his bat to pitches throughout the strike zone. In contrast to Schwarber, Arraez’s lower half is less stable, with his back foot rarely staying planted, and he lets his arms extend as he makes contact with the ball, essentially allowing the weight of the bat, combined with basic physics, to do more of the heavy lifting, when it comes to power generation (or lack thereof).

He doesn’t hike his back elbow up like Schwarber does, and he’s not clubbing the ball with his upper body, so when he makes contact, he doesn’t focus on activating the muscles in his arms to drive the ball a great distance, opting instead to throw his hands toward the ball, and simply spray line drives to whatever part of the field makes the most sense, based on the pitch’s location. (He led the majors in line drive percentage in 2023.) In slow motion, you can see that the impact of the ball on the bat causes his arms to wobble in a noodly kind of way, which you’ll rarely see from a pure power hitter like Schwarber, whose arms stay bent and flexing as he makes contact.

That’ll do it for this installment, but I’ll be back soon with yet another batch of hitting terminology, and after that we’ll get back to the pitching side of things. Stay tuned!

A Visual Scouting Primer: Hitting, Part One

Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

A few weeks ago, I introduced an ongoing series aimed at clearing up the confusion that sometimes accompanies the scouting-specific language that pops up in our (and others’) scouting reports. While the first installment was an introduction to pitching terminology, this one will be focused on hitting. And while the previous entry was part of Prospect Week, and accordingly featured almost entirely videos of prospects, this one will focus more on current big leaguers.

There are a number of reasons for the departure from prospects for this installment. For one thing, I believe it’s easier to understand these terms when they’re exemplified by players with whom you, the dear reader, are more familiar. Additionally, most of the terms I’ll dig into that are used to describe swings are more easily illustrated using a side view of a player’s swing and, unlike major league broadcasts, minor league broadcasts tend not to include these angles. But even aside from that practicality, I think it’s important to place these terms in a broader context than just prospect evaluation. While some of these terms are sometimes used to describe a possible hinderance to a prospect’s development, I want to emphasize that they aren’t inherently good or bad. Players can excel at the major league level while still embodying these traits, even the ones that, in a vacuum, seem to carry negative connotations.

Just like in the last installment, many of these terms will be familiar to you as baseball-savvy folks, but I hope that the accompanying visuals will serve as a useful supplement to your consumption of scouting reports, both past and present. And because I can’t help myself, I’ve sprinkled a few prospects in throughout the piece for those of you who may be jonesing for more prospect coverage. Read the rest of this entry »

A Visual Scouting Primer: Pitching, Part One

Robert Edwards-USA TODAY Sports

Scouting is a complex process. Sure, subjectivity and personal preference are biases that will always color the approach scouts take during the evaluation process. But beyond that, the task of describing in words how players differ, and what context is relevant during each player’s individual evaluation, is an entirely different type of challenge than just separating the “good” from the “bad.”

When writing scouting reports, I’m often reminded of a thought experiment that was introduced to me in an undergraduate linguistics class, wherein the professor had us each imagine a bowl of oranges on a kitchen counter. He then asked us how we would approach the task of going into another room and describing one specific orange in that bowl, such that the person we were talking to, having not previously seen the bowl of oranges, could go into the kitchen and successfully select the orange we were describing. The limits of language were clearly illustrated by this exercise. Assuming there weren’t any obviously different oranges (no tangelos or satsumas to make our delineation clear), it required us to avoid terms like “more orange” or “less squishy” because those terms lose meaning without an agreed upon reference point. Read the rest of this entry »

Alek Thomas Has Made Tremendous Strides Backwards (and That’s a Good Thing)

Alek Thomas
Arizona Republic

When I began writing this piece about Alek Thomas‘ defense, it was in response to the excellence he had shown in the postseason as Arizona’s everyday centerfielder. Since then, an elephant walked into the room in the form of his ninth-inning error in Game 5 of the World Series, and while it didn’t cost the Diamondbacks the title or even the game, it undoubtedly left a bitter taste in his mouth that he’ll likely spend much of the offseason trying to rinse out. But his late-game error was a tragically timed blip on an otherwise excellent performance this October — one that speaks to the specific improvements he’s made to his outfield defense, and how those adjustments have altered his forecast as a big leaguer. So let’s take a look at how Thomas’ defense has evolved since his days as a bat-first prospect, rewinding to this catch in Monday night’s Game 3.

That catch was one of several he made throughout the postseason, which provided Thomas with a national audience to wow with his range in the outfield. The way he covered ground out there played well on TV, too, particularly how he went back on deep balls to center field, sprinting with his head down toward the wall and making mid-route adjustments as needed. But while his wall-banging robbery of what would otherwise have been an RBI double for Mitch Garver was an obvious defensive highlight in its own right, it was also a clear indication of the improvements Thomas has made to his center field defense over the past couple seasons. Read the rest of this entry »

Adam Wainwright Explains the Sweeper: A Close Reading

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

In Game 3 of the Twins/Astros ALDS, the subject of Sonny Gray’s sweeper came up in the broadcast booth. That set the stage for Adam Wainwright to clear up some confusion that dates back a ways, and put forth an answer to the question that has been spinning around the league for a while: What exactly is a sweeper?

Here’s the clip:

In just over a minute (and with deftly added pauses for the purposes of game calling), Wainwright covered a lot of ground, first pointing out the shape of the sweeper as compared to a traditional slider, then going on to scratch the surface of how the pitch is thrown and how that impacts its shape. At one point during his spiel, he chuckled at the camera, visibly concerned about how little time he had to explain something so complicated. So with the benefit of a much more flexible word count than he was afforded in the booth, let’s break down Wainwright’s breakdown, beat-by-beat, and see if we can illustrate and expand on what he was talking about by taking a look at some of 2023’s sweepingest pitchers. Read the rest of this entry »

What Kyle Harrison Can Teach Us About Ricky Tiedemann

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a week at the end of every season when Triple-A welcomes some of baseball’s top prospects for a brief stint at the minor leagues’ highest level before they hang up their cleats for the year (or in many cases, head to the Arizona Fall League). Expanded rosters at the big league level leave a slew of freshly vacated Triple-A roster spots. Meanwhile, the Low-, High-, and Double-A seasons end when there’s still a week left on the Triple-A schedule, creating a sizable pool of lower-level up-and-comers. These prospects, especially the younger ones, are looking to prove themselves capable of standing up to competition beyond what their developmental schedule might otherwise deem appropriate. It’s also a big reason why so many of the following year’s prospect list write-ups include some version of the phrase “He notched a few innings at Triple-A at the end of last season.”

One such prospect this year is Ricky Tiedemann, the young lefty hurler who sits atop the Blue Jays prospect list and currently ranks 18th on our overall Top 100. If that résumé sounds oddly familiar, you may be picking up echos of recent big league debutant Kyle Harrison, who tops the Giants list and is stacked just spot above Tiedemann on our Top 100. The similarities don’t end there, though. Both Harrison and Tiedemann were drafted as teenagers, and both boast a tremendous punchout ability that belies their years, posting strikeout rates above 40% at various points in their young pro careers.

Before I continue, a caveat: Due to a combination of mid-season arm soreness and a short leash when it came to his pitch count, Tiedemann only threw 44 innings in 2023. That’s important to keep in mind, especially considering that Harrison’s lowest innings total in a pro season is more than double that. Tiedemann still has to demonstrate that he’s capable of maintaining his prowess over the type of innings load that Harrison has endured. With that established, let’s dig into how the two young southpaws resemble one another, and more importantly, what sets Tiedemann apart, at least for now. Read the rest of this entry »

Can Cristian Mena and Nick Nastrini Miss Bats in the Big Leagues?

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

There are certain stats that seem likely to always move in tandem. A high walk rate will, almost by definition, result in a high on-base percentage. A low whiff rate seems to naturally beget a high contact rate. But sometimes things don’t line up in the way intuition would dictate.

The other day I was perusing the minor league pitching leaderboards and when I sorted them by swinging strike rate, a crop of standouts topped the list, posting rates higher than 16% (the minor league average is around 12% for pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched). Curious, I re-ordered the list to see how these pitchers stacked up in terms of strikeout rate – a stat my brain assumed would result in a similar list of names, if slightly reordered. To my surprise, however, many of the top-ranked swinging-strike inducers skidded down the list when it was re-sorted by strikeout rate:

Minor League Swinging Strike Leaders
Name SwSt% SwSt% Rank K% K% Rank
Drew Thorpe 18.6 1 34.0 5
Chih-Jung Liu 16.8 2 28.6 43
Cristian Mena 16.1 3 27.2 76
Nick Nastrini 16.0 4 28.4 46
Jose Corniell 15.9 5 29.8 28
Rafael Sanchez 15.9 6 24.7 137
Yoniel Curet 15.6 7 33.3 7
Carlos F. Rodriguez 15.5 8 29.5 23
Angel Bastardo 15.5 9 29.4 24
Felipe De La Cruz 15.4 10 28.3 39

This caught me off guard, so I pulled up the major league leaderboards and repeated the same steps, first sorting by swinging strike rate, then by strikeout rate. At the major league level, no pitcher even falls out of the top 30, let alone tumbling as tremendously as some of the top bat-missers of the minor leagues:

Major League Swinging Strike Leaders
Name SwSt% SwSt% Rank K% K% Rank
Spencer Strider 19.4 1 37.6 1
Tyler Glasnow 16.6 2 32.8 2
Shane McClanahan 15.6 3 25.8 27
Blake Snell 15.0 4 31.4 4
Domingo Germán 14.8 5 25.7 29
Luis Castillo 14.8 6 27.2 15
Pablo López 14.6 7 29.2 10
Freddy Peralta 14.5 8 31.2 5
Joe Ryan 14.1 9 29.2 9
Jesús Luzardo 14.0 10 28.0 12

It seems like the recipe that whips up minor league pitching success isn’t the same as the one that results in being a bat-missing major leaguer.

So, what gives?

Let’s start with the obvious. Perhaps the clearest difference between pitching in the minors and pitching in the majors is the caliber of the opponents. Specifically, it’s much more difficult to induce a swinging strike on a junky pitch when facing an advanced hitter than it is against a less-experienced minor leaguer. Thus, it stands to reason that in-zone swinging strike rate is a more reliable indicator of the sustainability of minor league results, as it diminishes the impact of a batter being duped. Testing this theory against the major league pitching leaderboard supports this idea, as the list of high-achievers stays relatively constant when sorted by in-zone contact rates.

That logic still holds true when we look to the minor league leaderboards. Indeed, of the 10 pitchers leading the minors in swinging strikes, only two (Drew Thorpe and Yoniel Curet) have in-zone swinging strike rates that are better than their overall mark in that column. And wouldn’t you know it, those are the only two pitchers who stay in the top 10 when the list is instead sorted by strikeout rate. The other three minor leaguers with overall swinging strike rates above 16% (Chih-Jung Liu, Cristian Mena, and Nick Nastrini) all have in-zone swinging strike rates that are lower than their overall swinging strike rates, and each of these pitchers falls by a few dozen spots when the list is re-ordered by K-rate. This illustrates the importance of missing bats in the zone, particularly when it comes to alchemizing whiffs into punchouts.

It also stands to reason that promotion to a higher minor league level would result in a dip in these types of pitching statistics. Assuming, as we do, that it’s easier to fool a Double-A hitter into offering at an unhittable breaking ball out of the zone than it is a Triple-A hitter, then promotion from one level to the next would presumably expose a pitcher’s reliance on chase swings as opposed to those precious in-zone whiffs. Lucky for us, two of the aforementioned pitchers – Nastrini and Mena – are not only in the same org and have virtually identical Double-A stats, but they also received simultaneous Triple-A promotions at the end of August. So, let’s take a look at how they compare and assess what their results might indicate about the sustainability of their minor league success.

Looking at how Nastrini and Mena performed on paper at Double-A makes them seem like virtually the same player. They’re both in the White Sox system, with similar stats in terms of swinging strikes, walks and strikeouts. They also feature the same arsenal – four-seamer, slider, curveball, changeup – and made their Triple-A debuts within a couple days of one another. But within those similarities, there are key distinctions between them that might alter our expectations of them.

Let’s start with how they ended up with the White Sox. Mena was signed for $250,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2019, and while the start of his pro career was delayed by the pandemic, he was still just 18 when he took the mound for the first time in 2021. Having been largely untested before then, he quickly ascended through the org as part of Project Birmingham and is now the youngest pitcher to reach Triple-A this year. Conversely, Nastrini, who is several years older, was acquired mid-season as part of the Joe Kelly trade with the Dodgers and boasts a more robust track record than Mena, having been a fourth-round pick in 2021 out of UCLA.

In terms of statistics, their walk rates were identical at Double-A, each posting an unsavory 11.3% mark in that column. Their strikeout rates were similar to one another as well, each hovering above 25%, and their swinging strike rates differed by just .1%, with Nastrini’s coming in at 16.5%, and Mena’s at 16.6%. But before we chalk up those similarities to these guys being the same pitcher in different fonts, let’s investigate how they’re producing these numbers and see what we might expect from each going forward.

While Nastrini and Mena feature the same pitch mix, they use their arsenals in very different ways. Mena has long boasted an impeccable ability to spin his curveball, to the point that he’s been tasked with building his arsenal around that pitch. Since turning pro, he’s worked on adding a slider to his mix, and while it’s developed a slightly more distinct shape this season (tighter, with more horizontal action), it still blurs with his curveball, with both pitches acting in similar ways to miss bats on offerings out of the strike zone.

While Nastrini’s breaking balls don’t cause jaws to drop the way Mena’s curveball has throughout his career, their shapes are much more distinct from one another, and there’s roughly 7 mph of velocity separation between them.

Both pitchers throw a changeup between 13-14% of the time, and both favor the cambio against lefties. Nastrini’s changeup has a sharp shape to it, with its velocity and arm-side movement geared at mirroring the movement of his slider, allowing the changeup to work against lefties the way that his slider works against righties.

Mena’s changeup is also most effective when he’s able to play it off of the shape of his slider, in the hopes of getting lefties to flail at it off the plate. Unfortunately, his changeup is much faster than the slider, flirting with 90 mph, and its shape doesn’t feature much horizontal action.

Meanwhile, Mena’s fastball has lost some of its ride, as well as a tick or two of velocity, so it tends to hover in the 91-92 mph band, and without the bat-missing ride, its shape and velocity are too similar to those of the changeup for either pitch to be a reliable in-zone bat-misser.

As a result, Mena’s lukewarm heater has been frighteningly hittable this season, contributing to a very high home run rate for the young hurler. Nastrini’s four-seamer, on the other hand, has been much more successful, with a flatter, more deceptive shape. It’s thrown from a release point that’s more difficult to pick up due to Nastrini’s setup towards the third base side of the rubber. His fastball has maintained a higher average velocity, eliciting significantly more swinging strikes and a more anemic resulting slash line than that induced by Mena’s heater. This in turn has resulted in more whiffs throughout the strike zone, particularly at the top of it, and confirms that Nastrini’s overall swinging strike rate doesn’t rely as heavily on chase as Mena’s does.

That said, Nastrini’s command is worse than Mena’s, as he offers up a greater number of non-competitive wild pitches compared to Mena’s strategic out-of-zone offerings. Their matching walk rates at Double-A were arrived at very differently, with Mena’s coming as a side effect of intentional out-of-zone offerings, whereas Nastrini’s were more indicative of legitimate mistakes. This has held true at the higher level, with both pitchers now a few starts into their time with Triple-A Charlotte. In fact, many of the assumptions that could be drawn from their time at Double-A have come to fruition since their promotion.

In Mena’s first start, only three of his 88 pitches resulted in a swinging strike, due largely to Triple-A batters’ collective ability to lay off his breaking balls. His second and third starts were better in this regard, but he still struggled to induce chase on the outer half against righties, which was a key ingredient in the elixir that allowed his stuff to play up at lower levels. The patience of his opponents has resulted in a relative downtick in strikeouts, along with an uptick in walk rate. He has also given up an inordinate number of hits, due in large part to the hittablity of his heater. Nastrini, on the other hand, has kept opposing bats off his offerings but has struggled to maintain command. His second start with Triple-A Charlotte featured four wild pitches, including one with the bases loaded, which nearly allowed two runs to score when the ball bounced several feet in front of the plate and caromed off the catcher’s gear into the visitors dugout.

It’ll take more than a few starts apiece to get a sense for how Mena and Nastrini adapt to the higher level, but their outings have been in keeping with our expectations so far. Mena is young and athletic enough to hope that he’ll be able to tack additional velocity onto his fastball, while also working to refine the look of his entire arsenal to induce more in-zone whiffs. Expectations-wise, this likely means Mena’s on his way to a big league role at the back of a rotation, with multi-inning relief as a fallback option. Nastrini is more fully developed in terms of the look of his stuff, so his more urgent task will be to refine his command, such that his entire repertoire can play to its potential. As such, his ceiling is higher, and a spot near the front of a rotation is attainable if the command piece falls into place. Otherwise, he has the look of an impactful late-inning reliever.

All in all, if either Mena or Nastrini hope to remain atop the swinging strike leaderboard at Triple-A and beyond, there are key improvements to be made and flaws to be addressed, and despite their seeming similarities, their respective flaws (and necessary improvements) are distinct from one another. While it seems neither is likely to emerge as the next Spencer Strider, they both have a good shot at firming up an important big league role within the next season or two.

Zack Gelof Is Streaking, but May Need Some Tweaking

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Oakland A’s have not been shy about calling up their top prospects this season, including a slew of the most highly-ranked young players in their system. Many of those prospects have already begun to sculpt the narrative of their early big league careers, to largely disappointing results. Mason Miller dazzled in his first few outings, but was felled by injury soon thereafter. Kyle Muller has bounced between the majors and Triple-A, with a meager mid-teens strikeout rate and an ERA above 7.00 at both levels. Esteury Ruiz has been as spectacular as expected on the basepaths, but his Triple-A offense was a mirage that has dissipated in the majors. And while Ken Waldichuk’s stuff seemed noteworthy in the lead up to the season, his walk rate has ballooned and his fastball was at one point measured by Statcast as the worst in the league, at 16 runs worse than average. As of now, to borrow a phrase, he’s just Ken.

This past month has seen the promotion of three more of Oakland’s promising young prospects: Tyler Soderstrom, Zack Gelof, and Lawrence Butler. The most recent of those promotions was Butler, who joined the A’s major league roster on August 11 after tamping down his strikeouts and finding himself on an ultra-fast track (he started the season at Double-A). With just a handful of games under his belt, it’s too soon to read much into his performance. Soderstrom and Gelof, meanwhile, both debuted in mid-July. And while Soderstrom is the more highly ranked prospect, his bat has been too quiet to make up for his strikeouts at the big league level. Instead, it’s Gelof whose name is currently accompanied by a string of fire emojis in the Baseball Savant search bar. Read the rest of this entry »