Unheralded Reds Prospect Jacob Hurtubise Has Been an OBP Machine

© Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer/USA TODAY NETWORK

Jacob Hurtubise quietly had one of the best seasons in the minors in 2023. Over 455 plate appearances between Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Louisville, the left-handed-hitting outfielder slashed .330/.479/.483 with 11 doubles, 10 triples, seven home runs, and a 163 wRC+. Moreover, he had a 13.8% strikeout rate and a 16.9% walk rate to go with 45 stolen bases. Signed by the Cincinnati Reds as an undrafted free agent in 2020 after four collegiate seasons at Army, the West Point graduate is arguably one of the more intriguing position player prospects in the system.

A lack of power is Hurtibise’s biggest shortcoming, but that’s not what his game is built on. As the 26-year-old Zionsville, Indiana native readily acknowledges, what he brings to the table is a combination of plus bat-to-ball skills, a keen eye, and excellent wheels. His profile is that of a potential top-of-the-order OBP machine, one who just so happens to be a high-character overachiever knocking on the door of the big leagues.

Hurtubise, who was added to Cincinnati’s 40-man roster last November, talked hitting late in the Arizona Fall League season.


David Laurila: Your OBP has been well over .400 since you got to pro ball, and this past season it was a remarkable .479. To what do you attribute those numbers?

Jacob Hurtubise: “I think it just comes down to having a solid approach. I’ve been gifted with a good eye, and that’s been improved through repetitions and continuing to be patient at the plate. Knowing who I am as a hitter is a big part of that. I know my job. I don’t have a ton of power, so I have to do whatever I can to get on base, and from there create havoc on the basepaths.”

Laurila: Something that stands out to me is how you’re thriving against a far higher level of pitching than you faced in college. Repetitions aside, have there been notable adjustments, or have you mostly just kept doing what you’ve always done?

Hurtubise: “I mean, I think any player would tell you that they’re constantly trying to make adjustments to be as good as they can be on the field. For me, entering pro ball, you’re right; I didn’t face the best competition at West Point, at Army. I knew that there were certain adjustments I had to make in order to compete at this level.

“I would say most of them have had to do with swing adjustments, getting myself in the best position and giving myself the most time to see the pitch. Timing is probably the number one thing for hitting. If you’re not on time, you can’t put a good swing on the ball.”

Laurila: Earlier this summer, Triston Casas told me that he considers being on plane with the pitch even more important than timing.

Hurtubise: “There are schools of thought for everything. The school of thought with that — what Casas said — is that if you give yourself a lot of room for error, you can be late or you can be early, and still make good contact with the pitch.”

Laurila: Can you elaborate on the adjustments you’ve made?

Hurtubise: “My stance was a big thing. In college, I was a little bit more square, and now I’m a little bit more open. I think that allows me to see the pitch a little bit longer. I’m able to see it with both eyes on just a little bit of a turn.”

Laurila: What about where you hold your hands?

Hurtubise: “Where I hold them is usually pretty typical. I don’t have too much movement with my hands. I try to keep them in a set position, stay loaded — I load early — and then just turn and go.”

Laurila: Do you consider yourself to have quick hands?

Hurtubise: “I wouldn’t say so. I need to improve my bat speed, but I do think that I’m able to recognize pitches out of the hand really well. My exit velos are also something I can improve on. They’re not super high.”

Laurila: Luis Arraez’s exit velocities aren’t super high either.

Hurtubise: “Exactly. That’s the sort of hitter I have to model my game after if I hope to keep advancing to the highest level. It’s guys like him… I would even say Ichiro [Suzuki], someone who is able to consistently put the bat on the ball. And Arraez isn’t really a burner, either. I do run well, so bat on ball is going to be key for me. If I can limit my strikeouts and just put the ball in play, even if it’s weak contact, I’m at least able to force the fielders to make a good throw.”

Laurila: Basically, you’re hunting contact more than you are hunting pitches you can drive?

Hurtubise: “Yes. I’m not looking for power.”

Laurila: That said, being able to drive the ball is an asset for any player. Is developing more power than you currently have at all a goal?

Hurtubise: “So, I went to Driveline last offseason, and I did go from zero home runs [as a collegian and with High-A Dayton in 2021; he had one home run with Chattanooga in 2022] to seven home runs. I was able to increase my power a little bit. I think I’m going to train a little bit more bat speed — I feel that I need to — but at the same time, I have to keep the qualities that I currently have. I don’t want to stray too far from who I am as a player, because that’s what has gotten me to this point.”

Laurila: Are there any players on the Reds’ big league roster you feel you’re similar to?

Hurtubise: “I’ve gotten comparisons to TJ Friedl. So, I’d say Friedl with a little bit less power but a little bit more speed. We’re about the same size — I’m 5-foot-11, 190 — and while his open stance is a little more exaggerated than mine… yeah, I’ve gotten that comparison.”

Laurila: Any final thoughts?

Hurtubise: “If you were to ask me what I consider the most important statistic, I would say that it is on-base percentage. The only way to score runs is by getting guys on base. If you’re able to do that consistently as a team, you’re going to be able to score more runs. That’s something I feel I can bring to the table.”


Earlier “Talks Hitting” interviews can found through these links: Jo Adell, Jeff Albert, Greg Allen, Nolan Arenado, Aaron Bates, Jacob Berry, Alex Bregman, Bo Bichette, Justice Bigbie, Cavan Biggio, Charlie Blackmon, JJ Bleday, Bobby Bradley, Will Brennan, Jay Bruce, Triston Casas, Matt Chapman, Michael Chavis, Garrett Cooper, Gavin Cross, Jacob Cruz, Nelson Cruz, Paul DeJong, Josh Donaldson, Brendan Donovan, Donnie Ecker, Rick Eckstein, Drew Ferguson, Justin Foscue, Michael Fransoso, Ryan Fuller, Joey Gallo, Paul Goldschmidt, Devlin Granberg, Andy Haines, Mitch Haniger, Robert Hassell III, Austin Hays, Nico Hoerner, Rhys Hoskins, Eric Hosmer, Tim Hyers, Connor Joe, Josh Jung, Jimmy Kerr, Heston Kjerstad, Steven Kwan, Trevor Larnach, Doug Latta, Royce Lewis, Evan Longoria, Michael Lorenzen, Gavin Lux, Dave Magadan, Trey Mancini, Edgar Martinez, Don Mattingly, Marcelo Mayer, Hunter Mense, Owen Miller, Ryan Mountcastle, Cedric Mullins, Daniel Murphy, Lars Nootbaar, Logan O’Hoppe, Vinnie Pasquantino, Graham Pauley, Luke Raley, Brent Rooker, Drew Saylor, Marcus Semien, Giancarlo Stanton, Spencer Steer, Trevor Story, Fernando Tatis Jr., Spencer Torkelson, Mark Trumbo, Justin Turner, Trea Turner, Josh VanMeter, Robert Van Scoyoc, Chris Valaika, Zac Veen, Alex Verdugo, Mark Vientos, Matt Vierling, Luke Voit, Anthony Volpe, Joey Votto, Christian Walker, Jared Walsh, Jordan Westburg, Jesse Winker, Bobby Witt Jr. Mike Yastrzemski, Nick Yorke, Kevin Youkilis.

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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4 months ago

Is it true that OBP skills are tough to project from the minors to the majors? I’ve heard that the general raw-ness of pitching talent around the AA level makes it easier to work a walk, but I haven’t looked into it any further. Obviously no disrespect to Hurtubise, a 17% walk rate at any level is pretty impressive either way.

Last edited 4 months ago by crocb3