It’s easy to get lost in the immediate in-game production of our favorite prospects. We like to see good players do well. When a first-round pick hits or pitches well in rookie ball it’s hardly a surprise, but the performance provides affirmation of a given pick, signing bonus or ranking. What gets lost with this mindset is the larger picture and the goal of minor league baseball at its core, skill development. It’s a cliche but as the saying goes prospect development is not linear.
While simply acknowledging improvement in production is valuable, knowing the reason for improvement is more valuable. This allows us to properly identify what changes were made, if any, and what is driving the improved production. To aid in this quest a variety of metrics will be discussed including average exit velocity, 90th percentile exit velocity, contact rate, chase rate and in-zone contact year over year. Through this exercise we’ll be able to identify how certain players have found a new level of success.
With nearly three full months of the season from which to work with, there is a solid sample size from which to assess potential breakouts and enough of a sample to look year over year at a variety of metrics to spot improvement standouts. Below is a group of players that improved year over year in weighted on-base average or wOBA.
The sample for all players is set at 100 plate appearances minimum for both 2022 and 2021, giving us at least a decent sample size from which to compare changes in output.
Ezequiel Tovar, SS, Rockies: When it comes to breakout players in the first half of the season Tovar is a name that jumps off the page—not only for his improvement in wOBA and OPS year over year but also for his ability to do so while handling an aggressive assignment. Tovar’s biggest gains in 2022 have been in the way of power and approach. The shortstop has added nearly two mph onto the exit velocity of the top 10% of his balls in play. In turn he’s traded some…