Last offseason, I tried to find under-the-radar minor league prospects by looking at how much a hitter walked and struck out. Sometimes, these stats can indicate a hitter has a keen eye at the plate which will help them succeed as they move up the minor league ladder. I used Mookie Betts and Jose Ramirez as examples of young players who had strong BB/K rates in the minors who then went on to have greater MLB success than many prospect evaluators had projected.
Looking at 2021 stats, I highlighted players who had 300 or more plate appearances at Double-A and/or Triple-A and a BB/K rate of 1.00 or higher. Did this help us find hidden gems? Let’s look at the results before moving on to this year’s crop. The names on the list were Alejo Lopez, Isaac Paredes, Steven Kwan, Tyler White, Cooper Hummel and Jonah Bride.
Two of these players had breakout years in 2022. Kwan made his MLB debut and had a tremendous season on both sides of the ball. He provided excellent outfield defense and continued his great work at the plate, walking more than he struck out at the major league level. He had a season strong enough he could have won Rookie of the Year honors in another year, but he had to settle for third this year due to an incredible batch of rookie campaigns that also included Julio Rodriguez and Adley Rutschman. The other breakout was Paredes, who was traded to the Rays in April as part of the Austin Meadows deal. He hit 20 home runs in 111 games while posting walk and strikeout rates that were both better than league average. Paredes is less of a hidden gem since he snuck onto the back end of Baseball America’s top 100 in 2019 and 2020, though he had fallen off in the two subsequent seasons. Kwan never made it onto the top 100 and only made the top 30 among Cleveland farmhands for the first time going into 2022, coming in at #27. FanGraphs, it’s worth noting, was far more bullish, slotting Kwan third in the Guardians system and 57th overall heading into the year.
Most of the rest of the group is TBD, as they only got limited MLB appearances. Lopez was frequently optioned and got into 61 games in the majors, still proving very tough to strike out but not doing much damage when he did connect. Hummel struggled in his first 66 games but still hit very well in the minors, walking in 15.4% of his plate appearances and slashing .310/.423/.527. The Mariners must be intrigued by him, since they just traded Kyle Lewis to get him from the Diamondbacks. Bride…