Struggling outlook: Fantastic projections for 2022
You know the pattern: An acclaimed prospect (or young player) gets the call, people spend hundreds of FAAB dollars on them, and then they get demoted a few weeks later.
Sometimes they fail to regain their shine in minors. Other times they get another shot at the majors and take a big leap forward, becoming a household name – think Kyle Tucker. Already in 2022, various young players have flopped and been sent to the minors for more seasoning: CJ Abrams, Alex Kirilloff, Bryson Stott, Jarred Kelenic, Jo Adell, Josh Lowe and Akil Baddoo, among others.
This article examines this group’s performance in the minor leagues as well as their greatest historical track records to see if a rebound is likely.
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Methodology Underlying Maximum MLB Prospect Projections
This article is based on my research on aging and the minor leagues with Ross Jensen at ‘Explore the statistics line.’ For each of the aforementioned names, I am providing a peak projection (updated to include all MILB and MLB games played through 5/29) for an MLB batter’s peak K%, BB%, stolen bases per 600 on-set appearances (SB/600), and wOBA in contact (wOBAcon). Together, K%, BB%, and wOBAcon explain almost all of the variance in hitting skill.
Max throws take a hitter’s stats in the minor and major leagues and adjust them based on league difficulty and scoring environment so they’re all on the same major league baseline . They also add aging growth so they represent a batter’s peak.
To project each stat, the projections simply weight the past performance of the stat, from 2019 to 2022, with more recent seasons being more heavily weighted (5/4/3/2 weighting for 2022/2021/2020/2019). I don’t add regression to maximize the differences between players; however, you can find the same projections with added regression in here. For context, the projections are appropriate for an MLB environment where an average bat in the league performs as follows: 100 wRC+, 7.5 SB/600, 24% K, 8% BB, 0.357 wOBAcon.
MLB maximum projections for notable bats
CJ Abrams 103 wRC+ 7% BB 18% K .339 wOBAcon 19 SB/600
Despite being called straight from Double-A and likely rushing before he was ready due to the injury to Fernando Tatís Jr., Abrams showed a strong combination of patience and contact in the majors and even brought it up several times before his demotion. . His 22% K is a bit high at Triple-A, but he showed good power with four homers in 81 plate appearances. Looks like a good bet to peak at 15-20 homers and push 20 stolen bases at the MLB level, with a good K%. He remains an enticing fantasy talent.
Alex Kirilloff 106 wRC+ 9% BB 21% K .356 wOBAcon 4 SB/600
Kirilloff bombed his 32 MLB PA, with a 19 wRC+ and 38% K. However, he walks as much as he hits Triple-A, with a 143 wRC+. Scouting reports have long projected more power than he has shown statistically so far in his pro career, so he could top that projection, which already projects above-average patience and contact. I’d bet his stay at MILB is relatively short.
Bryson Stott 88 wRC+ 10% BB 26% K .336 wOBAcon 6 SB/600
Stott struggled at a -12 wRC+ in his 75 MLB PA but looked better in the minors with a 156 wRC+. His upside is limited by a moderately high K% and below average pop and speed, but he should eventually settle in as a daily shortstop, offering good value in deeper formats.
Jarred Kelenic 113 wRC+ 11% BB 25% K .383 wOBAcon 16 SB/600
Instead of stepping forward in his sophomore season as many expected, Kelenic went from a 73 MLB wRC+ in 2021 to 52 wRC+ in 2022, with his K% swelling ten percentage points to 38%. He rocked the ball in Triple-A though, with three homers and a 158 wRC+ in 50 AP. Moreover, the rest of his MiLB track record is both too bright and too recent to give up hope for a bright future for Kelenic. However, he’s struggled enough at the MLB level that it’s probably no longer wise to expect him to emerge as an option in the first two rounds.
Jo Adell 108 wRC+ 8% BB 30% K .411 wOBAcon 9 SB/600
Adell has now been below par at the MLB level for three straight seasons. Digging below the surface, there’s a lot to like. He’s raised it 17% of the time this year, more than double the MLB average, and posted a .341 xwOBA. His .316 xwOBA was also better than his .303 wOBA in 2021. In Triple-A, he did exactly what anyone could have hoped for, showing perhaps his best mix of patience (17% BB), contact (29% K), and Power (0.383 Isolated Power) professionally — or at least since Double-A 2019, when he was considered one of the game’s top prospects.
Adell has long generated extreme hype for his raw power and he’s tapping into Triple-A. The advantage is there for a possible Tyler O’Neill-style breakout, but likely with only 10 SB – he’s never been aggressive on base paths despite having elite speed.
Josh Lowe 113 wRC+ 11% BB 32% K .420 wOBAcon 17 SB/600
Josh Lowe offers a fantasy-appropriate game, with good power and speed, but a lot of strikeouts. His K% was 38% at majors and is now 40% at Triple-A, but he should be able to bring it down enough to eventually make him a good fantasy, if not elite, contributor.
Akil Baddoo 100 wRC+ 11% BB 24% K .345 wOBAcon 22 SB/600
Baddoo, one of the biggest surprises of 2021, regressed heavily negatively in 2022. He is currently on the IL with an oblique strain. He offers good patience and solid contact skills, along with enough speed and power to be a strong fantasy contributor if he can hit enough to retrieve everyday bats.
Most deserve a second chance – some deserve a third and fourth chance too! Don’t forget the players just because they don’t play at the major league level anymore. Take into account all the information, both for minors and for adults. They could be back soon enough!
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