Now that Jason Heyward has officially made the Braves it’s time to start thinking about what kind of rookie season he’s capable of putting together at age 20.
Here are his projections from a few prominent sources:
AVG OBP SLG OPS
Baseball Prospectus .274 .345 .461 .806
Rotoworld Draft Guide .267 .343 .440 .783
Baseball Think Factory .275 .341 .429 .770
Combining those projections has Heyward hitting .272 with a .343 on-base percentage and .443 slugging percentage, which is good for a .786 OPS that would put him about five percent above average overall. While those numbers may not match the incredible hype and expectations, throughout the entire history of baseball a grand total of just 29 players have qualified for the batting title with an above-average OPS as 20-year-olds.
The only 20-year-olds with an above-average OPS in the past 30 years are Roberto Alomar in 1988, Ken Griffey Jr. in 1990, Alex Rodriguez in 1996, and Adrian Beltre in 1999. That’s two sure-fire Hall of Famers, one likely Hall of Famer, and a former MVP runner-up with 250 homers through age 30. And no 20-year-old has done it since 1999. In other words, if Heyward has a .786 OPS this season Braves fans should be thrilled.
In fact, Heyward merely staying in the majors and playing regularly would put him in strong company, as only 19 outfielders have ever logged 500 plate appearances at age 20. Here’s the list: Griffey, Ty Cobb, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Al Kaline, Mel Ott, Cesar Cedeno, Tony Conigliaro, Vada Pinson, Rick Manning, Buddy Bell, Claudell Washington, Sherry Magee.
Put it this way: Throw those names in a hat and draw one at random. You’ll likely end up with a Hall of Famer.
Great moments in scouting. MLB.com’s Richard Justice spoke to an unnamed scout about the Astros, currently holding the American League’s best record at 76-47. The scout said that the Astros strike out too much and it will catch up with them. Justice pointed out that the Astros have the lowest strikeout total in baseball. The scout responded, “I don’t believe that.”
Justice, of course, is correct. The average major league team has struck out 1,006 times entering Sunday’s action. The Astros have by far the lowest total at 827, followed by the Indians at 881 and the Pirates at 882.
This scout doesn’t represent all scouts, but this is one of the major problems that advocates of statistics were trying to highlight before Sabermetrics became popular a decade ago. It’s a pattern. Person believes thing. Person either cherry-picks evidence to defend belief or is shown evidence that belief is not factually true and ignores it. Person refuses to change belief, using one of many excuses.
The other problem this highlights is the fallacy of “the eye test,” which is shorthand for treating a scout’s observations as sacrosanct due to his or her experience and knowledge of the game. In this case, the scout ignored easily accessed information, went with his gut, and turned out to be completely wrong. Furthermore, if “the eye test” were legit, the scout would’ve known that, for example, Yulieski Gurriel and Jose Altuve hardly ever strike out (11.1 and 12.4 percent strikeout rates, respectively). In fact, no one on the Astros’ roster (min. 230 PA) has a strikeout rate above 21 percent; the league average is 21.5 percent.
This isn’t to impugn the practice of scouting as a whole. There are a lot of things scouts can tell you about a player that data cannot and that has value. But for easily-researched claims like “the Astros strike out too much,” there’s no reason to trust a scout over the stats.
The Mets acquired right-handed reliever Jacob Rhame from the Dodgers, the team announced on Sunday. Rhame is the player to be named later in the trade that sent outfielder Curtis Granderson to Los Angeles on Friday night. He’s expected to report to the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate.
Rhame, 24, pitched through his second Triple-A campaign with the Oklahoma City Dodgers in 2017, collecting two saves in 41 appearances and logging a 4.31 ERA, 1.9 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 48 innings. While his ERA saw a sharp spike from its modest 3.29 mark in 2016 (perhaps thanks in part to a midseason DL stint due to an undisclosed injury), he’s controlling the ball better than he has in several years and has drawn some attention with a fastball that occasionally touches 98 MPH on the radar gun.
The Mets’ bullpen hasn’t been at its finest over the last few weeks, ranking 16th among its major league competitors with a collective 4.50 ERA and 2.4 fWAR, but likely isn’t looking to add an extreme fly ball pitcher to its staff just yet. Until he gets his big league break, Rhame will beef up Triple-A Vegas’ relief corps alongside fellow right-handers Yaisel Sierra, Joe Broussard and Josh Ravin.