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Projecting MLB's Demoted Top Prospect Hitters - Is A Rebound Likely?

You know the pattern: an acclaimed prospect (or young player) gets the call, folks spend hundreds of dollars of FAAB on them, then they get demoted a few rough weeks later.

Sometimes, they fail to rediscover their shine in the minors. Other times they get another chance in the majors and take a major step 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: C.J. Abrams, Alex Kirilloff, Bryson Stott, Jarred Kelenic, Jo Adell, Josh Lowe, and Akil Baddoo, among others.

This article considers this group's minor league performance along with their greater historical track record to see whether a rebound is likely.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received five total writing awards and 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, tops in the industry! Congrats to all the award winners and nominees including Best MLB Series, NFL Series, NBA Writer, PGA Writer and Player Notes writer of the year. Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!

 

Methodology Underlying Peak MLB Prospect Projections

This article leverages my research on aging and the minor leagues with Ross Jensen at ‘Scout the Stat Line.’ For each of the aforementioned names, I provide a peak projection (updated to include all MILB and MLB games played through 5/29) for a batter’s peak MLB K%, BB%, stolen bases per 600 plate appearances (SB/600), and wOBA on contact (wOBAcon). Together, K%, BB%, and wOBAcon explain nearly all of the variance in batter skill.

The peak projections take a batter’s stats across the minor and major leagues and adjust them for league difficulty and scoring environment so that they are all on the same major league baseline. They also add in aging growth so that they represent a batter’s peak.

To project each statistic, the projections simply weight past performance of the statistic, from 2019 to 2022, with more recent seasons weighted more heavily (5/4/3/2 weighting for 2022/2021/2020/2019). I do not add in regression to maximize the differences between players; however, you can find the same projections with regression added in here. For context, the projections are scaled to an MLB environment where a league-average bat has the following performance: 100 wRC+, 7.5 SB/600, 24% K, 8% BB, .357 wOBAcon.

 

Peak MLB Projections for Noteworthy Bats

C.J. Abrams 103 wRC+ 7% BB 18% K .339 wOBAcon 19 SB/600

Though he was called up straight from Double-A and likely rushed before he was ready on account of the Fernando Tatís Jr. injury, Abrams showed a solid pairing of patience and contact in the majors and even barreled it up a few times before his demotion. His 22% K is a bit high at Triple-A, but he has shown good power with four home runs in 81 plate appearances. He looks like a good bet to peak at 15 to 20 home runs and push 20 stolen bases at the MLB level, with a good K%. He remains a tantalizing fantasy talent.

Alex Kirilloff 106 wRC+ 9% BB 21% K .356 wOBAcon 4 SB/600

Kirilloff bombed in his 32 MLB PA, with a 19 wRC+ and 38% K. However, he’s walking as much as he’s striking out at Triple-A, with a 143 wRC+. Scouting reports have long projected more power than he has shown statistically thus far in his professional career, so he could outperform this projection, which already foresees above-average patience and contact. I’d bet on his MILB stay being a relatively short one.

Bryson Stott 88 wRC+ 10% BB 26% K .336 wOBAcon 6 SB/600

Stott struggled to a -12 wRC+ in his 75 MLB PA but has 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 an everyday shortstop, offering good value in deeper formats.

Jarred Kelenic 113 wRC+ 11% BB 25% K .383 wOBAcon 16 SB/600

Instead of taking a step forward in his sophomore season as many expected, Kelenic regressed from a 73 MLB wRC+ in 2021 to 52 wRC+ in 2022, with his K% ballooning ten percentage points to 38%. He has rocked the ball in Triple-A though, with three home runs and a 158 wRC+ in 50 PA. Further, the rest of his MiLB track record is both too stellar and too recent to give up on expecting a bright future for Kelenic. He has struggled enough at the MLB level that is probably no longer wise to expect him to ever emerge as an option in the first two rounds, however.

Jo Adell 108 wRC+ 8% BB 30% K .411 wOBAcon 9 SB/600

Adell has now been below average at the MLB level for three consecutive seasons. Digging below the surface though, there is a lot to like. He barreled it up 17% of the time this year, more than twice the MLB average, and posted a .341 xwOBA. His .316 xwOBA was also better than his .303 wOBA in 2021. In Triple-A, he’s done exactly what anyone could have hoped, showing perhaps his best blend of patience (17% BB), contact (29% K), and power (.383 isolated power) professionally yet – or at least since Double-A 2019, when he was considered one of the game's best prospects.

Adell has long generated extreme scouting hype for his raw power and he is tapping into it in Triple-A. The upside is there for an eventual Tyler O’Neill-style breakout, albeit probably with just 10 SB — he has never been aggressive on the basepaths despite elite speed.

Josh Lowe 113 wRC+ 11% BB 32% K .420 wOBAcon 17 SB/600

Josh Lowe offers a fantasy-friendly game, with good power and speed, but lots of strikeouts. His K% was 38% in the majors and is now 40% in Triple-A, but he should be able to cut it enough to eventually make him a good, if not elite, fantasy contributor.

Akil Baddoo 100 wRC+ 11% BB 24% K .345 wOBAcon 22 SB/600

Baddoo, one of 2021’s biggest surprises, regressed negatively in a big way in 2022. He is currently on the IL with an oblique strain. He offers good patience and solid contact skills and enough speed and power to be a solid fantasy contributor if he’s able to hit enough to reclaim everyday at-bats.

 

Conclusion

Most deserve a second chance – some deserve third and fourth chances too! Don't forget about players just because they are no longer playing at the major league level. Consider all information, across both the minors and majors. They could be back up soon enough!



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