BATTERS: Young targets, 2019 updated

Let's continue our look at the most skilled young players in the game by moving on to hitters.

There's a clear benefit of using skills when speculating on future breakouts. Last year in this space, both Max Kepler (RF, MIN) and Ketel Marte (2B/CF/SS, ARI) were young bats with marginal results:

Max Kepler (RF, MIN) is another young bat who is firmly on a growth curve. Beneath Kepler's marginal stat line (.228 BA, .733 OPS) are some solid reasons for intrigue. For one, his plate discipline is strong (11% bb%, 82% ct%, 0.70 Eye). And he possesses underlying power skills that are well above average levels (123 xPX). His 90-mph exit velocity is significantly above the norm too. (7/30/2018)

Ketel Marte (2B/SS, ARI) is another pre-peak bat who entered the 2018 season with breakout potential. He got off to a slow start (.240 BA, .703 OPS in 1H) but has really come on in the second half. Few bats have been more skilled since July 1 than Marte. His 101 BPV has helped to produce a .280 BA and .893 OPS. His plate discipline has been firmly elite in the second half too: 16% bb%, 85% ct%, 1.27 Eye. At age 24, Marte still has time to develop into an impact middle-infielder. (7/30/2018)

These bats have been the most skilled young guys in the game so far in 2019:

60+ BPV, Age 28 or Under*

Name              Age  League  Position     bb%  ct%  Eye   PX   HctX  xPX  Spd  BPV
================  ===  ======  ===========  ===  ===  ====  ===  ====  ===  ===  ===
Bellinger, Cody    23      NL        1B/RF  15%  81%  0.96  165   145  185  124  127
Yelich, Christian  27      NL           RF  14%  77%  0.72  183   142  162  121  120
Trout, Mike        27      AL           CF  18%  77%  1.03  185   120  172   71  116
Bregman, Alex      25      AL        3B/SS  18%  83%  1.31  121   126  126   98   96
Betts, Mookie      26      AL           RF  15%  83%  1.07  110   124  133  140   94
Marte, Ketel       25      NL     2B/CF/SS   8%  85%  0.56  121   129  120  134   94
Garver, Mitch      28      AL            C  11%  77%  0.43  186   121  156  104   89
Arenado, Nolan     28      NL           3B   9%  85%  0.69  112   122  127  123   87
Bell, Josh         26      NL           1B  11%  76%  0.55  169   128  152   73   87
Alvarez, Yordan    22      AL        DH/LF  11%  69%  0.38  207   126  165   73   87
Alonso, Peter      24      NL           1B  11%  71%  0.44  188   111  168   95   86
Diaz, Aledmys      28      AL  SS/3B/2B/1B   6%  88%  0.54  105   104   66  121   85
Bryant, Kris       27      NL        3B/RF  13%  76%  0.63  145    97  105  116   83
Bogaerts, Xander   26      AL           SS  12%  78%  0.67  142   106  119   95   83
Gallo, Joey        25      AL        LF/1B  18%  53%  0.46  255    97  203   94   80
Semien, Marcus     28      AL           SS  11%  85%  0.83   92   120   91  138   78
Devers, Rafael     22      AL           3B   7%  83%  0.46  127   110   98   95   78
Kepler, Max        26      AL           RF   9%  82%  0.59  133   126  113   70   77
Chapman, Matt      26      AL           3B  11%  78%  0.55  137   125  106  108   76
Arraez, Luis       22      AL  2B/3B/SS/LF  12%  92%  1.64   57   115   86  128   76
Gurriel, Lourdes   25      AL     LF/SS/2B   6%  74%  0.24  159   114  159  131   75
Hoskins, Rhys      26      NL        LF/1B  17%  71%  0.75  145   114  146  120   74
Kelly, Carson      24      NL            C  12%  77%  0.60  145   132  177   76   73
Polanco, Jorge     25      AL        SS/DH   8%  83%  0.54  104   121  140  125   72
Pederson, Joc      27      NL        LF/1B  10%  76%  0.46  134   124  128  121   70
Dozier, Hunter     27      AL     3B/1B/DH  12%  74%  0.52  135   125  164  130   70
Osuna, Jose        26      NL           3B   5%  80%  0.27  144    93  106   74   70
Ramirez, Jose      26      AL           3B  10%  86%  0.85   84   118  106  117   70
Rosario, Eddie     27      AL           LF   4%  86%  0.30  108   119  125   98   69
Slater, Austin     26      NL        LF/1B  13%  63%  0.40  197   111  165  109   69
Diaz, Yandy        27      AL     3B/1B/DH  10%  80%  0.58  111   119  113  113   66
Buxton, Byron      25      AL           CF   7%  75%  0.30  144    94   96  116   66
Lindor, Francisco  25      AL           SS   7%  82%  0.42  111   126  107  115   66
McNeil, Jeff       27      NL     2B/LF/3B   5%  86%  0.42   92   120   87  116   65
Mancini, Trey      27      AL     LF/1B/DH   8%  76%  0.34  136    98  132  121   65
Fletcher, David    25      AL  3B/2B/SS/LF   9%  90%  1.00   58   102   65  127   65
Renfroe, Hunter    27      NL           LF   8%  70%  0.30  180   121  162   79   64
Beaty, Matt        26      NL        1B/LF   4%  85%  0.28  107   133  123   90   64
Calhoun, Willie    24      AL           LF   6%  80%  0.32  126   109   85   92   64
Verdugo, Alex      23      NL           CF   7%  87%  0.60   93   132  101   87   64
Soto, Juan         20      NL           LF  15%  74%  0.71  117    92  115  131   63
Story, Trevor      26      NL           SS   8%  71%  0.31  151   114  152  126   62
Sano, Miguel       26      AL           3B  12%  57%  0.33  221   100  168   93   61
Albies, Ozzie      22      NL           2B   8%  82%  0.46   96   126  125  132   61
Winker, Jesse      25      NL           LF   9%  82%  0.57  104   120   98   97   60
*min 50 AB

Let's take a closer look at a bunch of highly-skilled young performers.
 

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Yordan Alvarez (DH/LF, HOU) has established himself as one of the premium young bats in the game during his rookie season. He has put up an elite 1.076 OPS in 126 AB. His power has been supported by a 165 xPX, and while he struggles to make contact consistently, his overall plate skills aren't terrible (11% bb%, 69% ct%, 0.38 Eye).

Luis Arraez (2B/3B/SS/LF, MIN) is showing some of the best plate skills in the game during his rookie season (12% bb%, 92% ct%, 1.64 Eye in 131 AB). He has paired that elite plate discipline with intriguing speed (128 Spd). A complete lack of a green light (4% SBO%) has prevented him from turning his strengths into steals.

Hunter Dozier (3B/1B/DH, KC) is on his way to a mini-breakout in 2019. He is hitting for average (.286 BA), power (16 HR), and production (.910 OPS). After showing poor plate skills in 2018 (6% bb%, 70% ct%, 0.22 Eye), they have shown great improvement this season (12% bb%, 74% ct%, 0.52 Eye). And his power surge has been supported by an upper-tier 164 xPX.

Mitch Garver (C, MIN) has become one of the most intriguing young catchers in the game this season. He has put up a .291 BA, 19 HR, 42 RBI, and 1.023 OPS in 189 AB. His power skills have been backed by a 156 xPX. His plate skills have been sturdy too (11% bb%, 71% ct%, 0.43 Eye).

Jorge Polanco (SS/DH, MIN) is on his way to a career season (.306 BA, 15 HR, 50 RBI in 412 AB). His power surge has been backed by a flyball stroke (27/27/46 G/L/F/) and near-elite 140 xPX. His wheels are slick (125 Spd). And he remains a high-contact bat (8% bb%, 83% ct%, 0.54 Eye). At age 25, Polanco remains one of the best young MI investments in the game.

Marcus Semien (SS, OAK) is showing the best stats and skills of his career. His .272 BA is a career high, and it has received full support from his .279 xBA. The key for Semien has been a vast improvement in his plate skills, which are now very strong: 11% bb%, 85% ct%, 0.83 Eye. His 29% h% is right in line with his career norm. And if he can get a stronger green light, Semien's 138 Spd gives him more SB potential than he has shown this year.
 

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Josh Bell (1B, PIT) has turned into an impact bat in 2019. He has a .290 BA, 27 HR, and 86 RBI in 383 AB. Bell's plate skills have stayed solid (11% bb%, 76% ct%, 0.55 Eye) while his hard-hit metrics have soared. Bell's 152 xPX fully supports his power growth, as he no longer has a steep groundball tilt (44/20/37 G/L/F). At age 26, Bell has gone from speculative target to lineup cornerstone.

Carson Kelly (C, ARI) is another young catcher that is looking like a future frontliner. He has posted an .882 OPS in 197 AB. Kelly also is putting up impactful plate skills (12% bb%, 77% ct%, 0.60 Eye). And his 177 xPX is one of the best in the game among young bats.

Jacob Lamb (3B, ARI) has looked like a premium young bat after returning from a strained quad. Among young bats, his 187 xPX is the highest in the NL. He is drawing tons of walks too (16% bb%). And in a very tiny data sample, he's hitting the ball with authority against lefties for the first time in his career. Lamb makes for a good second-half target before your trade deadline.

Joc Pederson (LF/1B, LA) seemingly is a veteran at this point in his career, but because he broke into the majors at such a young age, it's easy to forget that he's still just 27. He has shown really good power (23 HR in 298 AB), and his 134 PX/128 xPX combo confirms he'll continue to produce it. The only thing holding him back from becoming a 500+ AB cornerstone has been chronic struggles against lefties (.418 OPS vL).

Hunter Renfroe (LF, SD) has turned his power upside into production in 2019 (28 HR in 309 AB). His power uptick has come without any further erosion in his plate skills (8% bb%, 70% ct%, 0.30 Eye). And his strong power skills against both lefties and righties confirm that he's a legit everyday bat.

Austin Slater (LF/1B, SF) quietly has made some great strides in a small sample size so far in 2019. Slater owns an .886 OPS in 54 AB. That production has been backed by a 197 PX that has the support of a 165 xPX. In addition, check out his rising walk rate over the last three seasons: 6%, 9%, 13% bb%. And after being held back by a steep groundball tilt during his first two MLB seasons, Slater has converted a lot of those groundballs into line drives and flyballs so far in 2019 (46/26/29 G/L/F).


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.