Prospect Roundup: The importance of strikeout rates when grading Rockies prospects

An analysis of strikeout rates and what it indicates in a players progression towards the major leagues. Does a high rate indicate a future bust and does a low rate indicate a future superstar?

How important are strikeout rates when it comes to rating prospects and does a higher percentage preclude a player from being successful in the majors? It appears that some guys, like Giancarlo Stanton, can get away with a k-rate around 30%, but what is an acceptable range when projecting players to be successful in the major leagues?


K%

AVG

OBP

SLG

wRC+

WAR

Low Strikeout

8.5

0.287

0.340

0.394

101.8

6.1

High Strikeout

29.8

0.232

0.318

0.441

106.5

4.2

Best Players

18.0

0.304

0.395

0.540

153.7

16.7

First, let's take a look at the top players in the majors since 2011 and compare their strikeout rates to production. What I found was that there are three tiers of producers: low strikeout guys, high strikeout guys and the best players in baseball. This table averages the top 12 in each category and shows that the production of high strikeout guys is similar to low strikeout guys when graded by WAR and the park/league adjusted stat of wRC+ where 100 is average.

#

Low Strikeout Players

AVG

OBP

SLG

wRC+

WAR

K%

MiLB K%

K% Diff

9

Martin Prado

0.279

0.330

0.407

101

9

9.5

12%

-2.50

11

Ben Revere

0.286

0.323

0.331

81

5.8

9.8

8%

1.80

Interesting enough, low strikeout guys don't fall in the category of best players in the game. Martin Prado and Ben Revere exemplify this category of player who avoids strikeouts, but also rarely hits for power and tend to have a low on base percentage, they're also average players with a wRC+ of 101.

For the Rockies, Wilfredo Rodriguez and Cristhian Adames fall into this category, both players are high-contact, low-power performers playing a premium defensive position.


High Strikeout Players

AVG

OBP

SLG

wRC+

WAR

K%

MiLB K%

K% Diff

7

Chris Davis

0.275

0.345

0.536

136

8.4

29.6

25%

4.60

9

J.P. Arencibia

0.211

0.257

0.404

75

0.8

28.4

20%

8.40

12

Giancarlo Stanton

0.269

0.362

0.548

145

13

28.0

27%

1.00

The higher strikeout players is represented by Giancarlo Stanton and Chris Davis, with good power, misses a lot, has an OBP nearly 100 points higher than his average and tends to be an above average player with a wRC+ of around 106.

Davis and Stanton came into the league with a strikeout rate above 25% in the minors and it gradually rose to near 30%. Both players exemplify an ability to get on base a lot higher than their batting average. Meanwhile there can be a lot of fluctuation in this category as represented by J.P. Arencibia who struggles to hit or get on base as his strikeout rate rose dramatically once he entered the majors.

Rockies prospects Will Swanner and Harold Riggins fall into this category. Both consistently struggle to make contact, but have quite a bit of power and show an ability to work a walk.

#

Best Players

AVG

OBP

SLG

wRC+

WAR

K%

MiLB K%

K% Diff

2

Mike Trout

0.312

0.402

0.544

163

23.7

21.1

17%

4.10

4

Ryan Braun

0.321

0.389

0.581

160

17.2

17.8

17%

0.60

9

Giancarlo Stanton

0.269

0.362

0.548

145

13

28.0

27%

1.00

12

Troy Tulowitzki

0.313

0.391

0.555

144

15.8

13.5

15%

-1.50

Ryan Braun and Troy Tulowitzki stand as good examples of the best players in the game. They tend to have a strikeout rate around 17%, an OBP 80 points higher than their average and a wRC+ of 153. Most of these players had a smooth transition between their strikeout rates in the majors and minors.

Kyle Parker and David Dahl are trending towards this category based on their strikeout rates. Both prospects have consistently produced at rates below 20% while maintaining solid power and contact numbers.

So how does this apply to minor league prospects? Most players tend to carry the same strikeout rate from their minor league careers to their major league careers. It's one of the few numbers that stays fairly consistent as a player makes the jump into the Show. As an example; Ryan Braun and Giancarlo Stanton's numbers both rose only 1% after being called up. Meanwhile players like Tulo and Martin Prado saw their numbers fall slightly.

With any prospect we're projecting whether they'll eventually make it to the big leagues, but then we also want to know if they'll be productive while there. If a hot prospect is putting up strikeout numbers between 13-21% then we know he has a better shot at being a top player in baseball. If he falls outside these lines though, he needs to pick up the slack in other areas.

Ryan McMahon is having a hot season, but he's also striking out nearly 29% of the time. For him to be successful in that category, he would need to put up some monster power numbers, as well as post a solid ability to walk. David Dahl on the other hand, has a strikeout rate which falls in that prime area of 18%, but he's also not posting an on base percentage consistent with the best players in the game.

When comparing players in this statistic, Kyle Parker is an interesting prospect because his minor league career has produced a low K% to go along with a .294 average, a solid OBP of .373 and consistent seasons of 20+ home runs.

Here's a selection of Rockies prospects stats from this year, ranked by wRC+ with their K% included. A more in-depth list can be found on Fangraphs or Minorleaguecentral.

Rockies Prospects

Age

AVG

OBP

SLG

K%

wRC+

Ryan Mcmahon

19

0.27

0.366

0.613

27.3 %

167

Trevor Story

21

0.325

0.428

0.547

29.0 %

165

Wilfredo Rodriguez

20

0.35

0.435

0.483

7.2 %

160

Kyle Parker

24

0.317

0.38

0.585

19.0 %

146

Harold Riggins

24

0.304

0.368

0.481

36.8 %

145

David Dahl

20

0.273

0.316

0.531

18.2 %

134

William Swanner

22

0.258

0.346

0.375

27.2 %

99

Tom Murphy

23

0.179

0.297

0.359

27.5 %

94

It's important to remember that these players are improving and evolving every day. They don't face the same group of pitchers like major leaguers do; which makes it difficult to be consistent or know any advanced scouting. They also live out of gym bags and cheap hotel rooms without the benefits and comforts that a major leaguer enjoys.

So the answer is that some guys like Giancarlo Stanton can get away with a k-rate around 30% while most players need to be much lower to enjoy a successful career. If we're looking for the best players in the game, they need to be around 17% and anywhere much higher or lower indicates a league average player at best.

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