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Pharm Report: April-May 2015 - Hitters

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There's been enough time for weird hot weeks to normalize and slow starts to begin being overcome. Whose breakouts look real and whose struggles may last? Let's look.

Aaron Altherr always adores alliteration
Aaron Altherr always adores alliteration
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Altherr .256/.331/.446, 14.9% K, 9.7% BB, .180 ISO, .283 BABiP, .767 OPS, .351 wOBA
Altherr came out of the gate on absolute fire after missing the first few weeks due to injury. In April he put up a .302/.434/.488 line with 17% K and 18.9% BB rates that got some wondering if he was starting to unlock his ceiling. His May has been less stellar with a .248/.297/.431 line with his BB rate dropping to 5.9%. The bright side of that is that his K rate also dropped (13.6%). That could still be small sample weirdness or it could be Altherr adjusting during his second year in Double-A. I expect we'll see him move to Triple-A later this month. One area to watch is he has shown platoon splits more strongly in 2015 than in the past.

Willians Astudillo .307/.337/.392, 4.5% K, 1.7% BB, .085 ISO, .313 BABiP, .729 OPS, .349 wOBA
Astudillo's contact skills are simply astounding. He's top 10 in Batting Average with a BABiP 10 to 40 or more points lower than everyone else in the top 15. He's actually managing that line with a somewhat lower BABiP than his career average (not by much though). Truth is though that due to his limited power and BB rate his success or failure is going to be tied very closely to that BABiP. The good news there is he's hitting a lot of Line Drives this year, which should portend a higher BABiP. He needs to keep that up though. There's likely not a prospect in the system whose hold on his prospect status is more tenuous. His Defense is not very good, he's slow, there's virtually no power and he doesn't take walks. If his bat struggles at all with bad luck, he becomes an afterthought. It's a tightrope.

Aaron Brown .265/.329/.426, 19.3 % K, 4.0% BB, .161 ISO, .324 BABiP, .755 OPS, .364 wOBA
Brown has, somewhat quietly, gotten really damned interesting suddenly. Last year in Lakewood Brown looked like a mirage in his short debut putting up an impressive enough looking .309/.339/.473 line, but below the surface he sported a .444 BABiP and struck out nearly a third of the time while hitting a ton of ground balls (57%). It looked beyond unsustainable and supported reports about how raw he was as a hitter. I was pretty low on him. When I saw they were aggressively promoting him to Clearwater I expected a train wreck. For the first few weeks it looked bad as he struggled to stay around the Mendoza line. But things were happening to his underlying numbers that I wasn't noticing. He hit a ton of Line Drives and very few Grounders. His Walk rate rose a bit (after being non-existent early) and his K rate was well down from previous. He's not showing any platoon splits (though he is hitting awful at Brighthouse Field). It's early, but I'm really very encouraged by several items in his line and reports about how hard Brown has been working on his game. There might be something here and, unexpectedly, Brown may be able to move faster through the system than I expected and Double-A time may not be out of the question by the end of the summer, especially if Altherr moves up to LHV and they need to make space for Tocci in Clearwater.

Malquin Canelo .304/.357/.424, 14.4% K, 7.7% BB, .120 ISO, .352 BABiP, 8 SB, .781 OPS, .359 wOBA
Another pleasant surprise as the glove first Shortstop has proven himself to be a bit of an Offensive dynamo this Spring. There are a lot of big jumps in his numbers, but none really look unsustainable. His BABiP is high, but Canelo has frequently carried a very high Line Drive rate and looks to have suffered more bad luck previously in that area. His ISO is a big jump, but again a high LD rate should translate to a higher rate of Doubles, which is where most of his power surge has been. His K rate is the one outlier that could go up. A player with his profile should carry a K rate around 14-15% - where it is currently - but in the past his rate has been in the 20% range, too high for a guy without power.

Art Charles .267/.336/.508, 26.1% K, 9.7% BB, .241 ISO, .333 BABiP, .844 OPS, .359 wOBA
First let's add some context to everything: Reading is a fairly Offensive friendly environment, especially to Power; Charles is on the upper age curve for prospects at this level; He may be one of the worst Defensive players in all of baseball and would be completely unplayable at First Base in the Majors, making him a DH only player; He is beyond awful against LHP, Striking out nearly 50% of his appearances against them. That makes him not only a DH only, but also a Platoon DH only. A role that exists about 2 weeks a year in the National League and would likely necessitate a PH every time the Starter leaves the game. There's nothing to see here. Move along, move along.

Dylan Cozens .245/.294/.337, 23.2% K, 5.7% BB, .092 ISO, .315 BABiP, .631 OPS, .304 wOBA
First the good news: Cozens made much harder contact in May than April (where in April he looked like a massive version of Ben Revere with a really high GB rate and almost no power). Most everything else is bad. Cozens has hit poorly against same side Pitching, he's been an awful hitter on the road, overall he's hitting like an all glove Shortstop and not a massive power hitter, his Walk rate's too low and his K rate is too high for a guy not showing any power. One more piece of good news: There's still 3 months of season left for him to adjust to the level and finish up with a strong season.

J.P. Crawford .376/.485/.424, 11.0% K, 15.6% BB, .055 ISO, .429 BABiP, .914 OPS, .448 wOBA
Okay so the AVG is probably not sustainable, but even dropping that 100 points he'd still be hitting ~.290, which is pretty damned good for a Shortstop. Most impressive to me are the K and BB rates. Crawford is barely 20 and he's not struggling against advanced Pitching. He's made solid contact which should have translated to more doubles, but his sample size is about 2/3 of some of these other guys as he was delayed to start the season due to injury, so the bad luck has hung around long enough to keep his ISO down. If you're digging for a red flag, the ISO would be it, I guess, but he's a shortstop and honestly that's not bad, even without considering his bad luck in not converting more Line Drives to Doubles and Triples.

Zach Green .173/.216/.221, 25.2% K, 5.4% BB, .048 ISO, .224 BABiP, .437 OPS, .213 wOBA
Green has spent the first month impersonating an American League relief Pitcher at the plate. He's since been shut down, but he was making astoundingly weak contact that suggests even the .224 BABiP may have been a little too high to sustain. Maybe it was injury, maybe it was just a bad couple weeks, but it was a really, really awful line.

Rhys Hoskins .335/.416/.527, 18.2% K, 10.0% BB, .192 ISO, .396 BABiP, 6, HR, .943 OPS, .417 wOBA
It's hard to catch my interest if you're a First Base prospect, but Hoskins just keeps doing so much interesting shit. Now, to be fair, the AVG is unsustainable. I think Hoskins true level is probably more in the .270/.340/.500 range as a ceiling, but he keeps mashing and walking and not striking out a ton for a guy that keeps mashing. He's the only First Baseman in the system right now who's even vaguely interesting. Still, until he does something at Double-A and Triple-A he could still end up being another Matt Rizzotti or Cody Overbeck or any others in the long line of guys who stalled out in the upper Minors.

Andrew Knapp .269/.335/.366, 23.8% K, 8.3% BB, .097 ISO, .358 BABiP, .701 OPS, .343 wOBA
Knapp had a pretty good May, cutting his K rate by nearly a third and boosting his BB rate by the same ratio. Knapp is a Switch hitter, but I'm really curious how he'd do if he dropped hitting Righty and focused on hitting only from the port side. I can't imagine his platoon split could be much worse than his hitting as a Righty is by itself. The difference is 60-120 points across his triple slash. The only benefit is that he K's a good bit less as a Lefty. There are still questions about whether he can stay behind the dish, but for now that's where the Phillies are giving him work.

Gabriel Lino .266/.333/.431, 20.3% K, 8.1% BB, .165 ISO, .313 BABiP, .764 OPS, .370 wOBA
Speaking of guys with questionable defense behind the dish, Lino is back, and actually doing very well. This is the best he's looked in 4 years in the system. It's a really, really small sample, but it's weirdly promising.

Roman Quinn .314/.361/.445, 17.5% K, 6.6% BB, 24 SB (72.7% rate), .131 ISO, .377 BABiP, .806 OPS, .353 wOBA
Quinn has been insanely exciting to watch, but there are some warning signs in there. The BABiP is a small one, as Quinn has a very high success rate on squeeze bunts where his speed comes into play, he can possibly maintain a .350-ish BABiP, so it's not absurdly high now. More so is the 3 percentage points he's lost on his BB rate in Double-A. That makes him much more dependent on that BABiP to work as a leadoff hitter. For a guy only switch hitting for essentially 3 years, he's gotten astoundingly good from the Left side, though his K and BB rates are both much worse there.

Cord Sandberg .207/.266/.253, 14.9% K, 5.6% BB, .046 ISO, .243 BABiP, .519 OPS, .252 wOBA
The K rate looks good and the BB rate has rebounded a bit from last year when the Phillies had him swing first pitch to stop being so passive at the plate. The BABiP looks unsustainably low, but it's not far off from his last 2 years. That said, if his BABiP did "normalize" to something in the .320-.330 range all of his numbers would suddenly make more sense and he'd actually look pretty good (aside from the ISO). The tools are there for a solid Right Fielder if he can his bat straightened away.

Drew Stankiewicz .272/.342/.340, 15.3% K, 10.2% BB, .068 ISO, .322 BABiP, .682 OPS, .360 wOBA
Sometimes, for no real reason, you develop a personal favorite prospect to follow. Stankie is one of mine. His tools are all kind of average or worse, he's not overly athletic, he's a Second Base only prospect, but everything I read about him last summer talked about how hard he worked and his makeup and his knowledge of the game. I just kind of ended up rooting for the guy. That he's playing well in High-A less than a year after being drafted in the 11th Round makes me feel a lot better than rooting for Tyler Greene did a few years back.

Carlos Tocci .321/.386/.417, 12.1% K, 7.2% BB, .096 ISO, .366 BABiP, .803 OPS, .384 wOBA, 12 SB (92.3% rate)
For 3 offseasons now Tocci was highly regarded by prospect lists, yet seemed to move in a diametrically opposed manner to all hype, as hype grew, he hit worse. This winter the Phillies put the rail thin kid on a lifting program for the first time and he bulked up (not too much, he's still really slim). He returned this Spring a bit of a different, more confident player. He's hitting for average like he hasn't before (and not all luck either, the BABiP's high, but not unsustainable for a kid with Plus speed). K rate down, walk rate up, more line drives and piles of doubles. There's also a sudden skill for stealing bases, which he really stunk at before despite having plenty of speed. Could be a breakout year with a promotion to Clearwater likely sometime in June or July as the Draft and end of XST puts upward pressure on the pipeline.