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Monday, June 20, 2022

Experts predict MLB’s next great superstar

Mark Feinsand, executive reporter: I know it might sound crazy to say this given that he plays in Tampa Bay, but I feel like Wander Franco is the guy. The hype around him has been crazy, he’s on a team that contends annually, and he has that superstar aura we look for in these guys. Now he just needs to stay healthy.

Andrew Simon, editor/writer/researcher: I’ll go with Julio Rodríguez. The talent is obviously there, the production is getting there, and if we’re considering star power, he also has the sort of magnetic personality that could make him one of the faces of the game.

David Adler, researcher/reporter: Bobby Witt Jr. And it won’t even take five years. I’m all in on him. Love the swing, love the tools, love everything.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: June 20, 2022 at 01:48 PM | 22 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: adley rutschman, alek manoah, bobby witt jr., hunter greene, jazz chisholm, jeremy pena, julio rodriguez, mackenzie gore, wander franco

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. The Duke Posted: June 20, 2022 at 03:00 PM (#6082914)
Witt is 22 and Franco is 21. The good ones are always so young
   2. Walt Davis Posted: June 20, 2022 at 04:31 PM (#6082927)
And Rodriguez is also 21. But that was a criterion of the exercise.

I just read a bit of the beginning but the Witt love _at this point_ is overblown. He's got a sub-300 OBP with a 5% BB rate. Now these folks are focusing a lot on a player's popularity to be a superstar (I think they all mention the crappy markets these candidates are in) and walks don't have a lot to do with popularity but they do have a lot to do with being able to put up dominant numbers, even for a SS. They comp him to Trout. Of course nobody except, what, maybe a couple dozen players in history should be comped to Trout but, among the many differences, is that Trout has always had a solid walk rate except in those 135 PAs at 19 ... three years younger than Witt. At the moment, Witt looks more like Javy Baez without the defense than he does the next Trout.

Franco is having a bit of a sophomore slump and his walks have also dropped off to the 5% level but at least he has the 10% K-rate to go with it. Rodriguez is a guy I haven't paid that much attention to. The popular formula is certainly there with 8 HR and 18(!) SB already. His walk rate is fine but the K-rate is 30% and he's getting by on a 364 BABIP. He's hitting a lot of GBs which will keep working OK as long as he's fast but obviously he's got to start hitting balls in the air to put up big power numbers.

All fine players and I wouldn't be surprised if one of them does take the step forward to being one of the top players in the game (mea culpa: I thought Franco was already there). But ease off the Trout comps -- by the end of his age 22 season, he had 1 MVP, 2 second place finishes, a 167 OPS+ and 28 WAR.

Lindor is surely a better comp for Franco. Nobody wants to hear it but Witt so far is a bit like Addison Russell with more power but much worse defense. (I'm sure there are better comps than 2 Cubs SS but the brain knows what the brain knows.) Neither has put up Correa-like numbers yet -- again, not a criticism. Rodriguez -- actually Mookie's not a terrible comp but Rodriguez's K-rate is about double.

EDIT: Pretty big gap between Rfield (-4) and statcast (+2) for Witt ... still not the defender that Baez and Russell were but obviously +2 in 1/3 of a season is a positive.
   3. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: June 20, 2022 at 06:45 PM (#6082959)
I love Witt, but I agree with Walt, there's nothing in his minor league track record or three months of big league action that suggests he will have a patient eye. He could be a superstar, but I think he'll probably be a run-of-the-mill really good player like Trevor Story or something.
   4. John Northey Posted: June 20, 2022 at 09:56 PM (#6082997)
No shock no one mentioned Alejandro Kirk - he could easily be the next Mike Piazza except better on defense (very good at framing and getting better at game calling - pitchers love to throw to him). At just 23 he is clearly a damn fine hitter - 146 OPS+ this year and he doesn't seem to have gotten hot yet. Alek Manoah here in Toronto is amazing to watch pitch - he makes me think of a young Dave Stieb except in this era that will be recognized by award voters (back in the 80's they only noticed wins).
   5. . . . . . . Posted: June 20, 2022 at 10:16 PM (#6083001)
Juan Soto only doesn’t make these lists because he was a 4 WAR player at the same age these guys were prom king
   6. Howie Menckel Posted: June 20, 2022 at 10:17 PM (#6083002)
Braves CF Willie Harris is hitting .346 in 81 MLB AB with an OPS just north of .900. he won't turn 22 until March 2023, and is a "five-tool player" and has all the pedigree you can eat.

I had to read deep into TFA to see that the "experts" have seen NL games - or at least are aware they exist.
   7. Walt Davis Posted: June 20, 2022 at 10:28 PM (#6083006)
KirK: Ya never know but seems unlikely he'd hit "superstar" status even if he becomes the best C in the game. He's started just half the Jays' games at C, pretty rarely starting 2 games in a row. He's not flashing the big power that a star needs ... oddly his offensive profile (and usage) to date is more Mauer than Piazza (if we're going for the top comps).
   8. Walt Davis Posted: June 20, 2022 at 10:33 PM (#6083007)
That would be Michael Harris. He's hitting the ball hard (and on the ground) but the 386 BABIP probably isn't sustainable and 3 BB in 81 PA isn't promising. But the power's there (10 XBH), the speed looks to be there and the BA will be there as long as the speed is ... and of course just 21.
   9. Brian Posted: June 20, 2022 at 10:35 PM (#6083008)
O'Neill Cruz.
   10. bookbook Posted: June 20, 2022 at 10:40 PM (#6083011)
I get what you’re saying about these youngsters failing to produce in the show at the same age as Trout, Walt. Do remember that the pandemic cost these prospects a year or even a year and a half of development time. They couldn’t play any games, much less blow through 3 levels of the minors for that time.

If I had to guess, I’d go with Wander. He got there younger, and has a better organization behind him.

Julio is engaging, is producing, and the shape of his production is very different than we were promised. We were told Julio was going to be Jim Rice: or Jay Buhner+, intimidating power from a corner of slot but no speed and not too much defense.

Mookie Betts plus 7 inches, with speed on the base paths and solid CF defense, but too little elevation for his power thus far? That’s a very different feel.

I suspect he starts hitting 35+ home runs by next year, and prudence makes the SBs start to taper off. Because the high Ks and lower BB% weren’t there in the minors, I think he’ll get those straightened out, as well.
   11. The Yankee Clapper Posted: June 20, 2022 at 10:45 PM (#6083012)
   12. Howie Menckel Posted: June 20, 2022 at 11:10 PM (#6083016)
That would be Michael Harris.




MLB Pipeline
3 innings into his 2022 debut, @Pirates' Oneil Cruz has registered:

The hardest throw by an infielder in @MLB this year (96.7 mph)
The hardest hit ball of the year by a Pirate (112.9)
The 3 fastest sprint speeds of the year by a Pirate (31.5, 30.7, 30.3)
   13. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: June 21, 2022 at 01:01 AM (#6083023)
Oneil Cruz

Was he on the list of "fun players to watch" because, wow, he is something.

With his 2nd hit you can see him running to 1b and Vogelbach scoring and watching the both of them at same time is the very definition of chalk and cheese.
   14. Walt Davis Posted: June 21, 2022 at 04:21 PM (#6083123)
Was he on the list of "fun players to watch" because, wow, he is something.

That was his first game in the majors this year so ... no. He had two in Oct last year -- Pitt, Oct, probably nobody but his parents were watching.

Meanwhile I have to withdraw my Kirk comment -- not only leading the AL all-star voting at C but over 1 M votes, more than Vlad, only trailing Judge and Trout. Apparently chicks dig good bats in Spanky LaValliere's body.
   15. Walt Davis Posted: June 21, 2022 at 05:02 PM (#6083134)
I get what you’re saying about these youngsters failing to produce in the show at the same age as Trout, Walt. Do remember that the pandemic cost these prospects a year or even a year and a half of development time. They couldn’t play any games, much less blow through 3 levels of the minors for that time.

True ... it's also true for about 1/3 of the pitchers they're facing these days. And I assume all of these guys were in the special camps.

It's unknown how effective those camps were but Witt played a bit of rookie ball in 2019 and went straight to AA in 2021 so the Royals were obviously pleased with his progress in 2020. Franco was in A+ ball in 2019, did play a bit of winter ball in both early and late 2020, went straight to AAA for just 1.5 months in 2021 -- again, the Rays were pleased with his progress. Rodriguez ... maybe not so good or the Ms were conservative. He destroyed A+ in a few PAs at the end of 2019 but the Ms started him at A+ in 2021 and only pushed him as far as AA. But he was on the opening day roster.

But it's also

Rodriguez 119 OPS+
Wander 114 (128 last year, 123 overall)
Witt 98

We've seen Trout, Soto, Harper, Acuna, Tatis, Alvarez, Gleyber, Correa, Seager debut with much better numbers over the last decade. Heck, if you had to choose one for the next 5 seasons, you'd probably take Bo Bichette over Witt and maybe Franco. These aren't OMG debuts -- these are "this guy is probably going to be a very good player" debuts.

Now of course those numbers aren't particularly different from the early numbers of Vlad jr, Mookie, Machado and there's a good chance at least one of these guys will take that step forward. Probably at least one of them will get either a buyout somewhere between Franco and Tatis or be signing the equivalent of a 10/$300-350 M contract in 6 years. If Bo Bichette is a "superstar" then maybe all three of these guys will meet that standard.
   16. Walt Davis Posted: June 21, 2022 at 05:13 PM (#6083138)
Continuing the BB vs BW and WF comp ... Witt is a very young 22 (born 3 weeks later and he'd be "21") and Bichette had about 46 games at 21 so the playing time is roughly comparable:

BB 311/358/571, 144 OPS+, 2.4 WAR (about 7-7.5 per 650), 90 EV, 45% HH, 5.2% HR, 24% K, 6.6% BB
BW 236/279/427, 98 OPS+, 1+ WAR (give him credit for statcast fielding), 91 EV, 43% HH, 3.0% HR, 25% K, 5% BB
WF 270/305/421, 114 OPS+, 1 WAR, 89 ev, 40% HH, 2.1% HR, 10.5% K, 5% BB

Bichette hasn't maintained that level of production so he probably wasn't really that good at 21: 288/331/471, 118 OPS+ since 2019. Those are a very close match to Franco's overall stats. That's 8 WAR at a 4.7/650 pace.

EDIT: Continuing the comps after age 21

Correa: 24 at a 6.6 pace (lots of missed time)
Lindor: 29 at a 4.8 pace (very little missed time)
Seager: 21 at a 4.8 pace (lots of missed time)
Javy: 24 at a 4.9 pace (included because of his walk rate)
Russell: 9 at a 3.3 pace (the bat and personality collapsed, the defense remained outstanding)
   17. Howie Menckel Posted: June 21, 2022 at 10:01 PM (#6083182)
my guy MICHAEL Harris, 157 OPS+

and he's younger than Franco, J-Rod, and Witt.

and he plays a good CF
   18. Zach Posted: June 22, 2022 at 06:09 PM (#6083316)
Two home runs and a double last night for Witt.
   19. bookbook Posted: June 22, 2022 at 09:49 PM (#6083354)
Michael Harris may be THE guy!

Julio (#### “J-Rod” as a nickname) does have a 150 WRC+ since 4/22, when the Umps finally stopped calling every pitch thrown to Julio within 6 inches of the strike zone as a strike. He’s still in the race!
   20. philipcollin Posted: June 23, 2022 at 07:46 AM (#6083386)
Basketball is a lot more than just a game, it's a professional sport. Professional basketball players go to great lengths to hone their talent and improve their game. The game has many aspects like dribbling, passing and shooting to name a few. Like any sport, writing a dissertation abstract requires a lot of practice and a lot more hard work.
   21. bfan Posted: June 26, 2022 at 01:58 PM (#6083927)
No love for Andrew Vaughn?
   22. John DiFool2 Posted: June 26, 2022 at 04:08 PM (#6083965)
#20: who was that masked man?

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