Prospects among spring Statcast standouts
These are the numbers that will sustain us.
This year's Spring Training meant the return of prospect statistics that felt even more important following the lost 2020 Minor League season. Through Statcast measurements, some of the game's best young talents have put up figures that have wowed fans and evaluators alike once again. Now that the 2021 Minor League campaign won't begin until May, this will be the only in-game prospect data publicly available for at least a few more weeks.
Back on March 9, MLB Pipeline covered prospects who stood out early on the Spring Training Statcast leaderboards. This edition heads back to similar sets of advanced numbers to wrap up prospect play in the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues. (Notes: All numbers are official through Monday's games. Also, the stats only account for games in which Statcast data was available. Other readings were not included.)
Average exit velocity (min. 20 PA)
Pirates 3B Ke'Bryan Hayes, 94.2 mph -- No reason to get off the Young Hayes train now. The National League Rookie of the Year favorite has followed up his ascendant 2020 with a strong spring at the plate. Focusing just on his batted-ball data, the Pirates' top prospect has put 34 balls into play in front of Statcast this spring. Fourteen of those came off the bat at 100 mph or above, and 19 were at the hard-hit mark of 95 or above. That 55.9 percent hard-hit rate is almost equal to the 55.4 percent mark he put up over 95 plate appearances in the Majors, so it's no surprise that his slash line stood at .431/.463/.745 with nine extra-base hits in Grapefruit League play. Hayes showed last year that he can be more than an elite glove at the hot corner, and the bat certainly looks like it's already in midseason form.
Maximum exit velocity
Tigers OF Riley Greene, 115.8 mph -- The 2019 fifth overall pick has impressed at every turn during his time in the Detroit system, and he showed off just how hard he can crush a ball on March 22 in Dunedin. The left-handed slugger laced a 93 mph fastball from right-hander Dany Jimenez to the wall in right-center for a stand-up double. The 115.8 mph exit velocity was the highest Statcast measure by a Top-100 prospect this spring by some measure; Jazz Chisholm's 112.7 mph homer on March 17 placed second among that group. Last year's No. 1 overall pick, Spencer Torkelson, will grab plenty of the attention among Tigers prospects at the plate in 2021, but Greene packs plenty of punch himself, as he showed below.
Highest average velocity (min, 50 pitches)
Yankees RHP Albert Abreu, 98.4 mph -- Yankees fans likely knew coming in that Abreu threw hard based on his two appearances with the big club last season. Their takeaway this spring: he still throws hard. As hard as anyone in baseball. Abreu's 98.4 mph average velocity on his fastball was third-highest among qualifiers this spring behind only Jacob deGrom (99.2) and Gregory Soto (98.4). All that heat didn't do much to help the right-hander's case to head back to the Majors; he allowed six earned runs on seven hits in 4 2/3 innings and was optioned back to the alternate site on March 19. But the velo is a big reason why Abreu slots in as the Yankees' No. 18 prospect, and it should help get him more looks at the Bronx this summer, especially if he learns to command the heater better.
Spin rates (min. 50 pitches)
Marlins RHP Paul Campbell, fastball (2,644 rpm), curveball (2,988 rpm) -- The Marlins grabbed Campbell from the Rays in last offseason's Rule 5 Draft, and the club has indicated it will keep him around to start the 2021 season. Campbell's spin rates on both his heater and breaker show why he has a good chance to stick with Miami. Campbell's 2,644 rpm average on his fastball is sixth-best among qualified pitchers this spring, while his 2.988 rpm on the curve also places in the same spot. He also features a 2,713 rpm slider but hasn't needed to throw it as much in his spring audition. Campbell shows average velocity at 93-94 mph, but the extra spin makes his fastball tougher to pick up, as evidenced by his eight strikeouts and five hits allowed in seven innings this spring. He will open in the Miami bullpen and could be a multi-inning option for the big club.
Catcher pop time
Phillies C Rafael Marchan, 1.90 seconds
Catcher arm strength
Phillies C Rodolfo Duran, 88 mph
We'll group the two Phillies together here since it's notable that both standout Statcast backstops are from the same farm system. Marchan and Duran -- Philadelphia's No. 5 and 20 prospects, respectively -- are known much more for their defensive acumen than their offensive potential, so it's even more encouraging to see that come through in the data. Marchan's 1.9 pop time against the Yankees on March 28 helped him turn a strikeout-throwout double play with Archie Bradley on the mound, Josh Breaux at the plate and Ryan LaMarre attempting to steal second. That quick release (and accurate throw) show why Marchan's only 60 grades are for his glove and arm tools, and the entire defensive package should help him serve as depth behind J.T. Realmuto this summer. Unlike Marchan, Duran isn't on the 40-man roster, primarily because of his own questions with the bat, but he can really unleash a solid throw. His 88 mph seed on March 15 was the hardest catcher throw measured by Statcast this spring. In fact, another 85.9 mph toss gave Duran two of the five fastest balls coming from behind the plate. MLB Pipeline graded out the 23-year-old's arm at a 60, and it's easy to see why with numbers like that.
Infield arm strength
Pirates SS Oneil Cruz, 93 mph -- Speaking of throwing hard from the non-pitcher division, MLB Pipeline's No. 64 overall prospect has been awarded the rare 70 grade on his arm heading into the 2021 season. He put every bit of that plus-plus evaluation into one throw to first on March 19 on a groundout to short by Pat Valaika. Interestingly, it wasn't a particularly close play. In fact, it was fairly routine. Still, Cruz used all of the leverage in his 6-foot-7 frame to chuck the ball over at what would be considered good velocity for a Major League fastball. The Pirates prospect's size has many questioning where he'll fit long term, and he got a brief look at center in the Grapefruit League. He could see more time on the grass once he re-enters Minor League play. One thing's for certain -- that arm will play anywhere on the diamond.
Padres INF Tucupita Marcano, 3.9 seconds -- Tigers Rule 5 pick Akil Baddoo featured in this category for going home to first in 4.05 seconds on March 1. Nine days later, the Padres' No. 6 prospect beat him comfortably in a theoretical foot race. After putting down what was meant to be a sac bunt against the Rockies, Marcano sped over to first in 3.9 seconds -- the fastest time Statcast clocked by a ranked prospect this spring -- and beat out a throw from the distracted Phillip Diehl on the mound. His official sprint speed came in at 29.3 ft/sec, just below the elite standard of 30 ft/sec. Marcano earned a spot on San Diego's Opening Day roster by hitting .405/.479/.619 over 26 games while playing six different positions. His above-average speed gives him another weapon to use off the bench and could help his case to stick with the NL West contenders for much of the 2021 campaign.