Have you heard the good news?
Statcast data has expanded to all of Triple-A for the 2023 season. Numbers were available for Pacific Coast League and Florida State League games, as well as Triple-A Charlotte home contests, last season, but with the expansion of the automated ball-strike (ABS) system to cover the Minors’ entire top level, there’s more great stuff than ever to dive into via the excellent Baseball Savant site. For the record, FSL data is also available once again for 2023.
If you’ve never used Savant to find Minor League data before, let’s walk you through the process and provide some tips on what might be useful for the 2023 season:
How to find it
It’s easier than ever to access individual-game data on BaseballSavant.com.
First, head to the “Gamefeed” tab at the top of the page. This will default to that day’s Major League games. To toggle to Triple-A, click the level button as seen above. Click Triple-A or Single-A (for FSL), and the day’s corresponding matchups will automatically replace the MLB ones.
You can open each game’s breakdown straight from this menu or open it up in a separate window by clicking “Direct Link”. Or if you desire maximum data at all once, click “Show All Games” in the top right corner to expand everything at once. Now, time to dive in…
How to use it
Saw a blast that looked particularly long? Check out the Baseball Savant page to see how far it went into the Minor League night. (We'd bet there was plenty of interest in the numbers during Fernando Tatis Jr.'s three-homer performance for El Paso on Thursday.) Think a ball was scorched off the bat? Review your instincts with exit velocity. Does it feel like the starting pitcher is generating an inordinate amount of swings-and-misses? Review the whiff count in the top right of the game’s direct link.
There are individual tabs, if you want to dive deeper into the granular numbers. A personal favorite here is the Player Breakdowns tab that defaults to analyses of each of the game’s hurlers. Find out just how much each pitcher threw a specific pitch. See how that specific offering played by reviewing numbers like whiff percentage, pitch velocity, spin rate and CSW% (called strikes plus whiff percentage). A good rule of thumb is that anything above a 30 CSW% is good. In the specific example above, Cardinals No. 6 prospect Matthew Liberatore’s fastball, curveball, sinker and slider all met that standard, backing up a solid outing in which he fanned 10 batters over seven innings.
Much of this will be old hat for anyone who has played around with Baseball Savant before for Major League games, but for those of us firmly ensconced in prospectdom, think of this as another way to enjoy the Minor League ball and prospect production you love.
Now that we have even more ways to analyze Triple-A and Florida State League prospects, there are other ways to determine who's standing out early in the season beyond the traditional numbers. Here are some early Statcast darlings in those circuits. (Note: Numbers are through Thursday's games.)
Brett Baty, 3B, Mets (No. 2, MLB No. 19), Triple-A Syracuse
Baty will join the Mets this week after absolutely knocking down the door in the Internatonal League. Nineteen of his 26 batted balls in play have exceeded the 95 mph threshold, resulting in a 73.1 percent hard-hit rate. No Major League qualifier currently has a hard-hit rate higher than 70 percent (MJ Melendez). Baty's 100.0 mph average exit velocity is also highest among Triple-A qualifiers, entering Monday. So if you thought his .400/.500/.886 line for Syracuse was impressive, it gets even better for the Mets' second-ranked prospect at the time of his Major League return.
Justin Martinez, RHP, D-backs (No. 19), Triple-A Reno
We gave Martinez's fastball a 70 grade coming into the 2023 season because we knew he could throw hard, but he missed much of the 2022 campaign as he recovered and rehabbed from Tommy John surgery, giving us limited looks on the fastball. Martinez has certainly come out firing in the Pacific Coast League. He's averaged 98.8 mph on his four-seam fastball through six relief appearances with Reno, giving him the highest average velo on such a pitch among hurlers with multiple Triple-A appearances through the first two weeks. That said, he'll need to control the pitch significantly better after opening with 12 walks in five innings, but the early velo in a healthy year provides a taste of what can make Martinez an enticing relief prospect.
Mason Miller, RHP, Athletics (No. 3), Triple-A Las Vegas
The only player with a faster average Triple-A heater than Martinez, regardless of sample size? That's Miller, who has made one start for Vegas and has blown the doors off the radar-gun competition. The 24-year-old right-hander's four-seamer averaged 100.0 mph in his five-inning, 11-strikeout gem, and he topped out at 101.8 mph, trailing only fellow Oakland prospect Luis Medina (102.1) for the fastest Triple-A pitch on the young season. Miller has thrown 13 of the 25 fastest Triple-A pitches measured by Statcast this season.
Korey Lee, C, Astros (No. 6), Triple-A Sugar Land
Another 70-grade arm backed up by Statcast. While Lee has been trying to find offensive consistency at the Minors' top level, his ability to control the run game -- an increasingly important skill in today's game -- continues to be near-elite. The Houston prospect leads Triple-A backstops an 87.3 mph 90th-percentile throw from behind the plate, while his 1.83-second average pop time on throws to second also leads the Minors' top level. Lee has thrown out four of nine attempted basestealers during the first two weeks.
Alex Jackson, C, Brewers, Triple-A Nashville
A sixth overall pick by the Mariners in 2014, Jackson is now on his fourth Major League organization as a journeyman backstop, and he keeps getting opportunities because of his prodigious power as a right-handed slugger. Case in point: his 471-foot homer for Nashville on April 4 has been the longest Triple-A homer tracked by Statcast so far this season.
Justin Crawford, OF, Phillies (No. 4), Single-A Clearwater
A 70-grade runner, Crawford is certainly living up to that standard in early looks with the Threshers. The 17th overall pick has registered seven of the nine highest Sprint Speeds on the basepaths in the Florida State League and has notched 14 Bolts (runs at 30-plus feet per second), more than anyone else in the Single-A circuit. He's a perfect 4-for-4 in steal attempts and could be even more aggressive if he and the Phils want to take advantage of those wheels.
Alex McFarlane, RHP, Phillies (No. 8), Single-A Clearwater
Primarily a reliever at Miami, the 2022 fourth-rounder has been transitioning to starting in the Florida State League, and it isn't hard to see why the Phils want to get him a more prominent role. McFarlane's sinker ranks second in the FSL in average velocity (96.8 mph) and first in average spin rate (2,613 rpm) while his four-seamer ranks fourth in velo (97.6) and third in average spin rate (2,724) among its pitch type. The four-seamer topped out at 100.5 mph in his season debut on April 7, giving him the hardest-thrown pitch in the FSL this season. His cutter also averaged 2,896 rpm, highest among similar offerings in the Single-A circuit. On that upper-80s cutter in particular, McFarlane threw 14 in that debut, and nine (64.3 percent) resulted in called strikes or whiffs, well above that 30 percent standard.