Minors' ABS system showing how good Malloy's eye is

April 30th, 2023

The automated ball-strike (ABS) system arrived in Triple-A Toledo this week, just in time for the Mud Hens’ homestand against the Syracuse Mets. It’s meant to test out the system in game situations. It ended up testing out just how good Tigers No. 7 prospect is at judging the strike zone.

“We joke that we’re having the ABS and the challenge system, and it’s based off of him,” said. “Ask him if it’s a strike or not.”

That’s not a suggestion that Malloy is argumentative at the plate; he’s actually fairly quiet. But his plate discipline is just so good that even seasoned Triple-A players -- like Short, who is now in the Majors with the Tigers -- take notice.

“The at-bats that he has, it’s insane,” Short said. “I’ll take pitches and you feel like the umpire will say, ‘Aw, it’s a strike.’ But he takes pitches, and if it’s close, it’s a ball. There’s no [room for error] where the umpire got him there. If he takes it, it’s a ball.”

The stats bear it out. According to Statcast, Triple-A data compiled by Sam Wirth of Prospects Live, Malloy has an 11.8 percent swing rate on pitches outside the strike zone and a 37.8 percent swing rate overall. Both are lower than average. They suggest a particular selectivity for a hitter in just his second full pro season with just eight games at Triple-A before this season.

With all that patience, Malloy still has shown aggressiveness, entering Sunday batting .348 (31-for-89) with a .477 on-base percentage, five doubles, four home runs, 15 RBIs and 19 runs scored, including a solo homer and a double on Saturday. He has almost as many walks (20) as strikeouts (23). Malloy has maintained his 18.1 percent walk rate from his half-season at Double-A while cutting his strikeout rate to 20.7 percent. His .191 isolated power is also the highest of his pro career, according to FanGraphs.

Malloy's average exit velocity of 90.4 ranked fourth highest on the Mud Hens behind Tyler Nevin, Andrew Knapp and Akil Baddoo, all of whom have time in the Major Leagues.

When the Tigers acquired Malloy from Atlanta last December in the Joe Jiménez trade, Tigers president of baseball operations Scott Harris said Malloy could help the club remake its offensive identity. The data shows why and how, and other players in the organization have taken notice.

“He's 23 years old, and he has at-bats like he's been around for 15 years,” Short said. “It's crazy. It's nice, too, because Malloy being an infielder, you see that he's really working at it, and it's rewarding to see. He wants to be really good at everything he's doing, and it's awesome to watch.”

Here’s who else stood out in the Tigers' organization this week:

Triple-A Toledo:
The Tigers’ No. 11 prospect had a much-needed solid start Wednesday after four difficult outings to begin his Triple-A career. Olson held Syracuse to an unearned run on two hits over four innings, with two walks and two strikeouts. He drew just four swings and misses in 67 pitches, but drew 16 called strikes and eight ground-ball outs. The Mets’ 11 balls in play against Olson averaged just 80.8 mph in exit velocity.

Double-A Erie:
The Tigers’ third-round pick from the 2020 MLB Draft, and son of former Major League outfielder and Tigers coach Jose Cruz Jr., is quietly finding a role as a switch-hitting infielder and center fielder with the SeaWolves. He went 7-for-9 with a double, two homers and five RBIs over a two-game stretch Friday and Saturday.

High-A West Michigan:
Detroit’s No. 2 prospect had a two-homer game on Friday at Cedar Rapids before taking a pickoff throw off the back of his head and leaving the game.

Single-A Lakeland:
Detroit’s top catching prospect and No. 14 prospect in the system continues to mash his way through a rehab assignment at Single-A Lakeland ahead of an expected return to Erie. The second-round pick from the 2020 MLB Draft homered in three consecutive games for the Flying Tigers against the Palm Beach Cardinals, going 10-for-19 through the first five games of the series.