MINORS: The Eyes Have It—Revisiting Luis Robert, Nico Hoerner & Dustin May

Pandemic prospect scouting has been a strange trip. While I much rather do my scouting from behind the plate (And down the lines), I’ve enjoyed being a couch scout. I have watched more regular season MLB games the past month than the past two seasons combined. And the production value is brilliant. Scouting games on MILB.TV, you are lucky to find quality telecasts, good viewing angles and pitch velocities. If you have all 3 on a minor league telecast, you must be watching Hartford or Amarillo. But two out of three ain’t bad either.

Scouting from the couch has given me access to all the analytical data (through Baseball Savant) I’ve wanted since Trackman first began appearing at minor league parks. While there is some data out there for minor leaguers, it isn’t as immense as the data we have for the major leaguers. Taking advantage of this resource has mostly confirmed what my eyes have seen. It is leaving less room for error in projections. For example, Tejay Antoine’s (scouting report) percentile rankings are spectacular, backing up what I’ve seen with my eyes.

Today, I want to revisit past scouting reports of 2020 HQ100 prospects and see how they have held up in their first taste of big league competition and whether projections have changed through 2020 looks or analytical data collected by Baseball Savant.

Luis Robert (OF,CHW)

I was adamant that Luis Robert’s (scouting report) ability to react was going to hamper him in his big league debut. He started like gangbusters but has cooled, mostly due to pitching exploiting his inability to get around on velocity and aggressiveness; not pitching exploiting an issue reacting to spin.

Scouting a dozen ABs this past week, including a HR off a hanging breaking ball on Saturday, Robert is behind the FB and is also cutting off the outer part of the plate, selling out for power. I went back to his hot start. While he was mostly feasting on breaking stuff middle-in, he was still utilizing the entire surface of the plate, even driving a FB he was late on, out of the ballpark. I believe, closing off the outer-half of the plate has been his instinctive response to being late on the FB. Teams have begun to exploit it.

Mechanically, Robert appears intact and the hard hit % is high. Robert’s swing rate leads baseball. He has swung at more pitches in the zone than anyone else and has the fourth most swings on pitches out of the zone. The aggressiveness was expected, but maybe not to this degree. His whiff rate is one of the highest in baseball. Robert will need to refine this approach to reach his expected ceiling.

The projected 9 player rating can be upgraded to a 9B from a 9C. Undoubtedly, some struggles, like other uber-aggressive young hitters, will be likely. However, as the approach refines and he begins deciphering between the pitches he can merely connect with and the pitches he can drive, Robert will flourish into the game-changing fantasy performer we’ve projected over the past 18-to-24 months. Robert is a good bet to become a core player in dynasty for years to come.

Nico Hoerner (UT, CHC)

Nico Hoerner (scouting report) is a better real-life prospect than a potential fantasy fit. Fantasy managers are banking on Hoerner’s ability to have versatility, since the hit tool is the only true carry tool. He has struggled statistically this season in limited playing time. However, his approach, ct% and hard hit rate indicate better performance is ahead of him this season.

In a 12-AB sample, I see a hitter playing towards his strengths, a selective, up-the-middle, line drive approach. Hoerner has a flat swing plane and rarely utilizes the pull-side, which means his power is depressed. This is along the lines of my look last season in Double-A, except he was much more aggressive in the zone. Statistically, it shows. Hoerner has swung at the least amount of pitches in the zone, looking location instead of letting his hands react to pitches. There is plenty of speed in his swing and it’s obvious he has a good sense of the zone. However, he needs to be more aggressive, especially on pitches middle-in, looking for opportunities to drive the ball.

I projected high BA, double-digit HR and double-digit SB in my second half Double-A look last season and still sticking to it. I had an 8B grade on him then and have downgraded it a bit to an 8C. We often get caught up looking for HR and SB upside with prospects that we forget some solid average fantasy producers are guys with similar profiles to Hoerner’s hit/discipline with some speed profile. However, the dependence of mostly the hit carrying the profile is much more risky than if it was power or speed. The versatility of positions helps Hoerner’s profile, moreso to solidify the 8C ranking than to upgrade or downgrade the ranking.

Dustin May (RHP, LA)

In a day and age where whiffs dominate pitcher portfolios, a guy like Dustin May (scouting report), despite top end stuff, has a ways to go to get that Dom up where most front line fantasy SP live. Mostly, it’s a question of pitch comfort, sequencing and usage and less stuff.

There is little velocity deviation in May’s arsenal. Scouting his first start of the season against the Giants and his last start against the Angels, May primarily variates between his FB and CT. Over 87% of his pitches have either been sinkers (50.9%; Mid-to-High 90s velocity), cutters (34.2%; Mid-90s velocity) or 4-seam fastballs (2.1%; High 90s velocity). None of these pitches can be considered put away pitches. Instead of whiffs, the intent of his sinker and cutter is to move off barrels, attempting to induce weak contact. The velocity, plus the movement, has swing and miss potential. However, the command of either pitch doesn’t allow May to take full advantage of the speed/break combination.

May is perfectly fine if his command never gets to average with his hard stuff since he is around the plate enough and the movement is such that hard contact will be a struggle for hitters. However, if he wants to refine his whiff rate, the CB and CU must come in play more, to get hitters off velocity of his primary pitches.

May struggles with feel and confidence on both his CB and CU. So much so that each pitch disappears from his repertoire whenever he is in a jam. The CB, which has plus potential, is a mid-80s, 11-5 downer. He struggles staying on top of the pitch despite an elite spin rate. When he doesn’t get on top of the CB, May tends to lose depth, causing the pitch to be on a flatter, slurvy plane. It’s why May is hurt more times than he is helped with the pitch. His CU is flatter in profile compared to his SI and CT. It’s command is spotty as well. He relies on his CB to LHH than his CU because of the flatness of the CU.

May has proven to be fantasy relevant out of the gate. This is a top-flight SP fantasy profile. It just may take longer to get there since May must work on several big aspects of his repertoire. I’ve completely removed any RP risk from the profile, especially after seeing how his stuff has played the second and third time through the lineup, even with little velocity deviation between almost 90% of his pitches. More than likely, May will be 3-to-4 seasons into his career before we know if the SP1 fantasy upside will play out. Until then, rostering managers understand they’ll get a lot of solidness, but likely not eye-popping strikeout numbers, out of May.  

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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.