One of the things that those who follow the Cardinals’ farm system right now have to struggle with is that the two top hitting prospects, Matt Adams and Oscar Taveras, have a very similar hitting profile but one that isn’t found among many elite players. This concern, the dearth of walks, has been a common refrain here and it’s a legitimate concern but it’s also one that we’ll simply have to adapt to.
I’ve made comparisons for Matt Adams before based on his statistical profile and while Taveras differs in his defensive capabilities, offensively, he’s not that far off from Adams. Both players hit for elite levels of power, make consistent contact with moderate strikeout rates and don’t walk much. But what exactly does that last piece look like in the majors?
Let’s say that Adams and Taveras have a peak batting average around .330, which would be among the leaders in the MLB. If you vary their walk rates between 5-10%, which is around where they’ve been, you start to get a picture of what that looks like for their on base percentage in a full season. You can also see what types of players did that in 2011.
|PAs||Walk %||AVG||Hits||OBP||Walks||2011 Player Comp|
This is purely anecdotal in nature but these low walk, high contact, high average players do exist. Some of them are even very valuable. Ryan Braun is a lofty goal to compare any prospect too but someone like Pablo Sandoval shows how elite power can compensate for the lack of walks.
The biggest concern with low walk guys has to be the strikeout rate. Adams and Taveras like to swing the bat. They do it a lot. Since they can make contact with most of what comes at them, this allows them to foul off bad pitches. Since they swing the bat hard, they can muscle through some singles that might otherwise be outs.
If, however, a pitcher is able to find a hole in their plate coverage and exploit their high swing rate tendencies, it can all unravel. That’s the fear. That’s the worst case scenario. Adams and Taveras are not highly selective at the plate but so long as they make contact, they can succeed.