Ozzie Albies, Power, and Ceilings

Ozzie Albies, Power, and Ceilings

Understanding what type of player a prospect will become is one of, if not the, most important parts of baseball. Scouts, analysts, draft gurus, bloggers, executives all spend large chunks of their time projecting young players into major leaguers. We look at raw, unpolished talent and somehow forecasting what that player will look like 6-8 years down the road. We look at bodies and we look at frames. Further, we look at current tools, project future tools, look at comps. All in an effort to get some glimpse of what the future holds. Getting this right is what makes great teams great. Over the years, baseball has gotten pretty good at it.

But there’s a problem. And we’ve seen this problem manifest itself enough times before our eyes that I think we need to address it. The problem is power.

There may be no individual attribute to impact a player’s profile greater than power. Power changes how we see a player’s ceiling or potential. Its absence causes a player’s perceived upside to be lowered while its presence can do exactly the opposite. Slap hitters are nice but everyone wants their prospect to be that middle-of-the-order threat. And as we’ve grown in our understanding of how power impacts the rest of a player’s offensive profile – specifically walks – it’s become even more important.

Of course, power itself isn’t the actual problem. It’s this continuing and incorrect notion that we understand it. We understand it a very basic level. That is to say, we can see it when it’s already there. It didn’t take much of an eye to see Kris Bryant had power. Or Bryce Harper. First time scouts laid eyes on those guys it was comically obvious, so projecting it for the future was nothing but common sense. But that’s where our understanding stops. When it comes to projecting power that isn’t there yet, frankly, we don’t know what the hell we’re talking about. And that’s the problem.

Look at this scouting report for Ozzie Albies from 2015 from MLB Pipeline:

Look at that power grade. 20. That’s as low as you’ll see. Look at the text itself. “…while power will never be a part of his game.” This was from one of the most reputable scouting services around. And there were plenty others that agreed. I’m not saying this was completely wrong at the time it was written but “never” is a big word. The certainty with which we use it when it comes to power is as foolish as it is common. Two years later, Ozzie is putting up good power numbers for anyone, not just guys his size. That makes this report, and the conclusions drawn from it, look ridiculous.

Of course, this isn’t just an Ozzie Albies thing. Jose Alutve was considered a lower upside player his whole minor league career. He never appeared on a Baseball America top 100 list. His “ceiling” was always limited because power was never going to be a big part of his game. Then he starting sending baseballs into orbit and now he’s an MVP.

Matt Carpenter was never much of a prospect. He was considered a role player or backup type. Then he developed power and he became an All-Star. Jose Bautista, Joe Panik, Paul Goldschmidt, Mookie Betts, Justin Turner, Josh Donaldson, Chris Taylor, Kyle Seager, Daniel Murphy, Brett Gardner all were at some point given a “low ceiling” classification. And they all hit for way more power than expected and turned themselves into good or great MLB players.

Guys get bigger. They grow stronger, mature physically, improve their hitting, change their approach, change their swing any of which can cause major improvements in a player’s power production. And we know it happens after the fact but we have no idea when or if it’s coming. A solid all-around player without much power is literally one adjustment or summer in the gym away from being an all-star. Or an MVP.

You might be asking what’s the point of this is.

Well, it’s not to tell you every light-hitting 2B is going to turn into an MVP candidate. But it is to remind you that basically every players “ceiling” is an all-star and every player’s floor is an absolute bust. I get why we use these terms but the truth is with so many players busting through those “ceilings” and waving as they fly by means we should probably stop pretending we know where a guy’s max is. Dansby Swanson hasn’t shown much power since getting to the major leagues but Swanson could hit 25 HRs one year. Scooter Gennett hit 27 last year. Johan Camrago could be elite. He could suck. When the one thing missing from a players profile is consistent power then we really don’t know what they are. Or what they will be. And we need to stop pretending we do.

Ozzie Albies looks like he’ll hit 30 HRs this year. Could win an MVP. Not bad for a guy with 20 power.

5 Comments

Aw, Tommy, I don’t think he’ll hit 30. Your points are all well-taken. Last year, during April, it looked like Inciarte might hit 20-25 HRs and I think we were smart enough not to jump on that train. 11 HRs was perfectly acceptable based upon his prior output and role in the offense. I’d be ecstatic if Albies hits 20 Hrs and happy with 15. I think that would show plenty of power to be a star in his case. Altuve hasn’t hit 25 HRs yet and he’s an MVP. He’s near MVP at 15. If Ozzie gets 200 hits with a bunch of doubles and triples and SBs and 15 HRs and burnishes his outstanding defense so far, he’ll get MVP votes. But your point about the 20-rating power is well-taken. If Albies turns into another Rafael Furcal as opposed to Jose Altuve, I’ll be perfectly ecstatic. I remember everyone saying Raffy should stop trying to hit HRs, that he wasn’t built for it.

Roger…while I do not expect Albies to hit 30 homers in 2018, I do feel that he has an EXCELLENT shot at hitting 30 homers a year CONSISTENTLY in the next few years. Dude is HELLA STRONG for his size..and as he gets more experience, I expect him to get better with pitch selection…drawing more walks, which will eventually lead to better pitches to hit (especially if he continues to hit in front of Freddie…or, down the line, Acuna).

If Albies played regularly in Colorado, he’d be A SHOE-IN to lead MLB in triples (with his combo of speed and power).

Tommy….I’ll never forget how a number of The TC Clowns were pushing for Albies to be included in a trade for a ‘#1 starter’ like Sale, Quintana, Archer, etc. during the past 2 seasons (when it was OBVIOUS that it would be A COMPLETE WASTE for a rebuilding team like The Braves to invest a prospect like Albies, not to mention OTHER PROSPECTS, for a #1 starter).

Heck..many of them were pushing for The Braves to include the likes of Albies, Soroka AND Allard in order to acquire Christian Yelich! Dude…I WOULD NOT trade Alibes STRAIGHT UP for Yelich! Yelich is a decent/productive outfielder…but when Albies is 25 years old..he (along with Acuna) will be among the TOP 10 PLAYERS in all of MLB!

While The Braves may not have nearly as many ‘high upside’ position player prospects….as we do high upside starting pitching prospects…I feel that the ones we do (Acuna, Albies, Pache….perhaps even Drew Walters) could be multi-All-Star type players for years to come!

I genuinely feel that Coppy spent a lot of time ‘acting’ like he was interested in trading for an Ace….just to drive up the prices that other teams would have to pay in order to get an Ace (which, in turn, would drive up the price he could get for Julio Teheran..IF Teheran ever could get his act together where he ‘resembled’ an Ace for any kind of length of period of time).

I simply do not believe that Coppy felt like trading 4 or 5 of our best prospects for ONE STARTING PITCHER would have made The Braves serious playoff contenders! I cant help but CRINGE at the thought of seeing Soroka, Allard, Albies, Wentz and Pache all traded away in some FOOLISH trade for Sale, Archer, Quintana OR Yelich! Those guys are OUR FUTURE!

I believe altuve when he said, ‘albies is way more developed than I was at his age—I think he can be as good as me if not better.’

Stephen…..so far, this road trip is going as I predicted. Last week, I stated that I would be THRILLED if we finished this road trip with a 4-5 record (theorizing that we’d go 2-1 in Colorado..then 1-2 in both Washington and Chicago).

So far, it’s gone according to ‘plan’. Given that we ran into 2 BUZZ SAWS in Scherzer and Strasberg on Monday/Tuesday….I am HELLA THRILLED that we GRINDED OUT a win today against Washington! Wins like this (after scoring 1 run in the 1st two games in Washington….after losing McCarthy in the 5th inning….after Vizcaino giving up the lead in the 9th/Carle again in the 11th)!

Sweeps are HELLA TOUGH to overcome! Now, we have an off day to rest the bullpen…and we can set our sights on trying to get AT LEAST one game against Chicago this weekend (while, of course, trying to win them all). Chicago is a tough place to play in/they are a good team….hopefully The Braves will show that we’re a TOUGH TEAM to beat as well this weekend!

Tucker had a tough series in Washington. I’m not going to hold the first 2 games against him…he was taken out after 2 at-bats today (the Braves had the lead going into the later innings of the game). I know that I made the case earlier about possibly keeping Acuna down in Triple until mid-June…however the reality is that Acuna brings SO MUCH MORE to this lineup than Tucker does (it weakens the bench and offense when Tucker has to be replaced when The Braves get the lead in the 6th inning. That is what concerns me the most about starting Tucker consistently).

One benefit to having Tucker on the bench…would be having a home run threat to pinch hit on a regular basis! Right now, with Flowers out….we really dont have a home run threat on the bench (both Flowers and Suzuki can hit a homer….one would be ready to pinch hit while the other one started that game). When Flowers comes back, we’d have a home run threat from both sides of the plate available as pinch hitters…IF Acuna gets called up and Tucker becomes the 4th outfielder.

I’d keep Lane Adams as the 5th outfielder (dropping Burgouis from the roster) when Acuna gets called up.

My line-up once Acuna gets called up:

1. Albies
2. Acuna
3. Freeman
4. Suzuki
5. Markakis
6. Swanson
7. Inciarte
8. Flaherty/Culberson

Lefty-righty balance….Tucker, Adams, Culberson/Flaherty, Perez (when Flowers comes back, this bench could be HELLA STRONG) available as pinch hitters.

It is ESSENTIAL that we get more innings from our starters! Even if they go 6..that’s 3 innings each night that 3 likely bullpen pieces has to pitch (assuming that the game doesnt go into extra innings). I’d love to see a few 7 inning starts sprinkled in every now and then, lol!

Your thoughts?

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