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MLB Statcast Review: Jordan Walker Batted Ball Profile (Fantasy Baseball)

MLB Statcast Review: Jordan Walker Batted Ball Profile (Fantasy Baseball)

We are three weeks into the fantasy baseball season. While that’s still a small sample size, we’ve at least got some data from 2023 and the beginnings of some data to take a peek at in 2024. This week we’ll take a look at former top prospect Jordan Walker.

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Statcast Review: Jordan Walker

Jordan Walker rose to the top of prospect lists everywhere during 2022-2023, landing at No. 4 on the MLB Prospect Pipeline list. He’s a strong, athletic kid who had a very good rookie season for the Cardinals last year. What you’ll get if you look at his Baseball Savant Statcast player page is a mixed bag. His exit velocity ranks highly, but his sweet spot percentage is very low. His sprint speed is in the upper percentiles, but his barrel rate is slightly above the median. What can we learn about Jordan Walker if we slice and dice things a little bit and add in some visuals?

Batted Ball Profile

This is Jordan Walker’s batted ball profile. You’ll see components of the Baseball Savant pages in this visualization. The red and black areas are the sweet spot launch angles. Everything below is ground balls and everything above are higher fly balls and pop-ups.

The first thing to note is that Jordan Walker has a very small sweet spot percentage because he hits a lot of (hard) ground balls. You can see this manifest in his isolated slugging numbers, which have been subpar even throughout his time in the minor leagues. Your at-a-glance numbers here to fact-check what we’re looking at are his low average launch angle (~10 degrees) and his 42nd percentile sweet spot percent in 2023. Let’s throw up his chart alongside 100th-percentile sweet spot king Freddie Freeman.

By visual comparison, you can see a few things here. The first is that Freeman generates a lot more batted balls with loft. Second, as evidenced by the higher wOBA and HR% on balls hit between 32 and 40 degrees, Freeman is barreling more of those balls. Finally, you’ll notice Walker generates more home runs in the 16-24-degree bin, which can be attributed to an exit velocity advantage

Pull Field Exit Velocity & Sweet Spot %

Where Walker does excel is hitting the ball hard, whether it’s on the ground or in the air, to the pull side. Let’s take a look at his rolling 30-day sweet spot % to the pull side with the hard-hit percentage visualized as the thickness of the line. I kept the Freeman comparison and added Christian Yelich to give it another flavor. When Walker does lift the ball, the quality of contact to the pull side is impressive. The one thing you’ll notice here is that the quality of contact has been lower on pull-side flyballs to begin the year if you note the thickness of Walker’s line decreasing.

Centerfield Exit Velocity & Sweet Spot %

To put Walker’s centerfield power and quality of contact in perspective, let’s view him alongside two of the biggest sluggers in the National League — Shohei Ohtani and Matt Olson. For Walker to reach the next level in terms of power and fantasy baseball stardom he’ll need to create better outcomes for all fields rather than just to the pull side. Here you can see two things. First, he’s increased his sweet spot percentage to centerfield (what Baseball Savant calls Straight) in a statistically meaningful way. Second, his ability to create hard contact and to barrel those balls is currently non-existent. Hopefully, he can mature as a hitter. This is one area I’ll be watching for statistically significant and permanent changes to his batted-ball outcomes

Takeaways

Jordan Walker does have impressive game power on fly balls to the pull side. To go along with this, he also hits the ball very hard on the ground, which creates a positive batting average on balls in play (BABIP) driven outcomes. His best-case outcome would be something like Christian Yelich if he can learn to drive the ball to all fields. Right now, his outcomes look more like another slugging prospect from the past — Maikel Franco. Walker is much more athletic, though. At the Statcast metric level, if Walker raises his average launch angle you will see the other metrics start to turn from blue to red and his value as a fantasy baseball asset will increase. I’ll continue to monitor some of his rolling 30-day metrics to determine if he ends up on a hot streak or if there’s a real breakout (or bust).

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