How Good Is Martin Prado?

Martin Prado will be starting at second base in the National League, thanks to the spot opened by Chase Utley‘s injury. There’s no question that Prado deserves the appearance – he has been a fantastic hitter this season by any metric, slashing .336/.375/.500, with a .378 wOBA and 137 wRC+. Prado plays a little bit of everything and UZR doesn’t seem to think 2B is his best position – he has a -8.7 career mark at the keystone – but he has a +2.5 mark this season, easily the season in which he’s played it the most. Prado is providing a tremendous amount of value for Atlanta, with 3.4 WAR in 395 PA.

Prado is, however, the type of hitter who may seem prone to regression, particularly on balls in play. He doesn’t walk much – in any stint with at least 100 PAs at any level, he’s never posted a walk rate above 10%. His power is solid, but not fantastic – his career ISOs range from .140-.165, with about 15-20 HRs in a full season.¬†The minimal power¬†doesn’t sound like the profile of a hitter that’s over 35% better than league average. It sounds more like the league average profile, with a little more power and less discipline.

The key is Prado’s ability, at least so far, to reach base on balls in play. In 1139 ABs so far, Prado has racked up a .344 BABIP. Given how long it takes for BABIP to stabilize, we have to assume that it will drop in the future. The longer Prado can keep it up, however, the more we have to figure that his ability to produce high a BABIP is real, and his excellent 20.9% LD rate is certainly evidence in his favor.

So, to answer the question, Prado is quite good. The fact that his playing time is way up and the fact that he’s played at an all-star level, however, lead us to another question. Is he getting better this year, at least at the plate?

Basketball has four factors for a team’s success – shooting, turnovers, rebounding, and free throws. I think that there is an excellent analog in hitting – walks, strikeouts, power, and balls in play. I’ve been using the Custom Dashboard to visualize this since its inception, using BB%, K%, ISO, and BABIP. Ideally, I’d prefer POW (XB/H) instead of ISO, but this does the job just fine. Here’s how Martin Prado has fared in the Four Factors of Hitting in his three seasons with more than 250 plate appearances.

His walks began around average and have been steadily slipping; his strikeouts are still far below average but climbing. The power has been steadily increasing to the point where, especially given the power drop across baseball this year, it can be called “above average.” Still, the key remains balls in play, which haven’t even seen much of a jump since 2008. It doesn’t appear that, really, in any of the factors, that Prado has really shown a significant step forward, and it shows in the wOBA/wRC+ numbers. The real step forward is the playing time that has opened up for him in the Braves roster, and he has jumped into his new role and is showing that he can be a great player in the Major Leagues.

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27 Responses to “How Good Is Martin Prado?”

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  1. Zach B. says:

    To follow up your question of “Is he getting better this year,” it leads me to another question: If his numbers have not improved dramatically, and how he has performed is yielding production reasonably related to his secondary statistics, does he NEED to get any better? If his secondary statistics suggest he can hit .305-.315, hit 15-20 HRs, score a bunch of runs at the top of a lineup… isn’t that enough to ask of a 2B?

    Just something to think about.

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  2. labe says:

    where can i find POW (XB/H) ?

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  3. Rally says:

    He’s really good. ZIPS rest of season says 313/358/472.

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  4. Ben says:

    I’d like to comment on his improving defense, as evidenced by the improvement in UZR at 2B. The most logical explanation for this is that 2010 is the first year he has been able to play 2B full time. Of his 128 games played in 2009, he appeared as a second baseman in only 63 of them, spending the meaningful balance of his playing time at 3B and 1B.

    Being able to focus his defensive training time on one position rather than 3 is a very plausible explanation for his improved 2B defense this year, and I fully expect him to be an slightly above average defender at the position for the next few years.

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    • Bronnt says:

      It’s a partial season, and very much a small sample size on which to draw conclusions. Even though his time at the big league level has been spent at three different positions, he has 491 games of minor league experience where he was almost exclusively a second baseman. While it’s entirely possible (in fact I think it likely) that he’s a better defensive player than he had shown prior to this season, I don’t think he’s made any significant improvements in that regard. He’s below average, just slightly, and more than makes up for it with his offensive contribution.

      In fact, any previous perception of Martin Prado as a sub-par defender is another indictment of small sample sizes and UZR-assuming that’s the basis. In his first thee years at the Major League level, he played a combined 237 innings at second base. He posted a -8.2 UZR in that tiny sample of innings. For his career, he’s at -8.7. Almost all of the negative UZR data we have comes from three tiny sample sizes at the beginning of his career.

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  5. NEPP says:

    He’s not even at his peak yet. Its pretty safe to say he’s at least a .300+ hitter with an .800+ OPS who gives you decent defense at a couple infield positions. That’s an all-star in most years.

    I watch alot of Braves games and his hand/eye coordination is incredible…almost Pedroia esque. He’s legit.

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  6. micah says:

    now if only he had more speed…

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  7. Bill says:

    I’m not sure why we *have* to assume his BABIP will drop in the future, .344 is a pretty good BABIP and likely it will regress a little bit, but there’s no reason to assume a big drop in BABIP with that good of a LD%.

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    • KG says:

      Yep, agree. Obviously, it’s not terribly likely that he’ll maintain a .363 BABIP this season, but his past two years lead one to believe if it drops, it won’t be by much. He’s also what, 26? Would love to see more walks, but he’s got time to improve.

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    • vivaelpujols says:

      A .344 BABIP is too far above average for really anyone to sustain. It’s possible that Prado is one of the 5 or so hitters with a true talent BABIP above .340, but obviously it’s unlikely.

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  8. Josh S. says:

    Any idea what his xBABIP is?

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  9. Jeffrey Gross says:

    Prado is the second coming of Kelly Johnson. Just imagine if they had both!

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    • Sam says:

      Ohhhhhhhh, no. No, he is not the second coming of Johnson. Kelly has a lower BA, but walks more, so his isoOBP is much higher than Prado’s.

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  10. drumzalicious says:

    Prado said that this offseason he did the p90x workout which helped his agility and let him keep his power. I will admit that some of the hits that Prado gets are quite lucky (bloopers) however he does a lot of hitting to the opposite field (Jeter-esque) and he has pull power too (2 HRs against Moyer)

    Even if he regresses he is still a .300 hitter with an .800 OPS which is great for a 2B.

    The only thing i wish he had was a little speed to steal 20 a year but cant have it all.

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  11. The Usual SusBeck says:

    How long does it take BABIP to stabilize? And are you suggesting a regression to .344 or league average?

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    • Jack Moore says:

      Take a look at this:

      Since it’s been almost 1200 ABs, we can be moderately confident that Prado’s BABIP should stabilize above .300. Personally, I’m not sure how far above. I would think that it would regress to somewhere in the .310-.320 area, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t be an Ichiro-type hitter who just constantly has a high BABIP. There’s just not enough data yet to be confident in that claim.

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    • Rally says:

      There is some regression to be expected. But hitters have a lot more variance in their true talent babip than pitchers. The projection systems will do a better job of guessing how much than any of us can do in our heads. ZIPS says he’s a .313 hitter with a .338 babip. Sounds good to me.

      One pet peave of mine is for incomplete analysis that looks something like this: “X is hitting well, but that his due to a high babip, so he can’t keep it up” but stops short of telling you what to expect the player to do in the future. Use the projection systems for this. ZIPS is right there updated daily. If you think you can estimate it better than ZIPS, then publish your own projection system.

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  12. Phantom Stranger says:

    His defense is good enough if he continues to hit, though my assessment is that Prado is a slightly below average defender, having seen him play everyday now. My guess is that he is moved to third when Chipper retires for a better gloveman.

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  13. Prado’s a solid everyday player. However, I don’t think he’s a consistent all-star player. As for his defense, he’s below-average, but he’s on the good end of that. He’s very steady and will make the right play on balls he can get to, it’s just that his range is terrible.

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    • SSO says:

      You hate everywhere don’t you. Get over your KJ bitterness. This is his 1st full year & he’s easily at an All-Star level, there is nothing that says he can’t continue. He has improved his D & his solid to above average. His range is far from terrible.

      Funny how the SSS of UZR against him, yet when it’s positive it’s to be ignored. You cannot have it both ways.

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  14. psmith says:

    can we get stats on player’s vision? i think prado has 20/15…

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  15. Mark says:

    Prado’s good, but he’s no Omar Infante.

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