Total Speed: Profar is Already Missing a Tool

Jurickson Profar finally got some decent time in the majors during the 2013 season because of an Ian Kinsler injury. Plenty of hype surrounded the 20-year-old since he was a generally considered the game’s top prospect going into last season. He is still a young with plenty of room for growth, but I am worried about speed limiting his fantasy potential.

Before I delve into the numbers, all of Profar’s value will hinge on his playing time. Last season, the best prospect in baseball didn’t have a position with Ian Kinsler at second and Elvis Andrus at shortstop. The lack of an everyday position never opened up until Kinsler got hurt. Once Profar was given a chance to start, he didn’t exactly excel at the plate. He hit .234/.308/.336 with 6 HR and 2 SB. Most of the switch hitter’s struggles came against left-handed pitchers with a .188/.291/.250 line.

For 2014, his hitting should improve. Steamer projects him at .246/.320/.384 which would still make him a below average hitter. While not a huge improvement, people have got to remember he will only be 21 and hopefully contributing at a premium position. At this point in his career, the words of scouts need to believed when it comes to his hitting ability.

The biggest concern I have with him is his speed. Consider these 2013 numbers:

Any way a person looks at these values, the speed is just not good. I decided to look a little more at available data. I timed the one time he hit into a double play and it took him 4.35 seconds to sprint to 1B from the right side. That time rates at a scouting score of 45, or just above league average speed. Also, I went to the Fan Scouting Report to get an idea on his speed. He rated above average for both his first step reaction (67) and sprint speed (65). I don’t give 100% trust the Fan Scouting Report since it seems to possibly over value highly touted prospects (see Batter Nine You Sucky)

I have been working on my own speed metric. **  Currently, the metric takes a weighted value of ground balls and bunts turned into hits, line drives turned into extra base hits and SB success rate. Its final value will be on the 20 to 80 scouting scale. Profar came in with a score of 27. He ranked 261 out of 276 hitters (min 300 PA).  Here are the values (named Total Speed for now) behind the low score compared to the league average.

Name Total Speed LD XBH% GB BABIP SB%
Jurickson Profar 27 12% 0.170 33%
League Average 40 17% 0.239 67%

He is below average in all metrics. He doesn’t beat out many ground balls, doesn’t take the extra base on line drives and is ineffective in stealing bases. Nothing he currently does points to continued success on the base paths. For comparison, in 2005 The Fans thought highly of Betancourt’s speed, but Total Speed rated him worse than Profar at 26.

Can Jurickson Profar improve? Sure, but generally speed only declines as a player ages. I think he will hit fine, but his lack of speed at a young age will limit his upside (less infield hits, less doubles to triples). If he is able to get to 10 SB with a near league average success rate, I will be impressed. The future is bright for young Mr. Profar, but don’t see him turning into a five tool player.

———————————

** While FanGraphs has a couple of speed indicators, UBR and Speed Score, I wanted a metric which was  both transparent and reasonable. With Speed Score, I don’t like the having Runs scored being  part of the equation. With UBR, I have no idea which component is causing the low scores.

So I created my own metric using three inputs and here are its current three components

  • Weighted base hits on ground balls and bunts (thanks to ESPN’s Mark Simon for point out this stat) – The player is able to get more infield hits and turn hits down the lines into doubles and triples.
  • Weighted doubles and triples on line drives – Most line drives will go for hits. Does the player hold up at 1B with a gapper (see Billy Butler) or make it safely to  second base?
  • Stolen base success rate– Beside the success%, I had to given each batter a below league average initial success rate to deal with batters who didn’t attempt a SB.

I weighted the values by trial and error to get the final value. For example, the line drive double and triple value needed to be lessened because the ability to hit the ball hard had too much weight. I am still working on finalizing the metric, but here are the values from the last fives season to examine. Let me know if anything is out of place.

Finally,  I named my new metric Total Speed, but would like to come up with a better name. Any suggestions.




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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.


21 Responses to “Total Speed: Profar is Already Missing a Tool”

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  1. @CaliforniaJag says:

    Alternatives to Total Speed:

    Legs Factor
    Extra Base Efficiency
    Baserunning Above the Mean (BAM)

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  2. fip_drip says:

    Is it “reasonable” to have a stat called “True Speed” rank David Ortiz 70th, let alone that being 15 spots higher than Michael Bourn?

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    • Jeff Zimmerman says:

      Some issues with players who hit hard (Oritz) or softer (Fuld) line drives and ground balls compared to the rest of the league. I weakened the effect on LD, but I may need to do it more.

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  3. dirck says:

    How about Mobility On Bases = MOB ?

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  4. Gee's Up, Hoes Down says:

    ZITS – Zimmerman’s Improved Tabulation of Speed

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  5. Prospector says:

    Hitting Adjusted Speed Total Evaluation = HASTE
    Fangraphs’ Adjusted Speed Total = FAST

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  6. Anon says:

    The statistic doesn’t measure raw footspeed, so calling it Total Speed could be misleading.

    EBR (Effective Base Running) or EBS (Effective Baseball Speed) are two possible names that come to mind.

    Also, have you considered a park adjustment and/or opponent adjustment? Line drives at Boston probably have different results than line drives at Denver or Pittsburgh or anywhere else. Playing against infields with poor range or outfields with good arms could skew some numbers, as could opposing catchers.

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  7. Hollinger says:

    Based on the results, it seems like you need to weight SB success rate based on opportunities. This will make a difference with guys like Ortiz who have 100% with just 1-2 SBs with a high numbers of opportunities on base vs guys who went 2 for 2 in a much smaller sample. You’re skewing high for guys who got SBs through luck vs speed.

    Otherwise, interesting data.

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  8. Tom says:

    Agree with needing to weight, also especially for the GB BABIP, which appears to push Murphy up to 7th overall, which doesnt seem right.

    With regard to name, Strategic Speed?

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  9. Bill says:

    First, total speed is an interesting concept. But better to get some actual home to first speed times and use that. Based on your one metric here (4.35) and Profar’s modest success in the minors (his inexperience cancels out poorer catcher throws) he should be able to steal 10-20, maybe 25.

    It also fails to analyze the upside of Profar. When a guy has a w RC+ of 127 in AA as a 19yr old and 117 in AAA as a 20yr old…that’s exciting. Trout didn’t have a very good debut either.

    In texas, with a 10-12% BB rate very possible, which would put him at the top of the order (2 spot?) and 15+HR potential and all those runs…if he starts, you could see a 5 cat roto line of 100/15/55/15/.280. That’s pretty exciting…

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  10. John Bobbitt says:

    Profar is already missing a tool, and he’s only 21??

    Poor kid!!

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    • Balthazar says:

      Aaand this may be a factor in why the Rangers didn’t make any attempt to sit down Andrus or Kinsler and give the Hearalded Caribbeaner a block of playing time. With catcher’s speed and no better than average first step, it is reather hard to imagine that Profar will have the RANGE to succeed at a middle infield position. One concern with Profar all along has been that he might outgrow those positions. As far as his legs . . . that seems to have already happened. And Profar’s bat sure doesn’t profile at 3B or the OF just yet.

      Realistically, methinks the Texans should have Profar in AAA in 2014 converting to a position he can actually field. Or better yet, have shipped him for a shiny comeback over the winter. Although the ship may have sailed on getting premium trade goods in return. Folks keep tagging on ” . . . but he’s only 21″ to remarks concerning Profar’s concerning offensive numbers in 2013. And yes, there’s time for things to change. But he did anything except dominate in his first look at The Show. Lesser hit tool + not enough to cut it at an infield spot and his trade weight will be marked down in hurry to, I don’t know, Ackleyville; or points south. Somehow the notion that Profar grows up Uggla won’t let itself be shaken out of my head . . . .

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  11. tz says:

    BILLYHAMILTON

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    • STEALTH says:

      Billy stole second, third, home, and Profar’s speed tool.

      I don’t know that last one counts as a steal though. It appears Billy actually traded his hit tool for Profar’s speed.

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    • kozilla says:

      What happened to Profar’s speed?
      …..
      Billy Hamilton stole it.

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  12. jdbolick says:

    It doesn’t give you pause that Mark Simon’s list shows vast year to year variation?

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  13. Jonathan Adelman says:

    Nice study!

    One nitpicking point: on the 20-80 scouting scale, a 50 is major league average, not a 40.

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