Scoutable Hitter Traits to Projections: A Beginning

Last offseason I committed to finding if there was any information to be gleaned from prospect grades. Sometimes the grades were useful. Other times not at all. While I made some conclusions, many are still unanswered. Over the next few weeks, I going to try to find those answers.

I’m heading down the path with an unknown timetable or conclusion. My goal is to take scoutable hitter traits and come up with a usable projection system. For inputs, I will use the standard five 20-80 scouting traits of Bat, Power, Speed, Defense, and Arm. Using just these factors last year, I found an OK estimate of a player’s projection.

I did run into some issues, especially with the Hit Tool. The five tools needed more context.

I believe more context can be added from scoutable traits which are now tracked in the minors. Ground ball, swing, and contact rate are such inputs. While these traits are always tracked, they can be estimated after watching a hitter a few times.

Since suspending my “Minors to the Majors” series, I’ve been working on how to integrate various components. Here’s the current integration plan.

Note: Excuse my son’s graffiti. It’s supposed to say Core Skills

While the system seems complex, it contains just a limited number of inputs and hopefully a useful output.

I’ve already jumped the gun a bit and worked out the coding to project home run per fly ball rate from the Power grade. The results exceeded expectations with the Power grade weighing in near 100% for the first season but all gone by the fourth season.

One issue I will run into is possible changes in prospect grades over time. I’m having to start with MLB’s grades from 2013 and 2014 to have enough players who’ve made it to the majors. I know the sample will be smaller than I’d like but in each additional season, I will be able to add more and more players to the pool.

I’m not sure when the first result update will happen as I want to get the research done before the postseason is over. So, I will be off the pages of RotoGraphs for a bit but may come up every now and then for an update or possibly ask for some advice. Until then, enjoy the postseason and I will regularly check my Twitter account (@jeffwzimmerman) if anyone has any questions.

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Jeff writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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You’re awesome. Keep doing what you’re doing. Thanks.