When I first started scouting hitters, I remember talking to a scout about what to make of limited in-person looks. Sometimes you only have a handful of swings to evaluate. The scout said that he'd only had popup height to work off of at times. Fortunately, unlike the amateur and minor league ranks, video of MLB hitters is abundant. And as better and better MLB data becomes available, hitting can be understood through objective, quantifiable lenses. This could all make online MLB betting a lot more fun.
Hit Tracker data is a step toward revolutionizing our understanding of hitting. Not only does it give us simple, straightforward data on how hard batters hit the ball, it also can be valuable in small samples. Imagine if you had two games of average fastball data for a pitcher. That may only be 75-100 data points but it has a lot of value. For hitters, you could get 75 MLB exit velocity data points in 3-4 weeks. And that data could have more value than a season worth of wOBA.
The table below shows 2015's top 11 MLB hitters by average exit velocity on the right (data source: Baseball Savant). On the left, I've compiled a list of 2016's early season leaders in average exit velocity who are under 25 (data source: MLB.com).
Domingo Santana has crushed the ball so far this season. But his 4.2 degree launch angle has resulted in far more ground balls and line drives than fly balls, limiting his extra base hits. He hit some rocket home runs last season and put up some big power seasons in the minors, so Santana is a sound bet to start generating more loft. His small sample of crushed baseballs out of the gate is certainly a promising sign.
Carlos Correa and Manny Machado are good bets to become annual members of baseball's elite hitting class, for a long time. Correa hit 92 balls at or above 100 MPH last season. Machado had 139. Correa topped out at 118.17 MPH last season to Machado's 116.84. Both of their max exit velocities ranked in the top 10 of the big leagues last season. Correa's hardest hit ball was the 4th hardest hit ball in baseball last season.
Jonathan Schoop, at age 24, may be at the start of breaking into baseball's elite class of hitters as well. Though he doesn't walk much, Schoop's power is trending up. His 10.5 degree launch angle this season has resulted in the highest fly ball rate of his young career. As a result of his hard contact and loft, he's come out of the gates on a pace to blow past his 2014 and 2015 home run totals. Schoop looks like a solid bet to top 30 home runs in 2016 given a full season's worth of at-bats.
The 5-10 hitters in the left column above are all likely familiar names. Though they may not crack this year's list of top 11 overall average exit velocity hitters, they all clearly have potential to fit within it someday.