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10 Prospects Who Could See Big Returns By Hitting More Balls In The Air — College Baseball, MLB Draft, Prospects

10 Prospects Who Could See Big Returns By Hitting More Balls In The Air — College Baseball, MLB Draft, Prospects

In 2023, Justin Crawford did a lot of things right. In a season split between the Class A levels, he hit .332/.392/.467. Crawford stole 47 bases in 55 tries. He struck out just 17.7% of the time. He earned a spot in the Futures Game, was named the Florida State League’s most valuable player and was honored on BA’s postseason Low-A all-star team. 

Despite all that, Crawford had one big area where he needed to improve: Launch angle. The 2022 first-rounder hit the ball on the ground around 70% of the time between both stops, including a rate of 68.5% at Low-A and then 74.5% after a promotion to High-A. 

Beating the ball into the ground kept Crawford from hitting much in the way of power, and he had just three home runs over 87 games despite hitting the ball plenty hard. His average and 90th percentile exit velocities from 2023 were 87.6 and 103.1 mph, both above-average for a player his age. 

Crawford’s 2024 season has started on a similar note. He’s hitting .308/.365/.404 with High-A Jersey Shore and already has two home runs, but he’s hitting the ball on the ground 63% of the time. Players with Crawford’s level of speed can benefit from hard grounders and lower line drives, but his current rate is too far in that direction. 

Let’s take a look at the data for this season and see if we can find players like Crawford who are producing well but could take an even bigger jump if they got the ball in the air more often. 

Jaison Chourio, OF, Guardians

Age: 18. Average launch angle: 8.3°. Zone Miss Rate: 11.4%. 90th Percentile EV: 102.7 mph. 

Chourio, the younger brother of Brewers outfielder Jackson Chourio, recently joined Baseball America’s Top 100 on the strength of strong performances and scouting reviews over the last two seasons in the Arizona Complex League and at Low-A Lynchburg. This season, he’s part of a cavalcade of intriguing Cleveland prospects which also includes infielder Angel Genao, Rafael Ramirez Jr. and Ralphy Velazquez. The switch-hitting Chourio hits the ball hard, almost never misses pitches in the zone, has more walks (25) than strikeouts (18) and has the footspeed to make himself a threat on the bases and in center field. He has just three home runs in 75 career games, however, but could see that figure increase if he can put more of that hard contact in the air. 

Jacob Melton, OF, Astros

Age: 23. Average Launch Angle: 10°. Zone Miss Rate: 13.3%. 90th Percentile EV: 108.5 mph. 

Melton was…

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