Of the two current Rookie of the Year front-runners, Jake Cronenworth (NL) and Luis Robert (AL), one was relatively predictable. In our 2020 Razzball Fantasy Baseball Staff Picks article, 12 of 22 writers tabbed Robert as their preseason choice for AL ROY (Kyle Lewis received one vote and remains in the race). On the other hand, none of those same 22 contributors picked Cronenworth in the NL, although current runner-up Dustin May garnered five votes. For a former seventh round pick that was on the 30-man roster bubble heading into Opening Day, there wasn’t much of a reason for him to be on anyone’s radar. But here we are with just about two-and-a-half weeks left in the unique 2020 season, and those two aforementioned names are leading the way down the stretch.

As one of Razzball’s two prospect writers, this got me thinking: 1) how have these two young hitters stacked up against other rookie bats in certain underlying metrics so far this year? 2) Does The Itch think about me throughout the day as much as I think about him? In regard to the former, the bulk of the 2020 season may be over, but there’s still useful batted ball data that can be implemented to make start/sit and add/drop decisions throughout the final two weeks. On top of that, rookie batted ball data is arguably even more important to look at for those who play in dynasty formats. Although the season is nearly in the rear-view, there are dynasty roster decisions looming for 2021, as well as the ever-present questions of “should I buy on Player A vs. Player B as part of my core moving forward?” In this post, I’ll present the top-12 rookie batters in average exit velocity, hard hit percentage and percentage of barrels-per-plate appearance through Sept. 8. If you have any further questions about any of the names that follow, I’m more than happy to discuss this topic further in the comments section or on Twitter, where you can find me @WorldOfHobbs.

Average Exit Velocity 
League Average: 88.7 MPH

Rookie Rank Name Avg. Exit Velo (MPH) Plus/Minus League Avg. Overall MLB Rank Age
1 Evan White 92.6 3.9 16 24
2 Sean Murphy 91.9 3.2 27 25
3 Alec Bohm 91.0 2.3 46 24
4 Jake Cronenworth 90.7 2.0 55 26
5 Jo Adell 90.3 1.6 65 21
6 Nick Solak 90.2 1.5 68 25
7 Yoshi Tsutsugo 90.1 1.4 75 28
8 Luis Robert 88.8 0.1 121 23
9 Nico Hoerner 88.0 -0.7 158 23
10 Sam Hilliard 88.0 -0.7 162 23
11 Kyle Lewis 87.6 -1.1 180 25
12 Andres Gimenez 87.4 -1.3 183 22

White (.190/.261/.364), Murphy (.225/.340/.413), Bohm (.291/.344/.419) and Cronenworth (.323/.375/.556) top the rookie leaderboard in average exit velo as the only four above league average by more than 2.0%. Oddly enough, the slash lines of those four players actually improve as you move down the list. Robert (.265/.331/.544) finds himself at No. 8 among all qualifying rookies, as his 88.8 MPH average exit velo is just 0.1% above league average. That might be surprising to some, but average exit velo doesn’t tell the whole story, especially not for Robert — which you’ll see closer to the end.

Hard Hit Percentage (% of batted balls hit 95+ MPH)
League Average: 38.5%

Rookie Rank Name Hard Hit % Plus/Minus League Avg. Overall MLB Rank Age
1 Evan White 57.7 19.2 4 24
2 Sean Murphy 52.7 14.2 10 25
3 Alec Bohm 47.8 9.3 31 24
4 Sam Hilliard 47.1 8.6 39 26
5 Jake Cronenworth 46.1 7.6 46 26
6 Yoshi Tsutsugo 45.3 6.8 55 28
7 Luis Robert 44.3 5.8 67 23
8 Nick Solak 42.7 4.2 81 25
9 Nico Hoerner 39.7 1.2 109 23
10 Tim Lopes 37.7 -0.8 134 26
11 Jo Adell 33.9 -4.6 175 21
12 Dylan Carlson 33.3 -5.2 182 21

In terms of hard hit %, we see the same three names at the top yet again in White, Murphy and Bohm, although Sam Hilliard (.238/.304/.488) leaps Cronenworth for the No. 4 spot in what might be a surprise to some — particularly the Rockies, who hate all rookies. Again, Robert finds himself outside of the top five, yet 5.8% above league average this time around. Making consistent contact at 95+ MPH has clearly been an issue for Jo Adell (.188/.250/.313), whose early struggles seem to be more of a product of adjusting to MLB-caliber pitching than bad luck. It could also be a product of Joe Maddon forcing him to dress up as a farmer on team flights while singing “The Farmer in the Dell” to lighten the mood — something that would surprise none of us if actually true.

Percentage of Barrels-per-Plate Appearance
League Average: 5.2%

Rookie Rank Name Barrels/PA % Plus/Minus League Avg. Overall MLB Rank Age
1 Luis Robert 10.4 5.2 15 23
2 Jake Cronenworth 9.6 4.4 21 26
3 Alec Bohm 8.3 3.1 41 24
4 Evan White 7.5 2.3 52 24
5 Sam Hilliard 6.5 1.3 71 26
6 Sean Murphy 6.4 1.2 79 25
7 Kyle Lewis 6.3 1.1 86 25
8 Yoshi Tsutsugo 4.8 -0.4 131 28
9 Nick Solak 4.3 -0.9 150 25
10 Dylan Carlson 3.8 -1.4 167 21
11 Jo Adell 2.9 -2.3 195 21
12 Tim Lopes 1.9 -3.3 228 26

From the get-go, all we needed to do was sort by percentage of barrels-per-plate appearance to see Robert rise to the top. Using this metric, both of the two ROY front-runners take the top two spots, with Alec Bohm rounding out the top three with an 8.3% barrels/PA % that is 3.1% above league average. At present, Bohm is the only rookie hitter who can be found within the top three in average exit velocity, hard hit % and barrels/PA % — effectively making him a prime example as to why I conducted this exercise.

In dynasty leagues, I’m using this data to refine my opinion of Bohm, ensuring that I hold any and all shares unless I receive a golden offer. If I’m an Adell owner, I wouldn’t use this data to sell low or overreact to his meager 96 at bat sample size, but I also wouldn’t go out of my way to make excuses for him. The purpose of this exercise was to provide a holistic picture in which Bohm and Cronenworth seem to be excellent dynasty assets at present, as well as through the final two-plus weeks of the 2020 season. That’s not to say that Luis Robert can’t take me out to dinner any time he likes, as he’s the type of talent that you can build a dynasty squad around for a long time — especially with that sexy barrel percentage. Well, he can take me out so long as we can find a table for two outside. By the water. And somewhere warm. Preferably San Diego. But with very little pedestrian traffic nearby. Screw it, Robert and I will just order take-out from the nearest Thai joint.