The oceans cover 71 percent of the Earth’s surface. And contain 99 percent of the living space. Shoutout to Google for that info. Humans have only explored 5% of the ocean floor, though. We can send spacecraft hundreds of millions of miles into space, discover planets like Mars, and beam back HD-quality pictures and videos, yet we don’t know what the F is living in our oceans or what is even down there? You know those times when you lose your keys and frantically run around like a headless chicken looking for them? Often times they are right under your nose. Not literally of course, but like in the bowl on the table near the front door, except there was a piece of paper covering it. Something like that. Now that I think about it, I know where the aliens are: residing in our oceans. Brilliant! The greatest trick ever played on mankind wasn’t that the Devil didn’t exist. It is that the aliens are “out there”, when they’ve been here all along. I kid, I kid. I hope. Anyways, the ocean realm is the land of unknown, a place that Jacques Cousteau tried to uncover. Michael Brosseau of the Tampa Bay Rays may be heading to that exact place. Here’s why:
Brosseau was called up and made his major league debut on June 23rd when Ji-Man Choi went down with an injury. Around the same time, David Robertson was shelved. Then Brandon Lowe succumbed to a leg injury and Matt Duffy suffered a hamstring injury. Brosseau played every infield position in Triple-A, so his versatility was/is a big asset. That wasn’t all, though, as he produced a .309/.333/.618 slash in 57 plate appearances with 4 home runs and 11 RBI.
Unfortunately, the Rays are starting to get healthy, as all of the above players mentioned are slated to return shortly. There’s a chance he gets sent down. It’s also in the realm of possibilites that the Rays value his versatility and keep him up with the big club. Plus, he is on a heater, so that helps. See? The land of unknown. Let’s assume he does stay with the club. Is his current heater sustainable?
The walk rate is a miniscule 3.5%, while the strikeout rate is a manageable 22.8%. The ISO is a whopping .309! That .309 batting average? Fueled by a .342 BABIP. Looking at his minor league career, there was one year he had a .290 number, but the other three years averaged out to .372, so a high BABIP could be the norm. He’s never had a strikeout rate above 19% in the minors, so that’s a good sign. He did have two seasons with a walk rate over 10%. Another good sign. The power seems to have been developing, as the progression went from .087 in 2017 to .186 in 2018 and .273 in Triple-A last season.
Looking at the batted ball data, the GB/FB had routinely been around 1, but that number is at 0.62 so for this season. It’s the first time the fly ball rate has been above 42% (at 50% currently). When Brosseau entered the Rays system, he was pulling the ball at a 56.6% clip. That has steadily decreased over the years, culminating in last year’s 40.6% rate in Triple-A and 40.5% rate in the bigs. The hard hit rate is a whopping 47.6%! Statcast has the launch angle at 20.1. If he qualified, that would place him in the top 20.
When I go to the plate discipline numbers, the swinging strike rate is 9.1% and the contact rates are in the 80% range. Nice! The chase rate of 39.4%, though. Hmmmm. That explains the low walk rate, but he’s making contact on 85.2% of pitches outside the zone. Probably not sustainable and likely to be exploited going further. We shall see.
As for splits, he strikes out more against right-handed pitching, but the power numbers are more robust and he’s had more success in general against them (.357 vs .259 average, .357 vs .259 ISO ,and 1.094 vs .804 OPS). The sample size is small for both, but equal, as he’s had 28 plate appearances against lefties and 29 against righties.
Now for analysis. I usually don’t like free-swinging hackers, but I’m coming around to them, especially ones with good contact and low swinging strike rates like Brosseau. Can’t get counting stats unless you swing. This also ties into the organizational philosophy of the Rays, which is to swing and elevate when doing so. Looking at Brosseau’s progression through the system, it’s evident that he’s been a good grasshopper and applied the lessons. I ran into this article by Travis Sawchik when researching Brosseau, https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/how-the-rays-are-surprising-baseball-again/, and it’s a really good one, especially when he goes into the Great Wall of Groundball Prevention.
Brosseau is a good hitter and one the organization likes a lot. He lifts the ball for power, doesn’t have many holes in his swing, and can play all over the diamond on defense. If he continues playing with the big club, there will be a rookie slump, as pitchers will probe until they find a weakness. That’s inevitable. With that said, what do the Rays do with him when everyone returns from injury? That is the unknown. My guess is that Brosseau will be sent back down when everyone is healthy. Because of that, I label as TRASH, but I do like him if he does stick.