Analyzing Ozzie Albies

Ozzie Albies is one of this season’s breakout stars, however the one thing that stands out to me about the Atlanta Braves second baseman, is that he’s tied for the home run lead in the Majors with 13. This is pretty impressive considering this is his first full season in the and since he was never projected to be a power hitter in the Minors. He is also a stolen base threat and is decent defensively. Is he becoming a contender to Jose Altuve for the title of best second baseman in the game or is this unsustainable?

Let’s start by looking at the basics: Albies is hitting .277/.312/.588 with a .376 wOBA. One look at his batting line and we can clearly see that he’s not an elite contact hitter, who walks at a below average level. This is proven further by his 4.2 BB%. Interestingly his below average walk rate isn’t due to a high strikeout rate, as he strikes out at a decent 18.4% of the time. In other words he’s generally putting balls in play. His .275 BABIP implies that he’s not getting lucky either, while his unsustainable .311 ISO combined with his 34.5% Hardhit% indicates that his power is not really as good as it seems. A look at his HR/FB% makes it even more obvious: 21.0% is more than double his highest previous rates of 8.2% (from last season) and 7.6% (his highest rate in the Minors).

Albies swings at pitches outside the strike zone at a 35.8% rate, and surprisingly connects 76.1% of the time. Albies hits pitches outside the strike zone more often than other hitters. Think about that for a moment. He swings a lot at pitches inside the zone too (80.0%), but connects at a surprisingly below average 84.8% rate. What’s going on here? He also swings at an above average rate as seen through his 54.9% Swing%. If it wasn’t obvious before, he prefers to swing rather than take a pitch. I can’t imagine how that won’t affect him negatively in the future, once pitchers start challenging him more at the plate. According to: this analysis by Jeff Zimmermann  ,

Albies has improved his launch angle from 15 to 17.3 degrees. Combined with the fact that he also hits more fly balls (43.1 FB%) than ground balls (36.1 GB%), and there‘s at least some merit to him improving his power this season. However, everything else appears to be the same according to him.

So what conclusion does all of this information bring us to? Albies has improved his power but not nearly as much as his current production indicates. Despite his improved launch angle, he still doesn’t hit the ball particularly hard and seems to have too many of his fly balls end up becoming home runs. His plate discipline is below average and he swings at too many pitches that he shouldn’t. This is something that should and most certainly will be taken advantage of by pitchers in the near future. What happens when they start challenging him more at the plate? Will he keep connecting so well with pitches outside the strike zone?  In short, I just don’t think that he’s going to keep up his current pace. I fully expect more of his fly balls to be caught and for his batting average to thus drop to the .260- .270 range. My guess is that he finishes with 20-23 home runs and a batting line in the vicinity of .265/.300/.440. Albies‘s biggest concern going forward should be his plate discipline. If he becomes more patient and starts taking more balls, he can truly become an elite second baseman. Until then he‘s just a good player riding performing better than his talent level indicates.

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