Vinnie Pasquantino is an unusual hitter for this day and age. His combination of patience, contact rate, and ability to hit the ball very hard is unusual, and could make him one of the most fearsome bats in the league very soon. The main characteristic people have keyed in on is Vinnie walking more than he strikes out, which other players do, but it doesn’t occur as often as it used to around baseball. Eight players with 250 or more plate appearances managed the feat in 2022.
More walks than strike outs 2022
These are not all similar hitters. Juan Soto is the freak of the group because his strike-out rate is not actually incredibly low, but he walks at such a prodigious rate that he had the biggest gap between walks and strikeouts anyway. Soto and Bregman are the only two that have really been sluggers, though last year both failed to get to 30 home runs. Brantley and Kirk have some pop, but are more middling in power. Then you have the light-hitting, pure-hit tool guys in Diaz, Arraez, and Kwan who are all elite contact-rate guys. Arraez is the freak here posting a 94.1% contact rate and only a 2.5% swinging strike rate.
Of this group, only one hit the ball with an average exit velocity above Pasquantino. That player is not the one you would expect though, but Yandy Diaz really does hit the ball exceedingly hard at an average of 92.2 MPH, 12th in baseball last year. Soto is also near Pasquantino’s 91.2 average last season, but the rest start falling away pretty quickly.
The other thing that stands out with Vinnie is the hard-hit rate. He is truly in the elite here, in a small sample size, at 46.9%. That would have been 9th on the Baseball Savant leader board if he had enough PAs to qualify. He does not look like the rest of the group at the top of this statistic though. Soto, of the earlier group, is the closest and ranked 37th in baseball. The top of the is leader board is home run and strike-out leaders galore. Everyone in the top 10 is about double or more Pasquantino’s strike-out rate except Yordan Alvarez who still strikes out 7.5% more often.
There just isn’t anyone that looks quite like Pasquantino’s mix when I cut things this way and that. He might truly be a unicorn, but after staring at way too many numbers he did start to remind me of one player in particular. Not just numerically, but more how it feels to watch them at the plate. There is something about him that keeps making me think of Jose Ramirez. There are still differences between them, but Pasquantino still has some growth coming (hopefully), and I could see him being that type of bat.
When I really started thinking about this was during the Home Run Derby last All-Star game. Jose Ramirez struggled the most of anyone in that contest because he is not built for a home run derby despite being a good power hitter in real games. He hits lasers all the time, but he does not hit the big towering blasts that an Aaron Judge or Shohei Ohtani hits. The longest home run Ramirez hit last year was 422 feet, and 187 different big leaguers hit one farther, including paragons of power like Owen Miller and Jose Trevino. Ramirez hits home runs almost on accident. He just mashes the ball over and over on a line, and 30 or so times a year one of them gets out before they fall, get caught, or hit a wall.
That’s how all of Pasquantino’s home runs felt last year - line drives that made it out so quickly that the walls couldn’t contain them. His max HR distance was slightly farther at 432 feet, and 60% of his were no doubters according to baseball savant versus 40% for Ramirez. Still, it seems like the power potential has some similarities. At 24, like Vinnie last year, Ramirez was in his fifth season at the MLB level and his second full season, so these two took very different paths to the show.
Ramirez has a very low strike-out rate and similar walk rates to Vinnie. They both swing at pitches in and outside the zone at very similar rates, and make similar contact rates in the zone. He has maintained a launch angle above Pasquantino’s from age 24 on, but before that it had been a bit lower. Vinnie is hitting the ball with more velocity, both average and max, relative to young Jose and with better barrel and hard-hit rates. I don’t know how we will see Vinnie progress through his career, but it looks to me like a slight uptick in launch angle could have him matching or even exceeding the numbers Jose Ramirez has posted, which would be very exciting. He will never have the defensive value to match, but he could still be 5+ WAR player assuming he can handle 1B at least a little bit. Think Freddie Freeman as a peak value projection.
I am not entirely sure what, if anything, I accomplished in all of this, and yet I feel even more optimistic about Pasquantino now than I did at the end of the 2022 season. That could just be the typical February longing for opening day talking. If I were betting on one Royal right now to take a big step forward, it would still be Bobby Witt who I am very bullish on, but Pasquantino is a close second. He is also a fun player who looks a little bit like some other players while remaining unique.