Recently I told you all that there was nothing to fret over regarding Albert Almora's walk rate (and he's actually walked a few times since then!). I still stand by that post - I think he's going to have a very strong approach at the plate - but that doesn't mean he's going to walk at an above-average rate. In fact, given Almora's current professional walk rate, I'm starting to think I'll be surprised if he ever draws free passes at even a league-average rate.
To explain why, I'm gonna whip out the spreadsheet I used to explain how rare Javier Baez's K%-BB% splits have been.
In Almora's case, we'll look at the former top prospects who have walked and struck out as rarely as Almora has. Through 386 plate appearances between A and High-A baseball, Almora has taken 20 unintentional walks and struck out just 42 times (5.2% and 10.9%, respectively). Obviously, that walk rate isn't where you want it; but that strikeout rate speaks to part of why he's thought of as such a great prospect. He's a smart hitter with strong contact abilities, and the miniscule K% is just further proof of that.
In the history of Baseball America's Top 100 prospect lists, there have been 69 prospects with a combined unintentional-BB% under 7% between A and High-A ball. Of these 69, 26 also had a combined K% under 13%. Yes, this combination of low-walk and low-strikeout rates is almost as rare as the low-walk, extreme-strikeout rate combo that Javier Baez produces.
The list of "comparables" for Almora is, unsurprisingly, filled with players who at times exhibited an almost preternatural ability to put the bat on the ball.
None of these comparisons are great, mostly because many of them had power that Almora will never replicate. That said, that these guys were able to keep their walk and strikeout rates as low in the majors as they have is very interesting. Of the players on the list who didn't outright bust upon arriving in the bigs, non saw an increase in their walk rates of more than a percentage point or two, and most only saw marginal increases in their K%.
Honestly, this is not a super sexy list of players with whom to compare Almora, and I can't do much to change that. But the point of this post isn't to say, "oh, Almora's going to look like a Starlin Castro-type hitter," but rather that worrying about his walk rate is a waste of energy. Prospects like him haven't ever done much to increase their walk rates, and expecting Almora to do so is probably unfair. And honestly, Almora has the defensive ability and makeup to be a very valuable player even if he ends up being a Starlin Castro-level producer at the plate.
And this isn't necessarily a bad thing. A cursory look at MLB leaderboards shows there is plenty of room in baseball for a high-average, middling-OBP, and middling-ISO player.
Almora's contact ability will prevent him from walking much, but he will be putting a bunch of balls in play - players like him can get the offense moving and/or drive in a lot of runs, depending on where they are in the lineup. Strikeouts are no longer viewed with the dread they used to be, but having guys who don't strike out much is still a nice way to balance a lineup.
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