Good Deal for Goeddel

It was a bit of a surprise that the Tampa Bay Rays didn’t protect 3B/OF prospect Tyler Goeddel from the Rule 5 Draft by placing him on their 40-man roster—nevertheless, the Philadelphia Phillies saw the opportunity to take an impact player and seized the chance to acquire him with the first overall pick this past January.

Originally drafted out of St. Francis HS in California by the Rays back with the 41st overall selection in the 2011 draft, Goeddel had seen a fair deal of success in the Rays system, and by the end of last season was finally starting to put all his tools together. An extremely projectable position player, Goeddel stands with a 6’ 4’’ with much more room to fill out physically as he matures into his 185-pound frame. His athleticism, fluid actions, and footwork on defense bode nicely at the hot corner—especially given his strong and accurate arm from across the diamond—but he probably projects to have sharper tools in the outfield as he’s equipped with the requisite speed and instincts to play a corner at the MLB level. Given Aaron Altherr’s recent injury, the Phillies’ need for a corner outfielder, and Rule 5 Draft Odubel Herrera’s success with the big club last season leads me to believe the Phillies will give Goeddel as many opportunities he can to win a starting job with the big league club.

Although he’s had limited experience in the outfield prior to 2015, I have reason to believe Goeddel will make an impact on the defensive side of the baseball. He’s a graceful runner, as he consistently posts 6.7 60-yard dash times and has the ability to accelerate quickly. According to the imperfect yet improving route efficiency model I derived while viewing spring training games this season, Goeddel ranks second among Phillies outfielders in the category—posting a 97.9% clip which stands second behind defensive wizard Peter Bourjos (albeit with a smaller sample size). Scouting reports this spring from Phillies camp seem to verify these assertions, as he appears to be getting good reads and reaction times in his effort to best determine the trajectory of the ball.

Goeddel’s arm is electric, producing throws which consistently sit in the mid 90’s from the outfield. Using 60 yard times, arm velocities on assists, route efficiency readings and other more traditional fielding metrics (like Ch, PO, E) as my variables in Solver, I ran just over 1,000 simulations in an attempt to determine Goeddel’s true defensive value in  dependent variable, DRS (Defensive Runs Saved). There could be some multi-col-linearity, or high correlation between predictor variables in my model, nevertheless, with the sample, my model projected Goeddel’s DRS to be approximately 9.7 in a full year of 162 games in the outfield. Even though I couldn’t calculate a more precise/accurate statistic like Def or UZR which adjusts for park size and so on, I believe that this calculation is somewhat accurate in projecting his future defensive value at an outfield corner—especially since Goeddel has gotten positive defensive reviews from Phillies coaching staff this spring. There’s certainly some refining to be done with experience and practice, but it appears he has the raw tools to excel at either outfield corner for the time being.

Offensively, he has a smooth, right-handed stroke that projects to pair with above average plate discipline. He has a tall stance with a good, balanced base that consistently generates line drives (with a launch angle that typically ranges between ≈ 15˚ – 24˚) to all fields when he lets the baseball travel deep in the zone to the point of impact. He has a bit of a hitch and hand cock during his stride and also has the tendency to wrap his bat during this load, but he’s worked extensively to keep this timing mechanism while not only still getting his plane on line to drive the pitch, but also staying short to the baseball. He also does an excellent job of efficiently and effectively driving the barrel through the zone with good extension that generates plus leverage, a tool that should allow him at least average power in the future as he physically matures. He’ll never be a true power contributor offensively, but I don’t believe it would be outlandish to believe he could consistently hit 20 home runs in the near future. His ISO has continued to rise each year since 2012 to .154 which he posted last season—and I expect that trend to continue into the future. Check him out swatting three home runs against Double-A Tennessee while at Double-A Montgomery this season:

One glaring hole in Goeddel’s game is his BB/K, as he’s struck out his fair share at every level while simultaneously never posting BB% higher than a 10% clip. He struck out 19.7% at A, 20.5% at high A and 18.4% at AA in 2013, 2014 and 2015, respectively. Nevertheless, pitch selectivity and discipline is a skill that often straightens itself out later in the learning process for young hitters, and I’m confident that he’ll refine this tool as he better learns to trust his hands to cover the outer half of the plate and spoil waste pitches that just nick the edges of the strike zone—two factors that have heavily contributed to his mediocre BB/K. With his continued development, I’m confident that he’ll be able to cut those strikeouts down and draw his BB/K ratio closer to one.

However, when he’s barreling the baseball up, he’s making hard contact to all parts of the field. Glance over at the pair of BABIP and Soft%/Med%/Hard% charts I have displayed to show the correlation between how hard Goeddel is hitting a given pitch throw in a given location of the strike zone. The fact that hitters have hot and cold zones where they are more skilled at impacting the baseball was crucial in this study so that we could effectively isolate BABIP’s relationship to exit velocities. Exit velocity, of course, is the initial velocity reading of the baseball upon impact at home plate.

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Goeddel’s career BABIP – Soft%/Med%/Hard% correlation charts on fastballs (red) and off-speed (blue).

The white-to-red charts (white denoting lower rates, red denoting higher) show the correlation between success on hits in play and approximate exit velocity on fastballs. I have defined fastball as any kind of 4-seam, 2-seam, cutter or running fastball pitch with at least an rpm of 1900. The white-to-blue charts (white denoting lower rates, blue denoting higher) seek to demonstrate the relationship between success on hits in play and approximate exit velocity when facing any kind of breaking pitch. I have defined breaking pitch as any kind of curveball, slider, slurve, changeup, splitter with at least a 8 mph differential between a given pitcher’s AVG fastball velocity. I have defined Soft% to range between exit velocities 0 mph – 35 mph, Med% to range between exit velocities of 35 mph – 80 mph and Hard% to range between exit velocities of 85+ mph, respectively.

As one can interpret from the top two fastball graphs, when Goeddel hits the ball hard (Med% or Hard%) against fastballs—he has a higher BABIP in that same location—meaning correlation between getting a hit in a specific location and how hard he impacted the baseball is likely significant. In addition to the middle-up and low-middle fastballs, he seems to cover fastballs thrown all waist-high fairly well. Applying this to a real-world scenario, let’s presume that Goeddel hits a ground ball in the 5-6 whole between the third baseman and shortstop. This data where an increase in Med% and Hard% results in higher BABIP’s supports reason; it makes sense to say that Goeddel’s chance or probability of success getting a hit in this scenario would be higher when he hits the groundball harder because there’s a greater chance the fielders can’t get to it before it rolls into the outfield for a hit.

Conversely, it appears he’s struggled more to drive corner pitches with the exception of the high-outside fastball. This trend is a typical phenomenon of young hitters learning to control the strike zone and define their discipline, so I anticipate those numbers improving—especially the low-inside fastball by reading and reacting earlier to the pitch to get his barrel head out accordingly. If he’s able to let the ball travel deeper into the strike zone, I’m confident he’ll be able to impact the ball with more force, thereby increasing Med% and Hard% which in turn will increase his BABIP, and moreover a slew of other offensive categories.

Now looking with respect to the breaking ball graphs, its much of the same story with a number of exceptions. It actually appears that he’s a fairly good breaking ball hitter, especially up in the hitting zone, but those higher exit velocities don’t necessarily mean his BABIP will increase.Take for example how, on average, he’s hitting the up-inside breaking ball Hard% but only shows a BABIP of .287 which is substantially lower that BABIP’s of other Hard% zones like middle-up, middle-middle, middle-down at .363, .387 and .345, respectively. This insignificant correlation is likely due to a small sample size (how many times to pitchers voluntarily try to leave breaking balls up…). Aside from this zone and a few others, namely down-inside, my hypothesis that higher Med% and Hard% zones will lead to higher BABIP’s still appears significant.

All in all, Tyler Goeddel looks to have a promising future with the Phillies given his raw talent and their dire need for a corner outfielder. His spring numbers don’t exactly ‘pop’ out at you, but through 56 AB’s this spring training, Goeddel is hitting .250 with a .323 OBP and .662 OPS. Over time, there’s no reason to believe Goeddel couldn’t develop into the .282/.325/.461 with 25 home runs, 91 RBI’s 18 stolen bases guy that Hunter Pence once was just a number of years ago when he split a season between Houston and Philadelphia.

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