Hyun Soo Kim and the Fastball
Hyun Soo Kim has found himself as a fixture atop of the Orioles lineup recently. Something that back in the middle of March seemed like an impossibility. The current Orioles two hole hitter was shopped around the major leagues, offered back to a Korean team, and then begged by the Orioles to accept a AAA assignment.
Kim refused and was booed at Camden Yards for it. Fast forward to June and he is hitting .378/.446/.486 with a 159 wRC+. I swear I'll never look at another Spring Training statistic again (you can all laugh at me later about this).
Kim has basically been everything he was advertised to be. A contact hitter with a good eye, a solid all fields approach, and lacking in range on defense. Back in Spring Training the thought was that Kim could not catch up to the high heat of the major leagues. That was wrong.
Kim has excelled at mashing the hard pitches with an average exit velocity of nearly 96 mph on fastballs and he has done some damage on those pitches as well. Against four seam fastballs Kim is batting .464. Kim is 7th in the majors in wFB/C which is pitch value for fastballs per 100 fastballs.
To explain that a little more, wFB/C is a pitch value metric. If Kim gets a good result on a fastball that number goes up. A bad result and it goes down. It is important to note that the pitch value statistic is not very predictive of future performance and that it is prone to wild manipulation in small sample sizes. Having said all that, holy crap, he's been the 7th best hitter in the major league's on fastballs.
Everything you thought you knew you never really did.
The Orioles Offense
By the way, the Orioles as a team have led the league in wFB/C to date in 2016. They've been good against the fastball in the past. In fact two of the six hitters ahead of Kim on the individual leader board are Mark Trumbo and Manny Machado. If you're going to pick one pitch to be good against, might as well be the fastball.
The Orioles offense as a whole has been quite fantastic this year. They are 5th in baseball and 3rd in the American league in team wRC+ at 109. They lead the league in home runs at 87 despite having played fewer games than all but two teams. They are tied for second place in isolated slugging at .192 only behind the Red Sox.
The O's are also second in the league in home run to fly ball rate at 15.4 percent and it's still only June. The air in Baltimore is just starting to get hot. They hit the ball and they hit it hard.
Minor League Pitchers
The Orioles do not have much in the way of pitching prospects, but that does not mean there aren't any box score heroes to dream on down in the minors. Similarly to the hitters I looked at last week, in the minor league box scores I am looking for the three true outcomes with pitchers as well. Power, walks, and strike outs. The differences in the minor leagues make most other stats hard to analyze. Now we can keep it simple.
Brian Gonzalez 20.8 K%, 8.6 BB%, 2 HR surrendered.
The third round pick of the 2014 draft also known as the Orioles top overall pick that year due to the free agent signings of Nelson Cruz (YES) and Ubaldo Jimenez (NO). He has largely struggled in his minor league career putting up a 5.71 ERA last year in Delmarva striking out a little under seven batters per nine and walking five per nine.
However, those numbers have all ticked up this year striking out nearly eight per nine and walking just three per nine. The ERA shows it as well as it has come down all the way to 2.37. There are some reports out there, if you dig around enough, of some improved velocity and cleaned up mechanics. Hey, maybe the Orioles got something here (Nope, it's the Orioles and starting pitcher so they don't)
Matthew Grimes 17.7 K%, 4.7 BB%, 3 HR surrendered
Grimes was the 18th round pick in the same draft as Gonzalez. He is 6'6" and 24 years old in High-A Frederick. While his age is a little advanced for the Carolina league he has put up a career year and is staring down a promotion to AA Bowie. While his strike outs numbers are not great, they have improved every year in the system.
Also, his walk rate is superb and has also improved every year in the system. The promotion to Bowie will tell the story. AA is sink or swim time for many prospects. The competition is high and you can be plucked to the major leagues from there so the stakes are high as well. Another guy to keep an out for as he moves up the ladder.