Alex Bregman: Alexander the Great
Houston’s slick-fielding third baseman has been hitting bombs long before he was able to partake in postgame celebration beers. Bregman, who is entering his age-24 season, has already built up quite the name for himself. He was practically the playoff poster boy for the Houston Astros and their incredible World Series run. For the 19 million viewers across the country and the 43,000 there in attendance, very few will forget Bregman’s Game 5 walk-off hit against the Dodgers’ Kenley Jansen in the bottom of the 10th inning.
Bregman shot through Houston’s minor league system after being drafted second overall in the 2015 Draft. His bat was already very advanced coming out of Louisiana State, and it showed in his first year of minor league ball. In his second year, Bregman took the gloves off and fought his way all the way onto the major league club by slashing .306/.406/.580 in 80 games between Double- and Triple-A. Ah, yes, the coveted .300/.400/.500 triple slash line. And in this case, Bregman showed an extra bit of pop by posting nearly a .600 slugging percentage. Clearly, Bregman was ready for a big-league promotion, and the Astros were not going to hold him back any longer.
Bregman made his major league debut on July 25, 2016, exactly 13 months after being drafted. Since then, Bregman has logged more major league innings than minor league ones. With over 200 major league games under his belt, including 155 games in 2017, Bregman has performed better than his career stats suggest. Bregman is a career .279 hitter with a .818 OPS, which is strong, but hardly a standout at a position as stacked as third base. Bregman threatened 20/20 last year, and while the power-speed combo has been good, it hasn’t yet been good enough to net him a top-10 finish at the third base position.
This year, with the World Series fresh in everyone’s minds, Bregman’s stock has soared all the way to a top-40 pick. According to Fantrax’s early ADP, he is the 36th pick off the board on average and the sixth overall third baseman. A third or fourth round pick would be a steep price to pay in most leagues, especially considering Bregman finished outside the top-75 in ESPN’s standard game last year. Many owners will be wondering if he’s worth the price tag in 2018.
Digging into the data, Bregman has an intriguing profile and one that is surprisingly safe for a young kid entering his second full season. Bregman is very patient in his approach but doesn’t walk a ton. This is reflected in his 26% OSwing%, which ranks 37th-best among qualified hitters. O-Swing measures how often a hitter extends outside of the strike zone on pitches they see. Although Bregman walked less than 10% of the time in 2017, it doesn’t appear that he was overly aggressive or that he doesn’t have an advanced understanding of the zone. Bregman’s elite contact rate (86%), patient swing percentage (45%), and excellent strikeout rate (16%) make him an extremely tough out. This type of patience produces opportunities for Bregman to punish certain pitches and be aggressive in favorable counts. That calculated aggression contributed to a solid .475 slugging percentage last year.
By itself, Bregman’s power numbers are not incredible, but when you look at his skills as a whole, he really starts to shine. When Bregman puts the ball in play, he generates a decent exit velocity (87.5 MPH AEV) and really focuses on putting the ball in the air, as his 38.4% groundball rate ranked 24th-lowest in the American League last year. He also crushes left-handed pitching. His batting average and OPS against southpaws in 2017 were both top-20 in baseball.
Altogether, Bregman’s profile may not seem all that enticing because he has yet to flash elite-level skills for an entire season. However, a case for progress can be painted pretty easily. Bregman has a high-level prospect pedigree. He is just 23 years old and dominated in the second half last year, batting .315 while maintaining a 25-home run/20-steal pace and sporting a .903 OPS. Looking ahead, I expect a healthy batting average somewhere in the .270 to .280 range. I also expect him to take another step forward with his power production, with 22-28 home runs being well within reach. When you consider Bregman’s high floor and how secure his supporting bat skills are, up may be the only direction he can go in 2018.
For more on Bregman, check out The Baseball Show’s 2018 video profile below:
Previous 2018 Player Profiles