What a year Steven Kwan had! How much of that do we believe?
- Born: September 5, 1997
- B/T: Left/Left
- 5’9″, 175-lbs
- Drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 2018 MLB June Amateur Draft from Oregon State University
His raw numbers are listed above courtesy of baseball-reference.com. Let’s aggregate by year then focus on the important numbers for minor leaguers:
There are certain minor league prospect hounds who just salivated at that chart, and you know who you are (I’m not judging, my mouth started watering too). That strikeout rate is sick! You know, the good kind of sick.
That walk rate! That OBP! Why, the only thing that could keep this kid from becoming a superstar is lack of power. Oh…
Yeah, about that power jump in 2021. Is this a case of the lost year hiding linear growth? Sounds like a Hardy Boys book: the Mystery of the Sudden Power Source. I mean, if this power is real, it’s the missing piece, especially since his K% and BB% were steady as she goes.
So I did what any good writer would do: I asked the experts as you can see in the photo below that I took during BaseballHQ’s excellent First Pitch Arizona 2021 event:
When you get a chance to ask Eric and Chris a question in person, that’s what you do. So I asked about Steven Kwan and his sudden power jump. Eric took the question, and the gist of his answer is that he wasn’t sold on the power yet. His Double-A park enhances power, Kwan got a bit lucky (BABIP of .354 in Double-A), and he was conservative about Kwan’s chances. Chris didn’t say as much, but I think he mostly agreed, but was a bit more optimistic.
Now I find Eric to be quite fair, but a bit conservative. That’s actually good. Eric will change his mind about a player’s skills, but he has to prove it for more than one good season. And fair enough, after two seasons of lousy power, and one season of great power, you do wonder if it was real. I mean, his hard-hit rate was 24.1%, which ain’t much.
UPDATE (April 19, 2022): Eric came out with his top Cleveland prospects for 2022, and in part, here is what he said about Kwan:
While we don’t think Kwan can slug anything close to .527, there have been mechanical changes to his swing that indicate he’ll now have enough power to be a viable everyday big leaguer. His stance has narrowed, his leg kick has gotten bigger, and his hands load lower than they used to. His swing is positioned to ambush letter-high fastballs and yoink them into the right field bleachers, which we think he’ll do 12-15 times per year.https://blogs.fangraphs.com/cleveland-guardians-top-48-prospects-2022/
Told you he was fair. OK, back to the original post:
So let’s break out AA from AAA. We see that if it was the environment, it sure carried over to his new park in Triple-A, for Kwan barely slowed down. I’d break it down by month, but that Triple-A time began on September 1, so that is basically one month’s worth already. Great month too.
Against lefties in Double-A, Kwan was just as good as against righties (in fact, a bit better).
In Triple-A he had trouble against lefties, but it was only 26 plate appearances, and he still got on base at a .320 clip despite the .150 BA. In short he was good all year long, and the power never stopped.
- Rotowire: #174 on their Top 400
- BaseballHQ: Not on their Top 100
- Fangraphs: Not on their Top 133
- Fantasy Six Pack: Not on their dynasty baseball rankings
- Imaginary Brick Wall: Not on the Top 473
- Fantrax: #234 on the Top 250
- PARSlist: 74.1 on the PARS list (ML Regular – high end of range)
Is that power real? Eric Longenhagen wants Kwan to start 2022 at Triple-A and prove it again before he believes. UPDATE (April 19, 2022): See above.
Scouts just aren’t that high on him (cuz of the power, not cuz he insulted their sisters).
Me, I believe enough power was evident that his mad OBP ways will help him in the majors. OK, he probably won’t be a slugger, but as long as he has enough power to keep the pitchers honest, he will put the ball in play and get on base.
He did great in Triple-A already. It would not surprise me a bit to see him have a hot spring and win a job out of spring training. Nor would it surprise me if he starts in Triple-A and comes up in June. Either way, I see easy major leaguer potential, with the only question being how much of that power is real.
If it’s real enough, he’s gonna be a star in Cleveland.