Justin Yurchak, 1B, LAD

One of the best hitters in the minor leagues gets ignored by the scouts. What gives?

Video courtesy of R McElhaney
  • Born: September 17, 1996
  • B/T: Left/Right
  • 6’1″, 204-lbs
  • Drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 2017 MLB June Amateur Draft from State University of New York at Binghamton (Binghamton, NY).

The Numbers

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:

This is an interesting table. The colors go all over the place at seemingly random moments. The one thing that is undeniable is that Yurchak can get on base, and he’s been getting better at it every season.

That walk rate partially tells us why. The strikeout rate fills in the rest. This kid can see the strike zone and he can work the strike zone. Hardly anyone in the minor leagues was a better hitter in that sense.

So what was up with that 2018 wRC+ of just 100 and the total lack of power? In this FanGraphs article from August 2021, David Laurila interviewed Yurchak and asked him that very question. Here is what Yurchak said:

“That year, I got off on a bad track and had a hard time figuring out what was wrong,” Yurchak told me on the final Friday of July. “There was a little bit too much movement in my lower half. Part of it was that I wasn’t gathering my legs under my body. When I was landing in my load, there was a little bit of a slide with my hips, and my bat was dragging. Had I been able to make [the needed] adjustment earlier, I think the season would have gone differently for me.”

Justin Yurchak

So the kid knows to make adjustments, and when he subsequently got traded to the Dodgers’ organization, that’s exactly what he did. Let’s see how he did as a Dodgers prospect:

Yes, that wRC+ jumped right up to Excellent territory, and the OBP continued to be elite thanks to lack of strikeouts and abundance of walks.

So what’s up with that power? Earlier we saw he had a Poor hard hit percentage of 16.7% in 2021, and here we see he simply wasn’t hitting home runs from fly balls that often.

Let’s break down his AA by month:

The power and OBP tailed off dramatically in September. It’s as if he simply wore down at the end of the year. But note that at no point in his Double-A career has he shown elite power. That’s not his game. He’s more of a line-drive, ground-ball, get-on-base type of hitter. As we see in 2021, he hit the ball on the ground more than half the time in Double-A. That’s not a slugger profile.

In High-A, he hit lefties better. In Double-A, he hit righties better. The only time he struggled was against LHP in Double-A, but that’s only 35 ABs, so let’s not get too worried about that.

This doesn’t include 2021 but it does include his .250 ISO in 2019, but here we see it was pull power. He pulls the ball far more than he hits it to the opposite field. Again, not a slugger profile.

The Scouts

Warnings

The scouts ignore him. Why? Because he’s a 1B who doesn’t hit for power, and that’s not a profile that sells.

He’s a 25-year-old at Double-A.

Conclusion

On the other hand, he makes contact like crazy, rarely strikes out, takes the walks (even at Double-A where the pitchers start to get more discriminating), and he gets on base in his sleep.

He will play his age-25 season in 2022, and if he doesn’t start the year at Triple-A it will be a bad sign.

On the other hand, if he starts — and hits well — in Triple-A, we will probably see him in the majors by summer. If he hits more than 10-15 HRs, he could be an effective 1B/DH type. Even if the power never arrives, he will hit the ball and get on base no matter where he plays. He’s just that good of a hitter, even if the scouts want more power.

Leave a Reply