Manuel Margot wasn’t in the lineup last night against the Washington Nationals because he’s nursing a calf injury. It sounds like he’ll likely be heading for the disabled list, which makes this as good a time as any to take stock in where Margot is right now. It’s still super early in the year, and in Margot’s career, so these are just initial thoughts based on observation and numbers. Nothing set in stone, of course.
For simplicity, let’s just roll with the traditional five tools.
I thought there was a chance that Margot would step right into the majors and rake right away. He’s holding his own, of course, but it hasn’t been all smooth sailing. The slash line is down to .259/.305/.389, with a 6.5 percent walk percentage and a 19.5 percent strikeout percentage. By comparison, Margot struck out just 11.5 percent of the time in the minor leagues. There was an expected bump, sure, but with a 20 percent strikeout rate and medium-hard contact, Margot’s probably not going to be threatening .300 anytime soon.
That’s not a bad strikeout rate, per so; it’s right between Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, for example. But those guys are Bryce Harper and Mike Trout. Despite all of the strikeouts in today’s game, there’s still a class of hitters that don’t strike out much. Yangervis Solarte, who’s had struggles of his own, only whiffs one in every 10 plate appearances, and there are five players who strike out less often than him. Margot’s overall contact rate is 78.3 percent, which ranks 157 out of 401 players with at least 100 pitches seen. Again, it’s not bad, but if Margot’s to reach his offensive potential, he’ll have to make more contact.
Adjustments are key for any young player. There’s definitely a foundation for a good hitter here, but hopefully Margot will be able to make more (and harder) contact and better identify which pitches to swing at as the year goes on.
We were excited about Margot’s power early, thinking that maybe there was more here than the conventional wisdom. But after a hot first couple of weeks, Margot has just four home runs and 13 extra-base hits on the year. Not bad—there’s a theme here—but not great, considering Margot had three home runs and three doubles in his first nine games this season. Since then he’s hit just one dinger and his ISO is down to 0.80.
Like with all hitters, Margot’s hit and power tool work in tandem. With Margot, the theory (my theory, anyway) was that he’d make so much good, solid contact with big-league pitching that the power production might surpass what you’d expect given his strength/approach. So far, he just hasn’t made that much hard contact, and he’s spraying the ball around more so than looking to pull it into the seats.
Margot’s fast and, I think, a solid base runner, but so far his struggles as a base stealer have been kind of puzzling. In the minors, Margot was a frequent base stealer. He swiped 42 bases in 57 tries back in 2014 in the Red Sox organization, for example. Just last year, against better defenses at Triple-A, he went 30-for-41 while adding 14 more steals (and just one CS) in the Dominican Winter League.
So far this year Margot is just 5-for-10 on stolen base tries, helping to neutralize the base running value he’d otherwise be providing; he’s still been worth +1 run by FanGraphs and -0.5 runs by Baseball Prospectus, overall, on the bases. It’s possible some of the leg issues he’s battled have robbed him of that second gear. It’s also possible that he’s struggling to get good reads or good jumps on big-league pitchers. (Maybe there’s a deep dive here somewhere.)
Just anecdotally, a lot of good, young base thieves have entered the league as such. Billy Hamilton went 13-for-14 in his debut year for the Reds, although he did get caught 23 times in the following year. Trea Turner has 46 steals in his first 136 major-league games. Byron Buxton has been something of a slower starter, going 18-for-23 in about a full season’s worth of play. Here’s the thing, though: all three of those guys were better in the minors than Margot:
|Player||Minor-league SB Att./162 Games||Minor-League SB Success Rate|
I forgot how ridiculous Hamilton was in the minors. Anyway, Margot actually ran more frequently than Turner and Buxton, but he was clearly a cut below all three of these guys in terms of success rate. Obviously, so far, it’s translated to the majors about like you’d expect. Margot’s still really fast, he’s just going to have to learn the ins-and-outs of base stealing on the fly.
From what I’ve seen, Margot looks pretty legit out in center. I think he’s probably a cut below the elite class of center fielders—the Hamiltons and Buxtons—but he’s solid, at least. For what it’s worth, the advanced metrics have him right around league average so far. There’s a lot of noise there early, but it’s something.
It’s important to remember that it’s early. Margot’s somewhat raw as a base stealer, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he’s got more development to go as a center fielder, too. There are all kinds of subtle things to pick up, from positioning to reading the ball off the bat to anticipating where a ball in play might go based on the catcher’s set-up, etc. Margot’s got a chance to be a top level center fielder, but he’s not quite there yet.
I think his arm kind of stinks, to be honest. I’ve written about it a few times, but it just doesn’t seem like there’s much carry to it, and the accuracy hasn’t really been there consistently. It’s not like a Johnny Damon level issue or anything, but it feels like teams might start running on him more if it doesn’t improve. It’s early, but we’ll see. Either way, this is the least important of the five tools for Margot.
This might seem like a somewhat pessimistic review, but there’s still a lot to like with Margot.
There’s a lot to work with here, but there are definitely areas of potential improvement. It all starts with that hit tool for a player like Margot. If he’s a .250-.270 hitter, he’s probably not a consistent all-star type player. If he gets it up to .280-and-up, then you start getting more excited. It’ll ultimately come down to Margot making adjustments to make better contact and swing at better pitches. It’s easier said than done, but the talent’s there. The rest of Margot’s game is good, with plenty of room for refinement and his long term power outlook remaining a question mark.
This is a report card you hang on the side of the fridge, possibly slightly covered by the grocery list. Hopefully the next one will go right above the ice dispenser.