We are at that time of year when almost every publication has released the Cubs prospect rankings, giving us a vague sense of where each prospect sits in the system. However, there seems to be a consensus missing on one player who could already be a top 10 prospect in the Cubs organization. Someone who ranked 3rd, 7th, 17th, and outside the top 21 here at North Side Bound. Personally, I have this player ranked 7th in my Cubs top Prospect List Of course, that player is Kevin Made.
Made signed with the cubs back in 2019 for 1.5 million as one of the top rated international free agent shortstops. Pipeline grades Made (when he was still 18) as a defense first type player with a 60 grade arm. But they also mention his “advanced approach and better feel for the barrel than most 18-year-olds.” Cubs fans will be quick to note, however, Made’s unusual 2021 season in Myrtle Beach doesn’t suggest an advanced approach from the 18 year old who only walked 6 times in 243 plate appearances. But that quirky stat only begins to tell the story of Made’s weird season in Myrtle Beach.
I mapped out every Kevin Made plate appearance (PA) in 2021, keeping a tally of each count, the outcome of the PA, and how many pitches he took in each PA. For full transparency, I have shared the spreadsheet I made at the bottom of the article. This was data I had never personally looked at before for any type of player, and I needed a comparison to league averages. Unfortunately, that data isn’t available for the MiLB, so the next best thing I could do was compare Made’s data to the MLB data in 2021 on Baseball Reference.
One of the most obvious things that stuck out was Made’s average pitches per plate appearance (Pit/PA). Made only averaged 2.86 PPA opposed to MLB league average 3.91. So in a four at-bat game, Made is seeing 4 less pitches than MLB average. There is a huge significance in that number. Seeing 6 less pitchers per game suggests that the chances of getting a pitch to drive in each at bat is significantly diminished. The odds of him getting into a 2-0, 2-1, or 3-1 count are lowered, and therefore, on average, so is his on base percentage, slugging, and average. Just look at MLB averages for these “hitter’s counts” below:
As you can see, MLB averages are much higher when players have more balls than strikes or if it’s the first of the AB, and the first pitch of the AB was where Made excelled in 2021. During an 0-0 count, Made was 17-32, which is good for a .531 average and a slugging percentage of .688 and much better than MLB league average in 2021. But the rest of the data with Made gets weird. Made hit significantly better 0-1 than he did 1-0 while hitting significantly worse in hitter’s counts. In 2-0 counts he slashed .222/.222/.222, in 2-1 counts he did not get on base all season, and in 3-1 counts he slashed .000/.600/.000. To be frank, that’s not at all what you want to see with one of your top ten bats in the organization. The only time Made really had any success in 2021, and the only time he hit above MLB league average, was when he put the ball in play 0-0, 0-1, 1-1, and surprisingly 1-2.
I have never spoken or listened to Made talk about his season in 2021, his approach at the plate, or anything at all about how he views hitting mentally. Looking at the numbers though, Made appears to be telling us a story. He is very comfortable early in counts. He does a great job at ambushing first pitch, but in later levels pitchers are going to adjust. If he doesn’t get the pitch he wants the first, second, or third pitch in an AB, I would like to see Made be able to still take that approach/swing he has 0-0 and use it if he is ahead in the count. But he still has to get into those hitters counts. Maybe the wildest stat of all of Made’s 2021 is that he was only in a 2-0, 2-1, or 3-1 count in 22 of his 243 PAs. If he can get in more of those counts, I think his barrel numbers and slugging will increase like it does on major league average. Baseball is a game of adjustments, and if Made can make the necessary adjustments to his approach, he could add some more walks and slugging in 2022.
Feature photo of Kevin Made by Rich Biesterfeld (@biest22)