It seems that nearly every season Rece Hinds gets out to a tough start, piling up strikeouts and struggling to do much hitting. And then after about a month or month-and-a-half he makes some adjustments and starts turning things around.

When April came to an end he had played in 28 games with Triple-A Louisville and he was hitting .192/.263/.317 with nine walks and 50 strikeouts in 114 plate appearances. He began May with a 2-hit game and didn’t really look back. Over 23 games in the month he hit .271/.380/.541 in 100 plate appearances, walked 15 times, and had 35 strikeouts.

That strikeout rate was still higher than you want it to be, but it moved in the right direction. And along with making more contact, he was making more quality contact, too. His .541 slugging percentage nearly matched his OPS entering the month.

What’s interesting is that in March/April he had a higher average exit velocity and by a wide margin versus what he had in May – 89.5 MPH compared to 85.0 MPH. His launch angle was 10° and 12° in the two months, so it’s not like on the whole he really changed ability to elevate the baseball, either. But there was a very large difference in the average distance on the balls he hit went. In March/April the average distance was 124 feet. In May that jumped up to 184 feet.

As we’ve learned over the years, though, is that averaging things like exit velocity and even launch angle, don’t really give us the best ability to tell us what we’re looking for. Studies have shown that the top 10% or top 20%, and even the top 50% of batted ball exit velocities are far more predictive of things than the overall bunch, with there being very little difference in the predictive value between the top 10% and top 50% of batted ball data for a given player. We’ve talked about that before if you want to get a little more information on that – or you can just take my word for it this time around and save some time.

We can see that play out here for Rece Hinds this season. On the whole, he hit the ball harder in March/April and by a pretty big margin. And his launch angle wasn’t that different overall. Yet he hit for significantly less power on contact and his contact in May resulted in the ball going, on average, nearly 50% farther.

When we look at the top 50% of his batted balls in each grouping (by exit velocity) a few things jump out. Within that top 50% he hit the ball harder in May – 102.4 MPH on average versus 101.5 MPH on average. That is a rather small difference, but it swings things in favor of May. There were two big differences, though. His launch angle on those balls in April was 11.6°. In May that jumped up to 19°. While an 11.6° launch angle is fine, it’s more of a low line drive launch angle. Again, nothing wrong with that, but you will be hard pressed to rack up too many extra-base hits that way because the ball finds the grass quicker, slows down sooner, and most certainly isn’t landing in the stands nearly as often (it’s never going to at that specific launch angle).

But at 19° the ball is going to get more air under it. And at the higher exit velocities, it’s going to travel farther and lead to more extra-base hits and home runs. That’s exactly what played out, too. MLBAM has a stat they call launch angle sweet-spot. It is for any batted ball with a launch angle between 8° and 32°. That’s the range where good things tend to happen on batted balls. In March/April, Hinds only found that range 32% of the time among his top 50% hardest hit baseballs. In May he was in that range 50% of the time.

More contact. Slightly harder contact on the best-hit balls. Better launch angle on the better hit balls. More frequently in the right launch angle zone on the hard hit balls. All of that led to a much, much better month of May.

Leo Balcazar’s highlight reel catch

I’ve said it before and I will say it again – we don’t see nearly as many defensive highlights from minor league games as we do big league games. There’s more than a few reasons for that, even when we have actual video for most of the minor leagues now. Last night in Beloit it was Leo Balcazar flashing his athleticism for the Dayton Dragons on a play he made from shortstop in the bottom of the 7th inning.

As it turns out, Leo Balcazar wasn’t kidding. He really did make that play. And watching the reaction of his teammates, he left them as impressed, if not more so than he left the Sky Carp announcer.

The start of the season didn’t go well for Balcazar, who hit just .222/.250/.264 in April with a 35% strikeout rate. But things turned around a bit in May for the 19-year-old infielder. While he did play a bit less during this past month, Balcazar hit .283/.345/.302 with a 19% strikeout rate. The power still needs to come around, but he made big strides in making contact, he upped his walk rate, and hit for a much higher average.

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Doug Gray is the owner and operator of this website and has been running it since 2006 in one variation or another. You can follow him on twitter @dougdirt24, or follow the site on Facebook. and Youtube.

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12 Responses

  1. MK

    The offense of the middle infielders assigned to Dayton has been very disappointing. With Balcazar, Contreras, Acosta, and Serrano only Leo hitting above .200 or even above .150. Stewart playing second just for the offense. Have to believe these 4’s offensive ineptitude is a reason Pitelli went on by Dayton to Chattanooga.

    • DaveCT

      Part of the reason drafting Bazzana makes so much sense is that he doesn’t exactly have anyone blocking him at 2B until he runs into McLain. And, personally, I think he makes more sense as the 2B starter and making McLain a 140 game utility guy to ease the demands on his durability. Of course, it’s not like Condon has anyone blocking him in a corner OF spot either. But I see Bazzana with a little higher floor than Condon, so starting him in Dayton this year and knocking on the door by late 25 isn’t too far fetched.

      • MBS

        In my heart of hearts, I want McLain as the SS, and EDLC as the 3B, but I know that’s not going to happen. I really don’t like McLain as the 2B, so I’ve thought Arroyo might be the future 2B.

        That left me with McLain in a similar role as your setup with Bazzana. McLain SS/2B/CF, then hopefully one of Collier or Stewart backing up the corners by 2026.

      • MBS

        BTW there is nobody at all blocking one of the 1B’s in the draft. Best case scenario is CES finds his bat and we have a DH, and a 1B between the draftee, and CES.

      • DaveCT

        That McLain’s desire is to remain at short speaks volumes about him, IMO. And it’s more than a bigger payday. Seems he is driven and has consistently wanted to be the best, and i appreciate that. For that matter, EDLC is very similar, and both have super high aptitude by all accounts. Body wise, McLain’s best infield spot probably is 2B, though, given his durability issues, including reports that his arm wears down after too much time at short. I really hope his shoulder injury (left) doesn’t sap his power.

        You’ve noted elsewhere that Arroyo’s injury pushes his arrival back to later 25 at the very earliest and most likely 26. Such a bummer. I’m bullish on him. I still think he is the only guy that can push Elly off short, though by 26 Elly may be so entrenched there it is (beyond) moot. Still, that should be an elite middle infield rotation of EDLC/McLain/Arroyo, with the possibility of Bazzana. I have to force myself to keep it in mind that EDLC snd McLain will reach free agency together, too. So a delay in Arroyo and a draft pick of Bazzana may be well timed. As will Collier, Stewart, and Cabrera at the corners, but that is a whole new post. Musings on a rainy Sat afternoon in the PNW.

      • MBS

        Is EDLC really the best fielder at SS, no I don’t think so, but with the injuries that came up, his improvement, and desire to keep the kid at one position to continue to improve is enough of a reason to keep him at SS.

        EDLC needs to be offered a handsome extension contract at the end of the season. I know he’ll likely cost more than I want the Reds to spend on one player, but he’s going to put butts in the seats.

        Before Arroyo’s injury I thought he was a late season arrival for the Reds. It’s possible that will be the case next year, but it will depend on how much of his early playing time next year will be 100%, or more rehabbing.

  2. DaveCT

    Hinds has had such significant disruptions in his advancement through the system that it seems getting even a platoon RH bat out of him would be a pretty good accomplishment, especially with his plus power and big arm. He was a very raw player (and a high school short stop) when he signed, so seeing him honing his bat more and more is fun. And i have to think that if/when he is ML ready that one of the left handed OF bats (Benson, Fraley, Hurtubise — Friedl not so much) gets moved.

    • Old Big Ed

      Hinds, though, is still only 23.

      He has been reasonably healthy since 2022. He got 322 PAs (plus the AFL) in 2022, and 461 in AA in 2023, when he exploded in early June by cutting down in strikeouts and taking more walks.

      He is still striking out too much this year in AAA, and his career is going to rise or fall on conquering that. He can do everything else; his BB% in May was 15%. I hope it is just a matter of getting another 300 ABs in AAA, where he will send endless sliders.

      Jay Allen is another guy whose injuries have hindered his development. Allen is having a breakout year so far, much like Hinds last year, and he does not have the same strikeout problem that Hinds has. Allen is hitting the ball with the right trajectory; his GO/AO rate has collapsed this season. He is only 21. He should earn a promotion to Chattanooga if he remains healthy and productive.

  3. Votto4life

    I had a chance to see Rece Hinds play last weekend. He sure does look like an athlete.

    • DaveCT

      He also plays the right way. Super aggressive.

    • Old Big Ed

      Hinds was drafted in 2019 and got hurt early in the Arizona league that year. He missed 2020, and he was injured much of 2021 and to a lesser extent in 2022. As a result, at age 23 and having accumulated only 1237 PAs, he remains a bit raw. He still has plenty of time and space to improve.

      He certainly looks the part; he’d make the All-Airport team. OTOH, that is what they said about Jose Barrero.

      • Old Big Ed

        Joey Votto, by contrast, had about 3,000 minor league PAs when he played his first Reds game in 2007, just a few days before his 24th birthday.