The Potentially Underrated Tyler Goeddel
The Phillies are a difficult team to watch right now. The unexpected, early season run is over, the briefly dominant pitching has taken a few steps backwards, and the offense has slowly ground to a complete halt. The upper levels of the minors seem to be teeming with exciting prospects, but we’re stuck in limbo until the front office deems them ready to handle a major league job. The only fun in watching a game these days is following the few players on the team that have both youth and potential still on their side. That’s why it’s so frustrating to see one such young player, Rule 5 pick Tyler Goeddel, riding the bench on a regular basis.
Goeddel has an offensive profile that tends to fly under the radar. Players of this type often lack a standout tool, but thrive by doing things well across the board. The offense provided by these underrated hitters often revolves around good plate discipline, frequent contact, and power that is more doubles than home runs.
Goeddel already does two of these things well. His 24.6% swing rate on pitches outside of the strike zone is second on the Phillies only to the ever patient Carlos Ruiz, and ranks in the top 20% across the entire league. His contact rate, while not overwhelming as a season-to-date total, has shown a marked improvement since the beginning of May, when Goeddel seemed to catch up to the speed of major league baseball. And since that time, it has sat on the better side of the league average.
The missing piece for Goeddel is the quality of contact, and this may be a simple matter of getting more reps at the plate. But there’s an aspect of his pitch selection that could also use some refinement. With a swing built for hitting more line drives than home runs, Goeddel’s approach is a bit puzzling.
Geoddel is extremely aggressive on fastballs up and in. While the purposeful nature of the approach is encouraging, the choice of location is questionable. High fastballs lead to very low contact rates, and Goeddel’s own results don’t contradict that notion.
A hitter with his profile should be chasing contact and line drives, and to that end he should be looking further out over the plate and further down in the zone. We’re dealing with a pretty limited sample, but there’s a notable trend starting to emerge in his results. The below pitch map displays the location of all the hard line drives Goeddel has hit this year, using a 95 mph minimum exit velocity as our criteria for considering the contact as hard hit.
There are two observations to make here. The first is the empty white space up and in, the area where Goeddel is currently taking a large majority of his swings. The second is the grouping of hard liners that are coming on pitches middle-away, an area he swings at with less frequency. Incidentally, this group of line drives accounts for six of his eight extra base hits this year.
This is the part of zone to which Goeddel should be shifting his focus, taking the high and inside strikes if necessary to wait for a pitch out over the plate. Not only would he be squaring up more baseballs, but his overall rate of contact would stand to improve by avoiding those low contact pitches up in the zone.
The profile built around walks, few strikeouts, and driving the ball to the gaps doesn’t draw a lot of fanfare, but it’s a skill set that can provide significant offensive value. With a clear understanding of the strike zone, a good feel for contact, and a focused approach at the plate, Goeddel has the potential to become a solid offensive contributor on a team that is desperate for offense. Yet for some reason, the at-bats he needs to realize that potential are being given to players with no future or present value to the team. Perhaps the offensive qualities that Goeddel brings are also flying under the radar of team management. If that’s the case, we’re all in for a long, unwatchable second half of the season.