Rays The Analysis: Niko Hulsizer – Ben Whitelaw

This is the first in a multi-part series, a deep dive into the numbers and current trajectory of Tampa Bay Rays minor leaguer Niko Hulsizer. Statistics and data can be found on Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, and Baseball Savant.

Niko Hulsizer found his stride after a slow start to the season and has been turning heads in the Rays organization. We’ll be looking at the numbers to figure out why Hulsizer has gone under-the-radar for so long and what his current path to the majors looks like.

Why Is Nobody Talking About This Guy?

When he was originally acquired from the Dodgers for Adam Kolarek in 2019, I thought, “Oh cool, another three-true-outcomes type guy? He just seems like an older Moises Gomez.” After seemingly dodging a bullet with two .500 OPS players in Justin Williams and Jesus Sanchez, how much faith Rays fans have in the organization to develop a quality hitting corner outfielder?

Desmond Jennings and Brandon Guyer are two of the best recent examples, which shows you the lack of corner outfield development the Rays have had. Remember, players like Randy Arozarena and Austin Meadows were MLB-ready at the time of their acquisition.

Moises Gomez, Hulsizer’s teammate in Montgomery, is a corner outfielder prospect many have been high on. However, he’s seen significant regression in his hitting compared to seasons prior. Knowing the Rays, a big-time corner outfielder will be developed soon and given his age and track record, I think Hulsizer fits that mold in a big way.

An 18th round draft pick out of Morehead State in 2018, Hulsizer was a right-handed power bat, but scouts and baseball websites alike didn’t rate him highly. On Fangraphs’ future value scale, Hulsizer was rated as just a 35. Let’s take a look at his Fangraphs scouting report to see why.

Note his Rule 5 Draft eligibility this winter. The Rays will have a big decision on their hands this winter to include him on the 40-man roster or let him to go the draft.

His decent fielding, mediocre arm, and okay speed suggest he could be an average corner outfielder defensively. It’s clear that at 6’2 225 pounds, Hulsizer’s best tool is his raw strength.

However, with that strength comes a few questions: How well will his power translate into real games, and can he avoid swinging and missing enough for pitchers to respect that power? 

Hulsizer and his impressive numbers have been able to answer those questions literally since his minor league career began, so I’m not entirely sure why he isn’t talked about more. Side note, his birthday comes one day after mine, so that’s pretty cool.

Part Two in this series coming soon!

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