Rays The Analysis: Niko Hulsizer – Ben Whitelaw (Part 2)

This is a continuation of a multi-part 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.

In my previous article, I discussed where Niko Hulsizer’s road to becoming part of the Tampa Bay Rays organization and what has made him such an under-valued player. In part two, I’ll be putting numbers to paper to show just what has made Hulsizer such a fun prospect to follow.

By the Numbers

Hulsizer’s professional career began in the Dodgers organization 2018, where he hit nine home runs, stole 12 bases and posted a 14.9 percent walk rate, .957 OPS, .360 BABIP and 145 wRC+. His OPS and BABIP has sustained through his three-year minor league career to date, posting a career .341 BABIP and .925 OPS.

If you thought Hulsizer would have a difficult time replicating his impressive first season, you’d be wrong. He began 2019 at Class-A Great Lakes, posting a .969 OPS in 58 games. His K% did climb a bit to 29.3%, but that isn’t going to be too much of a concern when 58.9% of his hits in those 58 games went for extra bases.

Things did get a little more difficult for Hulsizer when the Dodgers promoted him to High-A Rancho Cucamonga, the alleged birthplace of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

Unfortunately, Hulsizer wasn’t as flaming hot when he arrived at his next stop. This was the first time he had been younger than the average age of his competition. However, like we’ve seen with Hulsizer this season, he can be virtually unstoppable once he gets into a rhythm.

He found his footing with a three-hit day on June 27th and played very well until cooling off leading up to an injury on July 21st. Hulsizer was then traded to the Rays on July 31st and didn’t play too well during his rehab games with the Rays rookie affiliate (.384 OPS, 34 wRC+).

However, the Rays weren’t discouraged, promoting him to then-High-A Port Charlotte after his injury, where he posted a .690 OPS and 105 wRC+ in nine games. Determined to get his production back, Hulsizer opted to play winter ball for the Perth Heat of the Australian Baseball League.

It benefitted Hulsizer tremendously as he posted an .887 OPS across 151 plate appearances against older, more experienced players. He also was able to get consistent at-bats and playing time before the 2020 minor league season was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

His hard work through the lengthy offseason off 2020 paid off when he began 2021 at now-High-A Bowling Green. While his K% rose to 38.9%, he recorded 38 hits, 23 of those extra-base hits, in 44 games with the Hot Rods, posting a .930 OPS, 148 wRC+, and an ISO of .320.

Hulsizer was either walking (13.9 BB%), hitting the ball really hard and really far, or striking out. Thankfully, he did the first two of those at such an impressive rate that the strikeouts didn’t hurt his game too much.

On July 13, Hulsizer was promoted to Double-A Montgomery, where he got off on the right foot, hitting a grand slam in his first game with the Biscuits. In 19 games, Hulsizer has a slashline of .290/.389/.661 with five home runs and 20 RBI, as well as a 30.5 K% and a 13.9 BB%.

The final part of this series will be released on Thursday afternoon.

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