Rays The Analysis: Niko Hulsizer – Ben Whitehall (Part 3)

This is the finale 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 talked about Hulsizer’s numbers so far in his minor league career up until his current stint at Double-A Montgomery. In part three, I’ll be figuring out just how soon or how long we should expect Hulsizer to reach the majors.

So Where Do We Go From Here?

As discussed previously, Hulsizer is a strong guy who has major value in his bat. Not only can he hit, but he is a serviceable defensive right fielder. The three most important questions I have for Hulsizer’s future development are:

  1. Can he get and maintain a K% back down around 30%?
  2. Can he stay patient enough to sustain a double-digit BB%?
  3. Can he keep getting the ball in the air?

I think it will be interesting to see how the Rays work with Hulsizer to improve his strikeout rate. It’s important that he’s able to use his size and strength to drive the ball without sacrificing power for a little more contact, so I think the Rays could live with a 30 percent K%.

Hulsizer’s patience and understanding of the strike zone will be the key to his development, especially as he continues to adjust to higher levels of competition. Patience at the plate means seeing more pitches per at-bat, which leads to figuring out pitchers better and so on and so forth.

Something to note is his rising ground ball rate, which climbed from 32 percent in 2018 to 39.1 percent by the end of 2019. He stabilized it somewhat in Bowling Green at 35.8 percent, so hopefully, it will lessen in Montgomery and beyond. The Rays could afford to not deal with a second Yandy Diaz-type situation, though even he is starting to lift the ball more in 2021.

If he can get under it and drive it to the gaps and over the fence, he’s going to be an extremely valuable asset for Tampa Bay, but the real question is, when should Rays fans expect him in the bigs?

The answer isn’t concrete, but don’t expect a 2021 call-up as he’s still figuring out Montgomery, let alone Durham or MLB. Tampa Bay doesn’t rush prospects, and with the current big league roster, Hulsizer really doesn’t have a spot to fill in. Another possibility is a promotion to Triple-A Durham before the end of the season.

What seems most logical for Hulsizer will be to spend the rest of the season in Montgomery, come to 2022 spring training as a non-roster invitee, and then get promoted to Triple-A early in the season. However, if he’s ranking in Double-A, there’s no reason to not bring him up to Durham.

Tough decisions will need to be made amongst members of the front office, especially to figure out whether or not Hulsizer will be added to the 40-man roster or risk losing him in the Rule 5 Draft. This upcoming offseason will be telling for Hulsizer’s future in the Rays organization.

Wrap-Up

Hulsizer is an exciting prospect and Rays fans should keep their eyes out on him. He has incredible potential and at 24 years old, we should expect him up relatively soon. His track record screams a big time power hitter, and time will only tell what he becomes.

I’m rooting for the Rays and Hulsizer as he looks to become a success story under this current regime after years of disappointment at the corner outfield position. I think it’s reasonable to expect some moves to be made to keep such an interesting player in the organization.

Thanks so much to Ben for writing this series, and be sure to check him out on Twitter @dogpancake73 and read more of his writing at rblrsports.com!

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