Coming out of LSU as the second overall pick in the 2014 draft, the question for fans of baseball was not whether or not Alex Bregman would become a formidable player in this league. The question was how soon it would happen. The 2018 season answered this question for baseball fans and was a revelation for Bregman. As a supremely talented young player with loads of potential, last season was the year he went from an exciting prospect, to a superstar.
Rarely do players in their second full season in the league wreck American League pitching the way that Alex Bregman did last year. Both his .394 OBP and .532 slugging percentage qualify as elite marks and show just how quickly he transformed into a seasoned hitter. Bregman led the league with 51 doubles, hit 31 home runs, crossed the plate 105 times, and walked 96 times. As gaudy as the numbers that he put up in these categories are, the more advanced statistics love Bregman even more. His .396 wOBA was one of the best in the majors last year, and he had a relatively low K% of 12.1 with a BB% of 13.6. Most importantly, however, Bergman’s play brought immense value to his Houston Astros, as he ranked 6th in the league with an fWAR of 7.6.
After a season like Bregman’s 2018 campaign in just his second year, many critics and fans of baseball were anxious to see if the Astros third baseman was the real deal or if he was due for some significant regression to the mean. Lucky for the ‘Stros faithful, through nearly a third of the season, Bregman has improved every aspect of his game and left zero doubt about his superstar status in Major League Baseball. Comparing to last season, using Statcast’s numbers, Bregman has increased his Barrel %, exit velocity, launch angle, xSLG, wOBA, xWOBA, and Hard Hit%. The only metric where he has faltered slightly is his K% which has increased 2.4 points to 14.5%. However, his BB% rate has improved 3.1 points to 16.7%, so his ratio of drawing walks to striking out remains right around where it was last year. Bregman’s Hard Hit % and Exit Velocity are still only a little better than the league average mark, but his xSLG has increased over 30 points to around .500 which brings his power much closer to an elite level, and his xWOBA is up over .400 which ranks right near the top of the league.
The most telling statistic which is promising for Bregman is his increase in launch angle from 16.9% last year, to 20.6% so far this year. This new and improved launch angle is the reason Bregman’s isolated power has increased over 50 points from last season and he is hitting home runs at a much higher rate. In 705 plate appearances and 157 games last season, Bregman hit 31 home runs. This season through just 228 plate appearances and 52 games, he has already hit 15 home runs. This is a dramatic increase in power, that when paired with Bregman’s ability to get on base around 40 percent of the time, makes him one of the best hitters in the world.
It is well known that Alex Bregman is a phenomenal hitter, but the area where he has improved the most this season is in the field. In his first and second full seasons, Bregman wasn’t exactly a bad defensive player, but both his Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating were in the negatives which is indicative of a below average fielder. However, 2019 is the first season where he has turned those numbers around and been a positive defensive presence for the Astros. In over 1,100 innings at third base last year, Bregman had -6 DRS and a -3.1 UZR. In 400 innings this year, he has already accumulated 4 DRS and his UZR is all the way up to 3.4. This sudden shift in his defensive play is probably due to the fact that Bregman has played shortstop his whole life, and it has taken him some time to adjust to third base as his new home on the diamond.
The poise and ease with which Alex Bregman plays the game would make you think that he is a ten year veteran and not a 25 year old in just his third full season. He has continued to improve every year which places him on an awesome trajectory to become one of the league’s finest players, if you don’t think he’s there already. The Astros were smart enough to lock up #2 for 6 more years, as he is an integral piece if they want to bring more World Series trophies back to Houston.
Featured Image: Bob Levey