When people talk about players statheads love, Ender Inciarte is the kind of guy they mean. Not a lot of power but a decent enough hitter with a very good glove, a pretty low profile as a prospect, but a well-rounded guy who’s at least decent at everything and the thing he’s quite good at isn’t a baseball card stat. Just how good he is isn’t totally clear: his rWAR totals in 2014/2015 were 3.7/5.3, while his fWAR was just 2.8/3.3. (That’s pretty much because UZR doesn’t love his glove quite as much as DRS.) Still, that’s a pretty miraculous improvement over most of the stiffs we’ve been trotting out in center field since Andruw Jones left.
Going into the 2014 season, Baseball America didn’t rank him as one of the top 10 prospects in the Diamondbacks system, but they did note that he was the fastest baserunner and had the best outfield arm in the system, so he had those two tools. John Sickels lumped him in with a group of 12 other Grade C prospects outside the Diamondbacks’ top 20. Overall, he isn’t the world’s best baserunner: while he was 19-of-22 in stolen base attempts in 2014, he was just 21-for-31 last year, and Fangraphs rated him around league average in baserunning runs both years. But like his bat, it’s another area in which he is at least average.
Looking at the bat for a second, it’s interesting that his major league OPS is exactly the same as his minor league OPS: .716. He has a below-average walk rate, just 5.1%, but his 11.0% strikeout rate is quite good. He makes contact about 89% of the time, compared to a league average around 79%. He doesn’t have a ton of power, just a .094 ISO, but he hit 27 doubles and 5 triples last year and he only turned 25 a month ago, so there’s a chance he’ll grow into more gap power as he gets older. His wRC+ last year was 100 and OPS+ was 101, which is about as close to league average as you can get.
The glove is the calling card, of course. He’s still got the strong arm, with 20 outfield assists in just 214 starts. He also has excellent range, though there’s about 10-15 runs of disagreement between UZR, which thinks he’s very good, and DRS, which thinks he’s all-world.
All in all, though, Inciarte strikes me as a lot like Martin Prado: a fringe prospect made good, a very good and very versatile glove man who hits for high average despite a low walk rate and low power. Prado probably had a better bat, Inciarte has a better glove and faster legs, but that’s the name that keeps coming back to me as I look over his numbers. I think this is going to be a fun guy to root for.
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