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Let's dip into why bat speed is one of the most important components of hitting, why there's more than one kind of bat speed, and which prospects might be best to target based on the nature of their swing.

Last week I kicked off this series with a primer, to which I will refer you with questions on the nature of this beast. For our first foray into the weeds this week, I was piqued by a question in my chat queue last week about the difference between bat speed and power. The latter is a topic I’ll surely spend a bunch of time dissecting in this space over the weeks to come, because who plays in a dynasty league and isn’t willing to trip a sibling in order to read about power-hitting prospects? For today’s run, though, we’re going to talk about bat speed.

It’s a skill that can be on the more difficult side to identify for the untrained eye—most swings taken by professional baseball players are, after all, objectively quite fast. And it’s one of those terms that even mainstream prospect reports written by not scouts will utilize frequently without much context about why it’s important. Intuitively it makes sense: if you swing faster, you have a better chance of hitting a ball that has been pitched fast. But understanding how and why certain players have better bat speed than others is useful when trying to map out valuation and a long-term dynasty league strategy.

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What we talk about when we talk about bat speed.

Ask most scouts about bat speed and you’ll often get a succinct definition.

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Which hitters have the quickest and slowest bats, according to PITCHf/x?

A few weeks ago, I set out to delve into PITCHf/x data in order to identify the league’s quickest and slowest bats. We typically think of “slow bats” as those belonging to hitters who have long swings and have trouble catching up to hard fastballs. Timing is a vitally important aspect of hitting, and the few miles per hour that set major leaguers apart from lower-level professional players can be the difference between solid contact and a swing-and-miss.

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Using PITCHf/x data to search for hitters who excel on inside heat.

When the White Sox signed Jose Abreu for $68 million over six years, optimists and skeptics alike weighed in on how the Cuban defector’s swing might fare in the United States. In this year’s Baseball Prospectus Annual, we wondered if Abreu would possess a swing that “can be tamed by well-placed fastballs on the inner half.” Baseball America agreed—in their 2014 Prospect Handbook, one knock on Abreu was that “Some scouts worry about his double toe-tap stride and average bat speed, fearing they will inhibit his ability to catch up with premium velocity on the inner half.”

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