He’s not on anyone’s top prospects list, but 26-year old Kyle Hart has performed well ever since joining the Red Sox organization. The lefty hurler is one of three reigning All-Stars on the Portland Sea Dogs roster, but hasn’t received much fanfare. Can Hart finally put himself on the national radar at the next level?
Red Sox Prospects: Kyle Hart
At age 26, Hart is older than the average AA player. However, Hart underwent Tommy John surgery as a Junior, forcing him to spend an extra year in the collegiate ranks. He first joined the Red Sox in 2016 and has progressed up to Portland in just two years.
Hart started the year with the Sea Dogs, making 24 starts and pitching a career-high 138.2 innings. During his time on the mound, Hart recorded a 3.57 ERA and a 4.20 FIP while striking out 6.49 batters per nine innings and walking 3.18. While these numbers don’t jump off the page, they are inflated by a rough five-game stretch where Hart allowed a 9.00 ERA and a 6.87 FIP.
Hart doesn’t have the most explosive pitch tool, which is why he’s such an unknown prospect. His fastball sits in the high 80’s and isn’t a strikeout offering. He complements his fastball with an average mid-70’s slider and a low-80’s changeup and curveball.
What To Work On
Hart pitches to contact and doesn’t have the stuff to be a strikeout pitcher. While that limits his ceiling, he can still make it to major leagues. However, he’ll need to improve at inducing ground balls.
Ground balls are easily the least-damaging type of contact, and Hart struggled to keep balls on the ground in 2018. Per Fangraphs, Hart had a 41.0% ground ball rate in 2018, a sharp fall from his 50% ground ball rate in 2017.
Additionally, Hart’s future probably lies in the bullpen. His 3.18 BB/9 is below average for a starter, and he doesn’t have the stuff to make up for his lack of command. Unless he improves his accuracy considerably, he won’t be able to last long-term in the starting rotation.
As previously mentioned, Hart has a long way to go before he’s ready to make the majors. His ground ball rate increased, and his first priority should be making sure the fly balls don’t return in 2019. Without high-strikeout potential, Hart needs to make sure he forces grounders as much as possible.
If Hart’s to make it as a major league, he’ll almost-certainly have to do it in the bullpen. Barring some unexpected growth, Hart simply doesn’t have the tools or command to make it as a starter.
Quite frankly, Hart’s no guarantee to ever make it to the majors. Even if he does, he probably won’t be anything more than an emergency call-up option with a limited ceiling.