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How I Stopped Worrying about Losing Gilbert and Clifford and Learned to Love the Loperfido

Syndication: The Corpus Christi Caller Times Angela Piazza/Caller-Times / USA TODAY NETWORK

In April someone on here defended ranking Joey Loperfido ahead of Forrest Whitley and I responded with derision. I saw Loperfido as an “older prospect” who got mostly played in A ball last year as a 23 year-old. From the box score he profiled as a college guy who could look good in A ball against younger, weaker competition but would flame out at the higher levels. Sort of like a less heralded version of Andrew Aplin. I mean, Lopefido went to Duke, how good could he be? I have kept looking, however, and am here to say that Loperfdio is Loper-freakin-good-o.

A bit of background: Loperfido did little to turn heads until his senior at Duke when he hit 8 HRs and slugged .612, which was enough for the Astros to spend a 7th round pick on him in 2021 (despite not having a 1st or 2nd rounder and leaving a 4th rounder unsigned, Click made some nice picks that year). Although a college senior, he was young for the grade, with a May birthday. He struggled mightily in 19 games at Fayetteville after signing: he hit .119 in 87 PAs and K’ed 35% of the time. That’s not what you want out of a college senior coming from a solid baseball conference, the ACC.

This lead to a Fayetteville repeat in 2022, where Loperfido let his true colors show; he flashed speed (30 SBs), some power (9 HRs, .169 ISO) and played 1b, 2b, and all three OF positions. In August 2022, he got the call up to hitter-friendly Asheville, where he ended the season mashing. He put up a .969 OPS in 113 PAs, aided by a .443 BABIP.

In the middle of 2022, despite his regaining some luster, Fangraphs still saw him as a marginal “Prospect of Note.” To put it in perspective, Ty Whitaker and Jordan Brewer got ranked and Loperfido did not. The best they had to say was that he “had a chance to play up the middle”

Whatever he did in the offseason, other guys should consider doing. He came out in 2023 as a soon-to-be 24 year-old repeating A+, but he only stayed 8 games there. Due to injury, I suppose, he was quickly promoted to Corpus. The move from A+ to AA is one of the toughest hills to climb, especially for Astro hitters who go from very friendly confines to the more park neutral conditions in Corpus, where the wind knocks down fly balls to right field.

The left-handed hitting Loperfido has not cared one bit. Through 79 games his slash is 301/379/561, which puts his wRC+ at 148. That’s better than what he did in Fayetteville last year! Only rarely to players move up two levels in less than a calendar year and seeing a statistical increase not rooted in park factors.

From afar one worries about guys who get moved around on defense a lot. Whatever is to be said about Loperfido, he can run. He’s 23/26 in SBs and at worst he profiles as a decent LF or a potentially plus 1b due to athleticism (but not a strong arm).

Let’s take a brief look at his last three HRs to help incarnate all of the hype: Here’s a laser to right on Saturday. He gets a hanging breaking ball on the inner half and hammers it to right. Here’s another homer on a 2-0 breaking ball. It looks like he gets under it but instead it’s a perfectly lofted HR to right-center. Here’s the most impressive: a fastball on the outer-third that he pulverizes to left-center. That’s easy power. grades his power as a 45 but they might need to reevaluate that one. They ranked him 12th in the system, but that’s way too low. He’s easily leapfrogged Colin Barber at this point. One more thing, he’s huge. Check out this clip of Kennedy Corona making a running catch. Keep watching as Loperfido comes over from center. He looks like he could play tight end or outside linebacker.

Fangraphs had a chance to reevaluate last month in their annual review. After not ranking him in the previous year, they clearly saw something they liked, moving him up to 8th. One thing they note is what the Twitter feeds indicate: he hits the ball hard, tallying one of the highest rates of hard hit balls in the minors. That’s why his BABIP always seems unsustainable. Even despite the gushing praise from Fangraphs, the power tool is at this writing undersold. He’s getting to his power. His ISO at Corpus is .260. He’s clearly lofting the ball with 19 HR in 79 games. Yes, he’s older than Barber and Melton, and no, he hasn’t captivated a spring training like Justin Dirden, but Joey Loperfido just might take the sting out of losing Gilbert and Clifford. He’s probably an Astro in a year.