The Vance Honeycutt Conundrum

An analysis on Vance Honeycutt's Draft Profile

Vance Honeycutt is one of the most dynamic players in the 2024 MLB Draft. He is a legit 80-grade defender, who would compete for a Gold Glove Award in CF this season. He is arguably the fastest man in all of baseball, running an unreal 3.63 home to 1st time, from the right-handed batter’s box on a push bunt in UNC’s Super Regional against West Virginia 2 weeks ago. For comparison, Byron Buxton is the fastest right-handed hitter in home to 1st according to Baseball Savant, with a 4.09 time to 1st.

On top of impressive defense and speed, he is also the All-Time Home Run leader at the University of North Carolina with 65 career home runs, including 28 this past season and 25 as a Freshman. As a Sophomore, Honeycutt missed time and played through an injury, only hitting 12 home runs, so that number would have been larger assuming full health. With all that considered, you would think he would be a lock for the 1st overall draft pick, right? Not so fast my friend.


The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly: Vance Honeycutt


Vance Honeycutt spent much of the month of June carrying his North Carolina Tar Heels team on his back. He consistently displayed the tools that make so many evaluators infatuated with his potential impact at the Major League level. Starting with the Regional in Chapel Hill on June 1, Honeycutt was the best player on the field in every single game he played in.

During 9 postseason games, he hit .308 with 6 home runs. Included during those games was a 2 home run effort to single-handedly beat LSU in the Regional, a walk-off home run to beat West Virginia in game 1 of the Super Regional (followed by a lead-off home run to start game 2), and a walk-off base hit to beat Virginia during the College World Series. Sprinkle in a couple more important home runs and hits, and you have a player who accounted for 38% of UNC’s runs during the postseason. Yes, 38%. If you only watched college baseball’s postseason, you would think you were watching a future MLB All-Star. Quite frankly, you may be. But you also might never see him in the MLB. Let’s dive into why.


The Good: Athleticism & Tools


This really should be “The Great,” but that would defeat the creativity of the title. If Vance decided to participate in the MLB Draft Combine, he would have made evaluators drool over his potential. The power, the speed, the arm strength, and the athleticism all ooze out of him walking down the street. He really is one of the most gifted athletes in all of baseball, professional included. Check out this web gem from him showcasing both the speed and the defense.

And this one.


A pro-style workout is a setting that showcases everything Honeycutt does that is elite. He would run a 60-yard dash somewhere in the 6.2-6.3 range, which would grade out an 80. He would showcase plus arm strength and accuracy from the outfield during positional work. And he would finish up his day showcasing his impressive power during a round of BP, like this swing below.

If you only saw Honeycutt on that day, I would guarantee you would walk away infatuated with the prospect. He flashes every tool any evaluator wants to see in a prospect. His Max EV on the season is in the 94th percentile in all of college baseball (115.5 mph). He is arguably the fastest player in the country, evidenced by his aforementioned home to 1st time and 76 career stolen bases. With those 76 stolen bases, he has only been caught 12 times. On defense, I am convinced there has never been a ball hit in the air that has fallen for a hit when he is in CF. I am kidding—kinda. But, baseball isn’t played in a pro-style showcase. What happens on the field matters, and there are definite concerns over some of the underlying metrics regarding Honeycutt.


The Bad: Strikeouts


Strikeouts across all levels of baseball are at an all-time high. We could argue for hours about the reasons why, but it is more common for successful hitters to strike out a lot. Vance Honeycutt strikes out a lot. He struck out a total of 227 times in 177 career games. For his career, that is a 26.5% strike-out rate. That K% in the MLB would be roughly 20th percentile, well below the league average rate. This is against college pitching—not the best arms in the world.

It is not abnormal to see a college hitter struggle with strikeouts. What most evaluators want to see is year-over-year improvement. Well, Honeycutt struck out at a 27.9% rate in the 2024 season, up from his career average. There are hitters who are able to have success with swing-and-miss concerns. They are able to maximize the contact they make, allowing them to still be productive when they make contact. Honeycutt has done that through college. 57.2% of the balls he hit were above 95 mph, and he had a 31.0% Barrel rate. Both would be elite by MLB standards.

The strikeouts are a concern, but with the batted ball profile it brings some optimism. Combine an impressive batted ball profile with good swing decisions, and you have the majority of above-average MLB players, no matter the swing and miss. Let’s dive into Honeycutt’s swing decisions.


The Ugly: Swing Decisions


As an evaluator, I always say, “A hitter can whiff, but they can’t chase. A hitter can chase, but they can’t whiff. They just can’t do both.” We know Honeycutt swings and misses, but what about the chase?

Honeycutt made contact with 68.3% of the pitches he swung at. This is not good, but we already knew he swung and missed a lot. He also chased 26.1% of pitches out of the zone, which is also not good. It is a free-swinger mentality that does not make a ton of contact. Comparing him to other top 2024 draft picks, Condon and Bazzana, both make contact at a >80% rate and whiff at a <15% rate. Both of those rates are elite for draft standards and show how Honeycutt stacks up against his peers in college baseball.

As mentioned with the strikeouts, it is possible to have success as a free swinger, but it makes things a lot more difficult. We see hitters who strike out a lot, but they also draw a lot of walks because they make great swing decisions (for instance, Max Muncy). We also see hitters who swing at a lot of pitches out of the zone, but they have success because they make contact with everything (for instance, Luis Arraez). Both of those names may be outliers in their skillset, but it shows that in baseball there is no one way to find success. Honeycutt hasn’t faced the best pitching in the world, and the numbers are already worrisome. It would take a special athlete to be able to outperform those underlying metrics as the competition improves.




Well, the good thing is that Vance Honeycutt is a special athlete. The question marks surrounding his profile are very real. He has showcased both the impressive feats that make spectators say “wow,” and the swing and miss that makes everyone question his future production. Most of the time I would be worried with that information, but realizing this is a special athlete, the adjustments can be made. This really feels like a prospect who falls to the Orioles or Dodgers, and every other MLB team kicks themselves for not taking him. One swing adjustment, and you have a perennial All-Star. Progress is not linear, and any MLB organization is going to be thrilled to take its shot on a talent like Honeycutt.

His success in pro ball is far from a guarantee. There is a reason he is projected to be drafted between picks 20-30, not top 5-10. But athletes like Honeycutt are once-in-a-generation type talents. The floor for him as a pro is a gold glove caliber defender who strikes out 200 times a year with 25-30 home runs, and 30 stolen bases. He may finish the season with a sub-.200 average, but he will be a valuable asset to any team. Now if everything clicks? Let your imagination run wild with that image because it will be special.

Photo courtesy of Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Aaron Polcare

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Account / Login