By most accounts, the best college hitter in the draft is catcher Henry Davis. Fangraphs listed him as a potential first overall pick, and MLB lists him as the top available college player. His stat line certainly looks the part, after a pedestrian (.731 OPS) freshman season, the backstop exploded in 2020 and 2021, with his current season’s .370/.482/.663 triple slash, 15 homers, and 31:24 BB:K ratio all standout numbers.
Davis, however, isn’t the best college hitter on the planet. Not even close, in fact. And the worst part is that the real best hitter on the planet probably won’t even be drafted, continuing a pattern which has gone on as long as the draft itself.
Oklahoma University slugger Jocelyn Alo has done nothing but hit since she reached college. She’s hit for power and average, whilst taking a monstrous number of walks.
Somehow, though, Alo has taken things to an even more absurd level in her senior season, wrecking opposing pitchers to the tune of a .463/.557/1.085 (no, that’s not a typo) triple slash heading into play June 9, with an LOL-worthy 37:16 BB:K.
The USA softball player of the year did this whilst setting a single-season home run record with 32 in just 177 at-bats. Yes, that’s a pace of over a hundred home runs if she were given 550 at-bats. She’s homered more than twice as often as she’s struck out!
Alo also flashes scary power to all fields. Here she is launching a record-breaking home run to dead center:
Here she is pulverizing a ball to left field.
Now, watch her take a pitch on the outside corner at the knees out of the park to right-center field, because oppo power is awesome.
But Alo is more than just a one-dimensional slugger. She had the longest hitting streak in the country this season as forty games.
Several years ago, I wrote for Fangraphs about the issue of women in professional baseball. As I noted then, it isn’t legal for MLB to exclude qualified non-men from the draft simply because they aren’t men. The question is whether there are qualified non-men who are draft-eligible, and I cited research from multiple people demonstrating that yes, women can play professional baseball at the same skill level as men.
According to this excellent research by Bradley Woodrum, the difference in talent between male and female athletes is about 10%. That’s actually pretty sizable: a 90 mph fastball becomes an 81 mph fastball. So the question we’re addressing is whether that 10% difference is enough to make being male a BFOQ for a baseball player. And that depends on whether there are women who are talented enough to play.
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To go beyond probability and find the reality of the situation, I spoke with Hardball Times writer Jen Mac Ramos. I’m a decent enough lawyer, but my scouting abilities leave much to be desired. Ramos, on the the hand, has already conducted groundbreaking research which found that women are fully capable of playing catcher in affiliated baseball leagues. That’s because, according to Ramos’s research, the offensive bar for catchers is lower, and catcher defense — specifically pitch-framing — isn’t something men do better than women. Ramos also told me that their research shows that women could be good middle infielders in the mold of David Eckstein and Jose Altuve, who excelled despite smaller frames. And Ramos explained that female pitchers already exist who could get by in the pros throwing 83-85 mph, pointing to Jamie Moyer and Jered Weaver as examples.
At 5’8”, Alo is the same height as Ozzie Albies, Jimmy Rollins, Tim Raines, Rafael Furcal, and Ray Durham, taller than Jose Altuve, and only an inch shorter than Mookie Betts or Miguel Tejada. If Ozzie Albies can hit for power and average in MLB, so can Jocelyn Alo.
Nor can you argue that softball is “easier” than baseball. For one thing, the average time it takes a softball to reach home plate from a pitcher’s hand - 0.42 seconds - is exactly the same as the average time it takes a baseball to make the same journey. Alo’s phenomenal bat speed, therefore, would translate to professional baseball. Concerns about metal bats are faced by every male college baseball player, and her elite power isn’t because of metal bats anyway. Henry Davis used a metal bat to rack up his fantastic numbers, and nobody doubts those.
If Alo were male, she’d be a consensus first-round pick. As it is, she likely won’t be drafted, because the draft isn’t even considered a valid option for her. Frankly, that’s offensive and insulting, because she’s put in the work to be considered along with her male counterparts.
Throughout high school and in middle school, she and her dad and her two younger sisters traveled to the continental U.S. every summer and rented an apartment in the Los Angeles area so that she could spend those months playing for the Orange County Batbusters, an elite travel team. It offered the kind of competition and training opportunities largely unavailable at home.
“At times I used to put pressure on myself because, ‘Oh, my parents are paying all of this money and I can’t perform,’” Alo said. “But at the end of the day, they always told me they loved me no matter what happens. I brought a lot of that into college, too — and I’m so happy they don’t have to pay for my education.”
Alo’s remarkable college career raises an uncomfortable question for Major League Baseball: how good would a woman or non-man have to be to get drafted? There are over five thousand position players in affiliated baseball. The idea that they are all better than Alo is absurd. Jocelyn Alo is probably the best female hitter on the planet, possibly the best ever, and yet she isn’t even an afterthought in the draft. It’s not even an option for her. The question of whether to go pro isn’t even available to her. She can’t turn down an offer she never even receives.
So this year, I’m using this platform to issue a challenge to Major League Baseball teams. Every single team could use another bat, especially as offense continues to fall across the league. A fifth round draft pick carries a slot value of between $300,000 and $400,000. Even for the Astros, that’s less than ten percent of your total draft pool; for teams like the Pirates and Tigers, it’s only two percent. You can afford to offer to draft Jocelyn Alo in the fifth round, pay slot value, and see if she’ll sign. At least ask if she’s interested. If she says no, nothing is lost. But if she says yes, you could get an elite hitter and make history in the process. Worst case, you’ve wasted a tiny amount of your draft pool and opened an entirely new talent source in the process. If you’re the Orioles, the Pirates, the Rockies, looking for talent, here she is.
Sheryl Ring is a consumer rights and civil rights attorney practicing in the Chicago, Illinois area. You can reach her on Twitter @Ring_Sheryl. This post is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice, and does not create any attorney-client relationship.