Category Archives: Hitters
The L.A. Dodgers figured they’d try their luck again. After signing sensation Yasiel Puig to a then-record deal for a Cuban defector and having it work out fairly well for them, the Dodgers have gone back to their Cuban well in hopes they’ve unearthed another gem. They snapped up Cuban shortstop Alexander Guerrero late in the season on a 4 year 28 million dollar deal, so while they clearly didn’t have the same desire to keep Guerrero in the fold as long as they did Puig, the blue team’s scouts must see something special in the 26 year old, as he’ll be making a million more per year than Puig will, based on AAV. The Dodger’s roster moves since the signing further confirm a rather high amount of faith in the unproven shortstop and his expected move to second-base in the majors, as they declined 2B Mark Ellis‘ 5.75 million dollar option in favor of a one million dollar buyout, leaving them with effectively only Guerrero to man the keystone at the highest level in 2014. Scouts are split on whether his bat will translate and the fact that he’s not going to be given the chance to stick at short on the transition could be viewed as a negative critique of his defense if Hanley Ramirez‘ stubborn refusal to move off short were not a complicating factor. Guerrero profiles as a power hitter with good on-base skills, and as such profiles a bit like a 2B that most any team would be glad to add in Chase Utley. I will also look at how he stacks up against another Cuban defector with some similar peripherals in Alexei Ramirez.
If you are reading this blog then there is a roughly 90% chance you are aware of the existence of Houston Astros’ top OF prospect George Springer. You may even be able to summarize his skillset and when doing so, you may sound a lot like I would when trying to summarize Springer’s skillset. If you sounded exactly like me, you would probably say something like: “George Springer is a legitimate five-tool prospect. With a high BABIP due to his speed and drive-dominant swing, his K totals mask a potentially scary hit-tool, and I’ve never heard any question marks at all about any of the other four.” Springer is the face of the new face of baseball: a beautiful swing plane and his lightning-fast hands allow him to make hard line-drive contact that goes a long way, and with the foot speed to beat out a lot of the ones that do end up as grounders he should be able to be productive even if he were to approach 200 strikeouts per season. That same speed allows him to patrol center field with ease and his graceful stride and right fielder’s arm combine to potentially make him a flashy, first tier defender up the middle. His power tool, long one of his calling cards, has progressed very well considering he played last year at age 23. Springer is a big part of the reason that fans in Houston endured 2013’s abysmal season with smiles on their faces, as the Astros have the talent in the upper part of their pipeline to become scary-good scary-fast. He is not without his detractors though, pundits consistently return to the mountain of strikeouts that he continues to build beneath him as a sign that he is sure to fail in the majors, as he may lack the profile to succeed in the Dunn/Reynolds mould.
C.J. Cron is a good human; we already know that. What we, or at least I, didn’t know is that this prototypical looking first baseman in the Angels’ organization is not quite that. Cron just wrapped up a torrid run through the AFL where he finished as the batting average champ while teammate and Prawn favorite Kris Bryant stole the MVP honors, besting Cron by a single point of wRC+ (215 to Cron’s 214) Cron is a first baseman, through and through – a BABIP that hovers around .300, dingers and dingers, and an all-contact-barely-walk approach. Wait, what? A contact-first hitter, a touch of foot-speed, and plus-plus power? Cron struck out in only 14.7% of his professional plate appearances so far across three levels not counting his crazy run through the AFL, which would be the same mark Eric Hosmer posted this year. Hosmer posted the fourth lowest strikeout rate amongst qualified first basemen this year, and Cron projects to be a much more powerful hitter than his other peripheral comps, who all tend to hover around .150 ISOs. (Obvious exception Encarnacion, 13%BB, 10%K, .262ISO, but that’s just nuts) Suffice it to say, Cron is a unique beast, and with Mark Trumbo reportedly available and a hobbled Albert Pujols missing a hundred games a year, he may be taking his unique approach to the Bigs sooner rather than later.
With his team’s season now over in the AFL, Giants catching prospect Andrew Susac has wrapped up another long year. He has played in a hundred games for the second straight season, all as a catcher to the best of my knowledge. Susac was drafted in 2011 in the second round by the Giants out of Oregon State and has quietly been very good in the Giants organization. He finished his second pro season in AA, with a tour of the AFL at the end of an 84 game stint for the Flying Squirrels in the Eastern League. Susac rounded off his season by posting one of the better offensive lines in the Arizona Fall League with a .360/.507/.480 line. I’m always drawn to outlier performances and one of my favorites are players with higher OBPs than SLGs, and with a startlingly unsustainable .507 OBP, I couldn’t ignore Susac any longer. Carson Cistulli of Fangraphs regresses prospects’ performance in various minor leagues to their expected walk and strikeout rates based on their peripheral stats, like an FIP for hitters, and ranked Susac the fourth best hitter in the AFL this year. Does he profile as a future major leaguer? The gist of it is probably. Does he profile as a replacement for the perennial All-Star and Golden Man currently playing his position at the highest level? Not exactly.
In basketball the athletes chosen in the first round are expected to contribute immediately, meaning that a draft can change the chances of success for a team with a shrewd first round selection. This is not usually the case in baseball, where it often takes a year or two before a draftee is even mentioned amongst an organization’s top prospects, even in weaker minor league systems. The development of pitching and the difficulty of hitting said improving pitching necessitates a slow and gradual build toward the crescendo of the Major Leagues. Cubs 3B Kris Bryant still appears to be waiting for that challenge to present itself, despite the fact that he’s been facing live pitching since January. In the Arizona Fall League last night, Kris Bryant got a single hit in the Solar Sox’ contest against the Surprise Saguaros, bringing his AFL wRC+ up to a Miggian 213. He also kept alive a streak that has reached 20 games spanning back into the regular season, including each of the 17 AFL games he’s played in, where he’s reached base safely.