Salt River Fields received 27 new faces Saturday as Arizona Diamondbacks position players reported to major league camp for spring training. Joining the crop of non-roster invitees was 23-year-old 3B prospect Ryan Wheeler. I got the chance to check out the 2009 draftee last October at the Arizona Fall League. Here were my observations:
- 6'4", 220 lbs—certainly looked it
- Mature body; full chest, broad shoulders, long legs
- Very easy, smooth swing; balanced, keeps head down
- Generates natural lift and drives ball; natural gap hitter
- Above-average bat speed
- Make consistent contact; connected on majority of at-bats
- Consistently drove the ball into gaps; landed multiple extra-base hits
- Projects as a MLB .260 to .270 hitter with 15 HR potential
- Looked comfortable at both 1B and 3B; profiles best as a 1B or corner outfielder though
- Athletic for his size, but below average speed
While D'backs corner-infield prospects Matt Davidson and Bobby Borchering often show up on prospect lists ahead of Wheeler, the LMU alum comes with far less risk of reaching his potential. His defense is average at best, but his bat should get him to the big leagues as a corner utility player. He reminds me of a left-handed Wes Helms or perhaps a poor man's Ryan Klesko.
After performing well last season in Double-A and the Arizona Fall League, Wheeler should break camp with Triple-A Reno. If he hits well there, he could be swinging the bat at Chase Field before season's end.