5 Prospects Who Would Be in the Major Leauges If They Could Hit
Before returning my focus to the looming Rule 5 Draft on Wednesday and the publishing of more organizational top 10s, I wanted to offer a quick look at some prospects who seemingly always leave something to be desired.
More specifically, these prospects are regarded as nearly big-league-ready, largely due to their defense, but their lack of a hit tool or plate discipline continues to hold them back from becoming an impact player at the major league level.
So, here’s a look at five prospects who likely would be in the major leagues if they could hit.
Christian Bethancourt, C, Atlanta Braves
Only 21 years old, Bethancourt is revered as the top defensive catcher in the game. He’s an excellent athlete behind the plate, while his plus catch-and-throw skills and arm strength are obvious. However, both his hit tool and plate discipline leave something to be desired, as he collected only seven extra-base hits and posted a 45/11 K/BB in 71 Double-A games last season.
Jason Esposito, 3B, Baltimore Orioles
A second-round draft pick in 2011, Esposito is a defense-first third baseman, which isn’t exactly a premium in the major leagues. The 22-year-old possesses an excellent glove and natural instincts at the hot corner, as well as more than enough arm strength for the position. Unfortunately, neither his power nor hit tool are especially projectable, as he posted a pedestrian .537 OPS in 123 games for Low-A Delmarva last season.
Sebastian Valle, C, Philadelphia Phillies
Valle was rushed up the ladder last year as a 21-year-old, beginning the season at Double-A Reading and finishing at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. His contact rate and plate discipline suffered as a result, as he batted .253/.271/.428 with 33 extra-base hits and 114/13 K/BB in 105 games over two stops.
His defense has improved over the last two seasons, and he finally uses his body without frequently picking at balls. At the same time, his effectiveness at halting the running game has been on the decline, as he threw out only 26-percent of basestealers in 2012.
Jose Iglesias, SS, Boston Red Sox
Arguably the first player who comes to mind when discussing prospects who would be an everyday player in the major leagues if he could hit, shortstop Jose Iglesias is a prime example.Widely regarded as the top defensive shortstop in the upper-minors, he’s glove is beyond slick and more than enough to suffice as a big-league shortstop.
However, after batting .264/.313/.314 in 261 minor-league games, and an even less inspiring .135/.210/.203 in 35 big-league contests, the 22-year-old’s window has gradually closed as the Red Sox’s future shortstop.
Kent Matthes, OF, Colorado Rockies
Yes, Matthes did bat .334/.378/.642 with 65 extra-base hits and 80/22 K/BB in 2011, however, it was at High-A Modesto in the hitter-friendly California League. Eliminate that one season and Matthes next-best season came in 2009 when he posted an .820 OPS for Short-Season Tri-City.
Last season he mustered a .705 OPS playing at Double-A Tulsa for the first time and although he was recently added to the team’s 40-man roster, I have serious doubt when it comes to the 25-year-old’s hit tool.