Now that Greg Halman has been murdered, apparently by his brother, the inevitable question is what kind of major leaguer he might have developed into. Two things are certain: he had enormous talent, and he had equally enormous flaws. He hadn’t done much in 121 major league plate appearances, but he would have been only 24 years old in 2012.
On the talent side, Halman’s power was undeniable. In 2008 at age 20, he 29 HRs and 66 extra base hits in a season roughly split between A+ and AA ball. That is just a tremendous season at that age. He also stole 32 bases in 39 attempts that year.
Halman struggled mightily in 2009, mostly at the AA level, but in 2010 in his first year in AAA, he hit 33 HRs in 424 ABs at Tacoma. That was good enough for 2nd in the PCL that year, behind only Mark Trumbo, who hit three more HRs than Halman in 108 more ABs.
Trumbo was also two years older than Halman that year, and for what it’s worth, Trumbo is now an established major league player, although as a 25 year old 1Bman with a .768 OPS, I’ll be surprised if he continues to hold a starting job in the years to come.
On the flaws side, Greg Halman struck out prodigously, enough to make you think he might have put even Mark Reynolds to shame if he played regularly at the major league level. At AA in 2009, Halman struck out 183 times in 506 plate appearances, and at AAA in 2010, he struck out 169 times in 465 plate appearances.
That’s just terrible, and unlike Mark Reynolds, he didn’t have the high walk numbers to go with all the strikeouts. Halman never walked more than 37 times in any of his minor league seasons. In his 121 major league plate appearances, Halman walked three times and struck out 43 times.
Despite his tremendous power, his career minor league is only .795, mainly as a result of a .312 career minor league on-base percentage. That just doesn’t cut it.
At the end of the day, it’s hard for me to believe that a player with that little plate discipline would succeed in the major leagues for than a season or two. Major league pitchers just won’t continue to throw strikes to player who can’t or won’t consistently take pitches out of the strike zone, particularly as advance scouts advise them of exactly which wide ones the hitter can’t resist.
Halman walked more often at the AAA level in the last two years of his career than he did in the lower minors, and he was still only 23 last year, so he at least had the chance to get better over the next couple of seasons.
At best, given his tremendous power, I think Halman had the possibility of becoming the next Nelson Cruz. However, Cruz walked a lot more in the minors than Halman did, and Cruz’s slow development to stardom was more a matter of blowing his first couple of major league opportunities, rather than developing late as a hitter.