Saturday, November 7, 2015

Looking ahead to the All-Star Game: Raimel Tapia, Austin Dean, Chad Pinder

We all know the top prospects down here: Clint Frazier, Sean Manaea, Austin Meadows, DJ Peterson, Daniel Robertson to name a few.

But the All-Star game tonight will have some other interesting players too.  Not all will be stars and maybe not even starters, but there is value in role players and relief pitchers in baseball.  If you can fill those needs without having to pay for them on the secondary market, then that is a significant advantage in  terms of mobility and payroll flexibility.

That said, I am by no means ruling out any of the players as starters and perhaps even a star or two among the following group...

Raimel Tapia, OF, Rockies (A+)

  • Age: 21
  • 6'2, 160 lbs
  • L/L

You don't teach anyone to pitch like  Chris Sale or Tim Lincecum.  Similarly, you probably wouldn't want to teach anyone to hit like Raimel Tapia.

Yet Tapia can hit.  He can be overly aggressive, though he does seem to be making a concerted effort to work the count.  Though he has been inconsistent to this point as I've often seen him hitting with two strikes on him. He'll change his stance, often getting very low to the ground with two strikes.  He has a live, loose body with quick twitch athleticism that helps him generate good torque despite his lack of physical size.  There are some who are concerned with his long term power, but I think he'll naturally grow into some, perhaps double digit HR and lots of doubles/triples with his good speed.  That offensive profile can work if he sticks in CF, where he runs well enough to make up for some occasional iffy reads and routes, but the hope is he improves those reads with experience.

Where Tapia excels is with his good hand/eye coordination and bat control.  He shows very good plate coverage and is adept at putting the ball in play.  But he can put a charge into it as well, once hitting one high off the wall 410 feet away in CF -- then showed his speed by circling the bases when the outfielder was slow to get up after a hard collision with the wall.

Tapia is a fun player to watch and a hard player to evaluate, but I think he his great skill with the bat combined with  his athleticism will allow him to succeed despite his unique approach.

Austin Dean, OF, Marlins

  • Age: 22
  • 6'1", 190 lbs
  • R/R
Dean isn't a toolsy player.  He's average across the board in that respect.  He won't stand out with athleticism -- but he can hit.  He has a short, quick swing that produces consistent line drive contact.

There isn't much power and there may not be a lot coming down the road -- but he does have those quick hands and he should hit for some gap power with perhaps as many as 8-12 HRs.  He also doesn't walk much, so his OBP is highly dependent on his hit tool at this point.

Defensively, Dean is an average to slightly above average runner and doesn't profile well in CF.  The arm profiles best for LF.

So what we have is a player with potentially a good hit tool who should hit for average if given the opportunity.  Whether that is what a team wants in LF is the question.  If the OBP skills or power improve, he may be able to squeeze him in the everyday lineup, but the more likely outcome right now is 4th outfielder.

Chad Pinder, SS, Athletics (AA)
  • Age: 23
  • 6'2", 190 lbs.
  • R/R

Pinder is a good ballplayer with solid tools across the board with his strong arm being the best of that set.

As a hitter, Pinder is aggressive but shows a knack for line drive contact with enough bat speed to hit for occasional power.  He is tied with teammate Renato Nunez for the team lead with 4 HRs, while also leading the team in slugging and OPS.

Pinder wants to swing the bat and that has hurt his BB numbers here and with Texas at the AA level   At the same time, you don't want to rob him too much of this naturally aggressive approach, but the hope is that he at least learns to gets himself into good hitting counts so he can better use some of that raw power.  He has done that to some degree here in Arizona.

On defense, Pinder has a strong arm and is an average athlete who may be a bit stretched at SS.  Some think he's a good fit at 2B but I think he can be a very good 3B, especially if he can tap into some of that raw power.  But with Nunez at 3B, the A's will wait to see if he can stick at SS with 2B as the next option.   He does play SS well enough to project as MLB average at the position and if he can do that, the A's may keep him there because of the value he'd provide with his bat.

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