Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Hit tool: Examining the best hitters in the Dodgers' farm system

When I think of batting average, guys like Wade Boggs, Rod Carew and Tony Gwynn come to mind. When I think of a keen eye at the plate, Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams are tops. When talking about the hit tool, these players encompass the best of both worlds.

Many players make it to the majors based on the strength of their hit tool, even if defense isn't their specialty.

The Dodgers probably don't have any of those kind of players in their system, as those Hall of Fame players aren't the norm. But there are some quality bats in the system -- something that couldn't be said even a year or two ago.

Yasiel Puig could be on this list, but his hit tool is just average at this point. But he sure is impressing in Spring Training so far.

Previous entries in this series
These are some of the prospects who have an above-average or better hit tool.

Alex Castellanos
- Castellanos isn't much of a defender, but he's hit the cover off the ball since being acquired by the Dodgers. He posted some ridiculous numbers in Triple-A last season: .328/.420/.590 with 17 home runs in 94 games. While Pacific Coast League numbers aren't to be trusted, Castellanos' bat appears to be the real deal. His improved walk rate helps him make this list. The video below gives me hope for Castellanos' long-term potential. He might not be a regular, but he's going to be a major leaguer based on the strength of his hit tool.

Joc Pederson

- I tabbed Pederson as the system's best hitter in my Top 50, and rightfully so. Pederson hit .313 with a .396 on-base percentage in 2012, which earned him Dodger Minor League Player of the Year honors. His smooth stroke from the left side and bat speed to be a regular, and his plate discipline is quite good for a player of his age. Chattanooga will be a nice test for the soon-to-be-21-year-old.

Jeremy Rathjen
- Rathjen fell to the 11th round after a knee injury, but he proved he could handle the bat well in his debut season. He hit .324 for Ogden with a team-leading 48 walks and .443 on-base percentage. He'll need to prove his debut season wasn't just a product of being an older prospect in rookie league ball. He has enough bat speed for that to happen.

Corey Seager
- Baseball America rated Seager as the system's best hitter for average, and it's hard to disagree. His debut season in Ogden was pretty impressive: .309/.383/.520. His walk rate is surprisingly advanced for an 18-year-old in his first professional season. Keith Law fancies Seager as a potential All-Star third baseman, and that doesn't come without a top-flight bat.

Jesus Valdez

- Valdez is a prospect who hasn't received much acclaim in his career, but he possesses a good hit tool. He posted a .400-plus on-base percentage as a 20-year-old in the Pioneer League -- no easy feat. He also hit for some pop (30 extra base hits) and drew a fair amount of walks (31 in 322 plate appearances). He isn't as good as guys like Seager and Castellanos, but he could take a big step forward in 2013 and establish himself as having one of the better bats in the system.

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