Eight Notable Hawaiian Winter Baseball League Performancesby Chris Constancio
November 06, 2006
There are only two weeks left in the Hawaiian Winter Baseball League season. The league has been dominated by good pitching; hitters are striking out in 24% of plate appearances and only average a .355 slugging percentage. Today, I would like to draw your attention to eight major league baseball prospects with exceptional performances in this unusual context.
Colorado Rockies | Position: 2B | DOB: 5/25/1985
When Eric Young Jr. reaches first base, he usually attempts a stolen base. And he's usually successful. This year, he is also proving that he can hit.
PA AVG OBP SLG HWBL 86 .321 .372 .410
Young has continued to make contact at an above-average rate and is 11-for-14 stolen base attempts in Hawaii. Although his OBP is below where it should be for a future leadoff hitter, his walk rates have been solid over the past year and a half of regular season baseball. Young is looking less like a future pinch runner in the big leagues and more like a future top-of-the-order bat capable of hitting .275 with a .350 OBP and 40+ stolen bases.
Texas Rangers | Position: LF | DOB: 12/23/1983
Last month, I noted that John Mayberry made some mid-season adjustments to make contact more consistently. How is he doing in the strikeout-happy Hawaiian league?
PA AVG OBP SLG HWBL 53 .354 .415 .604
The former first-round pick is striking out in 21% of his plate appearances; not bad at all in this context. The Rangers outfield prospect is not only hitting for a high average, but he's also one of the league's more prolific power hitters. Mayberry has at least one extra-base hit in five of his last six starts.
SF Giants | Position: RF | DOB: 2/15/1984
Schierholtz struggled during the early part of the 2006 season, but put together an impressive 25-game hitting streak in August. Did his good hitting continue across the Pacific?
PA AVG OBP SLG HWBL 73 .235 .288 .456
Schierholtz's batting average doesn't look good, but he is suffering from a below-average .259 batting average of balls in play (BABIP) that should regress towards more a typical .315 rate over the next few weeks, because he is hitting the ball hard. His nine extra-base hits is second only to fellow Giants farmhand Mark Minicozzi. The bad news? Schierholtz remains as allergic to walks as ever.
LA Dodgers | Position: 1B | DOB: 4/13/1984
A Three True Outcomes hitter, Dunlap is striking out a lot but also walking often and hitting the ball hard:
PA AVG OBP SLG HWBL 51 .326 .431 .535
The hefty first baseman struggled in the first half of the Hawaiian Winter Baseball League season, but he has been one of the league's hottest hitters of late. During the last week of October, Dunlap was 7-for-14 with five extra-base hits.
Atlanta Braves | Position: Third Base | DOB: 2/26/1984
Van Pope put together a solid season at Myrtle Beach during the 2006 regular season, but he is struggling in Hawaii:
PA AVG OBP SLG HWBL 67 .167 .239 .250
Pope has been especially ineffective during the past two weeks. He has only managed one hit in his last 24 plate appearances while striking out on seven occasions. Braves infielder Eric Campbell is hitting well in Hawaii, but the Braves moved him over to second base last month so that he won't be blocked by Pope at third base. Chipper Jones is signed through 2008, so the Braves have some time to sort through their options.
Seattle Mariners | Position: C | DOB: 8/21/1983
It has been a while since Jeff Clement's performance matched his reputation as one of the top young power hitting prospects in baseball. The third overall pick from the 2005 draft is not doing much with the bat for the Waikiki BeachBoys.
PA AVG OBP SLG HWBL 34 .152 .176 .242
This is a very small sample of plate appearances, and it is worth considering that Clement has the second-worst BABIP (.174) in the league. Still, it's looking less and less likely that Clement will have any impact on major league baseball within the next year.
LA Dodgers | Position: 2B | DOB: 8/20/1985
The lefty with a sweet-looking swing was looking to rebound from a disappointing showing after a midseason promotion to Double-A Jacksonville.
PA AVG OBP SLG HWBL 73 .203 .288 .234
Dewitt is striking out in 30% of his plate appearances and has shown very little power at the plate. Of course, he might be distracted by his responsibilities in the field. In addition to bouncing between third base and second base all season long, Dewitt started a handful of games at shortstop last month.
Washington Nationals | Position: SS | DOB: 9/20/1985
Desmond fell short of high expectations during the regular season. His performance in the HWBL also fails to impress:
PA AVG OBP SLG HWBL 49 .244 .292 .311
He is striking out four times as often as he walks. Additionally, the former third-round pick best known for his flashy defense has committed five errors in just 13 starts at shortstop. Desmond will also be worth watching simply due to his considerable tools, but it appears that it will take some time before those tools translate into productive performance.
Chris Constancio analyzes prospects and the minor leagues at FirstInning.com. He welcomes comments, questions, and suggestions via e-mail.
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