Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Prospects! part 6: Dunedin Blue Jays - Hitting

MVP: Kevin Pillar
Disappointment: Marcus Knecht
A Great Start: Kevin Nolan
Photo: Unknown

Kevin Pillar was the MVP of the Midwest League with Lansing despite receiving the call-up to play in Dunedin for last 42 games there.  He is also playing in the Arizona Fall League hitting .371 and with an .845 OPS in 62 ABs.  Pillar is a little old for A ball (23) and will most likely make the jump up to AA in 2013.  Most scouts don't think that he has what it takes to make the majors, but that he makes the most out of average tools.  He doesn't have a lot of power or fantastic speed, but has been able to get it done in his 2 years of pro ball.  He hit .322 in Lansing and .323 in Dunedin, but really didn't take very many walks in his first exposure to the A-Advanced level.  Marc Hulet of Fangraphs likes his short swing and compared him to Reed Johnson.  If he has the kind of career that Johnson does, I might be pleasantly surprised.
Photo: Eddie Michels

Blue Jay fans should be tracking Marcus Knecht's career with great interest because he's a hometown boy.  Drafted in 2010 out of an American Junior college, Knecht had 2 great years and was pegged as a rising star, and one of a trio of excellent young outfield prospects in Lansing in 2011.  However, he had a bad year in 2012, hitting only .210 with Dunedin with a .302 OBP and a .389 SLG.  Scouting reports think that his defense isn't all that great, which means that to really put his career together, Knecht really needs to get it done with the bat.  What I found very interesting about comparing his numbers between 2011 and 2012 is that while there was a drop in walks and an increase in strikeout, they are not enormous ones, and he was still hitting for about the same amount of power (ISO* of .179 in 2012 over a .200 in 2011).  One thing to keep in mind is that in the past 2 years, Knecht has faded in the second half.  Basically Knecht's problem in 2012 seemed to be that he just wasn't getting enough hits.  I wouldn't be surprised to see Knecht repeat the level in 2012 and to see him start the year doing much better. 
Photo: Donten Photography

24-year-old SS Kevin Nolan was on his way to an outstanding season for the Dunedin Blue Jays when it all came apart with an injury that struck in July and caused him to miss the rest of the season.  In the end, in 310 ABs, Nolan hit .316/.384/.471 with 23 doubles, 5 home runs and 12 stolen bases.  From seeing some video on YouTube, Nolan has a smooth and quick swing which explains his ability to make solid contact.  Except for his first taste of pro ball in 2009, Nolan has hit pretty consistently all through the minors and he did spend most of the season in 2011 in Dunedin and showed improvement this year. Nolan hasn't shown much over-the-fence power and I don't really know much about his upside, but if he's a good fielder and can continue to hit, he may reach higher minor league levels over the coming seasons.
*ISO is "Isolated Power" and is calculated by subtracting batting average from slugging percentage.

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