Matthew St-Germain


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2008 NL West Prospects

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Ian Stewart, 2B/3B, Colorado Rockies

While Ian Stewart's stock has slipped somewhat over the last year, it's hard to discount a guy who previously showed 30 home run potential who'll play half of his games at Coors Field. Not to mention the line-up he'll bat in. And many who have written off Stewart are quick to forget that Matt Holliday did not show very well in the minors either.

Stewart has incredible bat speed with an uppercut swing, allowing him to hit for power to all fields. His swing gets long at times, becoming too pull-conscious, however, his approach has matured and there are small signs that his offense is coming together. He increased his bb% and dropped his k% last year at Colorado Springs, and while the overall changes in percentage were small, the numbers were in the right direction. His range and arm at third are great, and he projects long term as a solid third baseman, though he tends to get sloppy on the routine plays. And though he has average speed, his instincts on the bases say he'll steal more than expected.

The major hurdle in the road for Stewart is Garrett Atkins. Stewart isn't getting any younger, and at age 25 this season, it's likely something has to give. Stewart has been working out at second base, and he will get a shot to win the starting job there this year in spring training. If he can shore up on the routine plays, and hit more balls in the air, he has an outstanding shot at starting at second base, but Jason Nix's glove and range may be too much for Stewart's bat and sometimes lazy glove to overcome. And considering the young age of some of Colorado's starters, having an error-prone lackadaisical second baseman is a recipe for disaster. However, it's clear that Stewart's time is done in the minors, and he really needs major league experience, now. While he may start the year out again at Colorado Springs, he will see a majority of his time up in the majors this season, and if he can put things together, he'll be a draft day steal. If he wins a starting job coming out of spring training, bump all these numbers up by 20-30%.

321 AB, .268 BA, 11 HR, 44 R, 49 RBI, 7 SB

Nate Schierholtz, OF, San Francisco Giants
It really is this bad for the San Francisco Giants - their best prospect is a 17-year-old at least three years away from the majors (Angel Villalona), and really no other prospect ready to substantially contribute this year, except Nate Schierholtz. I'll admit, I'm fairly high on him, especially considering how barren this system was before their 2007 draft, which still seems a bit questionable considering what they passed on. He has the potential to put up very serviceable numbers if he wins a starting outfield job out of spring training, and I think he has a solid shot of doing so when you consider just how truly horrendous San Francisco is.

Schierholtz has progressed very nicely over the past three seasons, decreasing his strike out rate every year, while maintaining his power output and increasing his contact rate (86% last year). While his batting eye (.293) leaves much to be desired, (only a 4.5% bb rate last year), he was able to off-set this with that above-average contact rate and 25% line drive rate. Though his batting eye says he's not a .300 hitter, his contact rate says he's not a .260 hitter either. He's kept his ground ball rate at a nice level upon promotion to San Francisco, and though he walked only once in the AFL, San Francisco will definitely take his .348/.363/.596 line combined with four home runs and eight doubles in 89 at bats. They have to, as they really have no other choice.

Schierholtz is incredibly strong and muscular, and has power to all fields and above average base stealing ability, something sorely lacking from San Francisco's current lineup. He also has improved his range in right field and has a very accurate and strong arm, suggesting that he's got a great shot to start in San Francisco rather than Fresno at season's start. And even if he does end up in Fresno, there's a very good chance that he sees extended time in the big leagues this year.

The biggest knock right now against Schierholtz is San Francisco's lineup. They will be the worst team in the major leagues this year, and rbi opportunities will be few and far between. And while they have Rajai Davis, Fred Lewis and Daniel Ortmeier competing for outfield spots along with Aaron Rowand, Randy Winn and Dave Roberts as established veterans, Schierholtz is younger and has more upside than any of the younger players. San Francisco will likely be out of contention after only a month or so, and there is no reason to suppress Schierholtz's growth to play sub-standard regulars. In fact, he could be the single reason why many fans come to see the Giants this season.

368 AB, .276 BA, 12 HR, 40 R, 39 RBI, 6 SB

Chase Headley, 3B, San Diego Padres
Chase Headley had an outstanding season for San Antonio last year, hitting .330/.437/.580, all tops in the Texas League, with 20 home runs, 38 doubles and five triples, winning the league's MVP award and leading San Antonio to the league championship. He also made his major league debut after Kevin Kouzmanoff sustained an injury to his lower back.

Headley plays above his tools, and has moderate power, bat speed and plate coverage, suggesting that while home runs will not be his forte, long doubles in Petco will, as he has good plate discipline mixed with nice first-step quickness, despite below-average speed. He also has work to do on his left-handed swing, and while he improved his approach in the Texas League, it's still a far cry from the majors.

Headley is blocked by Kouzmanoff, but many think that because Kouzmanoff has superior speed, that moving him to left field and placing Headley at third base is the best option for the organization. Unfortunately, San Diego isn't seeing it that way yet, and still has Kouzmanoff pegged as the starting third baseman, with Headley getting a shot at the left field gig. Regardless of where he plays, it's clear that Headley is ready for some big league time, and San Diego is likely going to give it to him. Petco is going to deflate what home run power he had, but his batting approach suggests that in time he could hit a fair amount of doubles at home with above-average home run power on the road. Also keep in mind he has no Triple-A time, and his contact rate at San Antonio last year was 74%, so there is the possibility that he spends a fair amount of time in Portland learning to hit against superior pitching.

252 AB, .262 BA, 5 HR, 36 R, 40 RBI, 0 SB

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