28. Evan Chambers, OF
2009 Season: Chambers was drafted by the Pirates in the third round with the 84th pick in the draft out of Hillsborough Community College. While at Hillsborough, Chambers hit for a .339/.456/.613 line in 168 at-bats this season, with ten homers and 27 stolen bases. The Pirates signed Chambers quickly for $423,900, which is right at the slot price for that selection, and sent him to State College.
In his time with State College, Chambers hit for a .245/.393/.380 line, with four homers and six stolen bases in 200 at-bats. He also had 15 doubles. Chambers didn’t hit well for average, and had 78 strikeouts, which is a high ratio, but showed good plate patience with 50 walks in 253 plate appearances, almost a 20 percent walk ratio, which led to his excellent on-base percentage.
While the overall average looks poor, a closer look tells us that Chambers didn’t struggle that much. Chambers had a horrible .176 average in his first 85 at-bats in State College, with a 43.5 percent strikeout rate. After the month of July, Chambers had a .296 average and a 35.7 percent strikeout rate in 115 at-bats.
The early struggles could be due to Chambers adjusting to hitting with wooden bats, as he didn’t seem to have a problem after his first month as a pro. However, Chambers has hit with wooden bats before, so maybe it was just adjusting to the higher level of play. The strikeout rate still is cause for concern, although Chambers doesn’t have an issue with plate patience, as his walk rates were outstanding.
Information: Chambers is short, at 5′ 11″, but has a thick build at 210 lbs, with his body type drawing comparisons to Kirby Puckett and Kevin Mitchell. Chambers has a short, thick, strong body, but also has good speed. His thick frame gives him raw power. His speed allows him to play center field, although his arm isn’t exactly strong enough for the position, which could eventually force a move to left field, where he would fit in well with the PNC Park dimensions.
Chambers has hit with wooden bats before, hitting seven homers in the summer of 2008 in the New England Collegiate League. He has good bat speed, and can hit good velocity. The issue of strikeouts is due to his choppy swing and pitch recognition issues, mostly his inability to lay off breaking balls in the dirt.
Baseball America rated Chambers 181st in their top 200 draft prospects list for the 2009 draft. Chambers is a four tool talent, lacking only throwing ability. The one concern so far is his ability to hit for average, although he looked good after his first month with State College. He’s a raw talent, but he has the ability to turn in to something special if he puts it all together. Chambers turns 21 in March, so he’s got plenty of time to put it all together.
2010 Expectations: Chambers finished up strong in State College in 2009, which means we should see him start in West Virginia in 2010. If he manages to keep the strikeouts reasonable, and hits for decent power, I could see him in Lynchburg by the end of the season.
Optimistic Projection: The Kirby Puckett and Kevin Mitchell comparisons are nice to go by. Chambers has the talent to eventually be a .300 hitter who can hit 20-30 homers a year, and be a threat on the bases with 15-20 steal potential. While this is possible, his skills are kind of raw, so it’s far from a guarantee that this optimistic projection becomes a reality. If he was more of a guarantee, I’d have him much higher on this list, and his 2010 season can go a long way to improving that ranking.
Conservative Projection: Going the conservative route, I could see Chambers being like Melky Cabrera, with a .270-.280 average, 10-15 homers, and 10 steals on the bases, while playing above average in left field, but leaving you wanting a better defensive option in center. That would be passable as a starter, but much better as a fourth outfielder or in a platoon role. Just like with the optimistic projection, Chambers is too unpredictable right now, so there’s no way to know which projection he will be closer to at this point.
Check back tomorrow for prospect number 27…