Quincy Latimore’s prospect status has always been a highly debated topic, especially on this site. He started off the 2011 season by going 2-for-4 with two doubles in his first game at the AA level. Immediately everyone got in to a frenzy that he should be one of the top prospects in the system, due to his young age (22 years old) and his power, after hitting 19 home runs in high-A last year.
Latimore is young, and he does have power, arguably some of the best in the system. The problem is that he’s basically a young, one-tool guy. He doesn’t have good contact skills, leading to a low average. He’s got bad pitch recognition skills, leading to a low walk rate and a high strikeout rate. He doesn’t have the defensive skills to play a prime defensive position, limiting him to the corner outfield duties. He’s got some speed, but not enough to make an impact as a weapon on the bases.
All of that said, let’s take a look at someone else in the system whose prospect status has been up in the air. Wes Freeman is getting a lot of credit lately for his impressive run at the plate. Freeman’s best tool is his power, but he’s also been hitting for average, with a .297 average this year thanks to an impressive run since mid-July. However, like Latimore, Freeman struggles with his strikeouts and walks. Freeman is also 21 years old, which is just a year younger than Latimore. The difference is that Latimore is at the AA level, while Freeman is in short season A-ball, three levels lower.
The comparison between the two players puts two things in perspective. First, it explains why Freeman, even with his strong second half and his power at the plate, only ranks as a 45-50 prospect at best. As for Latimore, the comparison shows that, even though he’s struggled with everything but power, he’s still a prospect. Now I wouldn’t rate him higher than 40th overall in the system. If power is your only weapon, then you’re basically talking about the upside of a bench player in the majors. Latimore is still young enough to make an adjustment and try to figure things out when it comes to hitting for average and improving his K/BB ratios. That’s never an easy task for any player, but it’s enough to keep the prospect label on Latimore, even if the prospect ranking isn’t high.