Evan Chambers has put up a similar stat line in each of his three pro seasons. His average has been low, usually in the .230-.245 range. His on-base percentage has been much higher, usually by 120-150 points, thanks to a high walk rate. His isolated power has also been high, due to double digit home runs and a good extra base hit ratio. However, his strikeouts have also been high, sitting around 30 percent for his career.
Part of the problem with Chambers is that he’s too selective at the plate. He waits for the perfect pitch to drive, which does one of several things. It can lead to a well hit ball, which explains his high home run and double numbers. It can lead to a walk, which explains his high walk ratio. But it also can put him in a lot of two-strike counts, leading to his high strikeout ratio.
“In the cage or in the field I’ve got a wide variety of pitches that I can hit hard,” Chambers said of his selectiveness. “And in the game the past few years I didn’t pull the trigger early enough.”
The stat line that Chambers puts up is an issue for his future success at the higher levels. As he moves up to Double-A, he will see fewer pitches to drive, and more pitches in the strike zone. That will lead to fewer extra base hits, fewer walks, and more strikeouts. To counter this, Chambers has been working on his swing, reducing some of the movement involved by shortening his stride.
“I just kind of figured out that too much movement with me will never work,” Chambers said of the adjustments. “I’ve just gotta focus on seeing the ball clearly, and widening my base and just taking a small little stride has really helped to see the ball better.”
The issue of selectiveness is still a concern, and is also something that Chambers will be working on this year.
“We work a lot, everybody in the organization does, on a two strike approach,” Chambers said. “Shortening it up and trying to put the ball in play. The past few years, all of the strikeouts that I racked up, it was kind of me getting in my own head. ‘Don’t strike out. Don’t get out here.’ Now it’s just focusing on trying to put the bat on the ball and that’s making everything a lot easier.”
The 2009 third round pick is trying to figure out how to be more mature as a hitter, finding that balance between when it’s good to be selective, and when selectiveness can be a bad thing.
“Some instances selectiveness does work, but most of the time you want to get one good pitch that you’re going to hit one spot and get after it,” Chambers said.
The Pirates will give the outfielder plenty of opportunities in his return to high-A. He will rotate in the outfield, playing some center field, and playing one of the corner spots when Mel Rojas Jr. plays in center field. So far he’s off to a similar start, going 2-for-13 in his first four games, hitting a double, walking 3 times, and striking out four times.
PAULINO HAS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT ROLES
The Bradenton Marauders’ pitching staff looks strong this year. The rotation is led by the top two prospects in the system: Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon. Colton Cain, Hunter Strickland, Quinton Miller, and Tyler Waldron will also see time in the rotation this year. That mix of prospects means catcher Carlos Paulino is going to have an important role with the team in handling all of those arms.
“I’m a little excited because they are really, really good pitchers,” Paulino said about the rotation.
The catcher was acquired from the Miami Marlins last year in exchange for Jim Negrych. He was coming off a year where he put up a .184/.214/.234 line in 201 at-bats in low-A at the age of 20. The Pirates moved him up to high-A, where he hit for a .299/.351/.439 line in 271 at-bats.
Paulino worked a lot with Milver Reyes last year, focusing on his hitting, and also focusing on the defensive side of the game. He also received some tips from 2011 Florida State League batting champion Ramon Cabrera on the hitting side.
The main appeal with Paulino is his defense. He has arguably the best arm in the system behind the plate. He’s athletic, does well blocking pitches, and has a good relationship with the pitching staff. He was left behind in Bradenton this year, as there was only room for Tony Sanchez and Ramon Cabrera in Double-A. However, Paulino will now receive the bulk of the playing time in high-A, and will get a lot of experience catching the top arms on the Bradenton roster. If he repeats his 2011 numbers at the plate, he could easily move up to Double-A by the end of the year, and maybe sooner if Tony Sanchez gets promoted to Triple-A.
COLE AND TAILLON DOMINATE
Top pitching prospects Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon have both made their 2012 debuts for the Bradenton Marauders. Both pitchers were dominant in their starts, putting up high strikeout numbers.
Taillon was making his first start in high-A, after pitching in low-A during the 2011 season. The right-hander threw 3.2 innings, allowing two runs on two hits, with two walks and six strikeouts. He was a bit wild, with two wild pitches and a hit batter, leading to his runs.
Cole made his pro debut last night, throwing four innings. He allowed a run on four hits, with a walk and seven strikeouts. The right hander was sitting 94-97 MPH, and touched 100 MPH twice.
Taillon’s next start is scheduled for Friday, at home in Bradenton. Cole’s start is scheduled for Saturday, on the road in Fort Myers.
INTERNATIONAL HITTERS OFF TO A HOT START
The Pirates made several aggressive promotions this year, sending a lot of talented international prospects to full season A-ball, making the jump from the GCL in 2011, and skipping past short-season A-ball. So far, a lot of those young hitters are off to strong starts.
Jodaneli Carvajal, who signed for $350,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2008, has played in all five games for West Virginia. The 20 year old infielder is 8-for-19 with a double and a triple, and has a hit in every game.
Alen Hanson, signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2009, is 8-for-22 with two homers and three doubles. Hanson is one of three players who has played in all five games.
Gregory Polanco, signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2009, is 4-for-16 with a triple and two walks.
Willy Garcia, signed out of the Dominican Prospect League for $280,000, is just 5-for-22 with a double. Garcia has also played in all five games.
Jose Osuna, signed out of Venezuela in 2009 for $280,000, is 5-for-16.
There are some signs that the players are still raw. Polanco has six strikeouts in his 16 at-bats. Garcia has four in 22 at-bats, and no walks. But the overall results are encouraging considering that all of these guys are 19-20 years old, and are all making the jump from the Gulf Coast League.