Our final Player of the Month honors came down to teammates at Greensboro, and it wasn’t decided until the final day of the season. Jonah Davis led the system in August/September with a 1.015 OPS in 28 games. That was just .001 ahead of Bradenton’s Lucas Tancas, who didn’t have enough playing time during the month to garner serious consideration. The third highest OPS was the .960 mark put up by Ji-Hwan Bae, who played the same amount of time as Davis. Bae and Davis both scored 24 runs during the month and Bae drove in one more run. Bae’s month was driven by a high OBP, while Davis connected on ten homers, though he also struck out 48 times. The final decision came down to Bae adding extra value with 13 steals and better defense, but the choice was still too close to call until yesterday’s game ended. In the end, we went with Ji-Hwan Bae as the Pirates Prospects Player of the Month for August.
Bae put up solid stats in June and July, but he seemed to hit another gear once he turned 20 years old on July 26th. He was hitting for a decent average during those two months, stealing bases, and impressing with his defensive tools. There wasn’t any power really to his game, as he hit the occasional double, but he was basically a singles hitter. His .302 average in July only translated to a .760 OPS due to the lack of power and lower walk rate. Once August hit though, he went on a tear.
Part of what impressed about Bae’s month is that he was chasing the league batting title for half of the month, then had to hold on to the slim lead the rest of the way. He was trailing someone who was injured and out for the year, so that .318 mark that led the league wasn’t going to change. On August 6th, Bae was sitting at a .298 average after a 1-for-3 night. Over his final 23 games, he batted an even .400, while also posting a 1.048 OPS. His final batting average of .323 won him the South Atlantic League batting title.
Bae is more than average though, and power should be a bigger part of his game in the future. He didn’t hit a home run all season, but he hit six doubles and four triples over his final 20 games. He’s not a small player, as zero homers from a speedy middle infielder would seem to suggest. The problem is that he hasn’t really filled out his frame yet, and he’s more of a slashing line drive hitter, so he is really never swinging for the fences. Bae is 6’1″, 170 pounds, and as mentioned up top, he was still a teenager for much of this season, so he is going to get stronger. He makes consistent solid contact, which should translate to some power as he gets older. We might not really see it in Bradenton next year, but it should eventually show up.
Even if he’s not a double figure home run player in the future, Bae does so much more on the field to add value. His overall OBP for the season was .403 and he finished fourth in the South Atlantic League with 31 steals while playing significantly less than the three players who finished ahead of him. He has the defensive tools to play shortstop and has already looked strong at second base. So you’re talking about a solid defender up the middle, who gets on base at a high rate and uses his plus speed effectively. If he adds over-the-fence power to that, then it just adds more value, but his approach and speed will at least lead to high double totals and his share of triples.
PLAYERS OF THE MONTH BY LEVEL
Indianapolis – Ke’Bryan Hayes (.313/.368/.438, 125 PA, 3 HR)
Altoona – Brett Pope (.289/.372/.446, 95 PA, 2 HR)
Bradenton – Travis Swaggerty (.337/.416/.490, 115 PA, 2 HR)
Greensboro – Ji-Hwan Bae, SS (.365/.451/.510, 122 PA, 0 HR)
Morgantown – Brendt Citta, OF/1B (.313/.405/.438, 74 PA, 0 HR)
Bristol – Jesus Valdez, IF (.333/.389/.529, 113 PA, 4 HR)
GCL Pirates – Norkis Marcos, SS (.317/.339/.450, 62 PA, 2 HR)
DSL Pirates – Rodolfo Nolasco, OF (.385/.467/.538, 60 PA, 1 HR)