By Matthew Coller
Had a chance to spend a week watching the Auburn DoubleDays, a talented team that will hit their way into being one of the better teams in the NYPL, but may struggle to keep runs off the board.
Here's a look at some of their promising hitters:
Tony Renda – Second Baseman
Renda is the highest drafted player assigned to the DoubleDays, taken in the second round. He is an undersized middle infielder with very quick hands. His hand-eye coordination is as good as it gets. The former UC Berkley standout is able to hit or foul off any pitch at any speed. The combination of quick hands and coordination allows Renda to avoid a high number of strikeouts and the possibility of hitting for average.
The problem, however, is that Renda swings at everything. His approach is to swing early and hit everything, whether it's right down the middle or a foot outside. He does not work walks or counts. The infielder lacks power and does not have a swing that would suggest power could emerge as he travels through the minors.
In the field, Renda is average all around at best. Hands are underwhelming, arm is average at best and his range up the middle is below average.
Simply put: he is not an impact player. Likely a 35-40/80 overall player with a ceiling of utility middle infielder a la Nick Punto.
However, those who have played with Renda and against him say he has incredible make up. His work ethic is admired by teammates as is his attitude and desire to win. His overall grade is bumped up by his willingness to do everything possible to get the most out of his talent.
Stephen Perez – Shortstop
Quite possibly the most impressive overall player against the Batavia Muckdogs in the two teams' four-game, season-opening series, Perez showed a little bit of everything. He has extremely quick hands to go along with upper and lower body strength and flexibility relative to his position. He is strong enough to hit the ball out – projecting to average power for a shortstop - and can react to inside and outside pitches well enough to drive the ball to both gaps. Once he hits the ball in play, he is an above average runner. Perez is a threat to turn singles into doubles and doubles into triples with his aggressiveness and could steal 20-plus bases.
In the field, he is flexible, has good footwork, makes the routine plays and has an above-average arm. He tends to rush plays when going into the hole, but it's a kink that could be worked out. Perez has the potential to be an average to slightly above average fielder overall.
His big issue is strikeouts. He'll chase pitches out of the zone, especially away and up, and doesn't care much for working walks. In lower levels, his strength and hand quickness will make up for some of his erroneous swings, but he'll have to learn to walk at least occasionally if he's going to make it to the big leagues.
Miller was a home run hitting machine in college, knocking 23 bombs for Stamford. He showed power potential right away at the pro level by homering in his first two games. The right fielder struggles with many of the same things all home run hitters struggle with: strikeouts and pop ups. His upper-cut swing is built to lift the ball and give it plenty of back spin, but, finishing with the bat head toward the sky leaves him open to good pitchers exposing the holes.
The DoubleDays' outfielder can hit 20-25 home runs, maybe more, but the question is whether he'll ever be able to get out of the .220s in average. Miller does have a decent approach, looking for pitches up and on the inner half, especially from lefties and he is willing to take a walk. Though right now, most of his walks come because of his reputation, not because he worked the pitcher.
Estarlin Martinez – First baseman
There isn't much not to like about Estarlin Martinez at the plate. He has an even, line-drive swing and a great approach. The Doubledays' first baseman refuses to swing at both pitches out of the zone and pitches he isn't comfortable hitting. At 20-years-old, he is more mature at the plate than most and his raw strength has room to grow and increase his home run totals.
As he grows into his 6-foot-1 body, he may lose some of his athleticism and speed. He currently is an average to slightly above average runner but has impressive instincts when stealing bases and choosing to take the extra base.
The question mark for Martinez will be where he plays in the field. He looked decent at first base despite a lack of experience in the field. However, if he can't develop his line-drive swing into 25-30 home run power, he'd be better suited as a corner outfielder.
Others to watch:
Shawn Pleffner – First Baseman
Pleffner is a strong left handed hitter with the ability to hit line drives into center field on both inside and outside pitches. He doesn't swing out at pitches out of the zone and, when ahead in the count, only offers at pitches he can drive back up the middle. Has the potential to hit for a high average, big question is whether he can learn to get the bat head out in front of inside pitches and drive them down the line and out of the park.
Spencer Kieboom – Catcher
Kieboom is an advanced defensive catcher with strong technique and a plus arm. He looks like a workman-type player with leadership qualities behind the plate. All the questions about Kieboom are about his abilities at the plate. He does not drive the ball to the outfield, getting most of his hits on hard ground balls. It doesn't appear he'll ever be able to hit for a high average, but he does have the ability to work the count, not expand the zone and earn walks.
Angelberth Montilla – Center fielder
Montilla is going to get every opportunity to succeed from the Nationals' organization because of his tools. His bat speed is above average and his swing shows power potential as more than just a line-drive hitter. With his hand-eye coordination and strength combo, he has the capability to hit for a high average. What will keep that average down, however, is his lack of plate discipline and pitch recognition. He's quick enough to foul off even pitches he's fooled by, but has trouble with breaking balls that are in the dirt or off the plate. And, he does not like to walk. He's thinking hit every time at bat. On the bases, he's got plus speed, probably a touch more with good instincts and an ability to read and react. He is also solid in the outfield getting good reads, utilizing his speed to cover a lot of ground and is an average to above-average thrower from center.