by Will Overton
The Diamondbacks have made a few changes this offseason. The biggest change was the deal that sent their young franchise player Justin Upton packing to Atlanta. This move also solidified another anticipated change. A new centerfielder and leadoff hitter in Adam Eaton, coming off an incredible 2012 at Triple-A.
It was the numbers put up by Eaton at Triple-A last season that made the Diamondbacks feel as if not only was Eaton ready, but that they needed him at the next level. Here are the final numbers put up by Eaton at Triple-A, before a late call-up in September:
.381 Batting Average
119 Runs Scored
7 Home Runs
45 Runs Batted In
38 Stolen Bases
9.4% Walk Rate
12.1% Strikeout Rate
.432 Batting Average on Balls in Play
There are a few numbers here that will pop put at you when you take a look. Possibly the most eye popping ones are a .381 batting average and subsequently the .432 BABIP that sustained that kind of an average. Eaton is fast, really fast, and he’s going to beat out a lot of ground balls and slap the ball into the right places on the field. That kind of BABIP just isn’t ever going to fly in the major leagues though.
Still, in three years in the minor leagues, hitting at many different levels, he has maintained a better than .300 average the whole time. Eaton only hit .259 in a very small, 103 plate appearance, sample in the bigs last season, but it does show that things won’t come quite so easy now. Still the upside for a .300 season is there and with Eaton’s speed I expect something at least .275 this season and potentially more.
There is also more power in the bat of the 5’8 Adam Eaton than what you would expect to see from someone of his stature. Eaton hit 7 HR’s in 2010 in a half season, 12 HR’s in 2011 combined between three levels, and 9 HR’s last season between Triple-A and the major leagues. Eaton also hit 46 doubles last season at Triple-A.
Most hitters Eaton’s size and who possess his kind of skill set are primarily slap hitting singles collectors. Eaton however has legitimate extra-base power. I’m not calling for a 30-30 season here or anything like that, but Eaton has double-digit homerun kind of pop and for someone known for their speed and drafted their speed, that’s a nice little bonus.
Another one of those eye popping stats from last season was the incredible amount of runs scored by Eaton. I don’t think those numbers are going to be reciprocated, but Eaton will push 100. Our own esteemed Professor projects Eaton for 95 runs in his must own draft guide that’s on sale for just $6!
There seems to be an assumption that the Diamondbacks offense is going to be down this season, but this was a top ten offense last season and it should be close again. Aside from the shortstop position there really is no hole in this offense, even if short on star power. The Diamondbacks are going to score plenty of runs, Eaton is going to be the leadoff man, one who draws a lot of walks and gets plenty of hits as well. Put two and two together and what it equals is a lot of runs scored.
Now let’s talk about the real reason you’d be drafting Eaton, speed, pure base stealing speed. It’s claimed that speed is easy to get in drafts, but only 11 men stole 35 or more last season. Only six of them hit better than .260 doing it. Four of those 11 are not guaranteed an everyday spot. There are lots of guys who get steals, but only a handful of elite base stealers, Eaton has the chance to be one of the elite ones. He’ll also come at a discounted price from the other elite guys because he isn’t already established. The numbers Eaton puts up could approach those of Michael Bourn and he could be had several rounds after him.
You are taking a bit of a chance when you take Eaton, he’s not the lock some of the other steals guys you could have are. He’s unproven at the major league level and while he does look like a safe bet there are no guarentees with what you’ll get. He wouldn’t be the first guy we have seen tear apart the minor leagues and flame out in the bigs.
However, the thing most appealing about Eaton is his floor isn’t as low as many other rookies. He doesn’t really have any glaring holes in his numbers that worry you and if nothing else the speed is going to be there. He might be more unproven than someone like Coco Crisp or Juan Pierre, but the upside is far greater. You shouldn’t feel the need to reach too high for a steals only guy with someone like Adam Eaton sitting there in the 14th – 15th round.