Quick Prospect Report: Michael Saunders

2009 Statistics at Triple-A:

248 At Bats
.310 Batting Average (77 Hits)
13 Home Runs
32 RBI
58 Runs
6 Stolen Bases
.378 On Base Percentage
.544 Slugging Percentage
.342 Batting Average on Balls in Play

What you need to know:

  • In 122 AB in the Major Leagues he hit .221 with 0 HR, 4 RBI, 13 R and 4 SB.
  • He showed improved strikeout rates at Triple-A, with a 19.4% mark, but it ballooned back up in the Majors (32.8% in 122 AB).  Considering he has struck out 28.0% of the time for his entire Minor League career (1,630 AB), that number is very believable.
  • Ranked by Baseball America as the Mariners #2 prospect heading into 2010.  They cite his strikeout problems saying, “Because he works deep counts, Saunders likely will continue to strike out at a healthy pace.”  That’s going to make it nearly impossible for him to hit for a solid average.
  • He has some speed, having stolen 29 bases back in 2007, but he hasn’t really shown it the past two seasons (a combined 22 stolen bases). 
  • He’s likely ticketed back to Triple-A to start the season, with Franklin Gutierrez, Milton Bradley & Ichiro Suzuki slotted to open the year in the outfield.  If Ken Griffey Jr. struggles in the DH spot, however, Saunders should get an opportunity.
  • He has some pop, but over his Minor League career he’s posted a flyball rate of 34.6%.  In the Major Leagues he was at 38.7%.  It’s hard to imagine huge home run totals with that type of mark, considering there were 80 players last season with a 38.0% mark or better.  It’s easy to point to Alex Rodriguez (37.7%) and Miguel Cabrera (36.8%) as a few examples with lower flyball marks, but they had HR/FB of 22.7% and 18.3%.  You can’t expect that type of mark from Saunders.

It’s hard to imagine him being a very usable option in 2010.  The strikeouts alone make him tough to lean on, because how can you expect him to post a halfway decent average?

What are your thoughts on him?  What type of upside do you see for Saunders?  Do you see any way he’s worth using in 2010?

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