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Adam Eaton is fast as all get out. Prior to the start of the 2013 season he was ranked the 73rd best prospect in baseball according to Baseball America due in large part to his speed, but the youngster can also swing the lumber. In 1,560 minor league plate appearances Eaton has hit .348 with a .450 OBP and .501 SLG. Folks, if he put up numbers like that in the big leagues he would be the second coming of... Ty Cobb (.367/.433/.512). That is both amazing and completely absurd at the same time, but it goes a long way to describing why so many folks were so excited when the name of Eaton is mentioned (they were almost as giddy as Chris Mathews is when he is talking about President Obama). However, the love of Eaton was greatly dashed when he performed poorly in 2013 (much as the view of Sarah Palin was reduced as the world came to believe she was a puppet. Not to get all political or anything but speaking of Palin... I think that Lisa Ann does a better Sarah Palin that Sarah Palin ever did). What should we be thinking with Eaton now that he is with the White Sox, in a new league, and dealing with the post-hype sleeper status that would seem to mark him as a potentially fantastic late round grab in mixed leagues?
Here are some thoughts from some recognizable sources.
Form Bernie Pleskoff, an acknowledged expert on youngsters. “His speed tool is all going to depend on his on-base percentage... Eaton could be in the nine-hole as well as the two-hole or the one-hole because he can run.”
John Sickels, an acknowledged expert on youngsters. “While he doesn't have huge home run power, he has good pop and can sting the ball to all fields. So far, minor league pitchers haven't found any weaknesses in his approach, and he's handled both fastballs and breaking balls well.”
Frankie Thon Jr., the Diamondbacks' area scout who signed Eaton. “On the bases, you could tell there was an extra gear there, but he never had that jailbreak kind of approach he's had in pro ball...”
Let's touch on his recognized prowess on the base paths. He may not have Billy Hamilton minor league numbers, but Eaton has flashed his stolen base talent in the minors. Here are his yearly steal totals.
2010: 20 in 68 games
2011: 42 in 151 games
2012: 46 in 152 games
2013: 13 in 92 games
What happened in 2013 as his steals mark, and his games played total, tanked? Eaton hurt his elbow in spring training and didn't appear on the field until July. In essence his 2013 was a mess so it's hard to judge his struggles on the base paths as being some harbinger of negativity in the future. It was just a bad season that injury played a big part in.
This is the part of the article you can skip if my digressions annoy you (how could they?). I recently traveled to Arizona to take part in LABR, and it was a blast (you can read about my experience and team right here). You're allowed to carry two bags on to a plane as nearly everyone knows at this point (as long as one is a “personal item”). I happened to notice an elderly Asian woman with a plastic grocery bag as her carry on. That's odd, but fine. What was odd enough to get me to write about it was what was located inside the bag. Brace yourself but the lady was taking on to the flight a box of Bisquick. I'm totally serious. It wasn't the normal size either, it was jumbo sized. I don't know where she was flying to but I find it hard to believe that she wouldn't have access to pancake batter wherever her destination was. I took a huge party drink bottle home with me once, but Bisquick?
As for Eaton's work at the plate, we've seen two different players. In the minors Eaton was elite. In the majors he's been totally blah. Here are the numbers.
Minors (1,300 ABs): .348/.450/.501
Majors (335 ABs): .254/.332/.373
Yes, his big league SLG is about .080 points below what his OBP was in the minors. As disheartening as that fact is, there's plenty of other things to be disappointed with including his grand total of seven steals in 88 big league games. The guy with blazing speed, the big time base stealing threat... has stolen seven bases in 88 games. Who's liking the sound of that?
I'm not going to sit here and say that Eaton doesn't have talent. He obviously does. I'm also not going to sugarcoat it – he's been an utter disappointment in his brief time in the major leagues. Does that mean I'm targeting Eaton or letting him fall to the wayside in my drafts. A little of both actually. It all depends on costs. Some people love rookies and young players so much that they have no problem drafting a team based on speculation. Who cares if the player is actually going to be productive or not (I'm looking right at you Jurickson Profar, Xander Bogaerts, George Springer lovers this season). Talent is fantastic, but we don't play fantasy baseball based on talent, we play it based on production. Can you count on Eaton to produce in 2014 with the White Sox? I'm not sure. Don't forget that the White Sox have three other capable outfielders at the moment – Alejandro De Aza, Dayan Viciedo and Avisail Garcia – so if Eaton struggles he is no lock to be in the lineup on a daily basis. Ultimately it comes down to a cost/reward analysis. With an ADP well into the 200's, Eaton is certainly worth taking a look at on draft day. Still, if he costs more than a guy like Eric Young, as he does right now, does it make sense to go with Eaton based solely upon his minor league production? You'll have to make that decision for yourself.
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