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Future Redbirds Top 25 Prospects for 2015: #2 - Stephen Piscotty

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There's a lot to like: Great contact rate, above average approach, uses the whole field, plus arm, good athlete...just no power as of yet. The question is whether the latter will be required for the Stanford product to make a big league impression.

stephen piscotty
stephen piscotty
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Acquired: 2012 Draft (Round 1, Supplemental; #36 overall), Stanford

Birthday: 1/14/1991

Age: 24

Minor League Stops in 2014: Memphis (AAA)

2014 Totals:

PA

AVG

OBP

SLG

ISO

K%

BB%

wOBA

556 .288 .355 .406 .118 11% 7.7% .338


F-R Grades:

(You can find the primer on the 20-80 grading scale here)

Hit

Run

Arm

Field

Power

55/60 45 60 50 50/55



If you follow prospect coverage at all, you've no doubt heard of the "Stanford Swing". John Manuel investigated it in that Baseball America piece from 2012 and former SBN and current Fangraphs writer Eno Sarris has also covered this scouting narrative a number of times in multiple different forums. Neither has found a whole lot of evidence to support any sort of specific way in which hitters who attend Stanford tend to swing a club at pitches balls with seams.  In fact, they found quite the opposite.

The "Stanford Swing" seems more of a meme than an actual thing, a narrative that the scouting community likes to use to explain why some talented Stanford hitters don't reach their potential in professional baseball, particularly when it comes to hitting with power.

That doesn't mean that there aren't some characteristics that many Stanford hitters share, however. Most tend to be very balanced during setup with short strides, in an effort to get the front foot down as soon as possible during the swing (most, mind you, not all). They also tend to be good at hitting the ball to the opposite field.

Stephen Piscotty has all of those characteristics. Some would see this as a bad thing. I am not one of those people.

First of all, Piscotty has an advanced approach at the plate. He knows what he wants to hit, knows what pitches he hits well, and is good at working the count (and the opposing pitcher) to get himself into those counts. In this way, he reminds me a lot of Matt Carpenter, albeit a tad bit more aggressive on pitches in the strike zone.

<iframe width="1280" height="720" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/yASIH09lXSs" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Second, Piscotty rarely swings and misses. You can go through a week's worth of games before you see him swing and miss at a pitch. Consequently, he's really difficult to strike out demonstrated by the career minor league K% of just 10.6% heading into 2015 (and just 11% last year).

<iframe width="1280" height="720" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Q7QzNz51ce0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Add all those things together and you have a hitter who has a balanced swing that can hit the ball to all fields with authority, is adept at getting the pitch he wants to hit in counts where he can punish it, and is good at making contact and avoiding strikeouts.

In what world is this the type of hitter that you worry about?

In a world where power is valued above other attributes and you play a position usually associated with a power hitter.

Except the latter really isn't true any more is it? Among qualified right fielders in 2014, just 15 had a higher ISO than Piscotty's career minor league ISO of .143. In 2013? Pretty similar. Generally, we associate right field with big, barrel chested sluggers who hit lots of home runs and strike out a ton. I blame Reggie Jackson for this, and while there are plenty of those hitters around, there's certainly more than one way to be a valuable right fielder in 2014.

In an era where strikeouts are at an all time high and defensive shifting is hurting hitters who can only use half the field, the real market inefficiency might be hitters who make a ton of good contact and use the whole field.

Would it be great if Stephen Piscotty could hit for a .180 ISO and strike out 15% of the time rather than 10%? Certainly.  But that doesn't mean that a .150 ISO and a 10% K-rate can't be valuable with average defense and a great arm in right field.

2015 Outlook:

Piscotty worked with his Stanford hitting coaches in the offseason in an attempt to get a bit more "lift" in his swing that would allow him to turn more of his raw power (which I've seen in batting practice) into the game use variety. We'll see how well the changes work in terms of churning out better power numbers, but I won't be holding my breath. I certainly wouldn't sneeze at more hits like this one though:

<iframe width="960" height="720" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/AXuWy3FLlWo" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Overall Grade: B+