Real life has had me busy lately and my queued up supply of posts has finally run dry, so let’s do something a little different. Figure if we’re going to experiment, then Friday is the right day for it, you know? This might be a bit too stream of consciousness-y for some, but we’ll try it anyway.
In a recent Perfect Game piece, a few comps for Arizona JR 2B/OF Scott Kingery, easily one of my favorite college bats in this year’s class, were mentioned. As a sucker for a good comp, I was pleased to see the perfectly logical names Ian Kinsler and Jason Kipnis brought up. I like both, though the last time PG used Kipnis (to my knowledge) was when Frankie Piliere (who is now at D1 Baseball and still great, by the way) compared him to Phillip Ervin. Kingery and Ervin as comp cousins doesn’t pass my personal smell test, but to each his own. On the surface, Kipnis is pretty spot-on for a variety of reasons (same state, same position switch, vaguely similar build); here’s an excerpt from his Baseball America draft scouting report…
Kipnis doesn’t have one standout tool, but can do a little bit of everything. He has a patient approach and a line-drive swing. He has shown he can hit quality pitching, though he doesn’t profile for big power with a wood bat, making him a potential tweener. While his defense in center field has improved, he doesn’t have the range to stay there long-term–yet he might not hit enough to man a corner spot. He may also get a chance to try second base.
I like it more than love it, but it’s at least worth thinking about. I’d say, if anything, Kingery is ahead of where Kipnis was as a prospect at a similar point in their respective development. Kingery’s glove is definitely ahead, both in terms of getting a head start at second base and being flat better across the board. You could make an argument for Kipnis’s bat being ahead back then, but I’d personally go with Kingery’s upside with the stick all the same. Fun final college season stat comparison…
ANYWAY, this post isn’t even about Kingery. I mean, it kind of is because the PG piece got me thinking about other potential comps for Kingery. One of my favorites that I heard recently is a slightly more physical version of Ray Durham, an massively underrated player who can lead you down a very long, very weird Baseball-Reference rabbit hole if you’re not careful. I say that because — big surprise — that’s exactly what happened to me this afternoon. But this post isn’t solely about Kingery because I, of course, had to take things a step further. Self-obsessed individual that I am, I had to check my own damn site to see if I had mentioned Durham in the past. Turns out I had…
2B Willie Calhoun (Benicia HS, California): love his hit tool, easy above-average; average defender; gap power; average speed; good enough arm; great patience; PG Ray Durham comp; have heard a shorter Jay Bell; 5-8, 170 pounds
Good old Willie Calhoun. Went to Arizona for a year, scuffled somewhat at first glance but wound up holding his own more than most non-stud freshman (.247/.345/.301 with 19 BB/11 K in 146 AB), and doing more of the same on the Cape that summer (.245/.331/.331 with 15 BB/15 K in 139 AB), all before transferring to Yavapai JC (Kyle Blanks, Kole Calhoun, Curt Schilling, and Ken Giles all passed through there, among others) where he’s now hitting a robust .443/.520/.940 with 24 BB/8 K in 167 AB. Wait, what: .443/.520/.940 with 24 BB/8 K in 167 AB? All obvious caveats (mainly level of competition and geography/playing conditions) aside, those are numbers of a player worth knowing more about, right?
When a player is literally hitting a homer every other game (or close to it: 22 HR in 47 G), then learning more seems like the smart play. Yavapai’s status as a consistently strong junior college program (they are 34-14 this year) who produce a good bit of big league talent (see the list above) and fields a team this year with a potential top five round pitcher in SO RHP Chandler Eden (Oregon State transfer) and another intriguing prospect in SO 3B Luke Doyle all add up to there being plenty of scouting heat at their games this season. I did a little digging to see what some are saying while also going back deeper into my notes on him from his high school days.
Calhoun has experience over the years at second, third, and in the outfield. At last check he’s not particularly great at any of those spots, but should be around average at his natural position of second base with continued work. Average-ish glove at multiple spots, average wheels, and an average at best arm (that might be generous, but it at least plays at second) can all be worked around with a bat like Calhoun’s. In addition to his innate ability for hard contact, he has a very well-trained eye that allows him to swing at “his” pitches and spit on those he doesn’t like. He has no problem hitting with two strikes and excels at driving the ball to all fields. The uptick in power this year lends credence to those I talked to while Calhoun was still in HS who believed he could eventually develop his way into double-digit professional home run pop. The overall offensive profile is quite appealing for a player with a strong chance to stick up the middle, to say nothing of when you should be able to grab him in the draft (hint: not early) and what the expectations of him will be as he enters pro ball.
If you read the site often, then you know I don’t do “sleepers” because — really — what does that word even mean anyway, and Calhoun was too well-regarded out of high school to fit what I personally think the term should mean, but if you want to go ahead and call him that, I won’t stop you. What he lacks in size, exposure, and over the top physical ability, he more than makes up for in the batter’s box. I love loud tools as much as anybody, but there will always be a place in the game for a hitter like Calhoun who can crack line drives pole to pole, work deep counts, and sneak a few over the fence when he’s feeling strong.