I wrote a whole mess of words on Kyle Tucker (and other things) yesterday, but didn’t get the comp I truly wanted for him until today: Paul O’Neill. Stylistically it works, and I think O’Neill’s production (162 game average: .288/.363/.470 with 22 HR, 11 SB, and 70 BB/92 K) is a reasonable ceiling for Tucker’s skill set. Toss in some above-average corner outfield defense and you get why I’d be so high on him.
Anyway, believe it or not, there are other non-Tucker outfielders to talk about. My favorite is Nick Plummer (Brother Rice HS, Michigan), which should come as no shock to any regular reader who knows how I feel about a player described to me as “so smart about the strike zone, umpires have waited for him to react before calling balls and strikes.” The two published comps on him that I’ve read (both from Perfect Game) are Jon Jay and Ray Lankford. The two that I’ve gotten are Raimel Tapia (love prospect to prospect comps) and Bobby Higginson.
Let’s unpack the Higginson comparison a bit because I both liked him as a player and like the specific comparison to Plummer. I was surprised to see Higginson, who in my memory had a strong compact build bordering on bulky (in a good way), listed at 5-11, 175 pounds back in 1992 after his senior season at Temple. One report had him up to 190 pounds, which puts him right around the same listed height/weight of what I have on Plummer (5-11, 200) as of now. That works as a good reminder for me to remember to compare players at similar stages of their development physically. This is still an imperfect player to player comparison since we’re talking about a HS senior and a college senior, but at least we’re not mixing in a guy in his mid-30s to confuse things further. For more on Higginson at that time I went searching for any old scouting reports on him. Here are the unedited excerpts from the five scouting reports at Diamond Minds written by Billy Blitzer, Ed Creech, Joe Frisina, Brad Kohler, and Phil Rossi about Bobby Higginson.
- “QUICK BAT, CAN REALLY TURN ON PITCH.” “OK ON BASES.” “EASY THROWING MOTION, ARM BIT SHORT BUT PLAYABLE.” “WILL GO AS FAR AS BAT TAKES HIM.”
- “GOOD STROKE, HEADY OF, IDEA AT THE PLATE AND ON DEF…NO GLARING WEAKNESSES.”
- “THIS KID CAN SWING THE BAT, KNOWS THE STRIKE ZONE…BAT BEST TOOL NOW.”
- “Live bat, quick short stroke, ball jumps from bat.” Line drive hitter to all fields.”
- “Generates bat-head ‘quickly’ thru hitting zone, w/ consistently hard-contact; Will have some power; Sl[lightly] below to avg. throwing arm, that has carry; Runs bases well.”
The Rossi report ended with this note that I think applies to Plummer: “Bat will carry to M.L.” I’d be remiss to not also mention the comps those scouts mentioned in their reports. Here I was thinking only internet hacks used comps, but guess I was wrong. Physical comparisons made included Johnny Callison, Jack Daugherty, Phil Plantier, and Mike Greenwell. That last one really caught my attention, so I asked around and got some emphatic support for a Greenwell/Plummer comparison. Mike Greenwell was an outstanding hitter when healthy (162 game average: .303/.368/.463 with 17 HR, 10 SB, and 59 BB/46 K), so that’s a lofty comparison but I can see it fitting for those who really believe in Plummer’s bat. Higginson’s 162 game average puts you in the same ballpark: .272/.358/.455 with 22 HR, 11 SB, and 77 BB/95 K. It’s hard to find a more modern comp that fits similarly with that kind of production in today’s game, but I could see some Denard Span with more pop to Plummer’s offensive future if things break right. That’s obviously a bat only comparison as Span’s defense and base running make him a different all-around player altogether.
As with Tucker, if you’re buying Plummer as an early first round caliber talent (as I do), then you’re going all-in on the bat carrying him to the big leagues. The rest of his tools are more good than great and I’d argue, like Tucker, that his long-term home is in a corner outfield spot (left field since his arm is his weakest tool) once he starts to lose a step as a runner, but his pitch recognition, disciplined approach, and ability to make pitchers throw his pitches that he can drive are unique for such a young hitter. One last name that he reminds me of a bit because I just can’t help myself: a slower Johnny Damon.
Almost all of the above can be applied to Trenton Clark (Richland HS, Texas). He’s another elite hitter with a great feel for the game and unparalleled baseball IQ. I think that last part is what has confounded some this spring, as, like Plummer, his non-hitting tools are all more good than great (other reasonable minds disagree, for the record), but his smarts can help literally every aspect of his overall game play up. I’d actually put his speed, arm (no doubt), and likelihood to stick in center ahead of Plummer, but his overall future contributions with the bat just a tick behind. As such, arguing for one over the other is fair game. In fact, the mention of Span as a potential bat comp for Plummer actually fits better for Clark – even more so when you account for other facets of his game – so let’s just go ahead and use that for now.
Or we can get into another comp I like for Clark that I’ve actually gotten for a certain SEC outfielder as well. Trenton Clark is Mark Kotsay is Andrew Benintendi, if you believe in the Transitive Property of Equality. I’ll spare you the bullet by bullet breakdown of this comparison, but go here and search for Kotsay and see for yourself. Though you could say he didn’t quite live up to all the expectations that his younger self once teased, Kotsay had a fantastic big league run. He put up 20.2 fWAR, was a near league average bat for a long time (95 wRC+, 96 OPS+), played parts of 17 seasons in the big leagues, and took home just over $50 million for his work on the diamond. Getting a player like him (forget the fact his last eight seasons were all below-average, focus on the 19.2 fWAR in his years of club control) with a top ten pick is a win by any measure, expectations be damned.