Derek Dietrich and Mikie Mahtook Take Montgomery | The Process Report

Derek Dietrich and Mikie Mahtook Take Montgomery

Contrary to popular belief, the Rays have some hitting prospects. Two of them now reside in Montgomery with recent promotions.

The secret about minor-league stats is their reliability and importance decrease the farther from the majors the player is. Production rules in the majors, not in the minors. There are exceptions to this rule, one being a batter’s strikeout rate. Seeing a high strikeout rate in the lower minors is a red flag, as strikeout rates typically increase with the competition level. Even prospects that show good power should not be fanning in the minors as often as their big-league counterparts do in the majors.

Entering this season, Derek Dietrich’s strikeout rate loomed as a potential issue. Despite hailing from a competitive college environment, Dietrich struggled to make contact against low-quality pitchers his first two seasons in the system. He fanned 22 percent of the time in 2010, and 24 percent of the time last year. Had those modest gains continued at each stop along the way, Dietrich would be fanning close to 30 percent of the time once he reached the majors. Succeeding in the majors is hard enough with an average strikeout rate. To succeed while striking out close to or more than 30 percent of the time typically means hitting for an extraordinary amount of power or other secondary skills of high quality.

Fortunately, Dietrich has gotten the strikeout bug under control this season. He struck out a career-low 19 percent of the time during his stint in the pitching-friendly Florida State League. Dietrich continued to display good power from a middle infielder, although his future position is up in the air. What’s clear is that he is not a big-league shortstop. Most analysts see him as a future third baseman; however, with Evan Longoria present, the Rays have taken to giving Dietrich reps at second base this season. If Dietrich curbs his strikeout woes for good, he should be in line for a cup of coffee by the end of the 2013 season.

The Rays also promoted Mikie Mahtook to Montgomery. Mahtook, a 2011 first-round pick, opened his professional career by playing in last season’s Arizona Fall League. He garnered myriad compliments for his play there, with a few folks remarking that he resembles a big-league player now. Mahtook opened 2012 at High-A Charlotte and showed the Rays enough to pass the Florida State League test in half a season.

Like Dietrich, there are questions about Mahtook’s future position. Mahtook is something of a tweener. He lacks the typical speed to play center, the typical arm to play right, and the typical power to play left. But Mahtook does enough things well—namely everything—and plays with enough intensity to profile as a safe, potentially above-average big-leaguer. The Rays have shown a willingness to push first-round college picks like Evan Longoria and David Price before, and will ostensibly do the same with Mahtook and Richie Shaffer.

For all of those reasons, expect Mahtook to make his big-league debut in 2013, before taking over an outfield spot in 2014—date to be determined by whether the Rays play the service time game or not.

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