21) Freddy Sandoval, 8/16/82 - 3B/2B/1B, AAA
Ranking in a Nutshell: He's the frontrunner for Robb Quinlan's job due to his line drive bat from both sides of the plate, good command of the strike zone, and defensive versatility. He shows average power and slightly above average speed. His minor league track record is strong, and solidified at the upper levels. He has tremendous make-up, which helped him to outperform higher-ceilinged players at every level. He's a favorite of mine, and I'm convinced he'll stick at the MLB level as a bench player. If things break right, he could become an occasional regular.
Track Record: The Halos signed Freddy shortly after taking him in the 8th round of the 2004 draft. He debuted the following summer in the Midwest League, showing solid contact skills and excellent plate discipline, though the tough home park and lack of power kept him under the radar. His prospect status sagged further the following year with a weak showing in the California League, where he fanned more often while hitting for even less power. 2007 marked the turning point of his pro career. He hit extraordinarily well in Arkansas, putting up a .305/.392/.468 slash line, the second best performance there since the new stadium - hell to hitters - opened in 2007. Salt Lake's thin air helped him to even gaudier 2008 slash line of .335/.389/.514 with 15 HR's, though that season's 4 wins above replacement fell short of the 4.4 WAR he posted in AA. He topped off the season with a good showing in the World Baseball Classic, playing mostly second, and a trip to the Caribbean Championship series, also with Mexico. Freddy slumped slightly in his sophomore 2009 season with the Bees, which is becoming a bit of a pattern for prospects there, but still hit .300/.360/.458 overall.
Win-the-Lottery-Ceiling: Maicer Izturis with less speed and defense, though with a touch more power. If that sounds disappointing, consider that Izturis is likely the most valuable 5th infielder in all of baseball, better than many regulars. Sandoval's ceiling still represents a cut above what most teams have on the bench, and with his low strikeout totals and line drive bat the risk of him bombing in the majors is low. All in all, he represents premium Brandon Wood insurance.
Scouting Report: (beneath the jump)
Freddy posted a 23.1% line drive rate in 2009, tops in the system. Unlike many other high-contact, line-drive hitters, he incorporates his lower half well, generating a lot of momentum with his pivot. When he turns on a ball, he can drive it, as he did in this video from two years ago at Arkansas. If you have MLB.TV, you can also go back to the October 1st game against Texas and watch him wallup a double in the 4th inning. Quality breaking balls in the dirt can still get him to chase, and his 2009 strikeout rate of 12.9% was good but not great.
He played second base for three games in the majors, but only three times at Salt Lake over the whole year. He has enough range to hold down the keystone - check out this fine diving stop to rob a hit in the majors - but probably won't be more than adequate there. He's shown good range and a decent arm at third base. According to TotalZone, he has posted seasons as good as +18 with the glove, but errors consistently detract from his above-average defensive tools, making his D at the hot corner just slightly above average most years. Like Chone Figgins, he could probably excel defensively if left alone at just one spot. He played more first over the past year, but the sample size remains small.
A special thanks to Stephen Smith for publishing the video I linked to above.