What To Expect From Alex Presley

Last year, the Pirates Garrett Jones / Matt Diaz platoon didn’t work out so well, and Presley absolutely raked in AAA, so they called him up at the end of June (I wish they hadn’t waited so long, but that’s a different story) and were rewarded as Presley hit .298/.339/.465 in 231 plate appearances. That’s impressive stuff. So can Presley replicate that success when he’s the everyday left fielder in 2012?

The answer is a resounding “we don’t know”. It could help us to take a look at some his career trends in the triple-slash categories (AVG/OBP/SLG), strikeouts, and walks. So here are some graphs:

First is Presley’s year-by-year AVG/OBP/SLG graph:

And here are the strikeout percentage and walk percentage graphs:

The first graph shows that Presley has been somewhat inconsistent over his career, but in general has gotten better every year. You have to account for the change in levels of competition, and when you do that you see that’s definitely been progressing as a player. The fact that he came up to the big leagues and kept having success last year was very encouraging.

However, the K% and BB% graphs give a little cause for concern. Presley’s walks went way down and his strikeouts went way up after being promoted to Pittsburgh last season. Obviously you wouldn’t expect him to keep quite the same ratios from the minor leagues, but you also wouldn’t expect as huge a difference as we saw. Presley struck out in 14.3% of his career AAA plate appearances, that number went up to 17.3% in the majors. Now that isn’t horrible, Andrew McCutchen posted a similar number last year (don’t get me wrong, that’s still too high for an outfielder with little power), the walk percentage is where it gets bad.

Presley has never drawn a lot of walks. His highest mark in his career was in 2008 at A+ where he walks in 8.9% of his plate appearances. Last year he walked in 7.4% in AAA, but saw that drop significantly down to 5.6% when he was promoted. This is a leadoff hitter. If there’s one guy you want drawing walks, it’s your leadoff hitter, and Presley really doesn’t seem to have the ability to do that.

Obviously he is still young and can (and probably will) improve with his patience and approach at the plate. It takes young guys some time to get the feel for the strike zone and whatnot, so I’m not saying Presley can’t improve enough to become a legitimate major league player. However, if he doesn’t improve, it’s a longshot that this guy can have the success he did last year. Pitchers are going to figure out how to best pitch him, and if he’s up there swinging at their pitches, he’s not going to help the team much.

Presley has some really solid tools that can help him stay successful in the big leagues, he just needs to work on his approach and eye at the dish. If he doesn’t improve, I don’t think he’ll stay in the major leagues for too long.

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Tags: Alex Presley Andrew McCutchen

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