No. 9 – Wladimir Balentien, OF
Posted by Jason A. Churchill on March 6, 2007
Wladimir Balentien. That’s Vlad-uh-meer Bal-in-teen. He’s an extremely intriguing hitter and loads of fun to watch once he makes his way into the batter’s box. He’s not a bad athlete, either, as evidenced by his position assignments the past two seasons: center field.
Balentien is a hit or miss prospect. He either will, or he won’t. There really is no big-league future for him if he misses. Who wants a .230 hitting outfielder with medium power and a tremendous penchant for the strikeout? Okay, who else other than you, Pedro?
The risk with Balentien’s promise is very high, but the progress he made last season is exciting.
Wlad Balentien, Prospect
No. 8 No. 9.
Strengths: Balentien brings a lot of natural raw power to the table and appears to be improving his strike zone judgment and overall plate discipline. The Aruban born outfielder is a decent defender with an solid throwing arm and would fit in either corner spot.
He has quick wrists and a mean streak, which bodes well for a potential major leaguer.
Weaknesses: The free-swinging right-handed hitter is still swinging awfully hard and still chases balls out of the strike zone too often. Even with a vastly improved K/BB ratio, there is more improvement needed in this area.
He must find a way to make more consistent contact while sustaining his power numbers. Last season in San Antonio, it was either or, rarely both. Hitting in the .230s won’t get Balentien much of a look, unless he explodes in the power department. But the best way for him to max out his production is hit the baseball more often than he has.
|22||6-1||205||Right||Right||UDFA, Curacao, 2000 (Williams)
Hitting for Average (on-base skills): Balentien was your typical free-swinging slugger, Rob Deer style, for the first three seasons of his career. High strikeouts, mild walk rates, at best, and simply above-average power production, which wasn’t going to be enough to waltz Balentien into the big leagues.
In the Texas League, a pitcher’s circuit, the 22-year-old took a pretty large step forward, drawing 70 walks, more than doubling his previous career high set in 2005. His strikeout rates remained about the same and the 70 walks were drawn in nearly 50 less plate appearances than the 33 he posted in the Cal League. His +107 OBP-AVG is impressive, but he’ll need to take another step or two in the same direction to put himself on the map.
“Balentien knows how to square it up and put a charge into it,” says former Mariners minor league hitting coordinator Glenn Adams. “He just needs to learn how to hit now. The power will take care of itself with him. He has all those other things necessary for him to be a good power guy, now it’s just about getting him comfortable, making more contact and getting base hits.”
Hitting for Power: Balentien’s shtick, so to speak, is hitting the tar out of the baseball. It’s his bread and butter and while he’s not bad at it, his power still doesn’t grade out as well as it could, due to the lack of consistency.
Like many young hitters, Balentien is in a hurry to hit a 5-run shot over the river and through the woods. On occasion, he reaches the riverbank, but far too often he ends up wishing for a mulligan.
He’s learning to shorten his stride and has developed a better, shorter swing overall, allowing his bat to take a more effective route through the zone.
Glove: Balentien can make the neceesary plays, but, despite playing center field for the better part of his career to this point, his future is in left or right. He lacks the natural instincts to play center and his footspeed is merely average – at best – for the position. He’ll likely continue to fill out and outgrow center field anyways.
Arm: Balentien has an above average throwing arm, both in strength and accuracy, though he tends to “let it fly” sometimes out of pure effort. He throws well enough to play right and is an ideal left fielder in a park like Safeco, at least as far as his arm strength is concerned.
Baserunning: Balentien’s baserunning skills are likely to become fairly insignificant in both directions because he’s either going to be a power hitter or he’s not going to be a big-league player. He’s aggressive on the base paths and likes to steal bases, though he’s got a lot of learning to do in that area as well.
Future: Balentien has a long ways to go to be considered a major league hitter. The tools are there, but the skills are not, at least not yet. He need a few more coats of polish to get things in order. There’s a pretty good chance he never gets there, but he’s interesting and will be as entertaining as any offensive prospect this season.
Wlad should begin his 2007 season in Triple-A Tacoma where the pitching and early season weather will challenge his discipline and the ballparks will lend a hand to his power numbers.
MLB ETA: 2008
MLB CLONE –
Ceiling: Bill Hall
Median: Jose Guillen
Cellar: Alex Escobar
PI Projection: .247/.306/.433, 48 BB, 118 K