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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)
2006 San Antonio AA 121 23 1 22 70 140 .230 .337 .435 .772 .806


Tools –

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.”
Grade: 35/50

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.
Grade: 60/65

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.
Grade: 45/50

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.
Grade: 50/60

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.
Grade: 45/50

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


Ceiling: Bill Hall

Median: Jose Guillen

Cellar: Alex Escobar

PI Projection: .247/.306/.433, 48 BB, 118 K

OFP: 61.0


31 Responses to “No. 9 – Wladimir Balentien, OF”

  1. 2quarters said

    I have a feeling/I am hoping #8 is Triunfel and he got moved up because of good reports about him.

  2. 2quarters said

    Well, upon rereading the prelude, I take back that statement. LOL

  3. Slack said

    Still no mention of Justin Thomas. Interesting. Very interesting!

  4. I’ll have a scouting report on Triunfel, Martinez and Ramirez in the coming weeks, but like I said in the prelude, it’s nearly impossible to put a ranking next to their name.

  5. 2quarters said

    Completely understood. Tough to rank guys who haven’t even played in the U.S. yet.

  6. Edgar said

    So do you think its better to have a player who can hit for average and then hope they develop power or a player who can hit for power and then hope they learn to hit for average?

  7. Willmore said

    Back to Balentien. Jason, is Balentien’s .284 BABIP more indicative of “hacking” or of just bad luck? Seems like if he’s swinging for the fences every AB, he will either get a deep fly if he gets nice wood, a pop fly if he gets under the ball or a groundout if he doesn’t see the break on the ball, with little room for line drives and the like. Also, his park adjusted HR/F is 25.3% … wow.

    Also, he is either more patient or is getting better pitches with runners in scoring position, his 32 to 38 BB/K ratio is very palatable and it shows – with RISP he has 0.271/0.410/0.519 line which is drool-worthy.

    In a somewhat contradictory analysis, I noticed that in July-August, he had a 43/52 BB/K ratio, so his late-season stats are perhaps indicative of his improvement throughout the season. He did however have a horrible statistical August, due partially to his .158 BABIP. So – he was more selective at the plate. In being selective another thing shows – his HR/F dropped to under 20% in those same months. So it seems that he is either a hacker that can power the ball over the fence, but striking out a lot and not walking, or a more selective guy at the plate with a .350+ OBP and not much more than a .430 SLUG. Wishing him to be both seems like a pipe dream.

  8. Edgar said

    Well Wilmore that spoils a little of the excitement.

  9. etowncoug said

    The PI top 10 was going to be the 10 people listed by Willmore and Jason in the newsletter, but Balentien has already dropped a slot. I am wondering how high Lehair can climb on the prospects list with a good spring. Sounds like he is impressing with the leather at least and his bat is looking good as well.

  10. Willmore said

    It does ? Sort of a no-brainer considering the prospects already listed, with the top-3 order somewhat obvious and the rest’s order somewhat irrelevant when considering the difference between a #4 prospect and a #6 prospects in the rankings. The interesting part will be the actual write-ups.

  11. Edgar said

    Not really. The biggest question mark I had was where he was going to put Wladimir Balentien and maybe Greg Halman.

  12. Adam B. said

    I think Tony Butler and Brandon Morrow could’ve been interchangeable due to Butler pitching significantly more with simular results and having about equal talent (yes, I’m a sucker for power lefties…)

    Speaking of power lefties, it’s so good to see Justin Thomas getting some love. It’s crazy to see some “Top Tens” without his name after the season he put up in between Wisconsin and the Cal league last year.

    As for LaHair, I sincerely hope he finds a way to get onto the 25 man this year. A disposable Richie Sexson come June, is a good Richie Sexson. Given the M’s proclivity for blocking talented youngsters with old and expensive “clubhouse leaders” or untalented “sparkplugs” I wouldn’t bet on it.

    Who knows, maybe now that Doyle is a Nat, his health problems will relocate to Bloomie–I can dream can’t I?

  13. Chevy said

    I noticed that you have Andrew Baldwin in the 31-40 segment. Where do you put Andy Barb, who came in the Moyer trade with Baldwin?

  14. Lance said

    I’d still rather have Balentien in my home run hitting contest than any other hitter in the organazation. But, when the pitching gets real, I’m not holding out much hope.

    The most likely scenario, IMHO, is that Balentien will be trade bait in July for when the M’s become buyers for their division
    run this upcoming season.

    Please, just don’t let it be Adam Jones. And, I’d prefer to keep Jeff Clement, Rob Johnson, Ryan Feierabend and Mike Wilson, too, if possible.

  15. Wilmore, why on earth would you post that?

    Re: Chevy/Barb

    I actually like Barb and he might have a decent chance to make the big leagues, but he’s already pitching in relief full time, apparently, though I’m not sure why as he was very solid in 11 starts in 2005.

    Barb’s command could use a bump or two, and his stuff may have problems playing past AA, but the reason why he wasn’t ranked in any group was because he didnt pitch for Seattle after the trade so I didn’t get a chance to see him and I only know of a few scouts that saw much of him at all.

    He’d have been a 35-50 range type guy, I’d say.

  16. Willmore said

    Didn’t know it was confidential.

  17. I wouldn’t call it confidential, but it kind of takes the suspense out of it for EVERYONE, dont ya think?

    Not EVERYONE is signed up for the newsletter, clearly.

  18. jp17 said

    I didn’t even know there was a newsletter.

    Damn kids with no chance lost us the game today, another one run loss.

    Felix and Feierabend did well it seems.

    #8 tonight possibly?

  19. I just started the newsletter thing. Totally free… it’s just a way for me to keep everyone informed on the goings on and things like that. 2 times a month or so… I’ll put up a sing-up button in the next month or so, but wordpress doesn’t support javascript, so I’ll have to wait until my new host takes over.

    If anyone wants to join, just email me and I’ll add ya. And yeah, on occasion I’ll be throwing in some stuff that isn’t YET pubbed on the site itself.

  20. Lance said

    I saw what willmore was trying to do and immediately page downed, and avoided the comments thereafter, so it’s still suspense for me. I just know willmore too well by now. He’s even making waves on Geoff Baker’s blog.

    Simply for the record, scout.com’s Mariners Top 20 did have Barb down at #19. “Powerful bullpen arm” they said.

    jp17, unfortunately Jimenez was unable to come out for the 9th so they used a couple of kids they could grab quick, Mackintosh and Embree (some minor league signing). Still, Kam Mikolio did a fine job ending that inning with two quick outs, so that was good. Hey, it’s only March.

  21. Edgar said

    Is Jesse Foppert ever going to amount to anything? I thought his pickup at the time was a nice high risk/high reward move. Whats been wrong with him? Has his velocity just never come back? It seems like he’s getting near a make or break age where he really needs to show his stuff fast.

  22. jp17 said

    I think the Embree you are talking about is Byron Embry (sp?) who has been around for awhile in the independent leagues.

    Oh well, guess it’s nice to see that we did our damage against their guys who will make the club, while they did most of their damage against roster filler.

    Hey, and whaddya know, Lopez had a single the other way, Hargrove must have been proud.

  23. Willmore said

    I wasn’t trying to do anything … honest.

  24. It’s fine, Willmore, I was half kidding.

    But yeah, the newsletter will reveal a few little things that the site doesn’t, so those who elect to receive the newsletter will get those tidbits, or at least before others do.

  25. nighthawk180 said

    Hey Jason,

    Could you put me on the list I don’t know your email. Thx

  26. send me an email from the address you want added, nighthawk.


    Re: Barb

    Barb is so much like other arms in the system, but doesn’t have the upside that Kahn, James and others do at this point. He’s 22 already and has yet to pitch above Low A ball.

    Having him at 20 shows how idiotic scout.com is these days.

    Speaking of scout.com, they contacted me on Tuesday night offering me their publisher’s spot — You can guess how far down their throats I shoved that BS idea.

  27. Lance said

    So, Jason, when you were at ITP, how did your responsibilities differ from Joe Kaiser, with him being the publisher, and you the editor?

    I’d refer to Foppert as low risk/high reward. Winn had no future in Seattle and was due a decent raise, anyway.

  28. Ozzie said

    I loved the Foppert trade because i follow the Giants and he had come up and pitched really well for them. He had dominating stuff, but had injury problems. He kinda of reminded me of Gil Meche. Thes guys could be great if they could only figure out how to consistently make good pitches instead of having “brain farts” during a blow up inning.

    Still not giving up on him because IF he stays healthy and regains his form he could be a solid set-up man because I don’t think his future is in the rotation anymore.

  29. Slack said

    I didn’t see a 20-80 scale rank for Balentein as a hitter for power. What is it?

  30. Edgar said

    I never really realized how weak our LH bats have been. I’d say its Broussard and Ibanez. Neither are too much to brag about when talking about a power hitter although both are useful hitters.

  31. With Raul’s explosion last year, you can certainly say he’s the best LH power bat since Junior. But before he’d done what he did a year ago, the club hadn’t had a 25+ homer guy from that side of the dish.

    Oddly enough as that is, considering Safeco Field’s dimensions.

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