By now, you’ve probably heard about LaPorta’s hot start. His current .321/.409/.657 triple-slash definitely looks like a nice upgrade over Casey Kotchman‘s current .225/.303/.341 line. But we’ve also seen LaPorta mash Triple-A pitching and falter at the Major League level before. What makes 2012 any different?
Honestly, I don’t see any trends that suggests LaPorta is a changed man. His walk rate is essentially the same (9.3 percent for his career, 8.8 percent in 2012) and he is striking out a ton (32 times in 38 games). LaPorta has really turned the power on with 13 home runs in only 38 games, but he has only hit seven doubles in the same time span. That tells me that a lot of those fly balls will stop leaving the yard and instead fall either into the gaps for two baggers or into the gloves of opposing outfielders.
The numbers are there, but LaPorta has teased us this way before. My gut tells me he’s still the same guy who has failed to make an impact in his three years in the majors, and it’s possible that he is a Quad-A player. The fact that the Indians have not brought him up to replace Kotchman tells me that they feel the same way.
Still tabbed as the third baseman of the future, Chisenhall has also had a hot start in Triple-A Columbus to the tune of a .340/.369/.577 slashline. But like LaPorta, this doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a different batter. Chisenhall’s slugging percentage is way higher than his minor league career average (.577 up from .460). This suggests that his breakout is just a hot streak, not a sustainable improvement.
The biggest thing against Chisenhall is his walk rate—or lack thereof. Through 24 games, Chisenhall has walked only four times. Meanwhile, he’s struck out 17 times. With more time in Columbus, those numbers will start to hurt him and his slashline will plummet down to his career averages, or worse. Until he learns to work the count, Chisenhall won’t have a place on the big-league roster in 2012.
Currently at Double-A Akron, Chun-Hsiu Chen is a guy I’ve always tabbed as a potential impact bat at the Major League level. This is the first year that he hasn’t been catching, which means his main focus has been hitting as he’s splitting time between first base and designated hitter. The results have been impressive, as his slashline currently sits at .329/.406/.438. While he has only one home run, he’s still hitting plenty of doubles (13 in 39 games).
Chen’s kryptonite has been and continues to be strikeouts. He whiffed 122 times in 113 games in 2011, and now he’s struck out 34 times in 39 games this year. Still, he’s clearly demonstrated that he can be an effective hitter. Columbus is log-jammed with first base and DH types so there’s not a way for Chen to break through right now, but if he keeps hitting like this they’re going to have to find a way to promote him eventually.