By David Heck, Special to CBS Local Sports
CBS Local Sports will be profiling one young player from each Major League Baseball team every day for the next 30 days as part of our “30 Players 30 Days” spring training feature.
Adam Eaton, Outfielder, Arizona Diamondbacks
2012 season: 22 G, 85 AB, .259 BA, 2 HR, 3 SB, .794 OPS
The Diamondbacks have a surplus of outfielders, both on the Major League roster and in the minor leagues. That’s part of why the team felt comfortable trading Justin Upton this offseason – because one of those prospects, Adam Eaton, was finally ready to get an extended look in the big leagues Eaton was a popular breakout candidate just a few weeks ago, but unfortunately, he sprained his elbow during Spring Training and will likely miss the first two months of the season.
As devastating as that must be for a player who was just getting his shot, there are still a lot of reasons to like Eaton for this season and beyond. One might worry that a sprained elbow would sap power potential, but Eaton was never a big power threat to begin with. What makes him a noteworthy player is his potential to have an impact in just about every other aspect of the game.
In 119 games at Triple-A last year, Eaton batted .381 with seven homers, 38 steals and a .995 OPS. He was playing in a hitters’ league, but those numbers are still impressive. Perhaps the best thing about Eaton, however, is his ability to simply get on base. He drew 59 walks at Triple-A last year while striking out 76 times, posting a .456 on-base percentage (remember, he hit .381). Even though Eaton’s average dropped significantly upon his promotion to the big leagues, his on-base percentage still stayed strong. He reached base at a .382 clip, drawing 14 walks against 15 strikeouts during his foray into The Show.
Overall, Eaton represents everything that one would want in a leadoff hitter. He avoids making outs, he steals bases and he’s got a little pop to boot. His speed also allows him to play in center field, where his offensive skills make him even more valuable. It stings that he will miss the start of the season, but no injury is going to significantly affect his ability to recognize pitches. He’ll still have his speed and patience upon his return, which means he’ll still be an important player for the Diamondbacks. Down the line, he could evolve into one of the best top-of-the-order hitters in the league and could be a catalyst in the Arizona lineup for years to come.
Next up on March 30: San Diego Padres