On the Verge: Top MLB Prospect Jaff Decker
Sunday December 11, 2011
Jonathan Hacohen: In this edition of On the Verge, I take a look at one of the prospects in the game today: Jaff Decker of the San Diego Padres. Today’s feature is part one of our two-part series on Jaff. Coming up later this week, we will be bringing you my exclusive interview with Jaff Decker. As part of the interview, Jaff talks baseball, including growing up and learning the game and his future in San Diego. Keep an eye out, as I definitely enjoyed learning about Jaff and hearing about his story in his own words. A must read for every baseball fan!
So why the excitement and hype surrounding Jaff Decker? It is very simple. While there are many prospects that play the game every year, there are few “special” ones that will leave an impact in the game. Jaff Decker is one of those special players. Born February 23rd, Jaff will be 22-years-of-age come opening day. Drafted in the 1st round (42nd overall) by the Padres in 2008, San Diego uncovered a hidden gem in selecting Jaff. Just take a look at the his numbers and you will be blown away.
Jaff played across two levels in his first professional season. Playing between Rookie and Low-A Ball, Jaff put up an incredible .343 AVG, .513 OBP and .521 SLG. He walked more than he struck out (57 to 41), and even stole 9 bases in 10 tries. In 2009, Jaff moved to Fort Wayne (A-Ball) and continued his assault on minor league pitching. He put up a .299 AVG, with a .442 OBP, .514 SLG and 16 home runs in only 104 games. Jaff had close to a 1:1 walk-to-strikeout ratio (85/92). The sky was limit at this point as most major baseball publications and analysts began to view Jaff as a can’t miss prospect.
2010 unfortunately was a difficult season for Jaff. He moved to Lake Elsinore (High-A Ball). Between injuries and slumps, Jaff started off the year very slowly and had a difficult time getting untracked. He was able to salvage the year with a strong second half and still finished with 17 home runs in only 79 games. He hit .262 with a strong .374 OBP and .500 SLG. The walks and strikeouts though told a different story, as he walked only 47 times and struck out 80 times. It appeared to me that he was pressing that year and was moving away from his usual patience approach. I was looking forward to 2011 and to see what Jaff could do matched up against AA pitching. I certainly was not disappointed.
Last season turned out to be Jaff’s best year in professional baseball. The strong combination of power and patience displayed throughout his career continued to shine as he blossomed into one of the top slugging prospects in the game. Playing a full season in AA, Jaff hit a career high 19 home runs, drove in 92 RBIs and scored 90 runs. He stole 15 bases in 20 attempts, making him a viable 30/30 candidate in the future. While his average was down to .237, the OBP remained a steady .373 to go along with a .417 SLG. While Jaff has shown higher averages and OPS numbers in previous years, I feel that looking at his body of work as a whole, 2011 was the breakout year. Jaff took 103 walks, while striking out 145 times. So while his strikeouts should be cut down a bit, he was not pressing and went back to his patient ways. A great sign of things to come.
When I think of comparables to Jaff Decker, I think of Adam Dunn and Nick Swisher. Sluggers that hit a fair amount of home runs, take a ton of walks and get on base at high clip. If Jaff stays on his current path, that is very good company to be in. We should find out very soon, as I project Jaff Decker to likely make his major league debut sometime this year, with a full-time MLB job by 2013. As he progresses to San Diego, Jaff will have new challenges to face. A young developing team where he will be expected to become an offensive savior. Ballpark dimensions that are not conducive to hitters. A great deal of pressure on a young hitter. But Jaff Decker appears to not only have the talent, but the right attitude and approach for his future role. A smart young man who is well-mannered, he should fit in well in the laid back San Diego area. For a team that has been looking for its next franchise player since the departure of Tony Gwynn, they made have indeed found him in Jaff Decker.
Get to know Jaff Decker more intimately next week, as we feature my interview with the Padres prospect. Stay tuned for part-two of our Jaff Decker series, coming up on MLB reports!
Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports: You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)
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Posted on December 11, 2011, in On the Verge: MLB Prospects and tagged adam dunn, baseball, first round pick, fort wayne tincaps, jaff decker, lake elsinore storm, mlb, nick swisher, outfielder, peoria, prospect, san antonio missions, san diego padres, tony gwynn. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.