On the Horizon: Aaron Bates


Aaron Bates tied the single-game RBI record for the Portland Sea Dogs last night with 7. He hit a mistake changeup for a grand slam in the 2nd inning, and added a 3-run double in the 8th. I think this is a good occasion to do a write up on him, to introduce him to Red Sox fans.

Bates is 24 years old and is listed at 6-4, 232. A right-handed hitter, he was drafted in the 3rd round by the Sox in 2006 out of North Carolina State, where he hit .354/.479/.560 his junior year and led the team with 10 HR and 45 walks. He’s known as a very selective hitter (he has 20/10 eyesight) but with a long swing, which scouts aren’t crazy about. Bates pulls the ball on the ground a lot and has always had a relatively low line drive percentage, but has shown an ability to take the ball the other way with power consistently, which is a skill many hitters never perfect. He strikes out less than most players with his profile, which is a plus. Bates is a plus defender at first, though his range is just average. He’s a very laid-back kid and a hard worker, just the type of player the Sox like.

Bates has always shown good power, and was a California League 2007 Post-season All-Star after hitting .332/.456/.592 with 24 HR (47 XBH) in 373 AB at High-A Lancaster. He was the first player ever to have a 4 HR game in the California League, that’s how good he was last season. Bates’ star has dimmed some since then, as he’s struggled to maintain the same level of production at Double-A Portland since his promotion there late last year. He’s now at .268/.339/.330 in 2008, and it has taken 26 games to hit his first round-tripper.

Here’s a 2007 interview of Bates by David Laurila of Baseball Prospectus. Bates seems to have a good approach to hitting:

Plate discipline is more than simply laying off balls and swinging at strikes, it’s recognizing which pitches you handle well. A disciplined hitter knows how to stay away from balls he’s likely to roll over or pop up. Even if it means taking a strike and getting behind in the count, you’re better off waiting for a pitch you can do something with. You need to understand when you have to expand your strike zone. So, in that respect, I guess it’s more learned. Hitting is a lot about being patient and controlling your emotions.

It remains to be seen if Bates can keep up with pitchers at the higher levels of baseball, but he certainly seems like a prospect worth keeping tabs on.

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