Prospect of the Day: Adam Eaton, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Adam Eaton (not to be confused with the former major league pitcher) is currently destroying the Pacific Coast League, threatening the .400 mark in 62 games for the Triple-A Reno Aces. You don't see Eaton on many top prospect lists, but he's got an excellent track record and is the subject for today's Prospect of the Day.
Adam Eaton was an extremely successful outfielder at the University of Miami-Ohio. He hit .294/.374/.406 in 50 games in his freshman year in 2008, then boosted his production to .350/.472/.617 with 11 homers and 28 steals in 2009, then .368/.466/.709 with 13 homers and 30 steals in his junior year of 2010. Scouts gave him good reviews for his work ethic, speed, athleticism, and throwing arm, and his statistics were obviously excellent, but he lasted until the 19th round in the draft and earned a bonus of only $35,000 (more on that in a moment).
Eaton continued ripping pro pitching after signing, hitting .385/.500/.575 with 20 steals, 35 walks, and 44 strikeouts in 226 at-bats for Missoula in the Pioneer League. Of course, that's the Pioneer League. Lots of people hit well there. Bumped up to High-A Visalia to begin 2011, he remained extremely productive with a .332/.455/.492 mark with 24 steals in 65 games. But hey, that's the California League; lots of people hit well there.
The same is not true for the Southern League, a more neutral environment. Promoted to Mobile for the second half last year, Eaton remained productive with a .302/.409/.429 mark, showing some power slippage but continuing to control the strike zone well (30 walks, 35 strikeouts in 212 at-bats) and swiping 10 bases. He hit .300/.391/.325 in 11 games for Mobile this year, before moving up to Reno in late April. He's hitting .392/.463/.536 in Triple-A, with 28 walks and 37 strikeouts in 263 at-bats, with 22 steals. Overall, he's hitting .380/.461/.508 this year with 34 walks, 45 strikeouts in 303 at-bats, with 28 steals in 34 attempts.
In 262 minor league games, Eaton is a career .352/.452/.503 hitter, with 82 steals in 110 attempts. So, what's the deal here? This guy tore it up in college, and he's tearing it up in pro ball.
Eaton is a left-handed hitter and thrower, born December 6, 1988 in Springfield, Ohio. The key thing that has kept him off top prospect lists is size: he's just 5-8, 185 pounds. However, he's got good tools, including above-average running speed, and a very strong throwing arm. While he doesn't have huge home run power, he has good pop and can sting the ball to all fields. So far, minor league pitchers haven't found any weaknesses in his approach, and he's handled both fastballs and breaking balls well. He did have some issues showing pop against left-handed pitching last year, hitting .263 with a .331 SLG, but that hasn't been a problem in 2012: he's hitting .417/.493/.533 against lefties in Triple-A. Eaton is also well-regarded for his work ethic and intensity.
While Arizona doesn't have an immediate opening for Eaton, he doesn't appear to have much learning left to do in the minors. Although it would be easy to categorize him as a future fourth outfielder, his combination of speed, gap power, on-base ability, and sound defense could make him a regular for some teams, at least in a David DeJesus kind of way.