What do you call a guy who hits .303/.398/.465 in his minor league career, and .305/.416/.442 in his first 113 major league at-bats?
How about "not a prospect?"
Seems odd, yes, but for a long time New York Mets rookie Josh Satin had just that problem, lacking cachet as a prospect despite excellent performance.
Due to an injury redshirt season, Josh Satin played baseball for five years at the University of California, four of them as a starter. His best year was his last one: a .379/.500/.723, 18-homer monster season in 2008. The catch was his age: he was already 23 years old. Scouts weren't wild about his physical tools, but he had performed well with wooden bats in summer ball, and his overall college performance was good enough that the Mets drafted him in the sixth round. This was also a budget pick: he cost just $25,000 to sign since he had no bargaining power.
Satin got his career off to a decent start by hitting .280/.350/.462 for Brooklyn in the New York-Penn League after signing. He followed that up with a .284/.385/.418 mark for Low-A Savannah in 2009, hitting 38 doubles and drawing 73 walks. However, he was old for the Sally League at age 24, and the general opinion among scouts was that he was an older college guy ripping up inexperienced pitching.
Moved up to High-A St. Lucie to begin 2010, he continued to rake with a .316/.406/.459 mark in 209 at-bats. This earned him a promotion to Double-A Binghamton, where he kept hitting with a .308/.395/.472 line. He combined to draw 66 walks and hit 39 doubles at the two levels. Still, skeptics dominated, and he wasn't even mentioned as a prospect in Baseball America's 2011 Prospect Handbook. I put him in my 2011 Baseball Prospect Book, giving him a Grade C due to age but writing that Satin "provides plenty of doubles, can draw a walk, and seems to hit .300 in his sleep. . .my gut likes him."
Satin was outstanding again in 2011, hitting .323/.411/.495 between Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Buffalo. He wasn't quite as good at Buffalo in '12, but still solid enough at .286/.391/.442 with 14 homers and 77 walks. In between he got 26 at-bats with the Mets, hitting .192 with a double. The friendly environment at the new Triple-A affiliate of Las Vegas helped result in a .305/.420/.491 line this year. When the Mets needed a bat, he got the call and made the most of it, hitting.348/.471/.522 in 26 games so far.
Overall, in 113 major league at-bats, Satin has hit .305/.416/.442, which is at the upper bounds of what you'd expect him to hit given his minor league track record, but not entirely unreasonable for a 28-year-old at his theoretical peak.
So, why no respect?
Lack of defensive tools is one issue. He has an adequate arm, but lack of range and mobility keeps him away from the outfield or shortstop. He's spent most of his career at second base, where he doesn't make an excessive number of errors, but excites no one with his range and hands. His best position is first base, but the offensive expectations for major league first basemen are very high, and the general consensus was that Satin wouldn't quite reach them.
Although his offensive production in the minors was undeniable, many scouts and coaches didn't like his approach at the plate: he had a noisy setup with a lot of movement. Despite advice to do so, Satin didn't want to change this, and it can be hard to convince a guy who constantly rips minor league pitching that he needs to make adjustments.
However, after his early major league struggles Satin got the message and made some changes this spring, as noted by the New York Times earlier this month. He has always had keen strike zone judgment, so the combination of a shorter path to the ball with his already-present batting eye has given good results. His strikeouts are down, his walks are up, and so far he's doing very, very well in the major leagues.
The sample size is small, of course, and the pitchers could adjust right back at him. He still faces the challenge of hitting enough to hold a job at first base. Still, given the totality of his track record, Satin deserves a major league opportunity. I'm glad to see him get it, and so far he's taking full advantage.