Ryan Mulhern as a University of South Alabama Jaguar
Per reader request, a Double-A Transition Monitor for Ryan Mulhern
First baseman-outfielder Ryan Mulhern was drafted by the Indians in the 11th round in 2003, from the University of South Alabama. He'd hit 49 homers in three seasons for the Jaguars, but wasn't considered a top prospect. His pro debut was decent: .279/.340/.463 in 59 games for Mahoning Valley in the New York-Penn League, although a red flag was his strikeout rate: 68 whiffs in 59 games.
Promoted to the Sally League in 2004, he hit .255/.319/.392 in 103 games. Not very impressive. I didn't think he was much of a prospect heading into 2005.
It looks like I was wrong.
Mulhern got off to a hot start in '05, hitting .321/.395/.711 with 17 homers in 45 games at Class A Kinston. His BB/K/AB ratio wasn't hot: 19 walks, 50 strikeouts in 159 at-bats, a high strikeout rate certainly. But he was ripping the ball, and a promotion to Double-A was very much deserved.
Up at Akron, Mulhern continued to batter pitchers, hitting .311/.386/.594 with 15 homers in 67 games. He actually improved his strikeout rate at the higher level, whiffing 64 times in 67 games, 244 at-bats. His walk rate (28) was acceptable. On the season, he combined for .315 batting average, 29 doubles, 32 homers, 94 RBI, 47 walks, and 114 strikeouts in 403 at-bats.
Obviously, Mulhern passed his Double-A Transition test with flying colors. So what's the explanation here? The only thing I've heard is that Mulhern made "some adjustments" to his swing, whatever that means. His underlying ratios showed only slight improvement compared to previous seasons, namely a slight drop in his strikeout rate. His numbers this year are actually quite similar to what he did in college for South Alabama. It's possible he just needed a year to adjust to pro pitching. One clue pointing towards a performance spike: in 601 career at-bats BEFORE 2005, he'd hit just 12 homers, but collected 53 doubles. High doubles totals are often a sign of more power to come, and it appears that he fulfilled that this season.
Mulhern turns 25 in November, so he is not young as prospects go. He definitely deserves to start 2006 in Triple-A, and if he gets off to a good start he'll deserve a full major league trial. I'm not sure how the Indians intend to get him into the lineup, but at the least he'll be interesting trade bait.