Per Reader Request, a Prospect Retro for Richie Sexson
Richie Sexson was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 24th round in 1993, out of high school in Brush Prairie, Washington. He hit very poorly in his pro debut, putting up just a .186/.320/.247 line in 40 games for Burlington in the Appalachian League. The only positive marker was the fact that he drew 18 walks against 97 at-bats, but other numbers were weak and he was overmatched by pro pitching. At this point he would be a Grade C prospect at best, someone with intriguing physicality and raw power, but no refinement.
Sexson made a great deal of progress in 1994, hitting .273/.338/.418 in 130 games for Columbus in the Sally League, with 14 homers. His walk rate was only marginal, but his strikeout rate was low for a tall power hitter, and his production was certainly much, much better than in rookie ball. At this point he would rate as a Grade C+B- prospect, with a "sleeper" label given his dramatic improvement compared to his rookie season.
Moved up to the Carolina League in 1995, Sexson hit .306.368/.508 with 22 homers for Kinston, with a 43/115 BB/K ratio in 494 at-bats as well as a strong +25 percent OPS. I gave him a Grade B in the 1996 book, noting his continued improvement. Scouts said that his swing was actually quite compact for a tall power hitter, which augured well for his chances at higher levels.
Promoted to Double-A in '96, Sexson slumped in his first exposure to advanced pitching, hitting .276/.331/.444 with a large OPS drop to just +5 percent. His BB/K/AB numbers remained steady, and I remained optimistic about him, maintaining a Grade B rating though noting that he needed to make some adjustments and improve his strike zone judgment, as he showed vulnerability to advanced breaking stuff on the outer half of the plate according to scouts.
Up to Triple-A for 1997, Sexson hit .260/.307/.530 for Buffalo, slamming 31 homers with a +10 percent OPS. The power was impressive, but his plate discipline was a problem, a below average walk rate dragging down his OBP and OPS. He saw enough fastballs to bash the homers, but could be maintain a decent average and OBP in the majors? I gave him yet another Grade B entering 1998.
1998 was split between Buffalo and Cleveland, Sexson taking a major step forward. He hit .297/.386/.544 with 21 homers in just 89 games for Buffalo, and continued to hit well in the Show with a .310/.344/.592 mark for the Indians. His walk rate took a huge jump in Triple-A, boosting his production across the board. His plate discipline was a problem in the majors, although not bad enough to hurt him. I raised his grade to B+, rating him as the Number 36 prospect in baseball.
Sexson hit 31 homers in 134 games for the Indians in 1999, and aside from an injury-plagued 2004 season has been a consistent source of power ever since. His walk rate has ended up being pretty solid, helping compensate for a high strikeout rate. It's hard to believe he hit .186 with a .247 SLG in rookie ball, but this is an example of a physically talented player who was able to turn his strength and size into production. His major league career has been on the upper end of what you'd expect given his minor league record, but not totally out of bounds.
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