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Controversial Prospect Update: Engel Beltre

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In January we took at look at Engel Beltre, where I summarized the arguments pro and con against him and tried to explain my book grade. How is he doing now?

Beltre is hitting .278/.304/.407 with 12 doubles, 7 triples, 3 homers, 9 steals, 7 caught stealing, 5 walks, and 44 strikeouts in 270 at-bats for Clinton in the Midwest League. While there aren't a lot of homers yet, considering his age and the general pro-pitching nature of the Midwest League, that's not a crippling problem at this point. He's showing speed, but really needs to improve his stolen base success rate at higher levels. Plate discipline remains an issue. His strikeout rate is not bad at all, but his walk rate is unacceptably low. He doesn't need to be a walk machine, of course, but just 5 walks is far too few.

Other interesting numbers: he's hit .294 since May 1st with increased production after a slow start in April. He's killing right-handers, hitting .305/.325/.463, but is dreadful against lefties (.194/.239/.239 with 0 walks and 17 strikeouts in 67 at-bats). He struggles in the home park at Clinton (216/.240/.320) but crushes the ball on the road (.331/.358/.483). According to information I gathered on my last Burlington trip, local scouts are very impressed with his tools and ahtleticism, reports similar to last year in rookie ball.

So what do we make of all this? Beltre is performing very well in some areas and poorly in others. Plate discipline is an issue, although his strikeout rate is low and that's a good marker. Obviously he needs to improve against southpaws to avoid a platoon player label, but given his youth he has plenty of time to correct that.

Beltre remains very intriguing and I now regard the book grade as too low. I would give him a high-ceiling B- now I think....highly talented, improving his game, but still in need of much polish. If he maintains his May/June numbers he could get a Grade B by the end of the year from me.