Prospect of the Day: Jaff Decker
Jaff Decker, OF, San Diego Padres
One of the most potent bats in the upper minors this year belongs to San Diego Padres outfielder Jaff Decker. Although a mild recent slump has lowered his batting average slightly for Double-A San Antonio in the Texas League, he's already hit 10 homers and has drawn 25 walks, giving him an overall .292/.429/.664 line. His 1.092 OPS is a full 40 percent better than the current Texas League OPS, testimony to his dominance.
Drafted in the supplemental first round in 2008 from high school in Peoria, Arizona, Decker has excellent bat speed and a superb eye at the plate. Although he was overly pull-conscious at times last year in the California League, at his best he goes with the pitch and shows power to all fields. His combination of walks and power draws comparisons to players like Matt Stairs, Nick Swisher, or Pat Burrell, though he might hit for a higher average at times than those players have.
As good as the bat is, scouts point out that Decker lacks athleticism and has to work hard to stay in adequate physical condition. He didn't do that early in his career but has shown much greater attention to conditioning over the last year. He has a decent throwing arm, but while his lack of running speed will always limit his defense to no more than average, if he hits as expected, he'll find his way into the lineup even with a mediocre glove.
Decker should have a shot at a major league job in 2012, and could see the majors later this year under the right circumstances. I rated him at Number 30 on my pre-season Top 50 Hitting Prospect List in the 2011 Baseball Prospect Book.