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Checking up on Conor Gillaspie

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Conor Gillaspie
Conor Gillaspie
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Looking over the first half statistics for the 2014 Major League Baseball season, I see that third baseman Conor Gillaspie of the Chicago White Sox is hitting .326/.377/.484 for a wRC+ of 136. Among major league third basemen with 250 or more plate appearances, he ranks fourth in wRC+ and fourth in batting average. He isn't as good in fWAR terms, ranking 17th at 1.6, thanks to his defense and less playing time than many of the other regulars. But hey, .326/.377/.484 is .326/.377/.484. The White Sox will take that, as would most teams.

We looked at Gillaspie when he was hitting .352 in late May, and while he cooled off some in June, he's gotten hot again in July and he's obviously remained productive overall.

A reader asked me recently if I thought this was a fluke, considering that Gillaspie wasn't a hot prospect when younger and didn't have a terrific 2013 season with the Sox. It's a good question but it is a little misleading: Gillaspie was a very good prospect. He was a supplemental first round pick in 2008 after being a star at Wichita State, and he won a battling title and an MVP award in the 2007 Cape Cod League, the wooden bat Cape Cod League mind you.

In college he was seen as a pure hitter, projecting to hit for a high batting average with moderate power and good OBP skills. The main question was his defense, which was considered a liability. After the Giants drafted him, he did not hit as well as expected but worked hard to improve his glovework. Although he's not a Gold Glove by any means, he's an acceptable defender, which is just fine if he keeps hitting.

And in my opinion he will keep hitting. Maybe not .326 all year, but I think he is a legitimate .280-.290 hitter by nature and a guy like that will exceed .300 when he has some good BABIP luck. What about power? He's not a huge home run guy, but he can drive the ball (23 doubles) and has been doing that more effectively of late, with all four of his homers this year coming in July. His main weakness is a very sharp platoon split: he has an excellent 169 wRC+ against right-handers but just 25 against lefties.

Bottom line: in my view, Gillaspie is playing at the upper end of his range, but it is not a complete fluke. Kept within his platoon limits, his ability to hit for average with moderate power and provide decent defense should give Gillaspie a long career. If he solves lefties eventually, or if his home run power spikes as often happens when players get into their late 20s, look out.

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