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MLB Rookie Review: Brett Eibner, OF, Kansas City Royals

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday the Kansas City Royals promoted outfield prospect Brett Eibner to the major league roster. A second round pick from the University of Arkansas back in 2010, Eibner took several years to figure out how to handle minor league pitching. Like Angels rookie Kaleb Cowart, conversion to the pitching mound was considered when Eibner struggled with the bat but he's saved his career as a hitter and is now getting a major league opportunity.

From the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book:

Brett Eibner, OF, Kansas City Royals
Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-4 WT: 210 DOB: December 2, 1988

2011: Grade B; 2012: Grade B-; 2013: Grade C; 2014: Grade C+; 2015: Grade C

At age 27 Brett Eibner has fallen off most prospect lists to the point that his excellent 2015 season in Omaha is generally written off as an older guy dominating the high minors. That’s true as far as it goes, but there are hints of something more here. Note the sharp reduction in his strikeout rate. That fits reports from Omaha observers that he learned to lay off the breaking stuff that flummoxed him in the past. He still runs pretty well, has good power, and is a fine defensive outfielder with a strong arm. The tools have always been there and if the hitting skills took a real step forward, he’s a valuable asset. The Royals don’t seem to have room for him and it would be a good idea to test his bat outside the Pacific Coast League to see if the improvement is real, but he is still worth tracking. Grade C.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY

Eibner hit .303/.364/.514 last year for Omaha with 38 walks and 79 strikeouts in 389 at-bats. This year he's at .309/.411/.537 with 27 walks and 36 strikeouts in 149 at-bats. He's also stolen 13 bases in 14 attempts over his last 144 games.

Earlier in his career Eibner was hampered by a very high strikeout rate that cut into his production but that's changed recently. His whiff rates used to be around 30% but have been around 19% in 2015 and 2016. His walk rates are up as well, and all this fits scouting reports from the Pacific Coast League indicating that he's finally learned to lay off junk pitches. He's a quality runner and fielder and his arm is strong enough that he was a successful pitcher in college.

Projection systems give similar results: Steamer suggests .244/.312/.394, PECOTA has a little less OBP and a touch more power at .236/.303/.403. Either outcome seems reasonable, if on the lower end of expectation. Having seen Eibner several times over the years, I think it plausible he could hit .250/.310/.400 or so, nothing excellent but viable as a role player since he can run and field too.

At age 27, Eibner is at the classic career peak and it wouldn't be a surprise if he exceeds those expectations for a year or two before he starts to fade.

Here's a nice opposite field home run blast.