This past Saturday, the San Diego Padres promoted infielder Patrick Kivlehan to the major league roster. His first two games have gone very well: 4-for-6 with a home run and two walks. Let's take a look at his background and possible future.
Kivelhan was originally drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the fourth round in 2012 out of Rutgers. He was primarily a football player in college and was considered raw on the baseball diamond, but he featured impressive power as well as some speed and defensive potential. His 2013 (.303/.366/.464 in A-ball) and 2014 (.300/.374/.485 in Double-A) seasons were very successful, but he had a few glitches in 2015, hitting 22 homers in Triple-A but struggling with contact at times on the way to a .256/.313/.453 slash line. He was traded to the Rangers last winter.
From the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book
Patrick Kivlehan, 3B-1B, Texas Rangers
Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-2 WT: 210 DOB: December 22, 1989
2013: Grade C+; 2014: Grade C+; 2015: Grade B-
The Rangers picked up Kivlehan from the Mariners during the off-season Leonys Martin trade. He is an older prospect but this is understandable: he was primarily a football player until 2012 and needed time to develop. Power is the best tool; his pure hitting skills are inconsistent and he has contact troubles at times, but when he gets his pitch he can hit it a long way. I wouldn’t expect huge OBP numbers from him but he has enough power to hit 20 bombs if the manager stays happy enough with his batting average to play him regularly. Finding a place to play is a problem. His defense is still rather raw and while he’s not horrible at third base, he isn’t exactly good either. He’s looked awkward to me in limited action at first base and he’s been just okay during outfield trials. Overall, this bat remains intriguing and it would not surprise me to see him explode in his late 20s. He’s not quite there yet though. Grade C+.
Kivlehan didn't hit well in the Rangers system, just .184/.252/.262 for Triple-A Round Rock, and was traded back to the Mariners in late May. He started hitting again back in his old haunts (.293/.327/.522 for Tacoma) but the Mariners put him on waivers three weeks ago and he was claimed by the Padres.
The general take on Kivlehan hasn't changed. Power is his best attribute but his aggressive hitting approach has been problematic against advanced pitching, sometimes (but not always) holding him back. He's lost speed with age and is no longer much of a steal threat; his defense remains mediocre at third base and in the outfield, though he's shown some signs of improvement when used at first base this year.
Kivlehan is 26 now. Ups and downs with his batting average and OBP should be anticipated, but the power can't be ignored and he still seems like a candidate for some kind of "surprise success story" season in his late 20s.