Catching up with our 2016 MLB prospect profiles, we turn our attention to Los Angeles Dodgers rookie outfielder Andrew Toles. He was originally promoted to the majors on July 8th, sent back down on August 3rd, then came back up yesterday. Toles has a unique story as a prospect, so let's take a look.
Toles was first drafted by the Miami Marlins in the fourth round in 2010 from high school in Tyrone, Georgia. He didn't sign, then went to the University of Tennessee and hit .270/.296/.368 with 21 steals as a freshman in 2011. He ran into disciplinary problems and was dismissed from the team, landing at Chipola Junior College. He hit .387/.447/.565 for Chipola in 2012 but continued to struggle off the field and was suspended by the team at one point. He was drafted again that spring, this time by the Tampa Bay Rays in the third round.
Toles had an impressive season in the Midwest League in 2013, hitting .326/.359/.466 with 62 steals, but saw his stock drop quickly in 2014, hitting a less robust .261/.302/.337 in High-A while missing almost three months with vaguely described "personal issues." His problems were bad enough that the Rays released him in spring training 2015.
The realities of the non-baseball world seemed to wake Toles up: he didn't like working in a grocery store and wanted to get back into the game according to Barry Lewis at the Tulsa World:
"It was tough watching on TV and following guys I had played with," Toles said. "I was at home in Atlanta. I spent three weeks working at Kroger (grocery store), but that just wasn’t for me."
Toles signed with the Dodgers as a free agent last fall. With his personal life apparently back in order he'd rediscovered the ability that intrigued scouts in the first place, hitting a sharp .331/.374/.511 this year with 23 steals between High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A. And he's continued to hit well in the majors, at .317/.404/.390 so far in 41 at-bats.
Listed at 5-10, 185, Toles is a left-handed hitter and right-handed thrower born May 24, 1992. David Hood at TrueBlueLA filed a scouting report on Toles back in June, worth quoting at length:
Toles might have the most unique skill set that the current Dodgers' regime has been seeking to develop in the system, namely game-changing speed. In a recent Drillers game, I clocked Andrew Toles at 4.07 seconds home to first from the left-hand side... on a double. Toles also clocked a 3.9-second time tagging up from second to third on a fly ball to center.
Toles isn't just fast, he's an instinctive runner that knows when and where to apply his speed. He has excellent closing speed and a second gear when stealing bases, and he's been caught only five times in 27 steal attempts this year. Toles also has the range to track down balls in the gaps in center field or either corner.
His defensive tools, though, are still developing. Toles doesn't always make consistent reads and occasionally needs his speed to bail him out. Toles also tends to drift on balls rather than anticipating their location. His arm strength is average for center or left, but may be stretched in right field.
The biggest positive on Toles is that he's not just a slap-and-run speedster; he has real offensive tools. Toles' power is more gap power, but he has enough strength and bat speed for ten to twelve home runs a year in a starting role.
Toles isn't the most patient hitter around but he makes contact, hard contact, and he can run like the wind. I agree with Hood that Toles has some surprising pop in his bat. His track record, when focused, is quite good. If Toles can keep his personal issues under control he could end up having a long and successful career.