Coming into the 2014 season the Cincinnati Reds had a big need at the shortstop position on the farm. Their highest rated shortstop prospect, no matter where you looked, was outside of their top 30 prospects. With the first half coming to a close this week, one of the shortstops on the outside of the top 30 has vaulted his way well into it.
Carlton Daal has been quite good for the Dayton Dragons in his first full season as a professional, particularly at the plate where he is hitting .319/.364/.362 with 9 steals while not being caught. He has hit both lefties and righties, though he is crushing lefties, hitting .462 against them (.287 against righties). Daal has hit over .300 in each month of the season thus far. Hitting for an average hasn’t been much of a problem for him thus far. His plate discipline has been good. He is a good contact hitter with a strikeout rate of 15% on the season and a walk rate that is at 6.6% on the season. Where he has struggled so far is in the power department. He had yet to hit a home run on the season and has just seven extra-base hits to his name. Let’s jump into some more in depth statistical analysis and scouting to get a better feel for Daal on both the offensive and defensive side of things.
Looking at his average we can see a shiny .319, but it is also coming along with a batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of .384. On the surface, that number is very high. But we can dive into it a little bit more. There are several things that can drive a high BABIP. First, is speed. Daal, while not slow, isn’t a burner so I doubt he is gaining much of an advantage here. Second is being a big groundball hitter, as groundballs go for hits more often than fly balls. Daal is a high rate groundball hitter, so he gains a boost there. Third, and we see this with a guy like Joey Votto, is avoiding the pop up. Pop ups are outs over 99% of the time, they are nearly as likely to be turned into an out as a strikeout. Daal, at least so far, is avoiding them quite well, popping up just 2.2% of the time. Lastly is that guys who use the entire field tend to have improved BABIP because teams have to play them more straight up. Let’s take a look at the spray chart for the shortstop so far this season:
What jumps out immediately is that he hardly pulls the ball into the outfield. When he is able to get the ball into the outfield it goes to center and right field nearly eight times more often than when he pulls the ball to left field. On the infield things are more evenly spread out though. With his ability to pull the ball on the ground, the outfield can’t shift too much on him despite the disparity of pulled balls to the outfield to this point.
Combining his contact rate, his ability to avoid the pop up, his high groundball rates and his usage of the entire field, it leads to the belief that he could hit for a quality average moving forward, even though his current .319 isn’t very likely.
Looking at his power, or lack of it to this point, checking out his spray chart tells us a lot. Every player in baseball has more power to their pull side than to the opposite field and Daal hardly ever pulls the ball in the air. That is likely one of the biggest reasons that the power hasn’t shown up in 2014. He is still a wiry guy, listed at 6′ 2″ and 160 lbs. and there is some room for him to fill out a little bit over the next few seasons. The good news for his power is that he does have some bat speed to work with. In order to tap into that power though he will need to pull the ball more often than he currently does. While 10 home runs in the future isn’t out of the question, to reach that he will very likely need to alter his approach somewhat.
Defensively there has been a lot of discussion on this site about where he stands. After the game on Thursday, Daal has 27 errors on the season for a .908 fielding percentage. Of those 27 errors, 19 of them having been throwing errors. The other eight were all fielding errors on grounders. The glove work by Daal has been rather good and there doesn’t seem to be any reason to think that the glove won’t play at the position in either a hands way or a range way. The throwing errors have been an issue though. He has spent extra time working with the coaches before and after normal practice times in an effort to work on the issue. Arm strength isn’t the problem, but there are some mechanical tweaks and repetition problems that are in need of work. The tools are there to remain at shortstop for the long haul, but cutting down on the throwing errors is going to be a must. Daal is still in his first full season, so there is plenty of time to work with.
Overall, I think it would be easy to say that he has established himself as the top shortstop prospect in the entire system. He has the tools to stay there defensively and he has a chance to hit enough in the future as well. There is a lot of work to do moving forward, but that can be said for just about anyone playing in Low-A baseball. For a team who came into the year without a bunch to look forward to at the position, having Daal come through with a strong first half for Dayton has been a big boost to the system.