The MWAH prospect countdown marches on with a toolsy outfielder that somehow managed to turn in two polar opposite seasons in the same year.
Position: OF Highest Level: Double-A
Bats: Right Throws: Right Height: 6'2" Weight: 190 lbs.
Age: 23 Born: 4/16/89
2012 Season Stats
High-A: 306 PA, .319 AVG, .399 OBP, .470 SLG, 10 2B, 5 3B, 7 HR, 27 RBI, 52 SO, 25 SB, 7 CS, .374 BABIP
Double-A: 235 PA, .202 AVG, .286 OBP, .351 SLG, 9 2B, 2 3B, 6 HR, 21 RBI, 54 SO, 9 SB, 4 CS, .242 BABIP
Contact – D. This is ultimately T-Spoon’s shortcoming and what could prevent him from becoming a major league regular, or even a star. Witherspoon swings and misses a lot. His swing is actually pretty good, but there’s a lot of pre-swing movement and he really struggles with balls belt high or higher and on the outer half. Despite striking out a lot, I really like the strides he’s made in the last year and his two-strike approach reminds me a lot of Trout in that he shortens his swing considerably and focuses more on putting the ball on the ground somewhere and uses his speed to reach base.
Power – B. This is part of the equation that makes Witherspoon such an exciting prospect to many scouts. He really wasn’t scouted that hard coming out of South Carolina. Despite possessing 1st round tools, the Angels selected him in the 12th round. His build and swing suggest he has serious 20+ HR potential. Similar to Peter Bourjos, but stronger. It would make sense that Spoon would hit for power in the Cal League, but surprisingly, he went to a VERY difficult hitting environment at Dickey Stephens Park in Arkansas and maintained his ability to hit for power.
Discipline – C-. Yet another flaw in the exciting prospect package that is Travis Witherspoon. He does have the ability to draw walks from time to time, but in terms of his approach and working the count, any smart pitcher just feeds Witherspoon a healthy diet of breaking pitches on the outer half. Most specifically, Spoon struggled horribly in AA because of those pitchers’ ability to throw their breaking pitches for strikes.
Speed – A. Witherspoon has elite speed. He isn’t quite as fast as Trout from home to first, but has more closing speed than Trout in the OF. He’s faster than Peter Bourjos in the first 90 feet, but lacks Bourjos’ range in the outfield. He does share their athleticism though.
Arm – A-. Witherspoon has a strong and accurate arm in CF. I’d rank it up there with Peter Bourjos’, which I consider among the Top 5 in baseball at his position.
Performance – B. Witherspoon experienced both the highs and the lows this season. He was a Cal League all-star and appeared well on his way to beginning a successful steady climb up the minor league ladder. However, once he was promoted to AA his BA plummeted over 100 points, as did his OBP. However, I give him a B because it’s clear he turned a corner this season. Before this year he was a raw project prospect that had a greater chance of never leaving A-Ball than reaching the majors. This season he proved he’s a prospect to be taken seriously, that’s as much substance as he is projection.
Projection – A. Witherspoon could eventually turn into a Peter Bourjos or Drew Stubbs type of player. He’ll probably never be a good contact hitter, but in fairness he still walks more than Bourjos did in A-Ball (Though Bourjos was two years younger). He has 20 HR and 40 SB type of potential in the major leagues, which would legitimately make him a star. But he may never make enough contact to reach such potential, which would force him into 4th OF duty given his great defense in the OF and his elite speed on the base paths.
(*As always, the above scouting report is provided by Scotty Allen of LA Angels Insider)
Season Summary: The word "preposterous" stuck with me when considering the season that Travis Witherspoon turned in for 2012. The kid with preposterous athleticism but who never seemed to be able to get his preposterous physical tools together finally did so, at least for awhile this last year. The results were, of course, preposterous. His numbers in the Inland Empire were preposterous as he hit for a high average, saw a big spike in his walk rate, displayed the some of best power of his career and swiped a ton of bags. Of course he did it with a preposterously high BABIP, even considering his preposterous speed, in a hitting environment that preposterously favors hitters. Even with those factors in his favor, Witherspoon's big half-season in the IE put him firmly on the prospect radar.
Then he got promoted to Arkansas and was, wait for it... preposterously bad.
That high average from A-ball cratered to a preposterously low .202 in Arkansas and took much of the wind out of his prospect sails. It wasn't all bad though as he did maintain his improvement in walk rate after the call up and his ISO was practically identical despite the superior competition and despite Dickey-Stephens Park being the stadium where players with middling power go to die. There was also the mitigating factor that Spoon mustered a mere .242 BABIP, which is preposterously low for someone with his speed, even if he was struggling to make good contact, so he might not have been as bad as his batting average might indicate.
Really though, it shouldn't be much of a shock that Witherspoon was slow to adapt in Little Rock. That has been the trend throughout his career when he moves up a level and is not unusual for players like him who lack polish and thrive more on just being more athletic than everyone on the field.
What to Expect in 2013: It is going to be back to Arkansas for Witherspoon in 2013 and "patience" will be the thematic word (don't worry, I'm mostly done with the word-repeating gimmick). Patience will be important as the organization waits for Witherspoon to make the necessary adjustments to compete against the much improved competition. Patience will also be important at the plate for Witherspoon because he needs to show he can maintain it. Discipline and zone control were issues for him in the early stages of his career and threatening to hold him back but he conquered that in 2012, but he needs to prove that victory was a lasting one going forward.
If he adapts quickly, Witherspoon could earn him a call up to Salt Lake and/or a September call-up and legitimate shot at making the 2014 roster as a reserve outfielder. If he doesn't, no worries, not yet at least. He's still young enough to keep down in the minors for more seasoning in 2014.