Good Morning all.
Hazelbaker has started off hot and stayed that way. There are many articles out there now about him, and I even saw one by Ken Rosenthal here at Fox Sports. So I doubt I’ll present anything new, but I’ll give it my best shot.
I’ll start by tracking his path from the minors to the majors.
Hazelbaker, who is 28, was drafted in 2009 by the Red Sox. He started there in Class A Greenville, staying there in 2010, when he hit .267 with a .360 OBP and 12 homers. That OBP is likely what earned him a promotion in 2011. That year he split the season between the A+ Salem Red Sox and the double AA Portland Sea Dogs. He had a .279/.389/.475 slash line 122 AB’s at Salem, and a .266/.350/.435 slash line at Portland. So far he profiles as an ok bat with a good eye and a little pop. In 2012 he started the year at Portland and finished the year with the AAA Pawtucket Red Sox. Most of his AB’s in 2012 were with Portland, where he had a .273/.338/.479 slash line. Note that while his average and slugging went up compared to his 2011 AA levels, his OBP declined.
2013 is where things started to fall apart for Hazelbaker.
2013 was his first full year in AAA, and he didn’t do well. Jeremy had a .257/313/.274 slash line in 428 AB’s, and also struck out 131 times.
That off-season he was traded to the Dodgers for Alex Castellanos. Hazelbaker continued his struggles with the Dodgers, having a combined .244/.305/.399 in AA and AAA. He was released by the Dodgers on May 1st, 2015, and signed with the Cardinals roughly two weeks later, on May 13th. The Cards acquired him simply because they had a spot to fill in AA, nothing more.
So what changed when he joined the Cardinals? Hazelbaker, according to the Rosenthal article, changed his attitude, and started to treat every game like his last game. Plus he made a change in his hitting approach with the help of his hitting coach, Mike Shirley. Those two things, combined with regular playing time, turned his career around.
The concern I have is this: How many hitters in the minors have tweaked their personal approach as well as their hitting approach in an attempt to make it to the majors? I’m guessing quite a few. Yet most of them never sniffed the major leagues. There *were* some positive signs for Jeremy, like the fact that his OBP always stayed 50-60 points higher than his batting average, even in his down years. Still, his strikeouts went up over time, and even last year, when had his resurgence, he still struck out 139 times in 637 plate appearances combined at all levels. I realize strikeouts are more accepted than they used to be, but it’s still a big concern.
I don’t mean to be a buzzkill, but this just seems like a hot start to me. I hope very much that I’m wrong, and he continues to hit and becomes a nice success story for the Cards.
Prove me wrong Jeremy.
As always, thanks for reading.