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Will Boesch’s Production Be Light?

Looking to fill the void of injured Designated Hitter Carlos Guillen, the Tigers called up one of the minor leagues’ hottest hitters, and their number 8 prospect (as ranked by Marc Hulet), Brennan Boesch. A third-round pick in the 2006 draft, Boesch was hitting .379/.455/.621 in his first season in Triple-A, and figures to be a regular against right-handed pitchers in the Tigers lineup.

This newfound role could be a sign of things to come, as Hulet wrote in his Tigers prospect rankings that, “[Boesch’s] career OPS of .654 against southpaws suggests that a platoon role is in Boesch’s MLB future.” This has continued to look true in Toledo, where Boesch is hitting an empty (no BB, no XBH) .294 against LHP’s. Since we haven’t evaluated a prospect in WAR terms in awhile, let’s unscientifically see what Boesch could become if relegated to platoon status in his team-controlled seasons. Going through the peripheral skills:

Playing Time: We’re going to just look at the platoon outcome for his career today, which would mean something between 500-550 plate appearances per season. We’ll middle it, and give Boesch +17.5 in replacement per season.

Position: Replacing Guillen and his big frame might make people think Boesch is a DH, but playing him as such would be a waste. To quote Baseball America’s summation of him before the 2006 draft, which still holds true today, “Boesch has significant athletic ability for a big man, allowing him to move well for his size, and could play either outfield corner thanks to a slightly above-average arm and average speed.” So let’s go with -6 for his corner outfield positional adjustment, and +2.5 for his defense.

Power: The strength of Boesch’s game. He led the Eastern League with 28 home runs in the hitter-friendly Erie park last season, but only hit 17 home runs in 1,000 plate appearances in pitcher-friendly environments in the Midwest and Florida State Leagues in the two years prior. Still, given his 7 extra base hits in 66 plate appearances in Triple-A prior to the call-up, I am going to assume that Boesch can hit the long ball.

Plate Discipline: And, the weakness of Boesch’s game. To quote Kevin Goldstein, who ranked Boesch as the Tigers #15 prospect, “He’s a massive outfielder with massive power and massive holes in his swing.” I can recall many scouts worried that Boesch had a metal bat swing when he came out of Cal, and while the Tigers scouts rejection of that notion has been validated to some degree, Boesch swings through a lot of pitches. He also doesn’t walk much, with a career BB% between 6-6.5 percent. In 525 PA’s, I’d expect something like 31.5 walks and 115.5 strikeouts.

Doing some behind-the-scenes math work to these evaluations, I have Boesch something like .280/.328/.439 in the Majors, although I admit that’s a pessimistic power projection. This works out to a .338 wOBA, which would be something like +3.5 with the bat.

So, adding up our WAR calculation, I think that the Tiger scould expect about 1.75 WAR from Boesch given 525 plate appearances in a corner outfield platoon role. Detroit fans would probably like to think they could do better, so the play for Dave Dombrowski and company might be to trade Boesch this July should he have much success in this forthcoming cup of coffee.