Tenn for Tenbrink

Jay Yencich · May 26, 2010 at 4:32 pm · Filed Under Mariners, Minor Leagues 

Dave may be missing out on seeing the system’s best pitcher in Michael Pineda (Robles isn’t a bad consolation prize), but one player of interest that he will be seeing is LF Nate Tenbrink, who was promoted on the off day with Joe Dunigan hitting the DL.

Tenbrink is one of the bigger stories in the minor league system right now because he was hitting .379/.452/.649 for the High Desert Mavericks while going fourteen for fifteen on stolen base attempts. With a month and a half in the books, he’s maintained a 1.100 OPS after he hitting only .282/.357/.431 last season. He’s nearly surpassed his triple and home run totals for all of last season in just forty-three games played, and is on pace to increase his walk totals by 50%. So what in the blue blazes is going on with him?

Coming into the ’08 draft, Tenbrink was lauded for his physical tools, but was regarded as a guy for whom the game didn’t come naturally. Brilliant in batting practice, he’d show a mediocre approach in the games. On the field, he’d make a flashy play one inning and then botch the next grounder. His arm was strong, but he threw too many balls away. If tools had been the main criteria for judging a player, he would have easily gone in the first five rounds, but as it stood, he slipped to the M’s in the seventh.

So what can we say about Tenbrink’s performances now? For two straight months, Tenrbink has run a BABIP of over .400. His overall line drive rate is around 12.5%, if the splits are to be believed, but he seems to be hitting everything hard and the balls are dropping in for him. Ordinarily, there would be reason for a great deal of caution in evaluating these stats, but here are a couple of reasons why Tenbrink might be different.

One is the home/road splits. We’d expect that he be able to hit in Mavericks Stadium, because frankly, everyone competent does. The unusual thing with Tenbrink though is that he hits better on the road. In Adelanto, he’s posting an average of .395/.490/.556, with a BABIP of over .450. While touring the rest of the California League, he’s hitting .366/.416/.731 noticeably lower walk numbers and a drop in BABIP, but it’s accompanied by a spike in power. Unlike Poythress on the other side of the diamond, these aren’t necessarily park aided either. Where Poythress has five or more dingers in a known hitters haven in Lancaster, two of Tenbrink’s home runs have come in San Jose, which has a park factor of 81 of 100 for home runs off left-handed bats.

Another reason to think that Tenbrink might be turning into a legitimate prospect is his left-right splits. Acknowledging that the left-handed sample is only 53 at-bats, there’s no BABIP difference between the two and he only loses about fifty points of OPS against southpaws. He does seem to hit them a bit differently, with a 17% line drive rate and 56% fly balls, compared to less than 11% line drives and 39% flyballs on right-handers, but that and eye numbers aside, the results are close, and normalizing for luck only brings them closer.

Tenbrink’s true level of talent is not likely going to be this kind of production going forward, but a .900 OPS at the minor league level doesn’t seem unreasonable for him. Aside from whether the offense is sustainable or not, one major question I do have for him is what position he’ll play in the future. He has all the tools to play the infield, but inconsistencies have pushed him primarily to left, where he’ll likely spend most of his time for the D-Jaxx.

It’s not easy to place his performances in a good context just yet, but his stock is certainly on the rise.

Comments

12 Responses to “Tenn for Tenbrink”

  1. ivan on May 26th, 2010 4:47 pm

    Thanks for the update, Jay. What do you know about the status of Evan Sharpley? Will he be returning to the Mariners’ system?

  2. MosesLakeBrian on May 26th, 2010 5:09 pm

    Jay, What do you think of the other moves that I see with the rosters, Raben to High Desert and Morris to Clinton?

  3. Jay Yencich on May 26th, 2010 5:41 pm

    What do you know about the status of Evan Sharpley? Will he be returning to the Mariners’ system?

    No one picked him up during or after the NFL draft, so until I hear otherwise, he’s probably back for another round.

    Jay, What do you think of the other moves that I see with the rosters, Raben to High Desert and Morris to Clinton?

    The organization thought it too aggressive to be sending Raben to High Desert to start the seasons, so they left him playing first in Clinton instead. I suppose he’ll be the new 1B/DH with the loss of Savastano for West Tenn. People might look at his May and see that he wasn’t really hitting at all, but he was under .200 on balls in play, and had more liners, so he just happened to be hitting balls right at guys. High Desert is a good place for him to explode offensively. I don’t know how he and Poythress will play off each other, but it’ll be an interesting study to see both the organization’s top first base prospect in the same lineup.

    Morris was thought to be a quality college bat, albeit with concerns about his power as a first baseman. For me, Morris isn’t as interesting on his own as the implications for Jharmidy de Jesus, who is either still injured, training at something or other, or just got snubbed in favor of an eleventh-round pick.

    There was also a third move, with Blandford coming off the DL for the Lumberkings and Merry heading back to extended.

  4. spankystout on May 26th, 2010 6:01 pm

    Hopefully he can make it to the show and
    contribute. Is Saunders a fair/unfair comparison to Tenbrink?

  5. Gomez on May 26th, 2010 6:21 pm

    We know High Desert is a launchpad, but what about the other Cal League parks? Some of those road parks are hitter friendly as well. I know Lancaster’s pretty bad for pitchers as well, and a quick glance at the park factors show Rancho Cucamonga’s friendly for hitters, though maybe not as HR friendly… though Bakersfield may be a bit HR friendly. The two San Jose HRs were impressive, sure, but many of the Cal League road parks are also offense friendly.

  6. IwearMsHats on May 26th, 2010 6:41 pm

    The guy doing the Diamond Jaxx game sounds like he’s from the 1930′s.

  7. Jay Yencich on May 26th, 2010 6:56 pm

    We know High Desert is a launchpad, but what about the other Cal League parks? Some of those road parks are hitter friendly as well. I know Lancaster’s pretty bad for pitchers as well, and a quick glance at the park factors show Rancho Cucamonga’s friendly for hitters, though maybe not as HR friendly… though Bakersfield may be a bit HR friendly. The two San Jose HRs were impressive, sure, but many of the Cal League road parks are also offense friendly.

    Okay, well, if you want to go about it that way…

    Apr. 25th, HR Lake Elsinore: 70 of 100 on LHB
    May 8th, 2 HR San Jose: 81 of 100
    May 12th, HR Bakersfield: 113 of 100
    May 21st, HR Lancaster: 108 of 100

    The only truly cheap park for a left-handed bat is Stockton at 163 of 100 and he didn’t hit anything out there. So, by and large, his HRs we can take for good.

  8. jking12 on May 26th, 2010 7:23 pm

    How big of a concern are Tenbrink’s K/BB ratios both this season and in prior seasons? Historically, he has not walked a lot and his strikeouts seem to be fairly high. Any insight?

    Thanks

  9. awestby51 on May 26th, 2010 7:27 pm

    I really enjoy your posts Jay, and sorry for the non sequitur, but hows Triunfel doing these days? I haven’t heard or read anything about him in awhile.

  10. Jake N. on May 26th, 2010 9:17 pm

    Well, double AA ball will put his New skills with the stick too the test. Good Luck kid, I for one hope you keep tearing the cover off. With the line up he is in he should see a fair amount of fastballs. We are atlast seeing some Depth out of the minor leagues. Keep it up Z.

  11. jkcmason on May 27th, 2010 1:33 pm

    Hello Dave,
    I did a smal write up about my thoughts on Alex Gordon.

    http://seattlemarination.wordpress.com/2010/05/27/new-3b/

    Do you think there is any shot that the M’s pursue him in a trade? Do you think it would be a wise move?

    I would appreciate any feedback.

  12. Chris Crawford on May 27th, 2010 10:58 pm

    Just got back from the West Tenn/Carolina game. Tenbrink was hit in the head with what appeared to be an 85 mph fastball and had to be carted off the field on stretcher. He was released from the hospital — but there are often lingering effects from this. Let’s hope for the best.

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