When a player doesn’t have too much power, you want to see two things out of him offensively:
1.) He gets on base a lot.
2.) He puts the ball in play a lot, to maximize his chances of getting hits.
Therefore, the big number that I look at when looking at how good a non-power hitter’s approach is is strikeout to walk ratio.
One K/BB ratio that really stands out in the Padres system is that of Lake Elsinore shortstop Cole Figueroa.
Overshadowed by the since-promoted Drew Cumberland and Blake Tekotte, Figueroa’s played all over the Lake Elsinore infield. The soon-to-be-23-year-old is hitting .338/.440/.441.
Ordinarily, you’d see a line like that and go “Well, it’s the Cal League, so it doesn’t really count.”
With Figueroa, though, that doesn’t really hold. For one, he hit .319/.408/.403 in Fort Wayne last year, so the only difference this year is driven by a slight uptick in batting average, and those things happen regardless of environment.
Another nice thing about K/BB ratio is that it’s largely context-neutral. Hitters’ K/BB isn’t going to go nuts in the Cal League compared to somewhere else. The environment mostly affects how the ball travels once it’s hit, not how easy it is to make contact or lay off a pitch.
Figueroa’s long had good K/BB rates. He had a 16/24 one in 2008, and 38/37 last year, but this year, he’s taken it to a new level.
How’s 26/46 for you?
Figueroa has a ridiculous 6/17 K/BB in June as well.
This is great, because he’s a speedy runner (16-for-19 in steals), and this means that Figueroa is on base usually two or three times a game. He gets to make things happen with his speed, and more importantly, he isn’t making outs very often, which is the most important thing to do as a hitter.
If he can keep his K/BB ratio anywhere near this, Figueroa will have quite a nice career ahead of him. He deserves a promotion, just like Cumberland and Tekotte.