How Serious Are Jaff Decker’s Struggles?

By Editorial Staff

Padres top prospect Jaff Decker has had a rough go of it this year. He dealt with an injury throughout most of spring training, and didn’t debut until mid-May.

The stocky 20-year-old outfielder seemed primed for success, as a tremendous hitter in a hitter’s league, but he’s off to a horrid .151/.224/.283 start in 14 games. Decker hit .299/.442/.514 in a pitcher’s league last year.

Now, it’s easy enough to just give Decker a mulligan and play the “he’s returning from an injury, so of course he’ll struggle” card. It is worth noting he registered back-to-back multi-hit games on Thursday and Friday as well, so that would seem to signify that he’s beginning to “shake off the rust.”

I’m not convinced.

I can buy that someone has a .151 batting average because of a hamstring issue. There’s all sorts of mechanical issues in a swing, and a hamstring problem could easily throw one or more off. I can buy that a hamstring issue can cause defensive woes, baserunning woes, or sap power.

There’s one skill a hamstring injury, or really any injury, shouldn’t affect, though: The ability to walk.

Decker had a ridiculous 36/55 K/BB ratio in Rookie ball in 2008, and a still-very-impressive 92/85 last year.

This year? 23/3.

If anything, most hitters are more patient when they have an injury. Decker obviously isn’t.

I think there’s something more at play here. Perhaps Decker decided to change his approach. Perhaps he was told to change his approach. I don’t know. But walking three times in 14 games isn’t going to keep Jaff Decker anywhere near the top of the Padres prospect heap.

The K/BB ratio is the big indicator for me here. As long as he can still keep that going, he’s young enough to overcome issues in all the other areas, and certainly has plenty of time to shake an injury. But that K/BB ratio is alarming, to say the least. I’m worried.