Name: Tyler Pastornicky
Notable 2011 Statistics: .299/.345/.414 with 24 XBH, 6 HR, 34/24 K/BB, 20-28 SB in 90 games with Mississippi (AA); .365/.407/.413 with 3 XBH, 11/8 K/BB, 7-10 SB in 27 games with Gwinnett (AAA); .314/.359/.414 with 15 2B, 5 3B, 7 HR, 45/32 K/BB, 27-38 SB in 117 games total
Why He’s This High: As his statistics indicate, Pastornicky provided very solid offense at both the Double-A and Triple-A levels. His overall numbers aren’t incredible, but given that we’re talking about a 21-year-old shortstop in the upper minors, it was a very impressive season.
Of course, Pastornicky doesn’t boast much offense beyond his batting average–he neither walks nor homers at noteworthy rates. Still, though, the ability to hit for average seems legitimate, as he struck out in just 8.6% of his Double-A at-bats and 9.4% of his Triple-A at-bats. With solid speed and a knack for putting the bat on the ball, he should continue to hit for a good average in the majors, and he’s got enough other skills to project as a very solid starter at the position.
Since he just turns 22 in December, Pastornicky will have years to adapt to the big leagues, so he could afford a rough introduction and still be ahead of the age curve. It’s not difficult to see him as a guy who could consistently turn out .285/.330/.375 lines in the big leagues, perhaps doing something similar to what Alexei Ramirez has done in 2011. No, it’s not the flashiest way to produce, but given the state of middle-infield offense in baseball today, Pastornicky looks like a good bet to be a valuable starter. Of course, he’s nearly ready for the majors, so his downside is low.
Why He’s This Low: Pastornicky’s selection to this top 100 list probably comes as a surprise to many; you won’t see him on many other lists of this sort. This is largely due to a lack of upside; while he’s just 21, there’s a large perception that Pastornicky is as good as he’s ever going to be. His body isn’t very projectable, so it’s unlikely he becomes a threat to hit more than ten homers in a season. At the same time, what filling out he has done has impacted his speed. Here’s his steals per game every season of his career:
His success rate on the bases has also been iffy–he was 27-of-32 in 2008 and 35-of-44 in 2010, but just 57-of-75 in 2009 and 27-of-38 in 2011. If he can steal at his 2010 clip (~79%), he’ll have value on the bases, but his 2011 rate (~71%) barely breaks even.
Pastornicky also made 26 errors in the field in 2011, fielding just .942. Most believe he’ll be able to stay in the middle infield and have the ability to at least spot at shortstop, but many are questioning his viability as an everyday shortstop defensively. Of course, the error total is one thing we can expect improvement on from a 21-year-old, whether he’s “projectable” or not, but with his pure speed in decline, he’s certainly going to need to get his fundamentals in order if he wants to stay at short (and if he does stay at short, to not give away a bunch of runs with his glove). He does have enough the raw tools to make a competent defender at the position, but he’ll need to maximize those tools to turn into an above-average MLB defender.
Conclusions: Pastornicky has a very high floor but a rather low ceiling. However, when one considers the state of the shortstop position in today’s MLB, it’s not difficult to see a player who showed excellent contact skills, solid speed, and a hint of power in the upper minors at age 21 having a long and productive career relative to many of his peers at the position. He’s not a sexy pick for a list like this, and there’s plenty of justification for placing him well out of the top 100 prospects, but few minor leaguers have better odds of becoming solid, productive MLB shortstops. Granted, there are plenty of better shortstop prospects, who I’ll of course be discussing later in the list, but even a player like Manny Machado or Nick Franklin faces defensive concerns, and players like Billy Hamilton and Hak-Ju Lee have some things to prove on offense. Pastornicky is a very “safe” pick, perhaps overly so, but he certainly deserves notice for his excellent performance for his age, level, and position.
Previous installments in the Seedlings To Stars 2012 Top 100 Prospects:
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