As the 798th pick of the 2009 draft, Miles Head spent his first full professional season in the New York Penn League where he hit one home run and had a triple slash line of .240/.328/.341. That came after he was signed away from attending the University of Georgia with a $335,000 signing bonus- more than double the Commissioner’s recommended slot value. Head was a known national high school baseball commodity. Entering 2011, however, he was not a part of the top prospect discussion.
Then he made significant progress in 2011 by stroking his way to the tune of .338/.409/.612 with 15 home runs in 66 games at the Sally – which were truly elite statistics for the league. Upon his promotion to hiA in the same year, Miles cooled off but was able to maintain some very respectable production including seven homers. Despite Head’s masterful foray in the SAL, at the dawn of the 2012 season he was still only at the prospect periphery – ranked by Baseball America as merely the 20th best out of that league.
Slugging corner infielders of a certain ilk tend to get a depressed ranking and less buzz because they strike out too much, are average defenders, and cannot run fast. These are the anti-prospect prospects and they are some of my favorites. Paul Goldschmidt in 2010 struck out 161 times in hi-A while belting a league best 35 homers and sporting a .314 batting average. But somehow he couldn’t make Baseball America’s top ten prospects in the Arizona system. Mark Trumbo, a year older than Goldschmidt, owned the PCL in 2010. But he “swings and misses too much to hit for a high average,” is just adequate in the field, and is slow. So he was ranked by Baseball America as the 20th best prospect in the PCL.
Miles made the Cal League his playground for 67 games this year. Similar to his low-A campaign in 2011, Head went .382/.433/.715 with 18 home runs. Instead of letting the 21 year old compete for a Cal League triple crown; Oakland promoted him to the Texas League. Again, similar to his 2011 hi-A debut, Head held his own upon his promotion to AA and only four other offensive players had more appearances on Baseball America’s hot sheet in 2012 than Miles Head. The next stop for his development as a player will be with the Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League later this year.
In his hitting approach, Miles doesn’t utilize much of a stride towards the ball, barely lifting the front foot off the ground. Although he is a mere 6’0”, he does appear to possess solid strength, displaying the ability to muscle long opposite field homers for the RockHounds. He utilizes a wide stance and holds the bat in a somewhat forward position. He avoids a wrap in his swing with a rather direct approach to the ball.
Wait, ‘Head struck out 160 times this year.’ ‘He doesn’t steal bases.’ ‘Head is “clunky” at his position,’ they say. Sound familiar? These types of criticisms are sometimes given too much weight relative to the value of a player’s stick. Sluggers play. At times, these apparent speed and defense defects in a prospect’s game might be exaggerated so as to fit the player into a recognizable box – the non-athletic and limited slugger. In 2011, Head was voted the best defensive first basemen in the Sally. While this might make scouts and stat heads alike cringe, its worth noting that Head, in 102 games at third this year, made 15 errors and had a .951 fielding percentage in AA compared to Nolan Arenado’s 23 errors over 133 games. This is not to say that Head will be as good a glove at third, but rather that it might be premature to rule out his adequately filling the massive hole at the hot corner in Oakland.
In 1990, Boston traded a short but stocky corner infielder named Jeff Bagwell for an experienced middle reliever named Larry Anderson. That year Bagwell made 34 errors at third while leading the Eastern League in batting. Twenty-one years later, Boston again traded a stout corner infielder named Miles Head for some relief help. Time will tell just how much they gave up in this version of the same story.