Second base-only bats are a rarity. Usually, players that end up at second are guys that couldn’t stick at shortstop or whose clubs didn’t think they’d hit enough to profile in a corner OF spot and so they gave them a shot in the infield and things happened to work out. At least, somewhere along the line there’s been experimenting. That holds true for Chase Utley, Robinson Cano (who actually caught a game in Trenton in 2003) , Jason Kipnis, Ben Zobrist, and on and on. Andrew Pullin is no different.
Selected in the 2012 draft as an outfielder out of Centralia HS in Washington, the Phillies quickly decided that he didn’t fit the bill out there and began a conversion to second. So far the conversion has been rocky. Pullin isn’t presently a passable defender at second base. He’ll take odd routes to ground balls and is still trying to iron out his infield throwing mechanics and actions around the bag. And yet for me, all of this is completely fine. Pullin has played just 56 professional games as an infielder, he’s barely scratched the surface of experience. He spent all of the 2013 season at Williamsport as a nineteen year-old, which means he has half a decade to learn the position as he ascends through the minors. I’ve seen Pullin do some impressive things on defense, solely on use of athleticism. He clearly has the requisite physicality and coordination to play there and I’m optimistic that, with time, he’ll be able to stick and be an average defender. I’m always told to “bet on the athletes” in situations like this and so I’m going to here.
As bullish as I am on Pullin’s defensive future I’m even more optimistic about the hit tool. The swing is a tad stiff and handsy, but I’m enamored with its compact simplicity. His feet are simple, the front foot gets down nice and early, the hands load at an appropriate depth (though a little low for my taste), he tracks the baseball well and he’s short to the ball while generating above average bat speed. I have a future 6 on the bat and think it’ll be a carrying tool to the upper minors.
The power is another matter. Pullin is tightly wound at an even 6’, 190lbs. His body leads you to believe that maybe there’s a little bit of pop somewhere in there. There isn’t, because it isn’t in the swing. Pullin’s cut is almost completely devoid of loft. It’s perfectly level and very dependent on Pullin’s upper body. Swing path and efficient use of one’s lower half are two irreplaceable ingredients in the power hitting recipe. Pullin doesn’t currently display either. I have a future 30 on the power that I think might play at a 35 because of all the quality contact I expect him to make (so that’s between 5 and 11 HRs annually if you’re scoring at home). You could tinker with it, I suppose, and try to get him to alter the plane of the bat, but I could not, in good conscience, tinker with a future plus hitter. Besides, I think gap-to-gap doubles power and triples speed will be there. Pullin, a left-handed hitter, is a true plus runner who I’ve timed as fast as 4.1 flat from home to first. I think quality contact and speed will lead to an acceptable amount of extra base hits.
It’s hard to say what kind of player this will be. As a second baseman, there’s some pressure on the bat to perform and there’s certainly an enormous load carried by the development of the glove because if he slips any further down the defensive spectrum, he’s not a regular. It’s possible that Pullin will be attacked by upper level pitchers who look to exploit his lack of power and he’ll go the way of Tyson Gillies. It’s also possible that he has enough extra base juice in him to be a David Murphy type of player. Yes, I’m making a comp, which I hate, but that one makes some sense to me. A good portion of Pullin’s offensive future depends on his approach at the plate which, since he just turned twenty, we know next to nothing about. There’s a lot of risk here but I think he has a shot to be a solid everyday player at second base. A lot needs to happen for that outcome to precipitate but it’s a useful potential outcome nonetheless.