A Pointer In Heat (Eww…sorry)

The image I was hoping to find was a Pointer holding a baseball. Instead I found what you see here. I’m a huge fan. And it’s only $10 on Etsy. Anyway…

Sometimes guys get hot. Sometimes it means nothing. Sometimes it means everything. Sometimes you have no way of knowing until a scout gets there and gets a look, or two or three. But there’s plenty for the rest of us to look at in the meantime.

Brian Pointer is a 22-year-old, lefty-hitting corner outfielder. He was a relatively high dollar sign in 2010, out of the 28th round of the draft. He took a $350k bonus to skip his commitment to Oregon State (and perhaps saved himself a snitching to the NCAA). That bonus was about the equivalent of mid 3rd round money that year, though dozens of guys below the mid-third round got bigger money, as it was before draft bonus pools were in place. The Phils couldn’t sign Scott Frazier for about $1M that year, and so they threw his money at Pointer and two other guys near signing day and hoped for one of them to be a success. So far…not so much. Frazier, by the way, was a 6th rounder out of Pepperdine for The Cubs last summer and has a 40.50 ERA in just a couple outings this year. Don’t pass on the money, kids. College is overrated.

Just some general observations on Pointer’s pro career – he’s always struck out at too high a rate for a guy who isn’t hitting for a lot of power. Reports pre-draft said he may eventually hit for some power, and he’s showing signs right now. If he keeps it up, I’d be more comfortable with the 27% K Rate he’s sporting this year, especially if he can walk at a pace more like last year – he’s dropped from around 12% then to 8.7% so far in 2014. Also, as far as I know, his defense is seen as passable at worst in the outfield corners, but I haven’t seen any recent scouting to know more than that on his D or his bat. He’s been known to steal some, but he hasn’t been doing it much this year.

Pointer barely saw the field in 2010 because the signing deadline was a month later than it is nowadays, but he hit some in the GCL in 2011 (wRC+ of 141), and then again in Williamsport (Short Season Low A – wRC+ 129) in 2012, after a disappointing first half of that year at full-season Lakewood. That was a double jump for him, and it proved too much of a challenge at the time. In 2013, back at Lakewood, he got on base at a .337 clip, thanks mainly to the aforementioned walk rate, despite hitting just .217. He also wasn’t hitting for much power last year, as he ISOed just .118. He did steal 22 bases at a 76% clip, which is useful, and he finished the year with a wRC+ of 101. Slightly better than the league, and probably a year older at age 21 than most people would hope from a “prospect” in the South Atlantic League, though not ancient by any means.

And so what of this year? Crazily, something interesting is going on. What a coincidence that I’m writing about him at this exact moment. “Wow!”, as the kids say.

Pointer started out at Clearwater this year without a ton of expectations from fans and the like outside the organization. After a torrid two-week start that saw him OPSing 1.069 on April 15, his season was kicked to the curb by the oppressive boot of a horrific slump, and then the boot kinda put its heel on his neck or his chest or something until six weeks into it his OPS cratered at .569. It’s been steadily climbing since that May 30 nadir – nearly two hundred points to .763. How good do you have to be to manage that?

Well, the man’s OPSing 1.145 in the second half of this season. He’s added six home runs, giving him nine on the year, one shy of his 2012 total with six weeks to play. He’s not walking a lot lately, but would you be taking pitches if you were swinging as hot as he is? Probably not. Me, personally, I’d probably only swing at eephus curves and slow knuckleballs anyway, since I’m afraid of pain and have terrible balance and hand-eye coordination and haven’t played organized ball since I was in eighth grade and am currently a good bit overweight – or as it’s called in the medical community, Blogg’s Disease.

So where’s all of this coming from? Perusing the stats will find you some interesting things. First, check out the spray chart and heat map below, both showing data since May 30. We see he’s tending to pull the ball a bit in the infield, but he’s hit three of his six bombs to the opposite field, and scatters the ball all over the outfield:

pointer spray chart

Brian Pointer_HeatMap
All charts via MLBFarm.com as of 7-16-14

Looks pretty good right. Nothing but good all around. Good.

Well, not all good. I lied. Briefly. For effect.

Here’s the bad:

Pointer has been known to be streaky before – last year he had a stretch in June and July (sound familiar?) where he hit in 19 of 23 starts, and OPSed .843, then only managed three multi-hit games and seven XBH in his final 35 games. That was a nice early summer streak, but nothing like this. Perhaps it’s indicative of nothing.

One thing I found that I think is quite significant is this – since the beginning of his extended hot streak on May 30, Pointer’s BABIP is .493. Almost half the balls he puts in play (those that leave the yard aren’t really in play), are falling in for hits. That’s terrifically unsustainable. Especially when you consider this:

pointer batted balls
Note: The chart includes home runs, which are not in my BABIP

Guys who go on hot streaks that coincide with extremely high BABIP, often do so by either legging out a ton of infield singles during the streak, which the heat maps show Pointer is not, or by hitting a ton of line drives. 11 out of the 73 balls in play, or about a 15% LD rate, is far better than his 9.8% cumulative total for the year, (per minorleaguecentral.com), but FanGraphs pegs the generic MLB average at about 20%. 15% is not fueling balls in play success to anything like the extent Pointer is seeing lately.

So what does that mean? Dude’s getting lucky. Take-him-with-you-to-the-casino lucky. Jason-Mraz-having-a-successful-music-career lucky. Really quite lucky. Now, when karma finds him (and it will, because karma, my friends, is a relentless beast), where will he land? On some positive note, where he maybe OPSes in the .800s for the rest of the year and gets himself a spot in the Arizona Fall League and a chance at a 40-man roster spot before the Rule 5 draft? Or will he fall back into the doldrums, and wind up spending his off-season watching Fellini and crying into a pint of Häagen-Dazs?

Time will tell, friends. Cross your fingers for success and a ticket to the AFL, where he’ll get another big test, and we’re likely to get some thorough scouting reports.

If that happens, I call dibs on the Häagen-Dazs. Score.

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1 comment

  1. Lazarus

    July 17, 2014 11:05 PM

    Great analysis on Pointer here. The problem with phillies prospects is that they lack true baseball skills. Pointer is one of the exceptions where he appears (I’ve never seen him in person) to be exceptional defensively but like all our recent prospects lacks the hitting acumen to succeed at higher levels.

    I can hope all day like our drafting strategy (see Hewitt, Collier [to a lesser extent], Mattair, Golson, etc) but hoping has turned out to be a pretty awful drafting strategy.

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