Everyone wants to succeed and succeed quickly. We don’t want to put work in- we just want everything to suddenly fall into place. 2012 has not begun exactly the way Derek Dietrich had in mind. But he has put the work in and has made the strides that will make him a better player long-term.
Back in January, we talked about Dietrich as an unorthodox Rays prospect. Dietrich is the rare premium position (catcher, shortstop, centerfield) player that the Rays have drafted out of college over the years and features nice power for a middle infielder, his calling card, but he lacks speed and doesn’t play particularly good defense at shortstop. There was one other problem: his plate discipline. In 2011, Dietrich had an excellent season for Low-A Bowling Green, hitting .277 with 34 doubles, 4 triples, 22 homers, 81 RBI, and a .502 SLG. However, his OBP was just .346 and was aided by 15 hit-by-pitches. He struck out 128 times on the year, 23.8% of his plate appearances, while walking just 7.1% of the time and only 6.7% when taking out a couple of intentional walks. But Dietrich has gotten by that.
To begin 2012 at High-A Charlotte, Dietrich has hit just .250 with 8 doubles, 3 triples, 2 h0mers, 14 RBI, and a .422 SLG in 31 games. But the big difference has been his walk rate. Dietrich has walked 14 times, a nice 10.3% of his plate appearances, while striking out 28 times, 20.6%. His .348 OBP in 2012 is actually .002 higher than his OBP in 2011 despite a batting average .027 lower. Dietrich’s power hasn’t been so great to begin the year (.172 ISO), but a lot of that is because his timing is just off (pop-ups on 26.8% of his flyballs compared to 20.6% in 2011), and we know he still has excellent power- not to mention the fact that his improved patience and seeing more pitches should give him more pitches to hit. Dietrich has also made a couple other concessions to his game, letting you know how committed he is to the organization and to doing whatever it takes to make it to the big leagues. After not bunting a single time in all of 2011, Dietrich already has a sac bunt in 2012, and Dietrich has also played 4 games at second base.
Coming out of Georgia Tech, Derek Dietrich was known as a natural leader and an excellent team player. We know that the Rays emphasize character, and Dietrich certainly fits that category. Dietrich may not be a Rays-type player in most regards, but his commitment to improving himself and helping the team win makes his abilities stand out even more. Dietrich’s stats thus far in 2012 aren’t exciting… yet.