Mar 5, 2014; Port Charlotte, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Mikie Mahtook (67) at bat against the New York Yankees at Charlotte Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Is Mikie Mahtook's Breakout Year A Product Of Skill Or Luck?

When Mikie Mahtook was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 1st round of the 2011 draft, hopes were that he could become an everyday outfielder quickly. But in his first two full seasons as a pro, that prognosis was looking more and more bleak. In 2012 Matook hit a decent, but not great .277/.342/.415 between High-A and Double-A. His bat took a much bigger step back in 2013, when he hit. 254/.322/.386. Those numbers certainly weren’t screaming a potential impact big leaguer. But this season, Mahtook has seemingly taken the next step.

With Triple-A Durham, Mahtook is hitting .294/.365/.442 through 496 plate appearances. He is driving the ball with much more authority, and that has resulted in the great numbers. He has also done that while playing 71 game in center field, making his bat even more valuable, as well as 32 games in right and 18 in left. However, Mahtook’s breakout year must be taken with a grain of salt.

The biggest reason that Mahtook’s numbers have taken such a big leap is because of a sky-high .389 BABIP. Having a high BABIP can mean one of two things- a player is hitting the ball with authority or he is getting lucky, and sometimes he can be doing both at the same time. In Mahtook’s case, it seems like luck is a big factor. Yes Mahtook is hitting the ball harder, but that alone wouldn’t result in a BABIP that is so high. Simply put, going forward that number is unlikely to be sustainable, and his overall numbers will fall as his BABIP falls. Another telling sign that Mahtook’s hitting might be too good to be true is the fact that his 25.2% strikeout rate is the highest of his career.

All-in-all Mahtook’s stock remains about what it was entering the year. He still is a bit of a tweener, not having the defense to profile as an everyday center fielder, but not having the bat to profile as a regular in the corner spots. Mahtook still does plenty of things well- he plays good defense in the corners, he is capable of filling in at center field, and his bat should be good for a player in a backup role. But, a job as a regular still seems out of reach.

Mahtook lucky hitting means that he hasn’t boosted his stock, but at the same time he is holding strong. He still has to work himself into the Rays outfield picture- a tough task given the plethora of outfield talent that the Rays have. But, Mikie Mahtook is on the brink of being ready to crack the big league roster and the Rays are thankful to have him around.

Tags: Mikie Mahtook Tampa Bay Rays

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