One of my personal favorite under-the-radar prospects has been excellent since the start of June.
Last year at the age of 19, Troy Stokes slashed .270/.384/.407 in the rookie Pioneer League. The previous year, Stokes had posted a .363 OBP with the Arizona Brewers. I’ve always been particularly intrigued by prospects who excel in the area of plate discipline, and, based on what we’ve seen in box scores, Stokes certainly fits that description.
So I decided to keep a closer eye on the outfielder, as I did with a few other Milwaukee Brewers prospects I had deemed my most compelling fringe prospects. Stokes began the year with a six game sample for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers that looked remarkably similar to his career norms, slashing .278/.381/.444, before hitting the disabled list.
Upon his return at the start of May, Stokes struggled mightily, ending the month with a .125 average and just a 5.3% walk rate. But Stokes has since put his post-DL struggles behind him, hitting .324/.448/.423 since the start of June.
The 20-year-old outfielder now owns a .364 OBP despite a .248 batting average. This type of discipline helps keep a player valuable when his batting average dips, and being lightning fast on the bases gives him the look of a future leadoff hitter.
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According to perfectgame.org, Stokes ran a 6.47 second 60-yard dash, which placed him 12th in the entire 2014 draft class, or the 99th percentile. As a result, in 644 career plate appearances over 153 games, Stokes has 56 stolen bases (82% success rate).
If Stokes continues his hot streak, and pulls his BABIP back up toward his career average, he should finally get some recognition among top Milwaukee Brewers prospects.
The major question about Stokes is whether he can handle center field at a higher level, because he may not have the arm strength for right field. Stokes has played the vast majority of his games in left, though this is most likely due to frequently sharing an outfield with bigger-name prospects like Monte Harrison and Trent Clark.
Of course, Stokes’ speed makes it at least more plausible that he can be a true center fielder, but some of the quickest Major League base stealers in recent memory have still been better suited for left field than center (Rajai Davis, Eric Young Jr, Ben Revere).
The difference in defensive value between center and left field is immense, and corner outfielders with little power remain a tough sell for many organizations.
This is where increased attention for Stokes will help us get an idea of his future. We can’t deduce anywhere near as much from prospects’ statistics as we can from scouting reports, particularly on the defensive end of things.
Regardless of his future on the field, Stokes is an easy person to root for, as the young man has already made a positive impact in his hometown of Baltimore with the Swing 4 More Baseball Program.