Dennis Raben, First Baseman/Outfielder
HT : 6'3
WT : 220 lb.
DOB : July 31, 1987, Hollywood, FL
Throws : Left
Bats : Left
School : University of Miami (Coral Gables, FL)
Acquired : Free Agent 2014 (Originally drafted in 2nd round () of 2008 June Draft by Seattle Mariners)
Stock : Rising
Cool Notes : Wife, Katie, is at every game Dennis plays / Spent this past off-season traveling Europe with Katie.
It's hard to find a story more intriguing in the Angels farm system than that of Dennis Raben. Injuries have taken away some of his early career, and the Angels are the third club he's played for since being drafted. However, Dennis Raben is steadily making his way back to where he was supposed to be as one of baseball's elite prospects, and the Angels have truly found a perfect gem, hidden in the lurks of their minor league system. The journey for Dennis, and his wife Katie, are near reaching his ultimate goal of becoming a big leaguer.
One scout when Raben was younger said, "he was born to hit... and has 40 home run a year potential." Injuries have taken the majority of Raben's young career, and he's now in his elder 20's in the minors. However, Raben still has the same tools he was drafted with and they've still improved ten fold.
Raben has a smooth, short and powerful swing. He has a long follow through and keeps his hands extended allowing him to stay closed and let his hands do the rest of the work. He has great bat speed, with his steady moving set-up and stance. He has a style similar to Barry Bonds, where the bat spends most of it's time above his head and comes with a minimal wheelhouse swing in the finish, which is where a lot of his power comes from. He has the best power tool in the Angels farm system currently, and at one point was the power hitter to be among all baseball prospects.
Raben has a good swing plane, which allows him to make good contact on every pitch. He's experienced and confident at the plate, which allows him to stay calm and find pitches he prefers to hit. He has a good mix of an aggressive approach with patience, not swinging at pitches out the zone or chasing. He has an eye for contact, which will keep his batting average high as well.
Raben uses his large and solid frame to his advantage. He's broad shouldered, with thick legs, and muscular arms, but isn't over sized to where he has problems using his body loosely. He's grown into his frame, and did when he was drafted, and comes in looking like a large Major League talent already.
Raben has great knowledge of the game, knowing matchups and what pitchers will use against him at every new level he advances to. He has good knowledge of the strike zone. This past season, he got back into a more aggressive approach, thanks to Brent Del Chiaro and Denny Hocking, and his willing attitude to adjust.
Something that will not show in any box score is his competitive spirit, and willingness to help teammates. At the end of last season, many High-A prospects attributed progress in their season to the leadership of Raben, and every goal he helped them reach over their season. This can transition into every level, and he could potentially be one of the better leaders in a big league clubhouse, even as a rookie.
Raben has adequate speed. He actually hit an inside-the-park home run this past season, and has the capability to steal a couple bases here and there. He won't wow you with his speed, but wouldn't be registered anywhere near slow at any point.
Raben has decent arm strength, but not really enough to where he could be a permanent outfielder. He's a good fielder, with good range, but first base seems to be where he'll land in the future. He's shown the ability to pop around in the infield, and be agile enough to make tough plays at first. With his baseball IQ, he could be a threat to be an every day first baseman for any club in the future.
As a freshman in high school, Raben hit .573 with three home runs and 48 RBI at Grandview Prep. He was named a Second-Team All-State pick. He followed this up with a season at Hollywood Hills High School, where he hit .445 with five home runs, including a 1-0 record.
In his second year at Hollywood Hills and junior season of high school, Raben hit .380 with three home runs and 32 RBI, and went 7-0 on the mound with a 1.44 ERA. As a senior, Raben hit .500 with three home runs and 25 RBI, going 9-0 on the mound with a 0.64 ERA at St. Thomas Aquinas High School. Raben was named Team MVP all four years of high school, and three-time captain.
Raben earned multiple high school accolades, such as Second-Team All-State his freshman year, and First-Team All-State (Florida) his senior year. Raben was a member of the honor roll as a sophomore and junior at Hollywood Hills, and was named the Miami Herald and Sun-Sentinel All-Broward selection all four years of high school. He was named the Sun-Sentinel Broward County Player of the Year his senior season.
Over his freshman year at "The U," Raben hit .285 with eight home runs, 12 doubles and 32 RBI. He went 1-for-2 in an exhibition game against the Florida Marlins. He had three hits in the College World Series, all extra base hits, two being home runs. He went 4-for-11 in the ACC Tournament with a run scored and run batted in.
Raben had no sophomore slump, batting .280 with a .514 slugging percentage, helped by his 12 home runs, 13 doubles, and triple. Raben brought home 48 runs with his bat and scored 46. Raben had six games where he brought in three or more runs with his bat, five of those coming against ACC opponents. He also had 18 multi-hit games and 11 multi-RBI games. Raben collected six game winning hits and had one walk off hit. He also made 16 appearances on the mound where he held a 4.96 ERA with 13 strikeouts and four walks in 16.1 innings pitched.
After being drafted, Raben collected a .275/.411/.560 slash in Short-A ball. He picked up 25 hits, 16 of which went for extra base (11 doubles, four home runs), and picked up 14 RBI while scoring 24 runs in his 27 games. Raben began the season with a nine-game hit-streak, where he went 15-for-31 (.484), reaching base in 24 of his 40 plate appearances (.600).
Raben hit Low-A with some struggles after an injury plagued year in 2010 where he didn't play. He put up a slash of .221/.320/.450 in 42 games, picking up eight doubles, a triple, and eight home runs in his time. He was promoted to High-A where he put on a clinic, posting a .356/.413/.681 slash in 40 games. Raben had 16 multi-hit games, and put up a .340/.407/.760 slash with runners in scoring position.
Raben put up more stellar numbers in 2011 and 2012, where he posted season slashes of .330/.387/.599 and .271/.375/.453 in injury plagued years. He had a combined 39 doubles, five triples, 27 home runs, 109 RBI, and 113 runs scored in the two seasons.
After a small stint in Independent Ball, Raben was picked up by the Kansas City Royals, and put up a slash of .272/.367/.469 in 71 games at the High-A level. He collected 12 doubles and the same amount of home runs, while picking up 41 RBI and scoring 33 runs. With runners in scoring positions, he hit .291/.385/.582 with six ten extra base hits in 79 at bats.
After some struggles after being signed by the Angels this past season, Raben was the hottest bat and possibly the strongest prospect in the entire system in the second half, posting a .346/.404/.679 slash with 23 home runs in 62 games. Raben also collected 30 multi-hit games in his 105 games played. Raben put together an 18-game hit-streak in July of this past season, where he went 25-for-69 (.362), with eight extra base hits, and 19 RBI.
Raben has already earned his quick off-season promotion to Triple-A. That should be where he starts off his 2015 campaign, but with a strong Spring Training, could make the jump to the majors early next season.
Raben has Major League talent, and is nearing the final step to his quest to the show. A strong Spring Training could mean time as the designated hitter at the beginning of Spring. With the road block at first base, he may be a bat only kind of guy for some time if he reaches the show. Some said he'd be a multi-time All-Star when he was drafted. Raben's injuries have taken that from him, but a Rookie of the Year Award isn't necessarily off limits next season. He's worth keeping your eye on.
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Taylor Blake Ward is a Senior Publisher for InsideTheHalos.com, and can be found on Twitter, @TaylorBlakeWard.