Kody Eaves is rarely spoken of, and we're kind of sitting here scratching our heads, asking, "why not?"
The 22-year-old Los Angeles Angels prospect has sat under the radar in the farm system for some time, but every tool and piece for a potential second baseman of the future is present. Primarily, a mixture of speed and power in the middle infield, which is something most organizations are looking for.
Eaves has 68 stolen bases in 329 games, which averages out to nearly 30 per 140 games, or - full minor league season. Safe to say, the speed quality is there with the young infield prospect.
Eaves' power hasn't really been shown statistically, but you have to take account of the ballparks and leagues he's played in, as well as where he was in his career. During the early part of his career, Eaves hit three home runs in 479 plate appearances, but had both years come as a teenager (age-18 and age-19 seasons, in Rookie Ball). He then went on to post double digit homers with 10, but was in the pitcher friendly Midwest League where 10 put him in the league's top 20.
Eaves is now playing for the Inland Empire 66ers, in what is known as the most pitcher friendly park of the California League, San Manuel Stadium. Eaves had slugged just six home runs in 379 plate appearances this season - that was, until Wednesday.
With dusk ending, the 66ers took on the High Desert Mavericks in Adelanto on Wednesday morning, and Eaves did something the Cal League gets to see once every few years. In his first plate appearance, he hit a home run; in his second, he hit a home run. Wanna guess what he did in his third plate appearance? You betcha! A home run. Eaves then went on to fly out to the deeper parts of left and center field in his final two plate appearances, his final with the bases loaded, but was a part of six of the "Sixers" seven runs come across home plate. Had Eaves ever had a performance like this before?
"Never!" laughed Eaves. "I've gotta say I was trying to lift the ball, but not trying to do too much. My last one, bases loaded, I was definitely trying to put one out of the yard (laughs)."
Over Eaves' last 10 games, he holds a .575 slugging percentage and .885 OPS. On an even higher note, Eaves has seen a large decrease in his strikeout rates, going from a 27.6 K/PA% in his first 66 games of the season to a mere 14.9 K/PA% in his last 24. What's been the biggest difference?
"I've cut a lot of movement out of my swing, and I really try to lay off pitches out the zone and stay more in the zone. It's really improved and made me not miss the fastball I get, it's been real good for me. [It's been] both tape and just a little more work in the cage. I'm taking a lot more swings so it's cut down all the movement and really improved."
Prior to this season, many amateur scouting reports noted that Kody Eaves had a long swing. When we spoke with scouts, some agreed and some said that was never the case. So what is it? Who better to ask a question like that, than Kody himself?
"I don't think I have a long swing. I think it's just long through the zone. I wouldn't say it's a long swing, it's opinions."
The High-A level of Minor League Baseball is one of the hardest to break through in. It's a bench mark in nearly every prospects career, where they find out who they are, against some of the toughest competition available before making it to a big league career. For Kody Eaves, development has been a big success in High-A with the 66ers.
"[It's] a lot better, absolutely. Defensively, I've done a lot of work with Denny Hocking and it's gotten a lot better. Offensively, I had a lot of movement coming into the season, but I've cut a lot of that out, strikeouts have gone down, been hitting a lot of balls hard now. It's gone really well."
Kody Eaves is beginning to climb the prospect ladder, and prove that he's not just a hidden name in the Angels farm system, but someone to take strong notice of. With the help of Denny Hocking, Brent Del Chiaro and the managers and coaches he'll see on his way up, you may be looking at the second baseman who is written into that "four" position regularly on the Angels lineup card.
Taylor Blake Ward is a Senior Publisher for Scout.com, and can be found on Twitter, @TaylorBlakeWard.