Name: Tyler Ladendorf
Height/Weight: 6’0’’, 210
How Acquired: Trade from MIN in 2009
Parts of this profile appeared in a piece on Ladendorf we published on November 13, 2014.
Poised to test the minor league free agent waters, Tyler Ladendorf’s tenure with the Oakland A’s organization received a surprising extension when he was added to the team’s 40-man roster just before the start of minor league free agency. Long a favorite of the A’s player development staff for his ability to play above-average defense at several positions, Ladendorf had been stuck behind several other infielders in the upper levels of the A’s system for years before finally breaking through to Triple-A in 2014. Can he reach the big leagues in 2015?
After a standout junior college career at Howard (TX), the Chicagoland native was a second-round pick of the Minnesota Twins in 2008. Ladendorf spent his pro debut in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. In 2009, he began the year in the short-season Appalachian League, but earned a promotion to the Low-A Midwest League after hitting .410 in 17 games. Ladendorf remained at the Low-A level after the A’s acquired him for SS Orlando Cabrera at the July trade deadline.
In 2010, Ladendorf was part of a High-A Stockton Ports club that reached the California League finals. He hit .274/.326/.385 with 30 doubles, five homers and 20 stolen bases that season for Stockton. Ladendorf was the Ports’ primary shortstop and played so well defensively that the A’s sent him to Triple-A for a short stint when they needed a fill-in at that position.
The next season, Ladendorf moved up to Double-A Midland. With the exception of a handful of games at the Triple-A level, Ladendorf would remain in Midland for nearly all of the 2011, 2012 and 2013 campaigns.
"[Tyler] was always a contact-oriented player with a short stroke that bodes well for higher levels. This year he catapulted himself forward to someone that is on the cusp. Tyler's plan, approach and execution all improved in 2014." - A's Director of Player Personnel Billy Owens
The Texas League can be draining because of the brutal travel schedule, the heat and wind, and the small number of teams in the league. During Ladendorf’s time with the RockHounds, he performed well during the first half of the season, only to fade offensively during the final months of the schedule. Consequently, his career line at Double-A is a mediocre .240/.322/.353, but he had extended periods of better offensive production while at that level. Defensively, Ladendorf continued to flash above-average range in the infield.
Last season, Ladendorf was set to once again return to Midland when he finally caught a break. Infielder Jake Elmore injured his leg during the final week of spring training and was placed on the A’s big league disabled list on the eve of the minor league Opening Day. That opened up a spot for Ladendorf at the Triple-A level, and he took advantage. Putting together the best offensive numbers of his career, Ladendorf hit .297/.376/.407 in 78 games in Triple-A. Unfortunately, Ladendorf was limited to those 78 games because of a mid-season suspension for violating baseball’s drugs of abuse policy.
Despite the suspension, Ladendorf did enough in Triple-A to grab the attention of the A’s front office. With Oakland entering the off-season with an opening at shortstop, the A’s front office didn’t want to risk losing the slick-fielding and versatile Ladendorf. They added him to the 40-man roster before he could leave via free agency. The A’s did acquire a potential starting shortstop in Marcus Semien this week, but Oakland should still have plenty of competition this spring for their starting and back-up middle infield spots.
One big factor in Ladendorf’s success in 2014 (besides getting away from the winds and grind of the Texas League) was a dramatic increase in his line-drive rate, a sign that Ladendorf was squaring up a lot more balls in 2014 than he did in previous seasons. In 2014, Ladendorf had a 29.3% line-drive rate, a more than 10% increase over the year before and by far his best line-drive rate of his career. Ladendorf also improved his walk rate by 2% (up to 11.1%), while keeping his strike-out rate relatively low (17.5%). His wOBA was a career-best .345. His BABIP was high (.355) but that is likely more a function of his increased line-drive rate than it is a sign that he got lucky in 2014.
“Tyler Ladendorf made huge strides offensively this campaign,” A’s Director of Player Personnel Billy Owens said via e-mail. “He was always a contact-oriented player with a short stroke that bodes well for higher levels. This year he catapulted himself forward to someone that is on the cusp. Tyler's plan, approach and execution all improved in 2014.”
Ladendorf is a gifted athlete who has both the arm strength and the range to be a big league shortstop. He has also shown he can handle second base and third base and has even played well in limited opportunities in the outfield. Although he hasn’t run much since 2010, Ladendorf has good speed and could be used as a pinch-runner late in games.
In some ways, Ladendorf profiles similarly to former A’s prospect Gregorio Petit, although Ladendorf has more foot speed and more plate discipline than Petit did. Petit has built a career as a big-league bench player and Ladendorf could find a similar niche in the big leagues in the coming years. He will be 27 during the 2015 regular season.