Name: Chris Iriart
Height/Weight: 6’2’’, 235
How Acquired: Selected in the 12th round of the 2015 MLB Draft.
Nearly everyone knows the names of the prospects who finished one-and-two on the Oakland A’s minor league homerun ranking in 2016. But while Matt Chapman (36) and Renato Nunez (23) reached their totals playing in 135 and 128 games, respectively, Chris Iriart hit 22 homeruns in just 97 games. What kind of numbers can Iriart produce in a fully healthy season?
http://www.scout.com/mlb/athletics/story/470233-oakland-a-s-top-50-prosp... Iriart is no stranger to the longball. The Southern California native has been reaching the seats since his second junior college season in 2014, when he connected on 10 homeruns in 171 at-bats with Orange Coast College. Iriart transferred to Division I Houston for the 2015 season and he hit 15 homers in 63 games for the Cougars. The A’s selected Iriart in the 12th round of the draft that season and assigned him to short-season Vermont after he signed.
Playing in a league well known for suppressing power numbers, Iriart hit only five homers in 256 at-bats with the Lake Monsters in 2015. Those five homers were enough to lead the team, however, and he chipped in 18 doubles – good for second-most on the team. Iriart also drove-in 45 runs, which tied for second-most in the league. Strike-outs were an issue for Iriart, however, as he whiffed 86 times in just 69 games (a strike-out percentage of nearly 30%). He finished his pro debut season with a .230/.304/.359 line (league average was .250/.320/.346).
In 2016, Iriart began the year with Low-A Beloit. He got off to a slow start in the Midwest League, hitting .213/.289/.400 in April. He did homer four times, but he posted a 23:7 K:BB in 90 at-bats. Things started to heat up for Iriart in May, and he put together a solid month for the Snappers, batting .253/.355/.484. The strike-out rate remained high, but he nearly doubled his walk rate and he homered five times.
Unfortunately for Iriart, his momentum was interrupted just two games into June, when he was beaned in the face with a fastball. The pitch nearly hit his eye and left him with facial fractures. He missed the next six weeks as he recovered from the injury. Despite the layoff, Iriart’s bat remained hot when he returned to the field. He played two games in Arizona before re-joining the Snappers on July 16. He homered in his second game back. Iriart’s power numbers were solid in July, and he slugged .446 for the month. Then August came around and his season really took off.
Iriart spent the first half of the month with Beloit and in 14 games, he homered four times and doubled three times. On August 15th, he earned his first in-season promotion, moving up to High-A Stockton. For the final three weeks of the season, there was no hotter power hitter in the Cal League than Iriart. In 16 games with the Ports, Iriart hit six homers and five doubles. He also walked nine times and finished with a .311/.417/.689 line in 61 at-bats with Stockton. For the year, Iriart hit .250/.340/.503 with 43 extra-base hits and a 38:105 BB:K in 97 games.
Chris Iriart Stats
After the season, Iriart joined the A’s fall Instructional League camp to make up for some of the at-bats he lost to the beaning. He focused on improving his pitch selection during the camp and made progress along those lines, according to A’s Triple-A hitting coach Eric Martins.
“He eliminated trying to swing at some fastballs up and out of the ‘zone,” Martins said of Iriart’s time at the camp. “Chris is a strong kid. You can see what he can do. He had a couple of games where it didn’t matter what the pitcher was throwing. He battled for the entire at-bat: fastballs, breaking balls, sliders, he was barreling up some baseballs all over the field.”
For now, Iriart’s ceiling is limited by his tendency to swing-and-miss, but if he can narrow his strike-zone, he has the capability of reaching that 30-homer plateau regularly. Iriart’s swing is designed to pull the ball, but he did manage to muscle three homers out to right and right-center this season. He has the strength to hit the ball out to any part of the ballpark and he could improve his contact rate by closing his hips some. Iriart punished left-handed pitching in 2016, posting a .314/.430/.686 line in 86 at-bats versus southpaws. In 2015, he hit .296/.387/.481 against lefties.
Defensively, Iriart is a solid, but not spectacular defender. He improved his footwork in his second pro season and can generally be counted on to make the plays that he should make. Iriart, like most true first basemen, is not fleet-of-foot. He receives high marks for his work ethic and showed tremendous resiliency in coming back as quickly as he did from a serious injury.
As a prospect, Iriart is very similar to former A’s first baseman and current Stockton hitting coach Tom Everidge. Early in Everidge’s career, he didn’t trust his pure strength and looked to pull every pitch. Once he adjusted his swing and his approach to look more up-the-middle, Everidge’s career took off. Everidge was Iriart’s hitting coach during his torrid stretch with the Ports in 2016 and the pair are likely to start together again in 2017. A full season in the Cal League with Everidge at his side could produce huge numbers for Iriart. He will be 22 throughout the 2017 regular season.