Prospect Profile: Steve Stanley

When the baseball term "sparkplug" was coined, it was with players like Oakland A's outfield prospect Steve Stanley in mind. Stanley, the former Notre Dame star, exudes passion when he is out on the field. The 2002 second round pick may not be the most talented player on any team, but he combines a good set of baseball smarts and all-out effort to make himself a solid ballplayer.

Steve Stanley, 5'8'', 155, L/L

Year

Team

Lg

Age

AVG

OBP

SLG

AB

H

2B

3B

HR

BB

K

XBH

2002

MOD

CAL

22

.286

.382

.347

262

75

11

1

1

39

46

13

2003

MID

TEX

23

.296

.370

.330

479

142

10

3

0

56

65

13

2004

SAC

PCL

24

.227

.324

.305

220

50

4

2

3

33

30

9

2004

MID

TEX

24

.419

.480

.507

148

62

7

3

0

20

20

10



Like many of his "Moneyball" draft brethren, Steve Stanley was considered a stretch pick when the A's grabbed him 67th overall. Stanley was one of the top hitters in the NCAA during his collegiate career at Notre Dame, but he wasn't considered big enough or strong enough to be a top-flight major league prospect. Yet the A's saw something in the spunky lead-off hitter that made him appealing enough to invest a second round pick.

They saw a player who, while in college, never struck out more than he walked. They also saw a player who posted a .506 OBP during his senior year of college and had an OPS of 1048. In addition to his outstanding collegiate numbers, Stanley had also excelled in the summer Cape Cod leagues, demonstrating his ability to hit with a wooden bat. All of that -- plus an overachiever mindset that allows him to maximize his talent -- made Stanley a good risk in the eyes of the A's scouting department. But has the risk paid off?

Stanley began his professional career with the high-A Modesto A's, skipping both short-season A and low-A competition. The centerfielder acquitted himself well during his stay in Modesto, posting a .286 BA with a .382 OBP. He generated little power (.347 SLG), but did everything else a good lead-off hitter would be expected to.

In 2003, Stanley was promoted to AA-Midland, where he had similar results. Stanley raised his batting average up to .296, but saw his on-base percentage fall to .370. He continued to struggle with his power numbers, but he displayed a good capacity for making contact, gathering 142 hits in only 124 games played (a 185-hit pace over a full season). Stanley showed enough at Midland to earn a promotion to AAA to start the 2004 season.

It was in Sacramento that Stanley ran into his first major struggles at the plate as a professional. He could never get on-track with the River Cats, posting a .227 BA over 74 games played. Stanley posted only nine extra-base hits and saw his OPS plummet to 629. However, despite these struggles, Stanley did not lose his eye at the plate, walking 33 times against 30 strike outs.

Two-thirds of the way through the season, Oakland sent Stanley back to AA. Once he arrived in Midland, Stanley's bat came alive. In 148 at-bats over 36 games played, Stanley hit at an Ichiro-like pace, posting a .419 BA with a .480 OBP and a .507 SLG. He also managed to drive in 21 runs, only three less then he drove in during his 74 game stint in Sacramento.

Stanley is similar to David Eckstein in that he makes consistent contact and he uses his legs and his eye to put pressure on the defense. He has Eckstein's passion for the game and he gives maximum effort in everything that he does. Stanley has good baseball instincts and good speed, making him an above-average baserunner. He hasn't had overwhelming success stealing bases as a pro, but he is good at going first to third and taking an extra-base on a ball in the gap.

Stanley has a small frame and, while he makes solid contact, he doesn't drive the ball well. He'll need to add more strength to be successful hitting major league pitches, especially on the inner-half of the plate. He is similar to former A's prospect Esteban German in that respect and he could be in danger of becoming a AAAA player if he can't add more gap power. However, he does have a major league understanding of the strike zone and he works the count well, making him an excellent top of the order hitter. Defensively, Stanley is average. He covers the gaps well from centerfield but doesn't have a particularly strong arm. Stanley, in many ways, is similar to both Eckstein and current A's outfielder Eric Byrnes in that he makes the most out of every part of his natural talent.

As Stanley enters the 2005 season, he will be looking to show that he can compete against AAA pitching. If he can put together a solid campaign in 2005, he might find himself in competition for a fourth or fifth outfielder spot in Oakland or for another major league team next season. Although he only projects to be a back-up outfielder at the major league level, Stanley has exceeded expectations at every level he has competed at, so you never know what the future holds for him.


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