A Closer Look At Danny Putnam's 2005 Season

Of all of the Oakland A's 2004 draft picks, Danny Putnam may have epitomized best what people have come to know as a "Moneyball" player. He wasn't known for his athleticism at Stanford, but he was everything the A's look for in a hitter. He saw a lot of pitches, hit for high average and had good power numbers. Putnam posted two straight seasons of plus-1000 OPS before he was taken in the supplemental first round by the A's in 2004. So how did he do in 2005?

Putnam joined the A's organization with the label as being the most advanced hitter of their 2004 draft choices, and he proved that label to be true when he became the first position player in his draft class to make it to low-A Kane County in 2004. Although Putnam's numbers at Kane County were only average (771 OPS in 158 at-bats), he showed good plate patience (29 walks). The A's gave him the benefit of the doubt and Putnam was promoted to high-A Stockton to start the 2005 season. His performance with the Ports affirmed the confidence the A's showed in him.

Danny Putnam, 2005 statistics

Year

Team

Lg

Age

AVG

OBP

SLG

AB

H

2B

3B

HR

BB

K

XBH

2005

STCKN

CAL

23

.307

.388

.479

514

158

37

3

15

66

92

55



Run Producer

Putnam was a model of consistency in 2005. The left-handed hitter started off the season by hitting .305 in the month of April and continued to hit around .300 for the rest of the year. In fact, he never hit lower than .287 in any given month. His steady production in the middle of the Ports offense led to a lot of RBI opportunities, and Putnam took advantage of those chances, becoming the only A's minor league hitter to collect 100 RBI in the season.

Putnam was especially effective with runners on-base. With runners on, Putnam hit .332 with eight homers and 93 RBI. As the RBI situation got more difficult, Putnam seemed to rise to the occasion. With runners on and two-outs, he hit .340 with six homers and 38 RBI in 103 at-bats. With runners in scoring position, Putnam hit .350 with six homers and 86 RBI in 163 at-bats. He got even better with runners in scoring position and two-outs, hitting .366 with four homers and 33 RBI in 71 at-bats.

Putnam's numbers with runners on-base were decidedly better than his numbers with nobody on, as Putnam managed only a .284 batting average in 264 bases-empty plate appearances. This split could be a result of Putnam's mature approach to hitting. Putnam works the count extremely well, which allows him to put pressure on the pitcher. This approach seems to be especially effective when Putnam is up with runners on-base because the pressure is already on the pitcher to make a good pitch. Putnam's selectivity allows him to get a good pitch to drive when he is in a run-producing situation, a classic trait of an RBI-machine.

Home/Road Splits

Putnam played an almost equal number of games at home and on the road (65 to 66, respectively). So did he benefit from playing half of his season in Stockton's Banner Island Ballpark, which played favorably for left-handed hitters? On the surface, it would appear that Putnam did see a boost at home. He hit .331 in 248 at-bats at Banner Island versus .286 in 266 at-bats on the road. However, when you take a closer look at his numbers, you see that the batting average discrepancy is misleading.

Putnam managed 29 extra-base hits (including seven homeruns) on the road while collecting 26 extra-base hits at home (including eight homeruns). He drew the same number of walks (33 at home and on the road) and drove in the same number of runs (50 at home and on the road).

In fact, the greatest difference in Putnam's home/road splits comes with his strikeouts. At home, Putnam whiffed only 36 times. However, on the road, Putnam struck out 56 times. This discrepancy could exist for any number of reasons (Banner Island having better lights than many of the older California League stadiums could be one reason), but it probably isn't a sign of things to come. It is likely that Putnam's K:BB ratio will even up at home and on the road next season and his home/road batting average splits will likely come closer together, as well.

Outlook

Although Putnam played the entire 2005 regular season in Stockton, he did join the AA-Midland Rockhounds for the Texas League playoffs. He continued his solid production with the Rockhounds, hitting .314 with a .400 OBP in nine playoffs games. He will likely start the 2006 season back in Midland. Putnam will be 23 until September, so he is on pace to make the major leagues by his 25th birthday if he continues to hit at his current clip.

Putnam is an average fielding corner outfielder and he could eventually be converted to first base if he isn't able to improve his glove work. However, his offensive numbers play better as a left-fielder, so the A's will probably keep Putnam in left-field until he proves he can't play there. He has a reputation as an extremely hard worker, so it is probable that he will improve with the glove.

The A's would also like to see Putnam hit for a little more power. He has shown the plate patience to be a major leaguer, but he would become an even more attractive prospect if he could raise his slugging percentage above .500. Putnam has good pull power and the ability to hit to all fields, but that hasn't yet translated to 25-homer production. In some ways, Putnam is similar to current A's prospect Daric Barton, both of whom are working to develop more homerun power.

Right now, Putnam projects to be a Scott Hatteberg-type, a good on-base percentage and contact hitter. However, he could become more of a Dan Johnson-type hitter if he can add more power. Either way, Putnam is one of the A's better hitting prospects and he should be someone to follow closely in 2006.


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