Name: Tyrell Worthington
Draft: 5th Round, 2007
Weight: 185 lbs
History: Tyrell Worthington rushed for 2,591 yards as a senior at Winterville (NC) South Central with 28 touchdowns, averaging 8.1 yards per carry. He also led South Central to the Coastal 3-A/4-A Conference title in baseball that year with nine home runs and 33 RBI. He had signed a letter of intent to play for nearby East Carolina on November 30, 2006, but he remained eligible for the 2007 Amateur Baseball Draft.
He fell to the fifth round, as teams were obviously concerned that he would honor his commitment to East Carolina. The Arizona Diamondbacks coaxed him into their fold with a $220,000 signing bonus, which was in excess of the recommended slot money for a fifth-rounder. The D-backs knew that Worthington was a relative neophyte to baseball, but they hoped that his professional career would begin more promisingly than it has so far.
Statistics Courtesy of The Baseball Cube
The D-backs thought nothing of Worthington's struggles in the '07 season, as he was just turning 19. Additionally, he followed up that brief stint in Missoula with a terrific Instructional League performance. He had added muscle to an already athletic frame, and appeared poised to make some noise in 2008. Minor league field coordinator Jack Howell explains what happened next.
"Coming into Spring Training (2008) he was sick and lost all that weight; it even felt like he had went back to when we had just first got him. We got him healthy and sent him out for the season and just weren't seeing any improvements. He wasn't catching on and wasn't picking up where he had left off."
Howell and the rest of the Diamondbacks' player development staff debated long and hard about whether Worthington should be one of the 20 position player prospects invited to this fall's Instructional League.
"It was really tough to decide whether we could get him back there in 21 days, or would it be a bigger benefit for him to go home, lift weights, work out, and just come to spring with a fresh new start," continues Howell. "I was glad we did it. I was really worried we weren't going to be able to give him the attention he needed, but it's just a credit to him. He was always extra in the cage working, he lifted some weights and gained some weight down here. We played him a ton in those camp games, and he got back to just about where he was when he left Instructs last year."
Certainly, the Diamondbacks would rather see their high draft selections do more than tread water over the course of a calendar year, but Tyrell Worthington is young enough to make up for lost time and athletic enough to become an elite baseball player if he ever hones his skills well enough.
Batting and Power: Worthington has a quick, compact swing considering his inexperience and the poor offensive numbers he has amassed so far in his pro career. But for some reason, he is struggling mightily to connect with the ball. He draws walks at a decent enough clip, but struck out almost every other time he stepped to the plate in 2008. He has no idea about how to hit a breaking pitch, but he'll also chase fastballs out of the strike zone and sometimes just plain miss those that are right there.
The strikeouts would be more forgivable had he launched a few bombs in the meantime, but he has not homered in 163 pro at bats. The ball simply isn't jumping off his wooden bats the same way that it was off the aluminum sticks, even when he does manage to square up a pitch. Still, the Diamondbacks insist that the power will eventually resurface.
"He's very strong," said Tom Allison, the man responsible for drafting Worthington last year. "This is an athletic kid."
Base Running and Speed: Speaking of athleticism, Worthington runs the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds. He's one of the fastest men in the organization and puts that speed to good use in the outfield. On the base paths, however, Worthington still has trouble getting jumps off pitchers and reading outfielders. He's still able to take some bases that he shouldn't based on the raw speed alone. If he can gain some aptitude for running the bases, he would give opposing defenses nightmares.
His range will improve as he learns to read the ball off the bat better. He absolutely has the speed and reaction time to become a plus-defensive centerfielder someday. Basically, he needs to stop running post patterns to the ball and start taking some straight fly routes.
Prediction: I cannot think of an instance of a position player struggling this much in his first couple of pro seasons and then enjoying more than a cup of coffee in the major leagues. Worthington is probably just the next Marland Williams with a little more pop and a little less speed. But in the small chance that he does have of making it, he would make it big: as a five-tool centerfielder.
Timetable: Don't hold your breath. The Diamondbacks would like to start him at full season South Bend next year, but he would really need to impress in spring training to get that opportunity. It will likely be another extended spring training for Worthington, maybe with a move to Yakima this season just so that he doesn't feel as though he isn't going anywhere. Even if he finds success there, Worthington will take a lot of time to adjust to higher levels.