Ken Carr/IBI

2017 IBI Top 75 Prospects: #27 Luke Wakamatsu

The 2017 countdown continues with a high profile shortstop who struggled with an injury for most of last season, but brings a ton of upside and talent and looks to be ready to make up for some lost time with a healthy season this year...

27. Luke Wakamatsu – Shortstop

Born: 10/10/1996 – Height: 6’3” – Weight: 185 – Bats: Switch – Throws: Right

Facts & Info: Wakamatsu was selected by the Indians in the 20th round of the 2015 Draft out of Keller High School (TX) and signed for $290,000. The Indians wooed him away from a strong commitment to attend and play baseball at Rice University by going $190,000 over the $100,000 signing limit for players selected after the 10th round. He is the son of former Major League player and current Kansas City Royals bench coach Don Wakamatsu.

Offense: Wakamatsu is a good all-around player who has an advanced set of tools with a physical build that projects to add more strength and power as he matures. The power potential in the middle infield is what really makes him intriguing as it is average power now with the potential to be plus as he fills out his long, slight frame and adds some more strength to the quick bat and above average bat speed he already possesses. He also shows an advanced approach for his age with some good strike zone awareness which leads to a good amount of walks, and he shows some strong bat-to-ball skills and an all fields approach that gives him the potential to hit for average. He is short and direct to the ball and consistently centers up balls thanks to some good barrel control through the zone and how well he repeats his swing mechanics. The switch-hitting ability is another plus as he shows a good approach from both sides with the potential to impact from either side.

Defense: Not only is Wakamatsu interesting with the bat, but his defense also gets high grades and may be his best asset. He is an advanced defender who is very smooth and polished for his age and just has all the tools to handle and stay at the shortstop position. He has good, soft hands and very nice fielding actions, and has good first step quickness, good lateral movements to his left and right and shows some good acceleration to get to balls which allows for some good range. He shows some very good instincts and his athleticism allows for some great body control to make all the routine plays and also make the spectacular play.  He also has a strong throwing arm with some above average arm strength to make any throw and shows good carry and accuracy on all of his throws. He also brings the mental component to his defense as he has some overflowing confidence, wants every ball to be hit to him and brings a ton of savvy to the field. While the Indians plan to develop him as an everyday shortstop, he has the versatility, athleticism and bat to play any infield position and even some outfield if the Indians decide to go that route down the road.

Speed & Intangibles: Wakamatsu is an above average runner who has the ability to steal some bases and really showcases his running abilities when running the bases on balls in play with his advanced feel for picking up the ball and the ability to take extra bases. With his Major League bloodlines and how he grew up in the game he carries a very advanced, strong understanding of the game and is very polished for a player not even two years removed from high school. He has a strong work ethic, a plus makeup and is very detailed and committed with his routines and how he prepares for games and his work. One thing that really impressed the Indians last year was even though he was injured the last two months of the season he still came to the field focused where he got his work in and was an excellent teammate.

Focus: There were some initial struggles in Wakamatsu’s transition to Single-A last season, which was to be expected from a high school draft pick in his first full season in an organization. There were some struggles with the consistency of his defense and his approach at the plate, but he flashed the pop in his bat the Indians love from him as a middle infielder. His experience at Mahoning Valley provided a more competitive environment than he ever faced before and is something he feels he can learn from and when given another chance be more at ease knowing what to expect. The game was faster than he was used to and is something that as he moves up he will need to learn to adjust to at each level he reaches. His biggest problem at the plate was he would swing at too many pitches out of the zone, so the Indians want him to work on refining his approach and to not expand the zone so much, especially early in the count or when it is in his favor. Being a switch-hitter he has a lot of ability and room for improvement to drive the ball from both sides and it is just a matter of being consistent with that. The shoulder injury he encountered wiped out what was a big foundational year for him, so the Indians will continue to work on building his foundation this season by developing his routines and getting him stronger with a good strength and conditioning program in order to add more bulk to has frame to improve his durability and tap into his power more consistently.

Future: The Indians pushed Wakamatsu to Short-A Mahoning Valley in his first full season in the organization last year, which was an aggressive push for a player fresh out of high school, but shows how much they believe in his tools and how advanced he is for his age. Unfortunately, a shoulder injury limited him to just 17 games before his season was cut short, and actually remained with the team for most of the last two months of the season and rehabbed his shoulder before going out to Instructional League in the fall to make up for some lost time. The Indians firmly believe that as he continues to get stronger and settles into the pro game that his tools will eventually show much more consistently. He’s a long projection still but the upside is considerable and he has a chance to become not just the top shortstop prospect in the system, but one of the best in all of baseball if things fall in line for him and he can stay healthy. Once he learns to tap into his natural abilities consistently he could really take off, and because of how advanced he already is, he is someone who could move much quicker through the system than the normal progression seen from other high school prospects. He is expected to be healthy and ready to go this season and should open the year as the regular shortstop at Low-A Lake County, but because he missed so much time last season and didn’t accrue many at bats in Short-A he may open in extended spring training and then go to Mahoning Valley again when they begin their season in June.

Ranking History: #31 (2016)

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