The Australian started out with a bang, smacking two homers in his first two games before hitting a prolonged funk. On July 17, his average was just .188 and his month long average just .217 for July. But August provided Lachlan Dale with a new chance and he took it. He ended up hitting .282 for the month and raised his season average to .247. His power numbers dropped for the month but he was putting wood on the ball – more important at this stage of his development.
Dale was very picky about where he hit in the lineup. When he batted third, fourth, or fifth, his average was subterranean, dipping below .200 in those three spots combined. When he batted sixth, he hit .293.
The same tune was played based on the position he played. When he played first base, Dale hit .204 but when he was at the hot corner he batted .294.
Dale ended his season with 15 homers, tying him for second in the Northwest League. The homers came at the expense of his on base percentage which was just .295. He had just 16 walks on the year, the lowest total of any slugger with more than ten homers. His 87 strikeouts, meanwhile, led the Northwest League.
Plate discipline, therefore, is a concern. At 21, he still has a lot of room for growth. He began his career at 19 and has already added 30 pounds to his 6-foot-3 frame. He weighs in at 220 pounds now. Now that he is comfortable with his weight, he can begin to work on his ability to draw walks.
"Lachlan is a young player from Australia," Padres' Director of Player Development Tye Waller said. "He has not played a lot of baseball. This guy has improved every year we have had him. It was time for him to take that jump to the next level."
While Dale provided a lot of bang for the buck, he was also deficient in several areas. Besides the strikeouts, his error totals were among the highest in the league. His 27 errors fell one shy of the lead and tied with one other player. Only four players ended their Northwest League season with more than 20 errors – and two played for Eugene.
Normally, a first baseman doesn't produce a lot of errors, but Dale was not immune to them. While he also played third, Dale was equally ineffective at either position.
Given his power, were the Padres just ignoring his defense?
"Always worry about defense," Waller said twice. "You win games with pitching and defense. You can only improve on that when you get guys out there over and over. Some guys never improve. That is why you see some of the play in the Major Leagues. If you hit enough you can get by with it. I don't want to say get by with it – we live with it.
"We continue to work with him on his defense as long as he is going to be in a Padres uniform."
Given his youth and power, the Padres hope they will have him for a long time to come.
Denis Savage can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Padres Prospect Scouting report: Lachlan Dale
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