Name: Tom King
DOB: August 3, 1984
An eighth-round pick out of Troy, King rewrote the record books in college, setting nine school records and earning first-team All-America honors as a shortstop.
King hit .411 during his final collegiate season and fell one double shy of the NCAA record with 35, setting school and Sun Belt Conference marks in the process. His 117 hits bested Adam Godwin's old school record, set just last spring, by 27. He also broke the Troy season marks for games played (63), at bats (285), runs scored (75), runs batted in (73) and total bases (178).
King also set school and Sun Belt records by hitting in 31 straight games and by delivering hits in nine consecutive at bats, a feat he accomplished twice. He was named first team All-Conference and was the Sun Belt's Newcomer of the Year. King is a semifinalist for both the Howser and Wallace Awards, which go to the college baseball Player of the Year.
He was placed in the Northwest League with the Eugene Emeralds, moving from shortstop to second base after two weeks of short and switching back and forth throughout the year. After two hits, two runs scored and an RBI in his initial game, King would net just five hits over his next 41 at bats.
He would bounce back in July to hit .264 but ended the year batting .231 and hit .232 over his final 33 games.
While he produced more with the bases empty, King scuffled with men in scoring position – hitting just .176.
"Tommie King – he has had some tough luck," former Eugene hitting coach Matt Howe said. "I feel like he has hit the ball much better than his numbers show. He has hit the ball hard all year but has had some tough luck hitting it right at guys, line drives, and it has been a rollercoaster."
The biggest knock has been his overaggressive approach at the plate. He is very adept at putting bat to ball but often swings at poor pitches, hitting them weakly to the infielders.
King has good bat control and has good reach across the plate, including down and away. While he can put the barrel of the bat on the ball, it does not mean he is making good contact. He falls into a habit of thinking he can do too much with any pitch – perhaps a product of his successful collegiate campaign.
Instead of waiting on pitches he can drive – and he has solid doubles power – King lunges and puts himself off-balance, taking away from his physical strength and natural hitting approach.
"He has shown some power with 19 doubles, second in the league, so he can drive the ball in the gaps," Howe said. "He is a guy that can put the bat on the ball a lot. He has a pretty good idea of the strike zone. We have worked on his aggressiveness – he is a little over aggressive. He shows a lot of promise."
He also struggled against right-handed pitchers as he was peppered away in the zone.
His propensity for swinging at the first pitch goes against the Padres' desire for each of their hitters to see as many pitches as possible. With his bat control, King would be able to take advantage of mistakes and hammer them into the gaps. If he were to swing at the first pitch, it would mean a quality strike he could handle was coming in. Taking a strike isn't a detriment because an out can be just as bad if he swings at the pitcher's pitch.
"King's approach is getting better," Grady Fuson, the Padres' vice president of scouting and player development, said. "King's a hitter for an infielder – he's always hit."
King sees the ball well and has a level swing, holding the bat loosely at the shoulder. He is very effective when he is squaring the ball up and spraying line drives, using all of the field. When he overextends and loses balance it generally results in ground ball outs, mostly to the left side of the infield.
King is a solid defender at two positions, compiling a .962 fielding percentage at shortstop with six errors in 157 chances and a .969 fielding percentage at second base with five errors in 160 chances.
His versatility will be a bonus moving forward but he is expected to settle in at second base on a more regular basis. He has soft hands and good footwork, primary components of a good fielder with the hands more important at second base.
King also has decent speed and will take an extra base when the opportunity presents itself.
ETA: King must work out the kinks – primarily from a mental standpoint – before moving forward. Seeing better pitches will allow his innate abilities to shine and could mean a dramatic improvement in batting average in the future. He has the tools to be a hit machine and profiles as a solid number two hitter because of his ability to execute the hit-and-run but time will tell if he can adapt.