Name: Eric Sogard
DOB: May 22, 1986
Selected with the 81st overall pick in the 2007 draft, Sogard was shipped to short-season Eugene. He lasted 31 games – posting a .256 average with more walks than strikeouts – before receiving a promotion to Low-A Fort Wayne. With the Wizards, Sogard hit .253 across 22 games with 15 RBIs.
"Offensively, he is pretty clean, good hands, good pitch recognition, has some power and a good approach," Padres vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson said.
He was bumped to the California League to begin the '08 season and rewarded the Padres for pushing him so quickly up the chain.
Sogard hit .308 with a .397 on-base percentage, leading the Storm with 42 doubles and collecting 55 extra base hits overall. He scored 97 times and drove in 87 while also drawing 79 walks compared to 62 strikeouts. His 1.27 walk-to-strikeout rate was tops in the circuit.
Sogard was second in the California League with 103.4 wRC (Run Created based off weighted on base average) while he was fourth in wRAA (Runs Above Average based off weighted on base average) with 19.6. His .370 weighted on base average was fifth in the league.
Batting out of the three-hole for most of the season, he provided protection to the guys in front of him and delivered timely hits for those behind.
"He's a professional hitter; he hit .308 for the season," Lake Elsinore manager Carlos Lezcano said. "He led the league with 42 doubles. He played every day; him and Hunter played every day, so they're durable."
The one concern was the highs were high, but the lows weren't so good. He hit over .333 in three months (April, June, August) and exactly .243 in May and July. True consistency was, therefore, lacking.
Sogard has a short, compact stroke and is able to get his hands inside the ball – allowing the ball to travel deep to aid in pitch recognition while also delivering the ball where it is pitched when he swings.
"He's got a good swing, a good eye, he won't swing at balls; he knows the strike zone well," Lezcano said. "He's going to do well hitting at whatever level he plays because he's a mature hitter, has knowledge of the strike zone and he stays within himself."
An overall solid approach with some power and the ability to recognize his own strike zone led to more positives than negatives through the year.
The streakiness comes from getting under the ball rather than focusing on creating backspin. Backspin allows the ball to travel further while hitting the lower half of the ball creates more of a topspin effect and results in a swing plane that is not level through the hitting zone.
"When he gets in trouble, he gets underneath the ball," Lezcano agreed. "When he gets underneath the ball, then he gets some fly balls to left field."
Hailed as a terrific defender after winning Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year in college, Sogard had a rough transition to the faster professional game.
"It's always going to be work for him defensively, but he was better at the end than he was at the beginning," Fuson said. "He doesn't have the biggest range or quickness, which is why his pre-pitch routine is so important for him; who is at the plate, positioning, knowing what the pitcher is trying to do. He is a very instinctual player and should pick it up.
"I think the major league comparison that is the closest is Todd Walker; he is always going to be more of a guy who is seen as an offensive second baseman."
The Arizona State alumnus lacks the lateral quickness and arm for shortstop but does move well coming in on the ball from second base. Sogard is a very instinctual player that reads the ball off the bat well. He positions himself based on the count and what the pitcher is trying to accomplish – putting himself in the best spot to make a play. That is essential to his defensive success.
His glove work needs a little improvement, as in his haste to make a throw he can pick up his glove before the ball has been secured. He does have to work on his fluidity turning the double play.
"He's a second baseman right now, but I wouldn't be surprised if he could move over and play some third, maybe even shortstop in a pinch," Padres roving infield coordinator Gary Jones said. "Playing second base, he's a pretty good player. He doesn't come across as a baseball player at first with the glasses, and it always seems like his uniform isn't fitting him right, but when you see him up close, he's put together pretty well and can play.
"He's probably had as consistent at-bats as anyone in the organization. It seems that he hits the ball hard every time he's at the plate. He has a great understanding of what he wants to do at the plate."
Sogard has some speed but lacks the initial burst. His strongest asset in base running is his ability to read the pitcher's move to get a jumpstart on a stolen base. He is also adept at taking an extra base on a sleeping defender. In 2008, he swiped 16 bags in 23 attempts.
Conclusion: The California League is a hitter's paradise where many players perform well. Seeing a similar production in the Texas League separates the boys from men. If Sogard can see success in San Antonio, his prospect status will be elevated. Right now, it is tough to determine whether the 2008 season was his best or if he is somewhere between the 2007 and 2008 numbers.
On his side is plate awareness and strike zone judgment. That can't be taken away. If he continues to see and hit good pitches while staying away from balls, success will inevitably follow. Defensive concerns remain. Being locked at the keystone is not in his favor, as versatility is often the predicating factor on promotion to the bigs.
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