Name: Blake Tekotte
DOB: May 24, 1987
Selected in the third-round of the 2008 draft, Tekotte began his professional career in Eugene of the Northwest League after his college season ended.
Playing center field, the former Miami Hurricane started off slowly, striking out seven times in his first nine at-bats and 14 times over his first 32.
Gaining confidence and the timing back in his swing, Tekotte wound up hitting .285 with 21 extra base hits, including six homers, across 47 games. He had 17 multi-hit games before skidding to a 3-for-31 finish.
"He's a thin-framed guy," Eugene manager Greg Riddoch began. "He learned a lot of stuff this summer about the pro game versus the college aluminum bat thing. He's got some sock in his bat and he's a better-than-average runner."
The Missouri native fanned 45 times on the season while drawing 27 walks for a .379 on-base percentage and hit .222 when leading off an inning. He did, however, bat .321 with runners in scoring position to collect 29 RBIs.
Scoring 50 percent of the time he reached base, Tekotte touched home 43 times and added seven stolen bases in 11 attempts.
Tekotte's ISO (Isolated Power) of .171 landed him sixth in the circuit and a .456 slugging percentage placed him eighth. The outfielder also ranked 11th the Northwest League in wOBA (weighted On Base Average) at .390 and 12th with 8.5 wRAA (weighted Runs Above Average based off wOBA).
The Padres envisioned a speedy top of the lineup player that has excellent defensive skills and some pop when they took Tekotte with the 101st overall selection. They got more than they bargained for.
Tekotte showed impressive power for his frame and the ability to do consistent damage with his bat. His defensive in center field proved worthy and his plus speed will allow him to be an annual threat on the bases.
"He's a plus runner, gets off of the ball well," Padres vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson said. "He has a slasher swing, but with surprising power. He's similar in a way to Robertson but different too."
There are, however, holes in Tekotte's swing that must be shored up before he can hit at the higher levels. The left-handed hitter has a slashing type of swing that undercuts the ball and doesn't give him maximum coverage through the hitting zone.
The mechanics of his swing begin with a rap and that sets up a long swing for a potential hitter at the top of a lineup. As he separates his hands to get ready to explode through the zone, Tekotte's bat head swings back behind his head and faces the pitcher – almost parallel to the ground. As a result of this behavior, Tekotte must commit to a pitch sooner than others to get the bat head back from behind his head and into the hitting zone.
"What I like is the fact that he realized how much rap he had in his swing," Eugene hitting coach Eric Peyton said. "The only thing was he didn't get in, he just needed more ABs and for him to have his mind understand it more so his body kind of does it more consistently. So, what happens is every time he started rapping, we talked about it, and he knows it's hard for him to break that habit. I thought instructional league would be really good for him to go there and work on that.
While he has quick hands, fastballs on the inner half can give him fits – as the bat head cannot make the arcing trajectory to hit the pitch. Also, breaking balls on the outer half can fool him. His swing begins before he recognizes the break of the pitch, causing him to swing at balls outside of the zone.
It also contributed to Tekotte striking out in 23.3 percent of his at-bats. Pressing was also part of the issue, as Tekotte was trying to quickly impress his new bosses.
"As far as swinging a bat, like you said, very quick hands, a lot of pop for his size and going to be a number 1 crew hitter or even 9, my report said he pulls everything, they were really pitching him away because of the rap and a loop in his swing," Peyton said. "He realized what he needed to work on in instructional league and worked on it more and all the other instructors got to see him, and then hopefully over the winter he'll work on that. But he'll be fine.
"I look at him like a first-year player now that I've seen enough baseball and know what a first-year player has to go through. He'd gotten away with that swing for so long. I figure it will take about a year for him to try to get that changed."
Once he is able to cut down on the rap and hold the bat more perpendicular to the ground, Tekotte can take advantage of a quality batting eye, quick hands, and surprising pop. His walks will go up, as balls travel deeper before he has to commit, and the balls on the inner half can be pulled with authority.
Tekotte is a plus runner that can make things happen on the base paths. He is still learning the nuances of taking an extra bag off a pitcher and has to work on the balance in his stance to improve his first-step quickness.
"A left-hand hitter, he's good getting to first base," Riddoch said. "Going to be a good base-stealer; doesn't know a whole lot about it yet, but he's going to be one."
Tekotte has the tools to be a plus defensive center fielder but needs to work on getting under balls with hustle rather than relying on his talent. He reads bats well off the bat and takes that for granted. He is also excellent at tracking balls hit over his head and plays the ball off the wall in position to make a play on the runner.
"He gets good jumps on the ball, but the things we really stressed this summer were that you can't glide to the ball," Riddoch said. "Sometimes because he's so good at judging the ball, he'd take off and then he knew ‘I'll get this,' and so he put it in cruise and just kind of jog to the ball and catch it. And there will come a time when that will extend his range if he just goes lights out to every single ball, then nothing will be able to get by him. And he can turn and go get the ball as good as anybody in the league when a ball's hit over his head and then the angles and the gaps, has enough arm to play center field."
Conclusion: The power numbers surprised the Padres but don't mean as much as his ability to see pitches and get on base. Getting rid of the aluminum bat swing will be the first step in realizing his true potential.
Tekotte has a lot of innate talent but needs to refine his ability to maximize the potential by learning the fundamentals and intricate nuances of the professional game. If he can pick up on the small things, Tekotte has the chance to be a special player who can do damage in every facet of the game.
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