Name: Chad Tracy
Position: First Base
DOB: July 4, 1985
Acquired: 2006 Amateur Draft, 3rd round
The first portion of this article originally appeared on September 7, in an interview with Chad Tracy at the conclusion of the 2009 season. The original link can be found between the feature story and the scouting report.
Chad Tracy may not be the flashiest or toolsiest player in the Texas Rangers' system, but he is a talented hitter who has shown improvement at each level since joining the organization.
With Single-A Clinton in 2007, a rough second half left Tracy with a .250 batting average, 35 doubles, and 14 home runs.
His numbers improved in 2008 with Bakersfield [.286, 37 doubles, 13 homers] and he took off after a late-season promotion to Double-A Frisco, hitting .344 in 24 contests.
Last season, Tracy got off to a slow start. At the Texas League All-Star break, the 24-year-old slugger was hitting just .241 with 13 doubles, nine home runs, and a .677 OPS.
Things turned around after that, and in a big way.
In the second half, the Pepperdine product posted a .322 batting average in 63 games, belting 19 doubles, 17 home runs, and driving in 61 runs. Tracy hit a home run in every 14.4 at-bats during that span.
Tracy finished the season leading the Texas League with 26 home runs, and he finished second with 107 runs batted in, just two behind Corpus Christi's Drew Locke.
While Tracy's bat continues to develop, he has also shown some improvement in the field. Tracy still has his share of rough moments at first base, but it is important to remember that 2009 was really the first time he ever played the position on a regular basis. In 80 games there, he has committed 15 errors, leading to a .980 fielding percentage.
Tracy has likely found a home at first, although he can also go to left field or behind the plate if necessary. Many players begin to show marked improvement in their second full season at a position, so the 2010 campaign will be an intriguing one in the field for Tracy.
Also See: Top Prospects, Top Tools (February 11, 2010)
Sizing up the corner infield prospects (September 22, 2009)
Discipline making the difference for Tracy (September 7, 2009)
Batting and Power: Around last season's Texas League All-Star break, things weren't quite looking up for Tracy. He was batting just .241 and spent most of his time at DH while Justin Smoak manned first base for the ‘Riders. But Tracy turned it around, batting .322 with staggering power in the second half. He was able to do so with improved plate discipline––though his walk rates improved just a bit, he became a more selective hitter, going deeper into counts and allowing him to see [and swing at] better pitches.
If Tracy is able to continue the approach, his bat could carry him to the big leagues. The prospect has a decent hit tool, and he has made gradual progress in each of his four professional seasons. Tracy has above-average raw power and that raw gap-to-gap power began turning into home run power late last season as he began swinging at better pitches. If he continues the selective approach with Triple-A Oklahoma City this season, the results should continue to be positive, because Tracy isn't short on offensive potential.
Base Running and Speed: The 6-foot-3, 205-pound former catcher's speed is a tick below average, and he isn't much of a stolen base threat. He has just nine stolen base attempts in 160 career games at Double-A Frisco. Tracy is an intelligent baseball player overall, though, and he runs the bases well.
Defense: Since signing with the Rangers in 2006, Tracy has worked extended time as a catcher, a left fielder, and a first baseman. After a few seasons of bouncing between positions, Tracy looks to be settling in as a first baseman. His extended catching experience [high school, college, Spokane] helps him with the receiving aspect of first base, which includes digging balls out of the dirt. His footwork and range must still improve, though. If Tracy can hit his way into the Rangers' everyday lineup, it'll most likely be as a designated hitter, but he should still improve defensively at first. The 24-year-old had never really played first base before his promotion to Frisco around August 2008, and he showed gradual improvement as last season progressed.
Projection: With Chris Davis and Justin Smoak currently looking like the Rangers' future at first base, Tracy may be a bit blocked in the system, but his bat may be good enough for him to eventually earn a full-time spot on the 25-man roster. Tracy could be used as an extra power bat off the bench that has the ability to fill in at first base, left field or DH when needed.
2010 Outlook: Tracy spent his entire 2009 campaign with Double-A Frisco, and he absolutely tore through the Texas League in the second half, posting a .991 OPS after the All-Star break. He will almost certainly open the 2010 season as the first baseman [and possibly DH] at Triple-A Oklahoma City. If Tracy hits well with the RedHawks, he could get a look at the big leagues at some point this year, but any extended look likely wouldn't come until 2011, particularly because he's not currently a member of the 40-man roster.