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December 20, 2013

Hot Stove Scouting Report

Jarrod Saltalamacchia

by Ethan Purser


Player Name: Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Date Filed: 12/16/13

Throws

Bats

Primary Pos

Secondary Pos

Right

Switch

Catcher

First Base

Swing Breakdown

From the left side, hitter utilizes an open stance with his weight heavily distributed to back leg. Swing is initiated with a toe-tap timing mechanism that also serves as a lower-body coil. Hands slightly off of rear shoulder, relaxed with horizontal orientation of the bat. Separates upper and lower half beautifully, creating huge torque between the two halves. Front foot lands slightly open, allowing the hips to explode through the zone. Compact hand load, dipping them slightly while maintaining the link between the hands and the rear shoulder. Shoulders naturally counter-rotate during load, effectively hiding hands from the pitcher. Upon foot-plant, front shoulder begins textbook rotation while back shoulder dips in dramatic fashion, creating an angled path through the zone. Paired with the aforementioned counter-rotation of the shoulders and naturally long limbs, this loop on the backside creates length and opens up holes for exploitation. Hitter has a tendency to extend arms early in sequence and take a circuitous route to contact, forcing him to hit around the baseball on occasion. Hits against a firm, flexed front leg, allowing for a high amount of leverage at contact. Back hip explodes through the ball, forcing back foot to come up on toes at contact. High, extended finish up top. Head stays on ball very well. Swipe is grooved for pitches in the bottom of the zone with very little ability to adjust swing plane. Eerily similar stance, set-up, and swing from the right side, with the individual components lining up almost identically. Hands held off of shoulder a bit higher. Totality of the swing is more mechanical with slower bat speed. Lower half has less involvement in the swing. Tinkers with actions of front foot, occasionally choosing a pure stride rather than a toe-tap. Slightly less rear shoulder tilt from the right side.

Approach

Aggressive hitter who does not get cheated on any swing. Hitter has voracious fastball appetite down and in. Pitch recognition is decent, and he will spit on breaking balls (especially curveballs) early in the count in order to wait for his pitch. This opens up areas where the pitcher can exploit the hitter to get ahead in counts (more on this later). Will get fooled by breaking balls with horizontal slice low in the zone and will often chase hard sliders out of the zone on the shoe-tops. Stroke remains the same in all counts/situations. Power hungry. Rolls over balls in the infield due to tremendous topspin produced by upward plane through the zone, but hitter has shown an increased ability to stay back and go the other way on occasion, sending line drives to left field (as a left-handed hitter).

Makeup

High makeup catcher. Studies hitters and has a plan in place before each game; executes. Pitchers love throwing to him due to his plan and execution thereof. Quiet leadership, but a fiery competitor. On an even keel at the plate and behind it. Increased recognition of his leadership and pre-game preparation behind the plate in recent years.

Breakdown of Tools

Hit Tool

Grade

40

Aforementioned swing mechanics make hitting for average an issue presently and going forward. Huge swing-and-miss issues due to holes in approach and swing. Pull-conscious hitter. Highly leveraged swing. Extends early in sequence in an attempt to meet pitches out front and yank them to his pull side, limiting the amount of time in which the bat is in the zone. Upward path through the zone also leads to issues with plane adjustability. Hitting ability plays much lower from the right side. Average should settle anywhere from .240-.260 annually with minor fluctuations always possible.

Power

Grade

60

Plus-plus raw power (70+) plays at least a full grade lower in game action due to below-average hitting ability. Very large human being who relies on the natural strength created from the proper separation of his powerful leg, core, and upper body muscles to produce mammoth home runs. Hang-time on home runs is something to behold, as the natural uppercut in his swing plane leads to aesthetically pleasing home run arcs. Mistake hitter who is dangerous when given heat on the inner half, particularly down and in. Will also punish breaking balls that miss their intended location. Capable of producing 20+ bombs per year when given an adequate number of at-bats.

Speed

Grade

30

Well below-average runner. Athletic for size, but a non-factor on the bases. Speed will continue to decline as the body, particularly his core and leg muscles, increase in girth. Speed is not part of his game. Home-to-first times usually in the 4.4+ second range from the left side.

Defense

Grade

50

Strong, durable target behind the dish. Sets low targets and has good hip positioning. Blocking skills have improved, but still mediocre at best. Has trouble squaring up balls in the dirt, particularly getting his upper body centered and over the ball. This leads to balls squirting away down either foul line. Trusts glove hand far too much on balls in dirt directly underneath him. Will trap balls rather than shift to his knees to block. Also shows some hesitancy to shift weight to his glove side in order to break down and block. Heavy footwork coming out of crouch to field bunts. Very little head/upper body movement during reception. Wrists and forearms are incredibly strong, leading to plus overall framing ability. He occasionally stabs at incoming breaking balls and has trouble with glove maneuverability on balls low to the glove side. Side-to-side framing ability is better than north-south framing ability, as glove hand occasionally gets heavy in the bottom quadrant of the zone. Overall, average receiving skills that play up due to his ability to steal strikes with framing skills. Overall skill set should decline in utility as he continues to age and becomes increasingly less mobile behind the plate.

Arm

Grade

45

Natural arm strength is belied by a lack of accuracy from behind the plate. Tendency to miss high and to the arm side. Elbow gets high in the back, adding length to the arm action and causing him to get to the side of the ball as opposed to throwing downhill, leading to throws with lots of tail. Liability to 2B/SS who is receiving the ball, forcing them into the path of the opposing runner. Will get sloppy with footwork, coming off-line when throwing to second base. Occasionally throws from his knees; largely ineffective. Not afraid to back-pick runners. Teams who are aggressive on the basepaths can exploit the arm. Pop times are typically in the 1.9 to 2.05 second range.

Batting Trends

Date Range: 2013 Season

Splits

vs. LHP

vs. RHP

Batted Ball Percentage

Batted Ball Percentage

GB

LD

FB

GB

LD

FB

5.73%

3.32%

5.73%

4.87%

4.39%

4.39%

Chase Percentage (Out of Strike Zone Swings)

Chase Percentage (Out of Strike Zone Swings)

FB (4/2/SNK)

CB/SL

CH/SPLT

FB (4/2/SNK)

CB/SL

CH/SPLT

29.59%

40.54%

40.54%

28.37%

37.03%

42.00%

Swing/Miss Percentage

Swing/Miss Percentage

FB (4/2/SNK)

CB/SL

CH/SPLT

FB (4/2/SNK)

CB/SL

CH/SPLT

11.01%

15.89%

23.36%

14.57%

19.15%

17.77%

Grades and Projections

Role

Present

Future

Player’s profile occupies odd space between first-division and second-division regular. Due to poor splits versus LHP, Saltalamacchia should form the better half of a platoon behind the plate with a glove-first righty stick. Plate appearances versus LHP should be monitored and limited.

Second-division regular; platoon partner. Should stay behind the plate and hold value through current contract. Biggest concern is the body becoming an issue, forcing him to move from behind the plate to first base where his bat will no longer profile well. Declining bat speed, thereby limiting power output, is also a worry toward the end of his current deal.

Years expected to perform at current level: 2-3

Strengths

Incredible raw power that plays plus in games. Can go deep in any count or situation. Should produce plus power in the form of doubles and home runs. Fastballs down and in are his heart and soul; will crush them. Mistake hitter who will also pulverize breaking balls that miss their intended location, especially in lower quadrants of the zone. Above-average pitch framer who will get calls on the fringes of the zone.

Weaknesses

Graphic amount of swing-and-miss in game. Approach does not change from at-bat to at-bat. Hitter will sell out for power regardless of situation. Can be beaten with well-executed east-west or north-south sequence. Huge hole in swing above the belt to both sides of the plate. Teams who are aggressive on the basepaths can take advantage of an inaccurate arm. Blocking skills are mediocre, at best. Well below-average speed. Has shown a tendency to wear down as the season finalizes (non-2013).

Means of Exploitation

Can be beaten at the plate in a multitude of ways, but take note: hitter can and will hit mistakes a very long way. Tread cautiously; pitchers must hit their spots.

As a right-handed hitter, it is best to attack east-west. Establish the outside corner early with either off-speed or a fastball, then pound him hard and in with fastballs. Finish him with off-speed stuff either on the outer half or in on the shoe-tops for the kill. Hitter has fastball eyes down and in early and will look to pull anything over the plate, so when attacking the outside corner, be forewarned that anything that leaks middle-in will be brutalized. Also has a hole above the hands that can be exploited when trying to get an easy whiff. Again, has to be well above the belt or hitter will deposit the ball accordingly, though he has trouble getting around on even poorly located fastballs from the right side.

As a left-handed hitter, pitchers with the most success will attack via a combination of vertical and horizontal sequencing. One common theme is to start with a breaking ball (i.e. a hard slider) on the shoe-tops to get him out front. Hitter triggers early, looking for something down and over the plate where he can extend his arms and drive the ball. A hard slider has the ability to make him miss in anticipation of a fastball. Can also start with fastballs just off the plate on the outside corner, either inducing whiffs or weak contact to the pull side. Pitcher can explore other means of obtaining looking strikes or whiffs throughout the count, including sneaking in backdoor breaking balls or throwing tumbling changeups low and away. The put-away pitch used with the most success is a high, hard fastball in on the hands. Hitter will swing under this pitch very often, given the pitch is located high enough. Natural swing plane leaves this area exposed; therefore, it should be attacked. Fastballs that miss down, even by a couple of inches, will be taken advantage of. Pitchers can often induce weak contact by pounding him in off the plate, given that the pitch is far enough in to produce shattered wood.

Conclusion

Salty is a mistake hitter who will continue to have swing-and-miss issues, though he should produce suitable power numbers for the foreseeable future. His game is predicated on power and he tailors his swing to fit the desired outcome. His approach and swing leave him very susceptible to sustained slumps throughout the season. The bulk of his future value will be his ability to remain behind the plate and play average defense. If he can stick behind the dish, he’s likely to justify his new contract (and then some). If his body does not cooperate and he is forced to move from catcher to first base, his bat is fringy for the position and will not profile well. Some decline in ability is inherent with catchers approaching their 30s, but barring something unforeseen, a position change should not be necessary in the next three years.

Ethan Purser is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ethan's other articles. You can contact Ethan by clicking here

Related Content:  Scouting,  Miami Marlins

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