Amaya entered 2013 with a considerable amount of hype for a 20 year old second baseman just entering full-season ball. Cubs prospect writers all over the web were singing the praises of the Venezuelan infielder, and with good reason – as a 19 year old at Boise, Amaya hit .298/.381/.496 with 8 home runs, fifteen stolen bases, and 12 triples. That is a very strong line for a middle infield prospect, especially a teenager facing much older competition in a college player heavy league.
Unfortunately for the fans who have headed out to see him at Kane County, Amaya has stumbled out of the gate, hitting just .258/.288/.371 through his first 66 PAs. His strikeout rate has increased to 24%, and his walk rate has plummeted to just 4.5%. He’s had trouble in the field as well, racking up 4 errors early on (though one of them that I saw should have been scored a hit). Some of his issues are certainly due to the very cold and wet conditions most Midwest League games have been played in so far in 2012, but there is still reason to be concerned, even this early.
Kenny (who is a former college CF and will be our swing analysis writer once he’s done with his semester in Wisconsin) has offered thoughts on Amaya’s swing based on the above video:
It (the swing) looks short to me, balance looks good. He keeps his hands inside the ball really well, doesn’t seem like he’ll hit for any power, lots of balls hit up the middle or the other way, but I haven’t seen him in person yet. Toe tap allows him to get him to get his foot down fast.
Indeed, Amaya has hit the ball to the opposite field a lot this year. I’ve seen him hit two balls hard the other way, and he does possess some surprising pop in the bat.
Amaya’s swing has also calmed down a bit since the beginning of the year. In the first game I saw him, his hands were extremely noisy during his swing, and he was so amped up that he was early with his toe tap, sometimes tapping twice before swinging. A lot of that has gone away, and Amaya does still wave the bat around quite a bit as he goes into his load.
However, I have seen him take a bunch of very ugly swings. Amaya has had trouble making contact on pitches of every variety, as I noted in my review of the 4/9 Clinton v Kane County Game:
I saw Amaya swing through two 90 mph fastballs to strike out today, and he’s had a lot of swing and misses at the games I’ve been at this season.
It really cannot be overstated how troubling it is to strike out in 25% of your plate appearances in A ball. I’ve written about that here, but in the case of Amaya it’s been particularly discouraging watching him flail at poor stuff all year long. Hopefully this is just a case of small sample sizes, cold weather, and a bunch of rainouts preventing him from getting into a rhythm, but Amaya needs to start making much more contact.
As noted in the video, he ran a 4.13 home-to-first on a slow ground ball, beating it out for a single. 4.13 from the right side of the plate is extremely fast, close to the plus-plus (70) range. Amaya is not likely to get much bigger and will hopefully retain his speed as he ages. With nearly plus-plus speed, it would also be nice to see him improve his stolen base efficiency as he matures.
Amaya has committed 4 errors early on, but I haven’t seen a bad 2B in him. He’s made a handful of nice plays ranging to his left, and looks smooth turning double plays. He needs a little bit of work when going to his right, where he’s booted multiple balls, but overall he’s been adequate in the field.