The man with the greatest name in the minors has started his season with a performance on par with his moniker. Rock Shoulders been smashing everything he sees to the tune of a .410/.486/.672 (.523 wOBA) with 4 home runs and 13 RBIs. Most impressive about his start to the year is his strikeout rate, which has fallen all the way down to 18.6% from his 29% mark last season. It is too early to tell if the plate discipline gains are legitimate, but if he can keep it up, Shoulders will be considered a much more “real” prospect going forward.
First base prospects – and make no mistake, Shoulders is a first base-only prospect – need to hit a ton to be considered legitimate prospects and to stick in the majors. Hitting for power isn’t enough, they need to make loads of contact, get on base at a great clip, and must show the ability to make constant adjustments so they are not easily exploited by the same pitch once they reach the bigs. So far this season, Shoulders has shown all of those qualities. He’s increased his ISO to .262, he’s cut down on strikeouts without sacrificing walks, and I’ve seen him take quality at bat after quality at bat, fighting off pitches before smoking one he likes.
Obviously a power hitter, repeats his mechanics well, has a long-ish swing but seems as though he has quick enough hands. Looks like he can mash anything down the middle away. It seems if Rock gets his arms extended he can be dangerous, but from the video I’ve seen it really looks like he would struggle with hard stuff inside.
Has a small hitch is his swings – notice he comes set with his hands twice. Once when he brings his toe back and when he plants it after the toe tap. Usually its a fluid motion.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve seen Shoulders take some fantastic at-bats so far. He seems to be seeing the ball significantly better than he did last season, and has fouled off a bunch of difficult pitches in two strike counts. Given his high strikeout rate in Boise last season, I was expecting to see him flailing away with two strikes and struggling to make contact in all counts. However, I’ve seen a guy with a very strong approach at the plate who looks locked in (even on two strike counts) and makes good adjustments to off-speed pitches. He’s been great so far.
Rock Shoulders has more than enough power to go around. He’s been crushing baseballs this year to all fields, but has only elevated the ball to his pull field so far. Only one of the three homers of his that I’ve seen has been of the towering fly ball variety, but that doesn’t bother me much. He’s hitting hard line drives from the right field line to the left center field gap, and he’ll likely start elevating those more as the season progresses. Also encouraging is Shoulders’ increased contact this year. Raw power doesn’t mean a thing if you can’t put the barrel on the ball, and if the early contact numbers prove legit, Shoulders’ power will have real utility.
He’s a first baseman. I’ve seen him play LF once – he’s slow and his arm isn’t special. That said he has looked athletic at first base, with good footwork around the bag. He’ll be just fine there.