Wuilmer Becerra, number 30 on the Jays Journal Top 30 Blue Jays prospect rankings, had a rough debut season thanks to a broken jaw. The number 29 prospect arguably had an even worse start to his career, and this prospect doesn’t have a season ending injury to blame for it.
Dean played for the Bluefield Blue Jays during the 2012 season (Image from Bleacher Report)
Name: Matthew Dean
Position: Third Base
Date of Birth: 12/22/1992 (20)
Acquired: Selected in the 13th round of the 2011 draft ($737,500 USD)
High School: The Colony (Highland Village, Texas)
College: Had commitment to Texas
Height/Weight: 6’3”/190 lbs
Awards and Accomplishments:
- Ranked 13th on 2012 Top 30 prospects list
- 2011 Rawlings 2nd Team All American
- 2011 Texas All Region 1st Team
2012 Statistics and Analysis
167 AB, .222/.282/.353 (.635 OPS), 8 2B, 4 3B, 2 HR, 24 RBI, 3 SB, 12/60 BB/K
Dean was expected to be one of the stars on a prospect-rich Bluefield squad in 2012, but instead he was completely overmatched by the professional pitching he saw. His .635 OPS was the third worst on the team among players with 100 or more at-bats, while his home run total – something he’s well known for – was the second worst on the team among players with 100 or more at-bats. Both the four triples and three stolen bases were pleasant surprises, but they’re more likely the result of poor fielding than some new found level of athleticism. The season began well for Dean, as he hit .290/.389/.484 in June, but things unraveled quickly after that, with a .239/.280/.423 line in July, and an even worse .169/.229/.215 line in August. The nauseating finish led Dean to the second largest ranking drop in the system, falling a total of 16 spots.
Video (via MLBProspectPortal.com)
Many of the problems I touched on with Wuilmer Becerra pop up in Dean’s swing as well, as the young third baseman leans towards big power rather than consistent contact at the plate. Despite above average bat speed, he has a very long swing path (including an uppercut) which makes him very susceptible to both breaking balls away and power fastballs inside. His base at the plate wide and steady, and his stance is square to the plate (neither open nor closed). Dean has a very controlled toe tap prior to his weight transfer, which is a bit surprising given that every other aspect of his swing involves selling out for power.
The traditional third base profile sees a prospect with a strong arm and above average power, and Dean meets those requirements well. He has plus raw power potential, which comes predominantly from his size, swing path, and bat speed. The power is primarily to his pull field. It allows him to put on a show during batting practice, but as the above line suggests, he’s still having problems translating it to game action. At the heart of those problems is his underdeveloped hit tool, which is presently below average and may struggle to ever reach average, as his plate approach is mediocre and his present swing is power oriented.
As mentioned Dean’s arm is a plus tool, as he pitched during high school and was clocked as high as 88 miles per hour off the mound. He also played shortstop before his lack of athleticism and speed forced a move over to third, but he’s proven to be very skilled at making strong, accurate throws across the diamond. Timing and making the correct first step is the biggest problem he’s had while making the adjustment from shortstop where the plays are slower to develop. He’s a below average defender at present, but should eventually be average at third once he becomes more comfortable at the position. Despite the triples and stolen bases, speed is a non-factor in Dean’s game. He’s not going to clog the bases, but he’s a fringe-average runner on his best days.
The perfect world projection for Matt Dean would be an everyday third baseman who hits sixth or seventh with 25 to 30 home runs annually, but is among the league leaders in strikeouts; second division starter.
2013 Outlook, Risk, and ETA
We knew there was a strong possibility Dean would go through some struggles as he got his first taste of professional ball, but what we saw was very close to the worst case scenario. The bat is far less developed than expected, so not only is he looking at a second year of short season ball in 2013, but his timeline and risk factor are both moving in the wrong direction. Dean should open the season with Vancouver, but we haven’t seen enough polish from him to project anything more than a level per year as the best case scenario. Such a timeline would result in an ETA at some point in 2017 as a 24 year old, which, while disappointing compared to last year’s expectations, would be a positive outcome overall, especially when you consider how Toronto’s last highly regarded third base draft pick (Kevin Ahrens) turned out.