Joey Curletta was drafted by the Dodgers based primarily on his power potential. He displayed plus-plus raw power in amateur events and batting practices.
However, that hasn’t really translated to the field — and his start to the 2014 is no exception. Curletta, 20, is hitting really well this season — .368/.391/.453 — but he isn’t hitting for much power, and has no home runs through his first 110 plate appearances. He’s leading the Midwest League in batting average at .368 (minimum 78 plate appearances).
The Midwest League is a difficult league in which to hit the ball over the fence, especially in April because there is still winter-like weather in the region (hi, Minnesota lacking-a-roof-on-Target-Field Twins).
Curletta, my No. 22 prospect heading into the season, played in the hitter-friendly Pioneer League last season and hit five home runs and 16 doubles in 261 plate appearances for Ogden. Not terrible, but one would expect some of those doubles to start going over the fence. This season, he has nine doubles, which accounts for all his extra base hits. As a 6’4, 245-pound player, it’s realistic to expect more power from a guy with that frame.
Luckily, he’s still getting hits (i.e. singles) and, last season, he improved his plate discipline from his initial scouting reports. He walked 10.3 percent of the time last season. But, he’s walking just 3.6 percent of the time this season (four walks in 110 PA). When you’re hitting .368, it’s easy to overlook a low walk rate.
He’s spreading the ball around the field, which could account for some of the decreased power. Somewhat surprisingly, he isn’t hitting the ball a lot to the left side of the diamond.
Curletta heat map 2014
Last season, he was more of a pull hitter.
Curletta heat map 2013
He’s also spreading out his batted balls this season among grounders, line drives and fly balls.
His batting average on balls in play is an unsustainable .468, so he’ll have to rediscover that 2013 plate discipline if he wants to remain a viable offensive option. Either that or he needs to start hitting the ball over the fence (both, preferably).
Odds are Curletta isn’t going to be the next Jonny Gomes (which would be a nice get for the Dodgers as a sixth-round pick), and if he’s going to move away from his scouting reports (big power, swing-and-miss, low average) and transform himself into a contact-first guy, that would be pretty surprising. But, if it works, more (less?) power to him.