Dodgers’ prospect Joey Curletta hitting well, but without much power

Joey Curletta ST 2013
Joey Curletta has big power potential, but he hasn’t shown it yet. (By: Dustin Nosler)

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

curletta_joey_heatmap 4.30.14

Last season, he was more of a pull hitter.

Curletta heat map 2013

curletta_joey_heatmap 2013

He’s also spreading out his batted balls this season among grounders, line drives and fly balls.

curletta_joey_breakdown 4.30.14

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).

But hey, he’s hitting right now, and that Loons team is filled with a lot of low-level talent — even if some of those guys (Justin Chigbogu, Alex Santana) aren’t performing up to expectations so far.

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.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosted a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He was a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times and True Blue LA. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.