Friday, November 16, 2012
Padres and Athletics Trade Evaluation: A.J. Kirby-Jones
Here I am continuing my breakdown of the trade between the A's and Padres that involved Tyson Ross, A.J. Kirby-Jones, Andy Parrino, and Andrew Werner. This post will focus on A.J. Kirby-Jones, who is going from the Athletics to the Padres. He was drafted in the 9th round by the A's in 2010. Kirby-Jones is a first baseman/DH, so obviously the value is tied up in his bat as he doesn't really have any other tools (he runs a pretty laughable 4.92 to first). He is short (5-10) but stocky (listed at 215) and recently turned 24 years old.
Kirby-Jones played the entire year in the California League, which inflates offensive statistics. However, his team, the Stockton Ports, play in a park that is less hitter friendly than most in the league (95 one year Park Factor). This is why it isn't surprising that he hit much better on the road. It doesn't explain the .173 point difference in BABIP (!), or why he walked more and hit less ground-balls on the road though. His road statistics were crazy, as he walked over 20 % of the time, with a .232 ISO in 56 games on the road (although he hit 1 more homer at home). Overall, in 114 games, Kirby walked 17.5 % of the time (nearly 9% above league average) while striking out 25.9 % of the time (5.8% of the time more than average). His ISO was .061 above league average and he had a 110 wOBA + and 120 OPS + (121 wRC +). This is right in line with how he hit in 2011 in A-ball (113 wOBA +, 126 OPS +, 125 wRC +) after he destroyed A- in 2010 (125 wOBA +, 155 OPS +, 156 wRC +).
Kirby-Jones is much better against lefties than righties (the split was worse in 2012 than it was 2011) but it isn't like he is completely incapable of hitting without the platoon advantage (which is important from right-handed batters, as left-handed platoon bats are more valuable than right-handed platoon bats).
In college, he made a run for the national lead in homers, though Perfect Game liked fellow slugger Paul Hoilman better. Hoilman was picked in the 19th round by the Cubs in 2011 and after a good 2011 in A -, he was only about league average in A-ball in 2012.
Kirby-Jones' swing seems pretty quick, but it is not the prettiest. He uses somewhat of a leg kick to get the swing started (which isn't a big deal, it is a timing technique, stating that he does so is more descriptive than anything else) and it seems long. It looks like that perhaps a pitcher could jam him inside, not because of bat speed, but because it is just a long swing in general. It can also be extremely violent at times and he doesn't necessarily start it on time occasionally, which can make him late. Whether this is plate discipline, timing, eye, or a hitch in his swing, I am not entirely sure. He does have good plate coverage though, which is perhaps a little surprising since he isn't exactly tall, but evidently his arms are long enough (or perhaps his swing is long enough) to go get low pitches away.
He is the kind of guy who can have some success in a bench role on a NL team (which is obviously what the Padres are) as a pinch hitter. He could also turn out to be a minor league slugger that doesn't translate to the Majors. He could be anyone from 2009-2011 Eric Hinske or Mike Cervenak. I think AA next year will tell us a lot, as he won't be older than the competition like he has been in the lower levels.