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Ryan Sweeney = Joe Mauer?

I'm holding off on writing my game wrap-up. I've found that it's better to calm down for a little while after frustrating losses before I post explicative laced rants on the internet for all to see. I'll have one up at my usual time, right before I head to bed. Until then I'll ask you this, is Ryan Sweeney the next Joe Mauer?

Stick with me on this one for a little bit. Both Mauer and Sweeney were drafted straight out of high school's set in the Midwest. These places aren't exactly known for producing a ton of major league prospects. Mauer was the first overall pick in 2001, and actually rose in the draft because of Mark Prior's signability issues. Sweeney dropped to the second round for two reasons:

  1. Scouts were unsure of his bat because of the competition he played against (Iowa plays baseball only in the summer, which is detassling season in the CR area. I'm not going to get into the economics of growing up in Iowa, but most males who live near farms have their first jobs in High School, or before, in the fields for a few weeks at the end of every summer.)
  2. There were some signability concerns.
Both players signed quickly, and were shipped to short-season rookie ball.
Age 18 AB H 2B 3B HR BB SO AVG OBP SLG Mauer 110 44 6 2 0 19 10 .400 .490 .491 Sweeney 101 33 5 0 2 9 13 .326 .388 .435
Sweeney actually split time between two different rookie leagues. I combined them because of the small sample size. He moved up the the Pioneer league, where Mauer started, after he proved that he could hit with a wooden bat. Mauer showed better strike zone judgment, but Sweeney still presented good command of the zone. At this point it was too early to really draw any conclusions from either hitter. All they had done was prove that they weren't complete busts.
Age 19 AB H 2B 3B HR BB SO AVG OBP SLG Mauer 411 124 23 1 4 61 42 .302 .393 .392 Sweeney 515 146 22 3 7 40 65 .283 .342 .379
At first glance the age 19 numbers heavily favor Mauer, but tempered with the knowledge that the Sox perhaps pushed Sweeney a little by sending him to Winston-Salem(high-A) it's a similar comparison. Mauer spent the season at low-A in the Midwest league, (think Kane County Cougars) while Sweeney went to High A straight out of an impressive spring training. Once again the glaring difference is a the K/BB ratio. Mauer's K/BB of under 1 is insane. He looks like a slap hitter though.(think Jason Kendall). Sweeney showed a little power with 7 HRs, and at just 19 he's probably a full two or three years younger than league average.
Age 20 AB H 2B 3B HR BB SO AVG OBP SLG Mauer A 233 78 13 1 1 24 24 .335 .395 .412 Mauer AA 276 94 17 1 4 25 25 .341 .400 .453 Sweeney AA 101 33 7 0 0 12 11 .327 .404 .396
Mauer started the his age 20 campaign at High-A in the pitcher friendly Florida State League. Midway through the season he earned a promotion to AA. That's where the comparison becomes very evident. In fact, I was glancing at Sweeney's numbers today, and I thought to myself, "that's remarkably similar to what Joe Mauer did at the same level two years ago." I realize that Sweeney hasn't even got half a season under his belt, but the improved K/BB ratio is the one thing that jumped out at me. Mauer began to show a little power when he reached AA, but I have no clue what the park effects were at the stadiums he played at. Sweeney has yet to hit a AA HR, but Hoover Met is an well known pitcher's park.

Even if Sweeney's bat is extremely comparable to Mauer's, it's of less value to the Sox because he plays a corner outfield position. Good left-handed hitting catchers are a rare find, much rarer than a good lefty outfielder. Sweeney does have a good glove, however, and is reported to have the best outfield arm in the Sox system. I will be following his progress this season very closely.

At age 21, Mauer was penciled in to the Minnesota line-up, completely skipping AAA. He injured his knee in the first couple of weeks, though, and only got 106 major league at-bats. Sweeney should advance to AAA next season, and be ready for a call-up in the second half, or opening day 2007. His power hopefully won't be far behind.