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Flowers For Tdogg

Brother of Menelaus!
Brother of Menelaus!

I'm nothing if not accommodating; it's time to provisionally scout Tyler Flowers.  I went back and watched his last 17 plate appearances to try to nail down exactly what's lead to his sweet sweet .281/.373/.491 line.  

From a saber perspective, a lot of it has to do with his completely unsustainable .400 BABIP.  When that comes back down to earth, we're all going to notice how hard a time he has putting the ball in play in the first place.  Right now, he's whiffing on almost 40% of the pitches he swings at.  That's way worse than Adam Dunn and in fact there are no major league regulars this year who've chopped broccoli that often per swing.  Sample size caveats apply, but there's really nothing in his minor league numbers that suggests he'll ever be much better than what he's shown so far in that category.

This weakness manifests itself especially when it comes to hard breaking stuff.  He does an okay job laying off anything that looks like it might be a fastball headed low and away, especially early in the count.  But if it's a bender and in the zone, it gives him fits.  Jered Weaver rung him up 3 times by teasing with the fastball in unhittable locations and then spotting his off-speed stuff on the plate.  For what it's worth, he seemed to do somewhat better with lefty changes.  If that's a repeatable skill, that'd be huge help in making him tough on southpaws.

The good news is he knows how to work the count.  He's taken walks well above the league average so far, just as he has throughout his minor league career.  Watching his PAs it was clear Flowers had a very good idea of the strike zone and possessed a solid approach.  Pitchers generally tried to work him low and away and he very rarely chased, even late in the count.  This lead sometimes to taking the backwards K, but often enough he got himself into favorable counts when the pitcher couldn't induce bad swings.  He doesn't have an opposite field swing and seems to realize that he'll just roll that pitch over if he makes contact at all.

In fact overall his approach is on the money.  He's got a long, jerky swing and he's no Konerko when it comes to fastballs.  T-Flo needs one out over the plate or down and in and he does his best to wait for that pitch.  Whereas Paulie can cover pretty much any fastball anywhere and makes great contact with regularity, Flowers seems to realize he can only handle them in about half the strike zone and even then often misses.  So he's hyper-aggressive on those pitches that seem like his, but he's otherwise very patient.  If he can cluster his swing around the pitches he can hit hardest, he can keep his BABIP and ISO high enough to offset the whiffs.

But yeah, he's a fairly flawed hitter and there's a reason why he dropped off the prospect radar on most White Sox prospect lists so suddenly.  There was good reason the Sox spent last season trying to change up his swing.  "Pretty" is not the preferred nomenclature.  He gets good bat speed, but it's the result of a hitch, sticking his ass out and throwing his arms at the ball.  It's almost Uribean.  If some amount of minor league instruction could have added some efficiency of movement, the effect would have been substantial.  But I don't think he's that kind of player.  He's smart but not a graceful athlete.  Brute strength and intelligent compensation for his substantial weaknesses will take him as far as he goes.

So he's got raw tools and some promise.  But he's going to have to be very crafty to make this package work.  To me, the ultimate test will be what he can do against big right handed four seamers and legit sinkers.  Go back to those ABs against Weaver.  Most guys don't have that kind of command, so they're forced to throw a lot more fastballs in worse locations in hitters' counts.  If a good number of those aren't deposited in the bleachers, there just won't be enough dextral twirlers susceptible to his strengths to justify full time play.  Given the scouting consensus coming into the season, that's what we should expect to be true.