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February 17, 2012 at 12:07 PM

2012 Prospect Previews: Kolbrin Vitek and Oscar Tejeda

Kolbrin Vitek
Position: Third base
2011 Team: Salem Red Sox
2012 Projected Team: Portland Sea Dogs
Opening Day Age: 23

Strengths: Vitek utilizes a fluid, mechanically sound swing to drive his hands to the point of contact. He generates easy batspeed via quick wrists and a smooth trigger. Vitek’s hit tool and bat control are his greatest assets at the plate, giving him the ability to develop into a plus hitter for batting average as he continues to hone his pitch recognition in the upper levels of the minors. His inside-out swing is designed to produce high levels of contact. At his best when he is waiting for the baseball to get deep on him, he is capable of driving balls hard from foul line-to-foul line. Vitek comes to the plate with a plan in place to work into counts that allow him to get pitches he can attack and displays the willingness to use the entire field. Possessing a lean body and athletic frame, he has some room to add a bit more muscle as he continues to mature into his mid-20s. While his present power is below-average, he produces a lot of backspin when he squares up line drives. He can grow into producing average-to-solid -average levels of power with continued experience against advanced pitching. Vitek shows solid-average speed on the basepaths, projecting as a runner who can pick his spots to swipe a bag by getting good reads off of the opposing pitcher. His work ethic to get better at his craft has been highly noticeable since signing with the organization, often out early on the field or taking extra practice to improve.

Development Needs: Vitek must get more lift out of his swing if he is to improve his levels of in-game power. While the strength and batspeed are there to produce average-to-solid-average power in the future, his swing comes through the hitting zone on a very level plane and his post contact extension is lacking. Learning how to balance producing more arc with his swing, while not sacrificing too much of his contact skills is a key need to project as better than an average overall hitter at the major league level. Vitek also can struggle with how he attacks secondary offerings. He tends to get his hands too far out in front of him to roll over the ball or swing over the top of it. When he is over-committing with his hands, he loses his ability to consistently drive pitches and gets into ruts of constantly pounding the ball into the ground. He should pick up breaking balls better with experience, but work to eliminate his stretches of poor hand separation during his stride is necessary to maintain frequent instances of producing hard line drives against the rising level of competition. Vitek has been manning the hot corner since turning pro with mixed results. While he has been putting in a large amount of time to get better at the position, he is still rough and lacks fluidity at the position. There have been questions as to whether all of the dedication to working on coming up to speed at third base has taken away from some of his focus on hitting. A move to the outfield in the near future seems likely given his lack of naturalness at third and may also allow him to relax to let his overall baseball skills perform.

2012 Outlook: Vitek looks likely to take the next step up the ranks and receive a placement in Double-A to start the 2012 season. This assignment will be a good test for him to make adjustments. With a full season of professional experience under his belt, Vitek should have a much better handle on the caliber of secondary offerings he will see on a daily basis. More comfort against these pitches will help him produce more consistent hard contact at this level. When relaxed at the plate, Vitek is a gap-to-gap hitter capable of driving balls hard on a line. He has the hitting talent to show strong contact rates as the 2012 season unfolds, but will be challenged to bring more consistency to his game by the pitchers in the Eastern League. Vitek may start off slower at the beginning of the season as he feels his way through the competition. I would not expect a large increase in his home run production this year, but for him to have a better understanding of when he can muscle up in favorable counts. A big key to this season is to relax more when playing the game. It will be interesting to see how much longer he ends up playing third base and by the end of the year could wind up playing the outfield. 2012 is a year to show improvement and that he is developing into a future high contact hitter at the major league level.

Oscar Tejeda
Position: Second base
2011 Team: Portland Sea Dogs
2011 Projected Team: Portland Sea Dogs
Opening Day Age: 22

Tejeda is a solid athlete who has been growing into his frame over the course of the last couple of seasons. With a whip-like swing, he produces plus batspeed and has improved upward path to the point of contact. Tejeda excels against fastballs middle-in. His quick swing and ability to pull his hands inside the baseball allow him to create strong leverage against these offerings. Tejeda’s power projects as solid-average at the major league level, with the ability to hit around 18 home runs in his peak seasons. Capable of driving offerings to all fields, he extends well against pitches on the outer third to rifle them to the opposite field. Tejeda puts a charge into the baseball when he squares it up. Even when a bit out in front of a pitch, he has the strength to still hit the ball hard enough to find holes through the infield. He shows the knack for being able to get the barrel of the bat in all tiers of the strike zone when he is keeping his weight back. Tejeda has the hitting tool to produce a .275-.285 batting average at the major league level. Defensively, he has the footspeed to cover above-average ground at second base. His plus arm allows him to make off-balance throws and his footwork around the bag turning double plays has been improving. Tejeda displays a lot of fluidity when making tougher plays in the field.

Development Needs: Tejeda needs a lot of improvement with his pitch recognition and approach to continue to develop his hitting in the upper levels of the minors. He struggled considerably with secondary offerings in 2011. Often getting himself too far out on his front foot, he could not drive breaking balls and typically ended up producing a lot of weak contact when he put them into play. Tejeda also tends to chase pitches breaking away from him into the dirt with frequency. This accounts for a lot of his swings and misses. He needs to tone down his aggressiveness and learn to be more selective to diminish the amount of times he works behind in the count. While Tejeda has the ability to drive the ball hard to the opposite field, he consistently looks for the ball middle-in and neglects to cover the outside corner of the plate. This leaves him prone to any offering middle-to-away. Tejeda has to look to cover the entire plate and bring a plan to the plate to produce more solid contact against advanced pitching. In the field he shows the ability to make plays at second base, but at times gets poor reads off the bat, especially on balls hit up the middle. He also tends to botch relatively routine plays, but make tough plays look easy. Overall, he lacked focus for extended stretches in the field and at the plate in 2011. He seemed to drift through games and looked stuck in neutral, either giving away at-bats or losing his concentration in the field. Tejeda has a lot of baseball talent, but needs to raise his level of concentration and apply the mental aspect of the game to push his development to the next level.

2012 Outlook: Tejeda is slotted to return to Double-A to start the season and will work to prove that he can be successful against the level of competition. His experience in the Eastern League in 2011 can be a strong learning tool for him to raise the level of his game. If Tejeda can keep his hands and weight back with more frequency, he has the potential to produce a lot of solid contact as the 2012 season gets going. His power numbers should also rise with increased hard contact. As with a lot of young players, Tejeda is going through the learning process of understanding that the mental aspect of the game is just as important as having the physical tools. With more focus at the plate and in the field, he has a strong chance to be a lot more consistent in 2012 and have his talent translate to better in-game production. Although he could end up moving to the outfield, with dedication to his defensive game Tejeda can be adequate at second base and his potential production with the bat can carry him as an infielder. The key for him to project as a major league regular hinges on his maturation with the mental side of the game. This coming season will be interesting for both his development path and future with the organization. Given the composition of the major league roster, options seem limited for Tejeda. He could end up as a trade chip in a deadline deal, if he shows he is getting past his developmental plateau this past season.

Chris Mellen is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisMellen