Top Ten Hitters for Average

Where does Evans rank after a career year?

Inside Pitch continues its series of rankings, this time breaking down the top ten hitters for average across the farm. This list incorporates the top ten hitters who project to best hitters for average at the Major League level.

10. Sean McCraw: McCraw's offense really came on strong last season, despite a batting average that hovered around .270 between Savannah and St. Lucie. A quadriceps injury really prevented him from maintaining good stability in the batter's box, but he nonetheless built a strong approach at the plate that allowed him steady his swing and find a stroke back up the middle and to the opposite field. As he strengthens his lower half, his contact should become more consistent as he is already an intelligent hitter who displays good patience.

9. Jose Jimenez: The 20-year-old third baseman got his first taste of ball in the states after two very productive seasons in the Dominican Summer League [2006] and the Arizona League [2005]. With Kingsport last summer, he displayed good power by knocking seven home runs and driving in 41 runs, but more importantly he hit .309 [58-for-188] which mirrored the same average he posted with the DSL Mets. Jimenez has an easy swing which allows him to fight off pitches, extend at-bats and make good contact. The consistency he has shown so far is a trait that should have Jimenez's name rise from relative obscurity next season and beyond.

8. Matt Bouchard: The rookie shortstop had a very eye-opening stay with the Cyclones last summer in which he showed coaches and scouts within the organization that he is a very capable hitter who should only grow more productive in coming years. Though he hit .267 in his first exposure to professional pitching, he should reach higher numbers with more experience because of his ability stay level through the strike zone and consistency to hit balls back through the box. Bouchard knows how to handle the bat and has been on a steady rise ever since his earliest college days.

7. Daniel Murphy: Despite questions about Murphy's projected power over the long term, his abilities as a pure contact hitter cannot be overlooked. In his first full season [his second with the Mets], Murphy hit a crisp .285 in 135 games as he carried balanced months throughout the season. He demonstrated a unique ability to drive pitches to the alleys as he compiled 34 doubles and a team-high 143 hits. Murphy's good eye makes him of the most patient hitters in the organization, and his smooth swing will make him a high-average hitter at the big league level.

6. Lucas Duda: Like Murphy, coaches and coordinators are working with Duda to build his power, but he stepped right in during his rookie and showed a strong knowledge for the strike zone as he hit for a .299 average [70-for-234] in 67 games in Brooklyn, including 20 doubles. Not only does Duda make solid, consistent contact, but his showed quality patience for earning walks which helped him attain a .398 on-base percentage. He followed up his successful rookie season by hitting .340 in 15 games in the Hawaiian Winter League. Although there is a desire to see more power from Duda, his ability to hit for a high average appears engrained.

5. Mike Carp: Injuries, and the lingering effects of those injuries, slowed the former Sterling Award winner during his first crack at Double-A in 2007. However, when Carp is healthy, he is one of the purest hitters in the organization. Carp has a very easy swing which allows him to generate good gap and home run power, but he did struggle with left-handed pitching last year and still strikes out more than coaches would like to see. Nonetheless, when Carp rebounds from 2007's disappointing results, he should regain the swing and form that have made him the leading first base prospect in the organization.

4. Nick Evans: The St. Lucie first baseman is coming off his strongest season at his highest level. 2007 proved to be a pivotal year in his maturation at the plate as he moved beyond his past streakiness into a more consistent hitter who can drive the ball to all fields. Not only is he making better contact, but has learned to work at-bats in his favor, taking more pitches and earning more walks which helped attain a sharp rise in his on-base percentage. His improved eye allowed him to also become a more dynamic hitter who can drive breaking pitches and changeups, an important change from previously being a predominant fastball hitter.

3. Ruben Tejada: It is still very early in the young shortstop's career, but in his limited playing time Tejada was an on-base machine as he hit .324 [78-for-241], walking 38 times to up his on-base percentage to .434 in his first professional season. Tejada's excellent knowledge of the strike zone and ability to take what the pitchers give him will bode well as he heads into his sophomore campaign which could begin with a long-season squad. Again, he has got much more to learn about being a professional hitter, but Tejada is off to a fantastic start after year one.

2. Ezequiel Carrera: The scrappy outfielder has been a contact machine over the last two seasons in which he has hit a combined .316 in the Venezuelan Summer League, the Gulf Coast League and Brooklyn. Carrera will likely never boast any significant power, but from sideline to sideline he is one of the most productive hitters in the organization. He knows how to work counts deep, shorten his swing to fight off pitches and has a knack to just redirect pitches for base hits. Carrera is a small-statured outfielder, but his ability to accumulate hits makes him an enticing option at the top of the order.

1. Fernando Martinez: Fernando did not put up the numbers in Double-A that many had hoped or anticipated he would, but his .271 batting average with Binghamton should not bring about many detractors. Martinez's bat is well ahead of ballplayers his age as he as a unique ability to drive the ball to both power alleys. Already known for a high power projection, the crown jewel of the system will be a special hitter who figures to hit at least .300 at the big league level, a date which appears closer on the horizon with each new season.

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