Scouting Mets Prospect #23: Matt Bouchard

Bouchard provides one of the Mets' best gloves

Injury once again derailed and ultimately cut short the 2009 season for Matt Bouchard, the Mets 11th round selection n the 2007 draft. Though the numbers and games have yet to come together, Bouchard's defensive value and tools with the bat still make him an attractive commodity within inner circles. What does he need to stay on track? Check out his scouting report to find out.

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Vital Statistics
Name: Matt Bouchard
DOB: December 12, 1986
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 185
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Status: 11th Round (2007) – Georgetown

The New York Mets exemplified the value they see in Matt Bouchard when they assigned the shortstop to Binghamton to begin the 2009 season. After playing through injury in 2008, and eventually ending his season early due to injury, the organization showed a lot of faith in Bouchard by having him skip High-A ball entirely. Bouchard had the unenviable task of adapting to a big jump in levels and learning a new position when he started the year as the B-Mets second baseman.

He struggled in his brief time in Double-A. In 15 games, he hit just .155 and drove in two runs. Those early struggles started a chain events that saw him appear in 43 games in St. Lucie and another 14 in Brooklyn. In all, Bouchard hit .254 with three home runs, 22 RBI and 10 steals in 72 games before his season ended due to a torn hip labrum after a hernia ended his 2008 season. It was added disappointment for Bouchard.

"I had the slow start. By the time I felt good and was starting to get the stats to back up how I felt, and that I could turn that into something, I got hurt," said Bouchard. "That's the real tough part. Both this past season and the one before, I got hurt towards the middle of the season and both times right before I got hurt, I felt like I was becoming the player I can be and that's frustrating. "

Observers may see the numbers and believe there is little to be had from Bouchard, but the organization has remained behind their 2007 11th round draft pick. Being a plus defender with outstanding athleticism and excellent makeup, has excited coaches wherever he has played. Pedro Lopez, the Brooklyn Cyclones manager in 2009, is one coach who agrees.

"When people look at him, they see a little guy but when that ball off his bat, it's like a guy twice his size hitting the baseball," said Lopez. "As long as he manages to stay healthy, I think he can do great things for the organization. To me, Matt is a guy we have to take into consideration for the future."

Bouchard spent the rest of the summer and fall once again rehabbing from surgery. While all signs point to a healthy return in April, Bouchard knows his off-season is another test of mental fortitude the cannot afford to lose.

"I've gone through many lows, but I've had some highs," he said. "I know I've had to be tough mentality but to me all these things are just speed bumps to my ultimate goal. I've missed time, but I keep telling myself I'm going to be stronger for it."

Year

Team

AVG.

AB

Hits

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

K

OBP

SLG

2009

Binghamton

.155

58

9

0

2

4

0

4

14

.219

.172

2009

St. Lucie

.242

153

37

2

12

12

7

9

39

.293

.320

2009

Brooklyn

.408

49

20

1

8

16

3

2

8

.426

.592

2008

Brooklyn

.294

51

15

0

3

5

2

5

13

.368

.353

2008

Savannah

.215

223

48

3

20

34

5

15

51

.271

.341

2007

Brooklyn

.267

225

60

2

27

32

8

22

51

.336

.356



Batting and Power: With strong hands, Bouchard shows plenty of bat speed and control to handle pitches in any area of the zone. He has a natural approach to right centerfield when he is going well. At times in his past, he has tried too hard to generate power and becomes pull-happy, but he is at this best when he takes a line drive approach to all fields. He has tinkered with his batting stance at times, but has good extension without involving too many moving parts. He has home run power, yet is most effective when he aims for gap power and lets the long ball come naturally. He tried to do too much at times this season, but when measured in his approach, he should hit for a good average with measurable power to back it up.

Base Running and Speed: Bouchard has very good speed which comes out when he is fully underway. He has a quick first step and can take extra bases almost at will. However, he is still learning the art of stealing bases. He is becoming more aggressive in his attempts and is improving his success rate due to better reading of pitchers' moves. He is an above-average runner who has the potential to steal 20-25 bases over the course of a full season.

Defense: Bouchard is the best middle infield defender in the organization. He provides plus defense at shortstop and is the best defensive shortstop in the system. His plus range allows him to make plays deep in the hole to both sides. He has plus arm strength and is able to hit his target from any release point and is very quick around the bag. He can easily move to second or third base without any drop off in quality of his defense. He plays on his toes with the ability to charge and throw accurately, and can make the big play.

Projection: The fact that the organization decided to send him from Savannah to Binghamton on Opening Day 2009 is indicative of the value seen in Bouchard. He boasts some of the best natural athleticism on the farm and has the ability to play anywhere in the field. He is a high-character prospect who provides ideal leadership qualities at the shortstop position with excellent baseball acumen, making him a very low risk but possible high reward player. He battled the desire to try and to do too much in early 2009, and injuries and time away from the field have smothered his talents. Nonetheless,he is a big league defender at three positions right now. He has the glove to be in New York with enough bat to hold his own when he gets there. How he returns from repetitive labrum injuries will dictate his ultimate success, but Bouchard has the skill set to be a career utility man similar to Mark Loretta.

ETA: 2011. Season-ending injury limited Bouchard to 72 games in 2009, with 43 of them coming in St. Lucie. It is expected that he will ready for Opening Day, but whether he lands in St. Lucie or Binghamton remains to be seen. Our prediction is that Bouchard starts in Binghamton and, health permitting, spends his time there before getting a look as a role player sometime in 2011.

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