Outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker got a late season call-up from Portland to Pawtucket where he played in eight regular season games before going 3-27 with 2 RBIs and 10 strikeouts in six playoff appearances.
After the season he took his glove and cleats down to Mexico for the winter where he has suited up and played in eight games for Yaquis de Obregon of the Mexican Pacific League.
Thus far, statistically speaking, his eight games with Obregon are on par with his seven in Pawtucket. Noteably he has hit two home runs when he had none with the PawSox, but this is not an anomaly by any means as he had 19 long balls with Portland where he spent much of his 2012 season.
Of course this is far from a large enough sample size to make any assumptions on, but it is worth a gander to see where he is in his current progress as he makes steps up to face better competition.
Hazelbaker is considered a decent enough fringe guy by most, a backup outfielder on a big league club should he be able to put it all together, but many are still not sold on his package as a whole.
Hazelbaker did make some strides this year in Portland, setting career bests in batting average (.273) home runs (19) and RBIs (64) in 114 games with the Sea Dogs.
He is highly regarded for his speed on the base paths, stealing 36 total bases this season and 157 over his four seasons in pro ball. He did get caught 11 times this year and will need to keep those numbers down if he is going to use that to help him rise to the Majors.
But in looking back on his short samples between Pawtucket and Obregon, it is clear that Hazelbaker is still not quite there yet. His walk rate plummeted from 11% in 2010 to 7% in 2012 and there are not many signs of improvement for a guy with a 26% career strikeout rate.
So far with Obregon he has struck out five times and walked twice, so it will be telling to see where these numbers are once he is done in Mexico. He needs to improve his patience and cut down on the first-pitch swings that seem to almost always result into outs for him and he needs to improve at recognizing pitches which should help tie everything together.
As far as Hazelbaker’s future is concerned, he is someone that could come in and provide a spark off the bench ala Daniel Nava. Ultimately it will be his speed that gets him there, but using that speed more effectively in the outfield, coupled with a continued effort to be patient in his at-bats, will go a long way in him making it to Boston.
Continuing to play through the fall and winter in Mexico shows that he is at the very least dedicated enough to make that all happen. Hazelbaker has remained healthy in his four professional seasons, so extending this season could prove to be integral in his progress. Expect Hazelbaker to be with Pawtucket next year, where a full season of Triple-A ball could help him round out the rough edges.
Arizona Fall League notes
Bryce Brentz saw his seven game hit streak come to an end on Thursday when he went 0-for-3 against Scottsdale. However, he did pick up his first stolen base of the fall in that game. So far Brentz is batting .281 through eight games, but does not have an RBI or a run scored in his last four.
Christian Vazquez had a big game against Scottsdale, going 4-for-4 with his first home run of the fall to go along with two doubles, two RBIs and two runs. He continues to be the long arm of the base paths, successfully throwing out 9 of the 15 runners who have attempted to steal on him.
Michael Almanzar has picked up a hit in each of his last four games…Pete Ruiz struck out three batters over two innings of relief work against Peoria on Wednesday. It is the third time in five appearances that he has struck out three or more and his 12 total Ks are second most on the Saguaros and first for relievers…Brock Huntzinger has allowed only one walk in eight innings of relief work, but opponents are hitting .364 off of him…Chris Martin got lit up for four hits and two runs in an inning of work on Wednesday. He inherited the bases loaded in the sixth inning and proceeded to let up four singles before retiring the side…Ryan Pressly struck out two in the seventh inning of Mondays game against Peoria, but also yielded his first home run of the fall, a lead-off shot to Jeudy Valdez.
Craig Forde can be reached at email@example.com and you can follow him on Twitter @BeyondFenway.
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