Name: Jaime D'Antona
Draft: 2nd Round, 2003
Position: Third Base
Weight: 215 lbs
History: Drafted as one of the "Three Amigos" alongside Carlos Quentin and Conor Jackson in 2005, Jaime D'Antona had been considered the Diamondbacks prospect with the highest power ceiling. He had a long swing that he used to generate immense power and boasted a rifle arm from the hot corner.
But it wasn't long before the organization decided to work with D'Antona to make more contact, placing less emphasis on his power stroke. And year after year, he displayed a disheartening lack of improvement in terms of third base defense. Now, the large Wake Forest alumnus has become a legitimate .300-hitter and has been dabbling defensively behind the dish.
"He's still a corner guy trying to learn the catcher position," said infield coordinator Tony Perezchica during the offseason. Indeed, five of his first six starts of the 2008 season came at the hot corner, while the outstanding appearance came behind the plate. You have to question how well the man can learn such a demanding position just playing there once a week.
Others wonder too. The Diamondbacks left D'Antona unprotected in the Rule V draft even though he batted over .300 the past two seasons, and better than .295 in every month last year besides May. No team bit on him due to concerns about his being able to play serviceable defense at either third, first, or catcher. For D'Antona to regain his status as a truly hot prospect, he'll either need to prove himself more capable at one of those positions or begin to hit so well that his defensive liability becomes tolerable.
Statistics Courtesy of The Baseball Cube
Although he hit just 13 homers last season, D'Antona could turn many of his doubles into homers as he gets even stronger. He's not going to have the power of Mark Reynolds, the prospect who leap-frogged D'Antona to become the Diamondbacks' starting third baseman, but he'll hit for a much higher batting average.
Base Running and Speed: The lumbering D'Antona somehow managed to leg out five triples last season. This is a considerable aberration; D'Antona's ticket to the majors won't have any mention of his base running prowess stamped on it.
Defense: Tony Perezchica listed D'Antona as having the best infield arm in the organization. Unfortunately, the best arm in the world becomes useless if you cannot properly handle the few balls that your limited range allows you to get to. In the words of one scout we spoke to, "he lacks mobility and soft hands, which makes him below average at whatever position he plays."
Which evidently got the organization thinking - what is the best position for a player with a great arm who lacks mobility? Catcher. But while D'Antona has gunned down his share of runners in his limited experience behind the dish, he's also committed six errors and allowed eight passed balls in his 28 games of regular season catching experience.
"Is he going to play catcher every day in the big leagues?" Perezchica mused. "Probably not. It's always hard to learn when you're only doing it once or twice a week. But if he can help us out in the organization, be a third-string catcher and a big league third base/first baser corner guy, then he's got a chance at least to be on the 25-man roster in the big leagues."
Major League Clone: Edwin Encarnacion
Prediction: His fielding percentage at third base is just .916. That simply has to improve for D'Antona to become a viable major league player. If he's at least passable in that regard, he could then become a nifty, versatile player for a National League team.
ETA: Obviously, D'Antona can hit in the big leagues now. When will his defense get to where it needs to be? I thought it would have happened by now. He turns 26 in May, and should at least earn a September callup this year, and that audition could determine his ultimate future.
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