Mikie Mahtook Needs To Play Everyday
Mikie Mahtook, who is currently on the disabled list, and is expected to miss 2-3 more weeks, recovering from a broken hand that he suffered in June, needs to play everyday for the Rays when he returns, and be in the opening day line-up in 2017.
A former St. Thomas More standout, Mahtook, who has all the tools to be a successful Major League Player for a long time, needs to be given every chance to show off those skills.
After playing his college baseball at LSU, Mahtook was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in the first round (31st pick) in the 2011 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft.
That was about where many projected Mahtook to go. The concerns about him was him having enough speed to stay in centerfield, or enough power to play one of the corner outfield positions.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Mahtook has quieted those concerns, playing a really good centerfield, at all levels, while showing power at the plate.
Defensive, Mahtook is just plain good. He gets good jumps on balls, takes the correct angle, has the speed to run balls down, and has shown an above average, accurate arm.
Offensively, Mahtook has shown power, hitting 9 home runs, including one in his very first plate appearance, in 105 at-bats for the Rays in 2015.
He's just a good baseball player, with baseball instincts.
Another example would be his base running. Yes, Mahtook has good speed, but having good speed doesn't necessarily make you a good base runner. Mahtook has to instincts to be a good base runner.
Now, are there still some concerns? Are there areas in which Mahtook has to improve? Sure.
Plate discipline is one of them. He has swung and missed, and has struck out too much in his professional career.
That is an area that may have a lot to do with how today's game is played however. Teams and players just aren't as concerned about contact, or lack of it, as much as they were 15 years ago, as long as guys are providing power.
Could Mahtook make more contact? Yes. But his power numbers would likely suffer because of it, just like most players.
Could Mahtook show improvement against right-handed pitching? Indeed. His minor league numbers are much better against lefties. But understand, that's a small sample size, and can be overrated. We know he can hit right-handers. Just last year, at the Major League level, he hit a .297.
This season, Mahtook's batting average has slipped to a .154, while splitting time between Tampa Bay and AAA Durham, where he has hit a .333.
Now, is Mahtook going to post a .970 OPS at the MLB level, like he did last year? No. But don't let that .154 batting average fool you either, as it's only over 65 at-bats.
Same thing with his .091 batting average against right-handed pitching this season. That's over only 44 at-bats.
Baseball is a large sample size sport, so you just can't judge statistics on a handful of at-bats.
Carlos Gomez, of the Houston Astros, a 2-time All-Star, got off to a dreadful start, but continued to remain in the line-up, as the Astros figured he'd play better as the year went along, which he has, although he's still currently only hitting a .208.
Another Astros' player, Luis Valbuena, hit a .183 in April. If he were a prospect, people would have been hollering for him to get sent down. Instead, he continued to play, and has responded, boosting his batting average to a .262.
Mahtook will be streaky, as most players are. He'll have his good stretches, and he'll have his rough stretches.
The idea is to judge Mathook, or any other player, over a 162-game schedule.
At the age of 26, I think it's time for the Rays to let Mahtook play everyday upon his return, so he can show the world what he can do.
I also think Mahtook should be in the opening day line-up next season, and should stay there for about 140 games.
Am I somewhat partial? Sure. Mahtook is a local guy, a likeable person, and somebody I really want to see succeed.
So yes, I'm pulling for him. Who doesn't pull for a player/person like Mahtook?
That being said, anybody that knows anything about baseball understands that Mahtook has the skill-set to be a very good Major League Baseball player for a long time.
He has power, speed, defense, hand-eye coordination, and speed.
Personally, I think over a 162-game MLB schedule that Mahtook can be a 20/20 player, while being a fan favorite in Tampa Bay. I think he can be/will be that good.
Here we have a 26-year old former first round pick who is now 26 years old, who has all the tools, who has performed well at the minor league level, and who is a good person off the field; it's time to just trot him out there everyday, leave him alone, and then judge him at the end of 2017.
If the Rays do that, I think Mahtook will show their fans, and the baseball world how good he can be.
If Mahtook gets the chance, I believe that next year at this time, I'll write an 'I told you so' post.