(Photo credit to Brant Chesser)
Brant’s previous column dove into Max Pentecost prior to seeing him in Arizona. Read it here.
With one week to go in the Arizona Fall League, Max Pentecost will look to improve his hitting tool. Through 11 games, he has struggled to build on his career minor league batting average and OPS. While it is a small sample size, his consistent contact of 79 percent from the last two years has dwindled down to 59 percent in Arizona. Swinging and missing more often, 17 strikeouts in 41 at-bats, has contributed to his .195 batting average, .267 on-base percentage, and .559 OPS. All three statistics temper expectations for continued growth against better pitching, and the increased strikeouts are worth monitoring as he heads into 2018.
Pentecost’s line-drive approach has worked for making contact in the minors, but on November 1, he was ahead of Joan Gregario’s changeup that dove down in the zone.
After watching the second pitch move outside for ball one, Pentecost rolled over the top of a ball for a 6-3 putout, which has been a typical outcome for him.
Notice how Pentecost uses a small leg kick to time the pitch, and his hands move down and back before driving at the pitch. While his line-drive approach has helped him hit some doubles in the minor leagues, he had two groundball putouts in four at-bats on November 1, and carrying a groundball profile, 47 percent groundball percentage in 2017, limits his upside for home runs. Some scouts think that his line-drive approach limits his raw power during live games, and only hitting one home run in 41 Arizona Fall League at-bats supports their claims. Missing time on the DL in August and September could be affecting his power in some of his November outings.
Pentecost continued to swing at several low pitches during two games, which only led to more groundouts. In his second at-bat on November 1, he maintained plate discipline by working the count to 2-0. Unfortunately, he chose to swing at another low pitch, which only led to another 6-3 putout.
When he can work the count, he has had time to wait on fastballs in the minor leagues. While he was not able to drive the pitch, his line-drive approach still has the ability to turn on a pitch that is left up in the zone (seen below).
Pentecost is a good enough hitter to hit mistakes, but pitchers have racked up strikeouts in the AFL against him by getting him to chase pitches down in the zone (see below).
Strikeouts have been more of the norm for Pentecost in the Arizona Fall League, as he struck out nine times in his first four games. When he’s not chasing low and away pitches, he’s rolling over the top of pitches at the knees. If the same pitching approach continues in Double-A, he may continue to struggle, as his approach with pitches low in the zone will contribute to his groundball profile.
Even though there is plenty of work to be done offensively, Pentecost did have one multi-hit game. On October 26, he collected four hits including a home run, a double, and three RBIs. He hit the two-run home run off of Miguel Romero. Since then, he has gone 2-for-17 with four strikeouts. Outside of one explosive game, he has only collected four other hits in 35 at-bats. His low-level of production dampens the enthusiasm for his future as a designated hitter or first baseman because more power would be expected out of a first base bat.
If Pentecost is healthy in 2018, monitor his progress and possible adjustments that he makes to hit for more power.