Mikie Mahtook answered a lot of questions about his game with an impressive performance in the 2011 Arizona Fall League.
He hit .338 with a .410 on base percentage, while registering 7 extra base hits, including three home runs, and driving in 14 runners.
"Mahtook has erased a lot of doubts about his bat already, and he consistently drove the ball with authority in the AFL.", said Scout.com's National Baseball Expert Frankie Piliere shortly after the end of the season.
His batting average ranked 12th in the AFL and despite missing a week with hamstring tightness towards the end of the season, Mahtook ended the campaign on a strong note by getting hits in his last nine games, including six contests with multiple hits.
Mahtook, for his part, was just honored to have been able to play in the AFL.
“Doing the Fall League was a great honor for me and being selected as one of the
prospects by the Rays to be sent over there and represent the organization was a huge honor to me.", Mahtook told me after a workout at Tropicana Field last Wednesday as part of the Rays' Winter Development Program.
"Getting out there, all I wanted to do is play well and kind of develop my game and kind of get a feel for what was going on. It took me about a week and a half to kind of get my feet underneath me, get my timing back, but once I did that I had a lot of fun.", Mahtook continued.
But the now 22-year-old did more than just represent the Rays' organization - he impressed Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman.
"What he did in Arizona with no professional experience was phenomenal. It’s a very difficult environment for someone who's never played pro baseball. So we’re very pleased with how he performed out there.", Friedman told Rays Digest's Chris Girandola in December.
While Mahtook doesn't have one stand-out tool from a scouting perspective, his well-balanced overall game is what makes him so attractive to the Rays' front office.
"He’s a really interesting player. He does a lot of things well - which we like. We try to stay away from guys who just have one carrying strength and find guys who are good at a wide array of things. He adds value on the bases, he's a good defender obviously, and very good when he’s standing in the batter’s box.", Friedman said.
Not only was the front office impressed with his play in the Arizona Fall League, but his junior season at LSU last spring stood out as well.
Mahtook hit .383 (75-for-196) in 56 games with 12 doubles, five triples, 14 homers, 56 RBI, 61 runs and 29 steals his junior season and led the SEC in slugging percentage at .709.
These numbers were achieved after the NCAA implemented new regulations regarding aluminum bats, making the ones used in competition behave more like wooden ones.
"Obviously in a much more difficult run scoring environment, even better, that definitely stood out", Friedman said in reference to Mahtook's numbers last season in college using a "dead bat".
The Rays are still trying to figure out what kind of player they got when they drafted Mahtook with the 31st pick in last year's June Amateur Draft, but seem happy with Mahtook's versatility.
"It’s also all the other attributes and the other strengths he has that covers what we’re looking for. We’re just trying to get a good idea of what overall he can do.", Friedman said.
Mahtook isn't just taking it easy after his great fall in Arizona, he is continuing to work on his game this off-season by focusing on the very things that make him such an interesting player to Friedman and the Rays.
“I’m trying to get in shape and you know you don’t ever want to not be working on something. I kind of want to work on every aspect of my game and get every part of my game better.", Mahtook said.
"I’ve been concentrating a little bit more on first step quickness and stealing bases and stuff like that. Just consistent bat path and consistency at the plate. Everything kind of ties into each other. You don't want to exercise for just one thing, because it always correlates to something else in baseball."
John Gregg is Publisher and Senior Editor of Rays Digest. You can follow him on Twitter at @RaysDigest. He can also be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.
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