Country: Dominican Republic
2011 Regular Season numbers: .324 average, .387 OBP, .441 Slugging, .828 OPS, .387 wOBA, 125 wRC+, 12 runs scored, 2 home runs, 4 stolen bases (High-A). .309 average, .318 OBP, .446 Slugging, .763 OPS, .340 wOBA, 109 wRC+, 34 runs scored, 5 home runs, 8 stolen bases (Double-A).
2011 Winter League numbers: .264 average, .312 OBP, .345 slugging, .657 OPS, 0.29 BB/K ratio, 5 runs scored, 1 home run, 3 stolen bases (Dominican Winter League).
Why you should know about Peguero in 2012?
Behind Gary Brown, Peguero rates as the Giants' best outfield prospect. Unlike Brown, Peguero may be ready for the big leagues as soon as this season. He already completed Double-A, and held his own with the bat (albeit with flaws). Furthermore, Peguero has five tool potential as a player, with stellar defensive abilities (he sports solid range and arm strength) as well as good speed on the basepaths. However, the projections on Peguero vary amongst analysts and scouts. Some believe he has the potential to be a very good Major League player. Some on the other hand, don't believe Peguero's free-swinging approach will translate very well to the next level. Either way, 2012 will be a very interesting year for the Dominican outfielder, especially if (and most likely when) he gets a call up to the Big League club.
What are Peguero's strengths as a prospect?
Peguero's strength is his bat, and he has showcased impressive hitting skills at every Minor League level he has played at since signing out of the Dominican Republic in 2006. He sports a minor league career batting average of .312 and has posted an average contact rate of 85.2 the past five stops from 2009-2011 (which included Salem-Keizer, Augusta, San Jose, and Richmond). To make things better, Peguero's power has improved as he has gotten older and started to fill out his 5-feet, 11-inches frame. In 2010 in 510 at-bats, he posted a career high .488 slugging and .159 ISO in the California League with San Jose, and last year in the Eastern League, he posted a .137 ISO along with a 26 percent extra base hit percentage (only one percent lower than his extra base hit percentage in San Jose in 2010). Considering the Eastern League tends to suppress hitters' power, Peguero's ability to show some pop was pretty impressive, especially since it was his debut campaign in Double-A.
However, hitting isn't the only strength of Peguero's, as he sports strong abilities on the basepaths (Rob Gordon of the MiLBA graded his speed as a four-plus out of five) and in the field (his defense was also graded as a four-plus). Though he only stole 12 bases last year between High-A and Double-A, Peguero was recovering from a knee injury, so the regression in stolen bases was to be expected. However, in a fully healthy season in 2010, he stole 40 bags and a combined 22 between Salem Keizer and Augusta in 2009. While he may not be a 30 stolen base guy by any stretch of the imagination, he does have 15-20 potential, especially with his power maturing and knee starting to recover.
From a scouting standpoint, analysts and professional scouts love the tools Peguero brings to the table. Some scouts make the Vlad Guerrero comparison often, due to his free-swinging nature, ability to make contact and rocket arm in the outfield (Baseball America graded him as having the best outfield arm in the Giants system). While I think the Guerrero comparison is a tad over-optimistic, he is impressive to watch on tape and on the field (I got a chance to watch him in San Jose in a short stint he had in the Cal League in 2011). Furthermore, Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com was especially glowing of Peguero, as he rated him the No. 2 prospect in the Giants system and 99th prospect overall. Here's what Mayo said in his scouting report of Peguero:
"Peguero has tools galore and tries to use them with an all-or-nothing style. He’s very aggressive at the plate, a free swinger who doesn’t walk at all but also doesn’t strike out, making contact with anything and everything. He runs the bases the same way, and he has the speed to be a basestealing threat. His power hasn’t really shown up in games consistently yet, but he’s got pop in his bat for sure. He moved over to right field last year, partially because he was coming back from a knee injury. His strong arm works well there, but he was back in center field in the Dominican this winter."
Where could Peguero struggle as a prospect?
The biggest issue for Peguero is his plate approach, which frankly isn't very good. Yes, he makes consistent contact and doesn't strike out a lot. That being said, Peguero doesn't draw any walks, and that's putting it nicely. His career BB/K ratio is 0.23, and he has only drawn 80 walks in 2106 plate appearances in the Minor Leagues (yes, you read that right). Last year in Richmond, he only garnered five walks in 296 plate appearances (which is 1.7 percent).
Of course, having a lack of walks at the professional level isn't necessarily a bad thing. Guerrero and Pablo Sandoval never drew a lot of walks in their Minor League careers either. That being said, to compare within the organization, Sandoval did post 97 walks in 1924 plate appearances in the Minors, and even his plate approach was questioned by some. The fact that a notorious free-swinging prospect like Sandoval drew 17 more walks in almost 200 less plate appearances than Peguero should be a big warning sign about Peguero's plate approach. He did get away with it in the lower levels, and he was successful in Richmond, so there is hope that his plus-hit tool will carry him as a professional. However, it will be interesting to see how he will fare once he starts to face better pitching and once teams get better scouting reports on him. If his BABIP dips, his numbers could take a catastrophic hit, especially considering his offensive production is so heavily weighted on him hitting for high average.
Another miniscule issue one could find with Peguero is what position he should play. While he has played center field most of his career, he moved to right field due to injury in 2011. While he profiles well there defensively (especially considering AT&T's dimensions, which require athletic right fielders), he may not hit for enough power at the corner outfield positions. Furthermore, with Gary Brown rating just as high, if not better defensively (at least in terms of range), Peguero could find himself stuck behind or moving around out-of-place when Brown catches up with him. I think Peguero would be ideal at right for the Giants (just because so much is demanded from right fielders defensively at AT&T), but his "tweener" outfielder status could present a problem in the future.
Grades on Peguero's tools:
Hitting for average/contact ability: 19/20 (I really love Peguero's hit tool. His contact rates have been consistently stellar, and he has hit for high average everywhere he's played. His swing is short and smooth, and despite the aggressiveness, his bat just doesn't miss the ball often. To me, that's just a huge plus in his favor, for it's not easy to replicate High-A offensive numbers in Double-A.)
Plate Approach: 12/20 (He gets killed heavily here, and it's the reason why he only profiles as a B prospect in my book. The BB/K ratios are atrocious and even for a free swinger, the lack of walks is disturbing and a huge red flag. Do I think he can improve the approach? Certainly, but he is already going to be 24 next season and after a season in Double-A, I don't know how much instruction will help his approach at this point. I'm not trying to be pessimistic of course, but at this point in a player's career, usually a player's approach is what it is, and his approach is not a blueprint for consistent success at the Major League level.)
Power: 16/20 (It's still developing, but Peguero's power is maturing to the point where he really does profile as a legitimate five-tool player. I don't think he'll be a 20-plus home run hitter, as his career high was 10 in 2010 in the hitter-friendly California League, but he certainly will be a threat for high slugging numbers and a lot of doubles and triples simply due to his speed. I think if he can hone his approach at the plate even a little bit, he could be a 10-15 home run guy at the Major League level. If not, then he probably profiles more as an 8-12 home run hitter.)
Speed: 18/20 (I'm curious to see how his speed will fare post-knee injury, but for the most part, Peguero's speed is a plus tool in his arsenal. 40 stolen bases in 2010 is nothing to shrug at, and he certainly has 20 stolen base potential at the next level. Furthermore, he has showed a strong knack for stretching out extra base hits, as his plus-20 percent extra base hit rates in Augusta, San Jose and Richmond have illustrated.)
Defense: 18/20 (He may be a bit of a tweener, but his tools fit well in AT&T park. His arm isn't as strong as Schierholtz's but it's close and still above average nonetheless. As with his abilities on the basepaths, I wonder how his knee injury will affect his fielding in the future, but there weren't any major issues in San Jose or Richmond last year and the reports were good on his play in center in the Dominican Winter League this past off-season. He may not be a Gold Glover, but he has the range, athleticism and arm to be a solid defender for years to come.)
Health/Makeup/Intangibles: 15/20 (The knee injury he suffered prior to 2011 is a big warning sign, simply because you never know how those will turn out. Some are just temporary set backs, some tend to linger over the years. Time will only tell how his knee holds up and how it will affect his skills. Another issue is the fact that the Giants have progressed Peguero slowly in the system, as he has repeated almost every level in his Minor League career. Granted, that's not a bad thing, and Peguero signed young enough to where repeating didn't hinder his development. Still, at 24, Peguero's time to break into the Majors is now. If he doesn't make the Majors at some point in 2012, it would be a tremendous disappointment and set back for him as a prospect.)
Overall grade: B
Projection: Starting Major League outfielder; at the very worst, a utility outfielder.
Summary: To me, Peguero resembles an Austin Jackson-esque player. He has solid tools, including speed and defense, but the offense is a huge question mark simply because of the "swing first, walk never" approach (e.g. Shawon Dunston's dream). Peguero's offensive production is always going to be heavily reliant on his BABIP, and as Jackson showed last season, a regression in the BABIP could mean a huge regression in production. Granted, a Jackson-esque player isn't a bad thing to have (he was a runner up for the Rookie of the Year award in 2010), but to think Peguero is going to be a sure-thing outfielder at the Major League level isn't for certain. 2012 is going to be a make or break year for Peguero. If he continues to hit wherever he starts (I am guessing Fresno, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him start in Richmond just considering how slowly they have progressed him), then he may have a bright future as a potential starting outfielder for the Giants starting in 2013. However, if that BABIP regresses...then well...it's not going to look good for Peguero, as he is just going to profile as that free-swinging outfielder who'll put up great Minor League numbers, but just can't hack it at the Major League level against elite pitching.