Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Top 15 Hitters: #15 Tyler Bortnick

Tyler Bortnick
5"11" 185 lbs DOB: 7/3/1987
Bats: Right | Throws: Right
2009: Hudson Valley
Acquired: 2009 Draft, 16th Round, 499th Overall

When the Rays plucked Bortnick out of Coastal Carolina University in the 16th round, I wrote in my live blog of the draft that "he's a college senior 2nd baseman, so he is what he is. Organization filler, realistically."

Two things happened since then that have changed my mind. One, Jeff Sackmann at TheHardballTimes listed Bortnick as the top defensive collegiate shortstop in the 2007-08 span. I'm skeptical of defensive stats even at the major-league level, so I don't know quite what to make of them at the college level. Bortnick was moved to 2nd base for his senior season at CCU, but the Rays moved him back to shortstop once he was drafted, playing 43 of his 65 games with the Renegades there.

Bortnick also hit way better than I expected in his debut. He hit for contact(.300) average, flashed some power(17 doubles, four triples, and four homeruns in 217 at bats), and even stole 24 bases. He also showed the ability to draw walks(27 of them), helping him to a .386 on-base average. I asked about him in the New York-Penn League top 20 prospects chat, and Aaron Fitt said: "Bortnick's just a solid player who can hold his own all around the infield, he runs OK, and he's a decent gap hitter. I could see a future as a utilityman, but his tools aren't loud enough to suggest he'll be an everyday player."

Of course, the 16th round isn't where you expect to find everyday players, and his future almost certainly is as a utility man(he also saw time at third base and second base with the Renegades). The normal caveat about his statline applies, since he was 21/22 years old in the short-season NY-P League, and his BABIP of .349 suggests he was getting a little bit lucky. But his statline indicates that he doesn't have a glaring weakness, and his defense appears to be at least above average. In a game that broadcast via Twitter by the Renegades, I noticed that Bortnick was a very smooth fielder(again, that's a one-game sample size).

As Fitt noted, he doesn't have the tools to turn into a star. But if Bortnick can become a good fielder at three infield positions and maintain solid production at the plate, then he'd be a legitimate prospect, even in just a utility sense. With Shawn O'Malley ticketed for Montgomery and Tim Beckham for Charlotte, Bortnick will probably spend the entire 2010 season with Bowling Green. But if he hits well with the Hod Rods, it wouldn't surprise me to see Bortnick promoted to the Stone Crabs to play second and third base and occasionally spell Beckham at shortstop.


  1. Kevin - thanks for your analysis and recognition of Tyler. On one hand, it is nice that Aaron Fitt sees a future as a utility man in the big leagues which is high praise indeed for any ballplayer. I argue that there is more upside in his game than just a utility player however even though I am thrilled someone might think he could find his name on a big league roster someday - in any capacity.

    Couple things to consider about the five tools...

    The league he played in this year was one of the toughest pitching leagues in all of minor league baseball (see your own reports on the subject). The division he played in had two of the top pitching teams in Staten Island and Brooklyn. Thus, to hit .300 in that league and division was no small feat. His batting average was also about .300 from both sides of the plate. Obviously, time will tell but he has the potential to project above average major league hitting in my opinion.

    His stolen bases was fourth in that league. He clocked a 6.7 60 time in college which is above major league average speed.

    As a 17 year old, he was radar-gunned from shorstop at 86 mph which is about major league average. I am guessing he throws much harder than that as a 22 year old. Most that have seen him play for any length of time will atest to a strong throwing arm. I suggest this tool projects above major league average.

    Fielding - he fielded around .950 which was one of the top percentages in that league. There is also a range factor that tracks that he performed very well with compared to other players. Obviously, major leaguers field in the .970's and above. I think this tool will improve with the every day repetition in the long season of pro ball.

    Power - He was in the top 10 in slugging percentage in that league and OPS. He also was fifth in the league in weighted on base average (wOBA). His game is more in getting on base and scoring runs. He has pop in his bat and can turn on the inside pitch however. His plate coverage improved by learning to take the outside pitch the other way. I think he would be an ideal #2 hitter someday given his ability to move runners, get on base, and score runs.

    Intagibles - I am not sure the average fan realizes how good of a program he came out of at Coastal Carolina. All the coaches down there are former pro players and run a pro-style system down there. They were two wins shy of playing in Omaha and Tyler was right in the mix of all that. He is one of the all-time leading run scorers in the history of that program and finished in the top 10 or higher in numerous offensive categories. He also holds the all-time single season assist record for a shortstop at 214. For comparison, Adam Everitt holds the all-time assist mark at South Carolina with 218.

    Also, it seems analysts hold Tyler's age and slot he was drafted in against him. Mycal Jones was a Braves 4th rounder this year and is older than Tyler. Baseball America had no problem projecting Jones as a top 20 prospect in the Appalacian League (one level below the NY Penn) yet Tyler had better numbers (offensively and defensively) across the board than Jones.

    I guess time will tell where his tools will shake out but you put it all together in one ballplayer and at least in this father's estimate, it adds up to more than a utility player. I am willing to wait and see what happens however. Thanks again for recognizing him.

  2. I am a Renegades fan and I wish Tyler the best of luck this coming season. He is a solid guy both on and off the field, and is a credit to any team he plays for. (I loved watching the plays between Tyler and Eli Sonoqui-first baseman at Hudson Valley.) Keep up the good work, Tyler!

  3. Daniel, thanks for the insight.

    Kevin, Do you consider speed as a modifier to your BABIP assumptions?

  4. Sounds like Craig Counsell to me. There is always room for a guy like this on a major league roster. Hard work is the difference maker with these types of players. Good luck, Tyler.

  5. Wow, Daniel, thanks for the incredible analysis, that's great. In regards to the age thing, you're right, it shouldn't be held against them. After all, (almost) every college player drafted is assigned to a short-season league, so it's not their fault that they're "only" in short-season ball at age 22. So in cases like this, I think it's more "he played very well, there's some potential, but let's wait and see" rather than "well, he played well but he was 22 in this league so let's knock him down." Bortnick was the 'Gades best hitter with more than a .100 point OPS lead on the next closest guy, so I'm really looking forward to seeing how he does in full-season ball. Thanks again for all the info, Daniel.

    Anonymous: I do take speed into consideration, but only a little bit. Obviously I haven't seen every game, but over the course of a short-season's worth of at-bats, I'm not sure the number of outs he turned into hits because of his speed would be very significant. Ideally we'd have reliable batted-ball data to help give us line-drive percentage and xBABIP data. There are numbers out there, but besides the groundball/flyball distinction, it's really not worth trusting minor-league batted-ball data.

  6. Ive seen Tyler play from the time he was 5yrs old ,he not only has all the tools that Dan mentioned but there are intangables with Tyler that stat sheets do not show,do not underestimate this kid he is a definite MLB prospect

  7. I'm impressed with Bortnick. In addition to good defense at the most important (and difficult) defensive position (non-catchers), he had the 5th highest wOBA in the entire NY-P. Of the Top 10 in wOBA, he had the 2nd lowest BABIP and 3rd lowest K%. Link (click on 'Advanced'):

    His splits were pretty consistent:

    Month: BA/OBP/SLG
    June: .346/.393/.538 in 26 AB
    July: .280/.404/.537 in 82 AB
    August: .305/.368/.400 in 95 AB
    September: .286/.375/.429 in in 14 AB

    vs LHP: .310/.380/.493 in 71 AB
    vs RHP: .295/.388/.459 in 146 AB

    All in all, can't see how the Rays could have done much better with the 499th pick in the draft (other than picking a HS guy with upside, who probably wouldn't have signed anyway). Will be interesting to see how he holds up in full-season ball in the Midwest League next year.

  8. I am looking forward to seeing Tyler play for the Hot Rods. As a season ticket holder it will be great not to cringe everytime a ball is hit to the left side of the infield (see Beckham). Player projections are fine but i prefer to see results on the field and Tyler has definitely accomplished this.

  9. Thanks for the wonderful comments in this thread.

    These comment sections illustrate how technology has radically changed global communications these days.

    Tyler is a blue-collar player who is willing to work harder than the next guy. Sometimes, I think that can go against a player where perhaps, it is implied the player has already maxed out his abilities. The goal for him is to put up white-collar numbers while maintaining the blue-collar attitude.

  10. Keep up the good work Bort. Proud of you man

  11. Tyler is a very very hard worker. I got the opportunity to play with him in some summer leagues back home. He can be a very special player. Keep it up Tyler!!!

  12. I'm betting on him