Demeritte flashed a standout glove in the AFL during the first week of play for the Rafters, hitting my punch list of athletic, ranging plays in the first two games I viewed him. He went deep in the hole to his glove side and up the middle and coming up firing with accuracy; jump-throwing a strike to first base for an out, and coming in on a softly hit ball and throwing an off-balance strike to beat the runner in a bang-bang play. So he quickly checked the boxes for me as the owner of an above-average glove and plus arm strength.
On the other side of the ball, his bat showed some promise with hard contact and barrel control, though pitch recognition and some swing mechanics seem to be playing into his high regular season strikeout rates (175, or 33% of his PAs in 2016). He showed the ability to handle offspeed well, and the three hits he had in my two looks were all off sliders in the 85-to-86 mph range, including a home run to left field off of Mariners’ top prospect Luis Gohara (LHP, Peoria Javelinas). He also showed good barrel control reaching for a put-away slider in the game prior, and lining it to right field. He did not look comfortable against velo, however. There’s some length to the swing, starting from a high hand position and dropping his hands in a c-shaped path to get the barrel into the zone, and a mild leg lift timing mech that leads to a varied stride to the ball beginning from a mildly open stance. He was inconsistently planting with the front foot remaining open, and at other times planting into a slightly closed hitting position – which could indicate some level of guess-hitting on his part, and contributing to his recurrent swing-and-miss issues. He showed the ability react to the offspeed thanks to his quick hands and barrel control, but the swing adjustments get to be more of a challenge as the velo dials up.
But when he’s on, he’s on, as his 28 home runs and .915 OPS at the High A level this year can attest to. With the high-caliber talent assembled in the AFL, Demeritte is getting a good test of his approach, pitch recognition skills, and plate discipline against more advanced pitching. The Rangers’ 2013 first-rounder was already deemed expendable by the Rangers, who dealt him to Atlanta July 27 (for RHP Lucas Harrell and minor league LHP Dario Alvarez), and is still just 22 years old, so he should feel like he has something to prove after a rough start to his brief pro career (that’s also included an 80-game, PED-related suspension in 2015), so starting fresh with a new coaching staff and a chip on his shoulder should be a re-boot to help him reach his potential. He ‘s got a good idea of the zone (67 walks this year), and he’s shown plus athleticism overall, so I would expect the adjustments to be made over time to cut the strikeouts down, to create a more efficient, direct path to the ball, and to generate more consistent hard contact. When paired with the glove, the profile should make for a Role 40 floor, Role 50 future ceiling at second base.