Willie Calhoun

Position: 2B
Level: Double-A
Affiliate: Scottsdale Scorpions
League: Arizona Fall League
Born: 11/04/1992 (Age: 27)
Height: 5'8"
Weight: 187
B/T: Left / Right
Acquired: 4th Rd., 2015 MLB First-Year Player Draft (LAD)

Prospect Spotlight

When you first look at Calhoun, the unassuming height and lack of the typical ‘projectable’ frame can fool you.  However, what he lacks in stature he more than makes up for in strength and bat speed.  Calhoun isn’t going to be the most athletic player on the field by any stretch, but he has a sweet left-handed stroke and generates tremendous bat speed, giving him above-average raw power and the ability to drive the ball out to all fields.  He has a small hitch in his load, but he’s  very strong through his wrists and forearms enabling him to buggy-whip the barrel through the zone.  While he has some uphill plane to the swing, he keeps the barrel in the zone for a long time and gets great barrel exit which allows him to create big backspin carry on his line drives and fly balls.  In his short professional career, he has been mostly a pull hitter, but at 21 years old he is young enough, and athletic enough with the stroke, to where he should be able to adjust and utilize his power to the middle of the field more as he develops.

In 2016 he showed excellent feel for the strike zone, only striking out 11% of the time over 560 PAs in his first look at Double-A pitching for the Tulsa Drillers.  That is something that jumps out at me, especially when you look at his trends in 2015 where he walked 35 times and only struck out 38 times across three levels – not only does that show strike zone command, but when also looking at his extra-base hit numbers it shows some ability to get to pitches in multiple quadrants while still doing damage.  He put up and OPS of .863 between the Pioneer League, the Midwest League and the Cal League in 2015 and followed that up with an .844 mark in Tulsa.  The caveat here–those numbers were his damage vs. right-handed pitching.  Versus lefties it is a much different story, where he only managed a .575 OPS  in 105 ABs in 2016, and he struck out at a 21% clip, more than double his 10% K-rate vs. righties.  So while there is above-average power potential there and he’s got  advanced plate discipline for his age, he is obviously not nearly as comfortable vs. lefties.

Defensively, Calhoun does not offer a ton of upside.  His hands, range and arm strength are all fringe average or below, and while he was surprisingly quick on a double play turn in the last game I saw, I don’t expect him to stay at second base too much longer – especially after 21 errors this past year.  So all that said, it looks like the Dodgers have a bat with some potential, but a player with no firm defensive position on their hands.  He could conceivably make a move to left field, but first base may be more likely.  As I said before, he is young enough with a very athletic swing so I do think he will improve some vs. lefties – however I ultimately see him settling into a Role 4, platoon-player scenario.  Some of you may recall Randall Simon, who came up with the Pirates in 1997 and bounced around the league for nine seasons.  Simon had significant value in his prime in just that type of role, so something along those lines is what Dodger fans should expect going forward with Calhoun.