This Mahtook Fellow

I’m not ashamed to say it: I was a fan of the Anthony Gose trade initially. I liked his speed, loved his glove, saw potential in his game. I thought he’d be a staple in Comerica’s center field for years to come… but it turns out he may be a bit of a head case and a perpetually minor leaguer because, well, nobody can steal first base. 

Well, los Tigres acquired another center fielder this offseason from an organization known for a talent-rich minor league system, one with decent wheels, a solid glove, and some nice minor league rankings under his belt. This time around I’m not so quick to pencil him in to the 2021 starting lineup.

mikiemahtook

Mikie Mahtook has always been one of those 110%-guys, the guys who push their talents as far as they can, guys who grab attention in the locker room, guys who will grind until the treads run slick. He was a top player at NCAA baseball powerhouse Louisiana State University who was drafted by the Rays with hopes to develop him over time to take over an outfield position.

And marinate in the minors he did.

He showed progress, cultivating his speed and his glove, with surprising pop lurking around the corners of his game. His main problem was a lack of consistency – he’d had torrid moments in the minors — even with his Cup of Coffee callups in Tampa — matched with equally abysmal cold streaks. And despite the constant rotation of the Rays’ outfield, he just couldn’t seem to stick. So, naturally, the Tigers HAD to have him.

They didn’t give up much to get him (for the always-impressive Player to Be Named Later and cash considerations), and there’s a list of suitors for the center field position (Tyler Collins, JaCoby Jones, Alex Pressley, and even Gose himself), so it’s not a terrible move. In fact, it’s a great move to build up organizational depth. Does Mikie immediately solve the gaping hole in the Great Expanse?

Uh, well…no.

I like Mahtook:

He’s good got size, a powerful swing.

I like his range and his arm.

However, I like him most as a fourth outfielder, a Matt Joyce-like guy who comes in and serves a purpose when called on, but who isn’t quite right for an everyday role. I mean, I certainly like him better than the other CFs listed above (even though the stubborn, fast-food guzzling part of me still thinks Gose can be a good platoon), but is Mahtook the answer?

I would love it if he was, but I don’t think he is; he deserves first shot in center, but that inconsistency isn’t something the Tigers need. Their own inconsistency has been so devastating to their playoff successes, so something a little more reliable would be desired.

But he’s got some good Man Stremf

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3 thoughts on “This Mahtook Fellow

  1. Given his upside and as-yet-unrealized potential, I kinda like the move.

    Last year was definitely an up and down year, and it has the larger sample size of the two years he’s been in the bigs. But his career numbers vs lefties look very good.

    As you said, consistency is an issue. I don’t know what the solution to that is. If I did, I’d probably be a major league hitting coach. I’d say spending hours and hours trying to learn how to make reliable contact, getting reps with pitches he’s uncomfortable with, and mental clarity are a good start, but that’s just my dumb guy who stares at fangraphs opinion.

    FWIW, it looks like last year he may have been trying to round out his hitting game as evidenced by an increase in opposite-field batted balls, increase in zone contact rate, and a decrease in swinging strikes.

    All that said, his fly ball rate might not be a great fit for Comerica and his ~35% K Rate is worrisome.

    TL/DR: Potential.

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      1. Yeah that’s bad. Lower swinging strike rate + elevated strikeout rate says to me that he’s being less aggressive at the plate, but I can’t rule out the idea that he just can’t protect the plate on a 2-strike count.

        I catch myself thinking that maybe a pro-level player can improve on things like protecting the plate and fouling off 3rd strikes, but I don’t know that there’s a ton of data to support that notion.

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