Taken 41st overall in the 2008 draft, Ryan Flaherty is an infielder who can hit for average and power. In his minor league career he has seen time at short, second and third. Defensively, he seems more comfortable at second (11 errors in 112 career games) than third (17 E in 74 G). And, looking at the other options in the Cubs minor league system, I’d not be surprised to see him arrive in Wrigley one day as a second baseman.
But today, lets look at his offense. His best season was probably 2009 in Peoria, where he hit 20 HR and picked up 81 RBI while hitting a decent .276. That average rose to .286 while with Daytona in 2010, but dropped a hundred points when he was promoted to AA late in the year. His strikeout totals aren’t bad for someone who projects as a power hitter (just 74 in 420 AB with Daytona).
On paper, he looks like a promising player for the Cubs. The Cubs need left handed power, and Ryan provides left handed power. His strike out numbers have stayed fairly consistent over his professional career which bodes well for his eventual performance in the majors. But that drop in performance at AA Tennessee last year is troubling. Did he have trouble with the more advanced pitching? Or was it simply a case of getting adjusted to a new situation? His AFL numbers should give us some clue.
To be honest, the news could not be much better. His basic line (.303 Avg, 33AB 3 RBI) tells a decent story, but it just gets better as we dive in deeper. In 9 AB against left handed pitching, he is hitting .556 with no strikeouts. With runners in scoring position, his average jumps to .429 and his OPS climbs from .690 with bases empty to .984 in RISP situations. This is probably an indicator that he feasts on fastballs. With bases empty, though, and the pitcher able to use their full assortment of pitches, Ryan still hits .250, with four strikeouts and four walks over 24 AB. That he is walking as often as he strikes out is great news. While a .250 Avg isn’t great, his .357 OBP with the bases empty is the better than his season average OBP in any season other than his stint with Boise in 2008. No matter how we slice these numbers, we keep finding good news.
So where does Ryan Flaherty start next season? The guess here is he goes back to AA Tennessee. If he continues to split time between second and third, hopefully we will see some improvement in his defense at third base. Depending on who else is on that AA club, I would not be surprised to see him turned into an everyday second baseman. Offensively, keep an eye on his strikeout totals, and compare his strikeouts to his walks. If he continues to strike out 20% of the time or less, and if he continues to walk about as often as he strikes out, I think we can pencil him in for Wrigley field debut sometime during the 2012 campaign.