Brett Eibner‘s professional career started out like “A Tale of Two Cities” – the best of times and the worst of times.
He homered in his first game for Kane County – his first at bat, no less. In his second game, he dove for a fly ball and broke his thumb. The injury kept him out until June.
Once he was able to get back onto the field, Eibner’s numbers resembled those of a Three True Outcomes kind of hitter
(think Jack Cust, Adam Dunn or Mark Reynolds). He walked a lot, struck out a lot and showed good power.
Eibner’s line of .213/.340/.408 isn’t inspiring, but under the circumstances, he was at least productive even if 2011 was a lost year.
Upon returning to Kane County, he ha.d a scant 7% line drive rate, still struck out 23.4% of the time. He walked just over 6% of the time but hit five homers. His first month back doesn’t look good, but after a layoff he must not have had his timing back. From July on, he started to get on base more often, even if he didn’t get a lot of hits. He hit more line drives after June as well.
BABIP can hint at how well a batter hits the ball, especially compared to his other batted ball figures. Some reports while Eibner was at Arkansas suggested that he would swing at the first pitch often and didn’t make good contact outside the zone. His .271 BABIP suggest that Eibner may have been unlucky but also that if the reports are true and he didn’t work out of those habits he may have chased a number of pitches he didn’t need to, resulting in weaker grounders that couldn’t sneak through an infield or lazy fly balls.
The Royals may start Eibner back at Kane County or at High A Wilmington next year. He didn’t get a real shot at a successful 2011 with his injury, and they may want to give him a month at the Low A level again to give him some momentum before pushing him higher up the ladder.
Eibner will turn 23 in December, so he’s already getting old for a minor leaguer. At Arkansas, he pitched and played the outfield, so a full season focusing solely on hitting may give him a chance to produce better results. He’s got a good power upside, but at the major league level, his best year’s may consist of a .265 average and 25 to 30 homers. He’ll have to make better contact more consistently as he develops. If he has something in his favor, though, he didn’t really have sharp platoon splits, and nine of his 12 homers came against right-handed pitchers. Right-handed power is becoming a hard commodity to find, and a righty who can hit righties for power won’t have to sit on the bench for a left-handed hitter as often. That gives Eibner a shot to have some value if he ends up making it to Kansas City.