Willie Calhoun gives notice
This past Saturday, Willie Calhoun won the AFL All-Star MVP by going 3 for 3 with a prodigious home run to right field. Calhoun is the lowest ranked of the big three but he might have the best bat. Willie was preseason ranked as the 18th best LAD prospect. He is now 4th, making the biggest jump of the top preseason ranked 30. Willie got there by hitting the most home runs as a 21-year-old in AA ball this summer.
Unfortunately for Willie, winning the AFL MVP award isn’t a very good indicator of future success. Since 2002 the only winners who have gone on to have MLB success have been Kris Bryant, Nolan Arenado, and Dustin Ackley. Other than Ackley, you either win big or fail big.
— Arizona Fall League (@MLBazFallLeague) November 6, 2016
I drove out to the desert the week before to take in a Glendale Desert Dog game at the Talking Stick Stadium. I had wanted to get a first-hand look at Willie Calhoun, Cody Bellinger, and Alex Verdugo. Particularly Calhoun and Verdugo. Seeing a player up close just adds a dimension you can’t get from watching video highlights. I had already seen Bellinger several times in the spring of 2016.
Calhoun was taking infield when I arrived and right away I noticed he was much squatter than the video showed. He is very big in the butt and thighs, and not anything like a prototypical 2nd baseman. He handled all the infield work just fine but I kept wondering to myself who he reminded me of.
Cody Bellinger looked as smooth at 1st as he had last spring when I last saw him. His demeanor seemed different. In the spring he was a just another kid getting some playing time with the big league club, but now he gave off a very confident air.
Verdugo couldn’t be found but when the team left the field after pregame fielding practice I noticed a Dodger coming in from CF with a very attractive lady. Sure enough, it was Verdugo and he was being set up in front of the dugout for a fairly intensive interview. The interview lasted about ten minutes.
To my dismay the only the Dodger starting was Tim Locastro and nothing against Tim, he wasn’t the one I came to see. As the game progressed the Dodgers who weren’t starting took turns coaching 1st base. I got a long look at Calhoun when it finally struck me who he reminded me of. Good ole roly polly Dodger September legend Ronny Belliard.
Physically the comp fits. They were both 2nd baseman, short of stature, lots of weight below the belt. Belliard would carve out a nice career, but Willie has power that Belliard never had. Or you could go all the way back to the Toy Cannon, Jimmy Wynn. Most people don’t know that Wynn was an infielder before he became a center fielder.
What I didn’t know was that Jimmy Wynn entered the major leagues as a shortstop. In July/1963 he started at shortstop for his 1st 13 games before being moved to CF. He played 8 more games at SS in 63 but all of them late in the game double switches. So after starting at SS for the 1st 13 games of his career, the Toy Cannon would never start another game at SS.
Wynn had speed that Willie does not have, but maybe they have the same power pocket?
I feel confident that Calhoun will be a better than average hitter at the major league level, the only real question is what position will he fill. The Dodgers will give us an idea of what they think of his future by what they do this winter.
They have several options:
- Resign Chase Utley and go with Chase/Howie with Kiké Hernandez backing them up.
- Don’t resign Chase and go with Howie as the main starting 2nd baseman with Kiké Hernandez backing him up
- Sign a free agent 2nd baseman like Todd Walker
- Sign a short term free agent 2nd baseman
- Trade for a 2nd baseman
If they go with Option 1, 2, or 4 it might be signaling they think Willie Calhoun is their future 2nd baseman. If they go that route I’d expect to see Willie a lot in 2017 given he’s just a few injuries to old 2nd baseman from seeing the big club.
If they go with option 3 or 5, that should signal the end of the Willie Calhoun future Dodger 2nd baseman. At that point, he is either moved to another position, (corner OF, 3rd Base), or traded.
Until we see what the Dodger actions are this winter I won’t have any real idea of what the FO thinks of his future. He’s playing 2nd base in the AFL, so one clue for me is that they still want him to be an offensive 2nd baseman. Many seem to think he’s destined for a career as a left fielder.
When you compare what players like Chase/Howie are doing at the major league level right now, Willie’s bat should be able to replicate or better that production in 2017.
Can his bat, make his glove play?
Can the Dodgers wait for the glove while trying to compete in 2017 with Chase/Howie?
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