I was originally planning to look at a pitcher again, but I changed my mind. The Diamondbacks offense has been putrid. So naturally, i think every one at this point has checked to see who's having the best season down in the minors. By all accounts that would be 26 year old corner infielder/emergency catcher Jamie D'antona. Honestly, I would say he's the most controversial prospect that I've written about. In addition, he's got a rather interesting history as well.
Born on May 12, 1982 in the small town of Trumbull, Connecticut, Jamie D'antona attended college at Wake Forest University. D'antona put up some impressive numbers during his three years with Wake Forest.
In his freshmen year, D'antona burst on the scene by hitting 364/431/628 with 17 HRs and a strike out to walk ratio of 50/28 in 253 ABs. He took home 1st team All American Honors, as well as Rookie of the Year.
His sophomore year was equally impressive, as he hit 336/450/659 with 20 HRs, and improved strike out to walk ratio of 40/47 in 223 ABs. His last year in college was even better, his 360/450/752 came with 21 HRs and a strike out to walk ratio of 34/38 in 214 ABS. Each year he showed a clear trend of increased plate discipline and power while getting fewer at bats each year. There were some concerns about his defense, but it was clear that his bat could carry him to the major leagues.
The Diamondbacks selected Jamie D'antona in the 2nd round of the 2003 amateur draft with the 66th overall pick. D'antona signed 5 days after the June 5th draft, and he was assigned to low a Yakima.
D'antona's first professional season was a productive one, as he hit 277/359/517 in 271 ABs. He had 15 HRs, 18 doubles, and one triple. His plate discipline was a bit troubling, 60 strike outs to 35 walks. However, comparing his 876 OPS to the 685 OPS of the Northwest League further emphasizes the quality of D'antona's age 21 season. He was a Northwest League All Star, in addition to being the Northwest League's player of the year.
2004 was a bit of a mix bagged for Jamie D'antona. He split time between High A Lancaster, where he excelled before being promoted to AA El Paso, where he struggled for the first time in his career. In his 273 at bats with Lancaster he posted a 315/353/531 batting line with 13 HRS, 18 doubles, and a triple. He had an acceptable strike out to walk ratio of 36/16. His 884 OPS wasn't that much better than his team's OPS of 818. D'antona struggled defensively, with 17 errors at third base with Lancaster.
However D'antona was then promoted to another extremely hitting friendly environment, AA El Paso in the Texas League. D'antona struggled mightily in his 71 ABS with the El Paso Diablos, hitting only 211/233/282, with no HRS, and only three doubles and a triple. His strike out to walk ratio of 16/2 only magnifies his struggles, as does comparing his 515 OPS to the 744 OPS of the Texas League and the 761 OPS of his team. In addition to D'antona's offensive struggles, his defense suffered as well, making 4 more errors at third base after his promotion. He finished the year with 21 errors at third base. He had no errors at first base, which is a positive, I guess.
It's at this point where D'antona's career really began to stall. Up until this point, D'antona, Carlos Quentin, and Conor Jackson were the "Three Amigos." The three best offensive prospects in the Diamondbacks' farm system. However, while D'antona struggled, Quentin and Jackson continued hitting and moving up the top prospect rankings, eventually making it the major leagues.
In 2005 D'antona found him self in AA again, all though he wouldn't be playing for the El Paso Diablos in the Texas League. It was in this year that the Dbacks switched affiliations and leagues to the Tennessee Smokies in the Southern League. D'antona still struggled though, hitting 249/322/385 in 410 ABS, with only 9 HRS, two triples, and 25 doubles. His strike out to walk ratio was a little better, as he struck out 67 times, but improved his walk rate by drawing 44 base on balls. Still, his 707 OPS was 40 points below league average, and 23 points below the average OPS of his team. It's also worth noting the 17 errors at third base for D'antona once again.
D'antona spent his third year in AA in 2005. The third times the charm I guess, as he returned to his previous form hitting 310/382/484 in 461 ABS. His power returned with 17 HRS and 29 doubles. He struck out 88 times, the most in his career, while drawing 54 walks, also a career high. Comparing his 866 OPS to his team's 731 OPS or the league average OPS of 701 puts things further in to perspective. However, he was a 24 year old repeating AA for the second time, so the standard discounts apply.
D'antona made a lot less errors at third though, finishing with 6. He did make 8 errors at first, however.
Finally promoted to AAA Tucson last year, D'antona had a productive season hitting 308/362/499 in 483 ABS. He had 13 HRS, and had a career high 5 triples and 43 doubles. His strike outs dropped down to 57 from the career high of 88 he had the year before, while his walks ended up at 40. It's interesting to note that all though D'antona played mostly third and some first base for the Sidewinders, he also played 21 games at catcher.
I did see one game last year with D'antona at backstop, and he'd have to put in a lot of work to be any thing close to an average defensive MLB catcher. He's definitely useful there in case of an emergency, however. D'antona made 15 errors at third in 2006. In the game I saw where he was playing third base, he had a throwing error. D'antona has a pretty good throwing arm, but he has trouble with his accuracy. His foot work and range seemed OK to me.
2008 has been very kind to Jamie D'antona. In his 88 games and 323 ABs for Tucson this year, he's hitting 375/416/616 with 15 HRS, a triple, and 31 doubles. His plate discipline has suffered though, as he's struck out 50 times, while walking only 24 times. He's on pace to set career highs in home runs, doubles, batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage. Part of the reason he's been so successful this year is his extremely high BABIP of 421. His BABIP in his good years has ranged from .300-.400.
In my opinion the only reason D'antona isn't playing for the Dbacks right now is the lack of a defensive position. I don't think he's that much worse than Mark Reynolds at third. He makes a lot of throwing errors, as i said earlier. He's acceptable at first where his arm is less of a liability. However, with the way he has been hitting, and the way the Diamondbacks haven't, he should be playing with the Dbacks right now. He's a better option for a platoon with Chad Tracy against LHP than Chris Burke or Alex Romero. He's got a great throwing arm, so he could be a decent option in left field.
Honestly I don't really have more to say about D'antona. So what are your thoughts on Jamie D'antona? Good? Great? Sucks? Leave your comments.
Thanks for reading!
Wesley "Zephon" Baier