An English Refresher

Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images

If you were asked your opinion of English, what would it be? Maybe something to the effect of, "it's an amalgamation of arbitrary rules", or "it's one of the easier languages to learn"; those assertions receive no argument from the author, but they're not really hot takes. Here's a much hotter take on English for you: he's slowly making himself an interesting 40-Man candidate for next season.

For those who don't remember, Tristin English was the DBacks 3rd round pick in the 2019 draft out of Georgia Tech; he played mostly 1B and served as the Yellow Jackets CP later in his college career (after he recovered from an abnormal UCL tear that cost him his true Sophomore season).

Just based on that description you can probably guess a few things about him: he has a strong arm, he's not an amazing fielder, he must have some hitting/power aptitude (to play 1B in the ACC), and he didn't have a particularly linear or focused development path. (Here's the scouting report).

All true things, but he's picked up some tricks along the way. Like playing COF in the Cape Cod League and 3B after entering MiLB. It's not highly likely that he'll ever be even average defensively at any position (other than 1B); however, if he's hitting, a RHB that plays CIF/COF on this particular roster has a large number of platoon candidates and/or defensive subs. Let's get to the hitting.

Always considered an aggressive hitter (read the scouting report if you haven't yet; Prospects Live is generally pretty detailed), he was able to make it work in his debut season in 2019 at A-. Everybody knows what year came next (can't find whether he was at the Alternate Site). When MiLB play resumed in 2021 he wasn't any less agressive at A+, but there wasn't much power in his line and there was more swing-and-miss to boot. Thus, he opened this year repeating A+. He was even MORE agressive (instead of seeing ~33% of pitches for balls it dropped to ~30%), but he got some power back in his line and made more contact. He's always been one to keep the ball off the ground and spread the love to defenders, but now he'd been making more line drive contact.

The team was so impressed with his .261/.313/.431 triple slash in 166 PA (9 BB/39 K) at A+ that he was promoted to AA. In 79 PA appearances so far at AA, his triple slash is .299/.405/.463 with 9 BB/11 K. He even cut his swinging strike rate by about five percentage points (13.5% down to 8.1%) and the percentage of pitches he saw that were balls rose substantially (~30% up to ~40%) while hitting to the opposite field more than ever before.

Most of the plate discipline improvements in AA have been against RHP. In 127 PA against RHP in Hillsboro, he had 5 BB/34 K and a .242/.283/.375 line. In Amarillo? Only 58 PA against RHP, but 7 BB/8 K and a .292/.414/.396 line. We're looking at clearly small sample sizes, but there is also the potential that we're looking a legitimate improvement in pitch recognition (differences in inputs beget differences in outputs).

As mentioned before, he's not likely to blow anyone away with his defense, but with a static defensive projection how does the player valuation calculus change if his hit tool plays above the 45 FV? His pitch recognition and over aggressiveness were what dragged it that low to begin with.

While he is not the conventional AA "prospect" (being that he made his debut there at 25 years old), that's ignoring a lot of context. He didn't make his professional debut at A- until he was already 22, and then lost a season of competitive reps to the Pandemic. It's kind of hard to move quickly through a system when your A+ debut is at 24 after skipping A ball entirely.

Everything being said, a prospect of his pedigree (remember that he was a relatively early day 2 pick) won't make their MLB debut without tearing up AAA; there's not a large chance that he finishes this season with much more than token appearances at the level. However, if he can sustain what he's shown at AA for the remainder of this season, he is very likely to begin 2023 in AAA with a shot at MLB mid-late season as an offensive minded bench piece. He's certainly a decent sleeper candidate.

In a DBacks system loaded with young, high-ceiling position players, interesting role players like Tristin have a tendency to fall through the cracks; they shouldn't. That will be it for today's English lesson.

P.S. here's an interesting article from his time on the Cape