Down on the Farm: Roger Kieschnick

Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

A curse and a blessing. That’s what earning the fabled “Five-Tool Player” label gets you in baseball. It’s a blessing because that means you have the 5 “tools” that scouts look for in a player:

1) Hitting for power

2) Hitting for average

3) Fielding ability

4) Throwing ability

5) Speed

When you have these tools, you have the potential to become the next Bryce Harper or Mike Trout. That’s the blessing. The curse? You are expected to rise through the ranks quickly, and if you don’t live up to your potential you are often labeled a bust, regardless of what round you were picked.

Roger Kieschnick has earned the “Five-Tool Player” label. Nicknamed the “Hawk” by his teammates, Kieschnick was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the third round (82nd overall) of the 2008 MLB Draft. Baseball America rated him the top position player from Texas in that draft.

While playing in his first season of professional ball for Single high-A in San Jose, Kieschnick hit .296 with 23 home runs and 110 RBIs in 131 games. Although he struck out 130 times with only 36 walks, he produced an impressive .876 OPS.

In 2010, Kieschnick was promoted to Double-A Richmond, where he continued his torrid ascension until going 0-30 in late-May and early June. His season was derailed by injuries, and he only managed to play in 60 games. A return to Richmond in 2011 saw Kieschnick finish 126 games before a back injury ended his season in August. However, he still led the team with 16 home runs and 65 RBIs despite a premature end to his season.

The Giants added Kieschnick to the 40-man roster in 2012, and Kieschnick started the season in Triple-A with the Fresno Grizzlies. In addition to playing some left field instead of his usual position in right, he recaptured his prowess at the plate in the hitter-friendly PCL, batting .319/.390/.623 with 14 home runs, 12 doubles, and 37 RBI through May before crashing into a wall in left field, fracturing his shoulder tracking a ball that went over the wall anyway. He had hit safely in all 24 of the team’s road games up until his injury.

Kieschnick’s thoughts before the injury: “I started off strong, and the last couple of years I haven’t had a good start. It definitely made it a lot easier on me. Last year in Richmond, which isn’t the best hitting environment – it’s cold and all that – but I got off to a slow start and was hitting .200 for the first month, and I had to crawl my way out the rest of the year. The start this year makes it a lot easier on you, especially as the season goes on.” Quote courtesy of CBSSports.com.

Kieschnick was rumored as a possible September call-up in 2012 before getting hurt, and although that never happened, he did manage to get back on the field and finish the season with a final slash line of .306/.376/.604 with 15 home runs and 46 RBI in 55 games.

So far this year, Kieschnick is off to another great start. Currently, he’s hitting .311/.381/.574 with 7 home runs and 33 RBI. His strikeouts are down from this time last year (68 to 53), and he’s playing solid defense in left field despite the requisite need to polish jumps and routes in the outfield like all prospects must. His BB% currently sits at 10.6%, which is the highest it’s ever been in his professional career.

With Angel Pagan‘s injury history, Gregor Blanco and Andres Torres‘ overall limitations and lack of .OPS, and Francisco Peguero‘s unimpressive stint during his limited call-up earlier this year, it’s entirely possible that Kieschnick could be roaming left field at AT&T Park well before September. A member of the draft class that produced Brandon Crawford and Buster Posey, Kieschnick has succeeded at all three levels despite being plagued by injuries. Kieschnick appears poised to make his mark sooner rather than later.

Click here to check out SF Giants Rumors interview with Kieschnick.

~Paul Ghiglieri

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