- TEAM: Los Angeles Dodgers
- AGE: 22
- POSITION: 2B
- BATS: Left
- THROWS: Right
- HEIGHT: 5-foot-8
- WEIGHT: 187 lbs.
- ACQUIRED: The Los Angeles Dodgers selected Calhoun in the fourth round of the 2015 First-Year Player Draft out of Yavapai College in Prescott, Arizona. Calhoun transferred to Yavapai after first attending the University of Arizona in Tucson. The Tampa Bay Rays originally chose Calhoun out of Benicia High School in Benicia, California in the 17th round of the 2013 Draft. He chose not to sign and attended University of Arizona instead.
If one was walking down the street and happened to bump into Willie Calhoun, it is highly unlikely he would be mistaken for a professional baseball player. He just doesn’t look the part. Physically, he is rather short and stout. He may remind some of former big league player Walt “No Neck” Williams. Or Ronnie Belliard. Or even Kirby Puckett.
No, Willie Calhoun is not tall and thin. Or even short and thin. Willie Calhoun is well…stout will have to do. But make no mistake; he can hit.
Calhoun was named the Most Valuable player in the Arizona Fall League’s Fall Stars Game that took place midway thru the 2016 Fall League season. In the game he had two loud singles and a home run. He drove in three runs and scored twice. He did all that by using a sweet, compact swing and hitting the ball squarely on the barrel of the bat. That seems to be his calling card. He does not get cheated at the plate.
My first scouting looks at Calhoun have come in the Fall League. From what I have observed so far, he is very much an offense-first player. Although he really hustles when he gets on base, he doesn’t have much speed and he doesn’t play great defense at second base. But he can use his huge lower body to drive the ball. He especially favors his left-handed pull side.
Using good balance at the plate and excellent eye-hand coordination, Calhoun can pound the ball over the fence. At Yavapai College, he hit 31 home runs on his way to a .432 batting average in his 61 games prior to being selected by the Dodgers. Regardless the quality of completion, and regardless the collegiate environment, a player still has to have power to hit the ball over the fence.
Calhoun has an excellent knowledge and feel for the strike zone. He recognizes pitches quickly out of the hand of the pitcher and he adjusts accordingly. The ball makes that “special sound” coming off the barrel of his bat. He was born to hit a baseball.
Calhoun makes hitting look easy with a measured stroke and good hitting mechanics. Even though he has a tendency to pull the ball, he knows how important it is to get his trunk as well as his hands involved in his approach. If he remains a second baseman with the Dodgers, his power will be more than welcome at a position where home run hitters are not the norm.
Teammates love Calhoun due to his excellent work ethic. He goes all-out and gets the most from his ability.
I have not seen great footwork or range from Calhoun at second base. He is far from a “clank” but he isn’t going to make anyone mistake him for a gold glove defender. He might be better suited to play the outfield, or even third base, a position he played in college.
Clearly, he does not have speed. However, I have seen first hand that once he gets his body moving, he can motor around the bases well enough. He just won’t be a stolen base threat.
In reality, Calhoun is a bit stiff on defense. He doesn’t have soft hands at all. Basically, he may be viewed as a player limited to good offense with excellent power potential. Ultimately, he could become a designated hitter, as that role was designed for a player like Calhoun. Of course, for that to happen he would have to be traded to the American League or the designated hitter would have to expand to include National League games as well.
Compounding his issues as a potential third baseman or outfielder is his limited arm strength compared to most major league-level players.
Calhoun has played parts of two seasons in the Dodgers organization. In his rookie year, he began at Ogden with the Dodgers Rookie League team in the Pioneer League, hitting .278 in 175 plate appearances. He was promoted to the team’s Great Lakes Class-A club and hit .393 in 66 trips to the plate. Finally, his third team in his rookie year was at Class-A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga in the California League. He hit .329 and finished his rookie year with a composite .316 batting average and 11 home runs. He struck out only 38 times.
Calhoun spent this past season at Double-A Tulsa. It was yet another promotion, and he hit .254 in 560 plate appearances. He hit 27 home runs and drove in 88 in the Texas League. He was a Dodgers representative at the July Futures Game in San Diego. He went hitless in two trips to the plate, entering that game as a substitute.
Many scouts feel he has a very limited path to the big leagues. They feel his bat is very solid, but they share concerns about his defense. It is for that reason some feel his best role may ultimately be as a left fielder or third baseman.
THE FUTURE FOR CALHOUN
If he only had to hit to be a big league player, Calhoun would have little difficulty making a 25-man roster. However, his defense is limited. He does make errors at second base and he doesn’t show much range or arm strength.
The pop in his bat is well worth giving him every chance to improve his defense while he still hones his power.
A pretty consistent pull hitter with his left-handed stroke, Calhoun has good hitting mechanics and seems to be a natural hitter. His offense is valuable and he can contribute if a role can be found for him.
Willie Calhoun looks heavier than his listed weight. He carries a great deal of weight in his trunk with big legs and a wide caboose. He will have to be very cautious about keeping his weight at the current level or lower. If he gains weight he will further damage his mobility and range.
A natural hitter, he can power the ball over the wall with his loud barrel approach. He makes good contact and seems to realize that his bat has to be his big league messenger for success. He is a natural pure hitter with a sweet swing and a solid hitting approach.
As of this writing, Calhoun is hitting a respectable .294 with a double, a homer and six RBI not counting the Fall Stars Game in the Arizona Fall League. He has struck out only four times in 37 plate appearances, counting his three walks. He is a very projectable hitter.
SCOUTING PHRASE FOR CALHOUN: A solid hitter for power and average with limited defensive ability.
SCOUTING GRADE FOR CALHOUN: 50 – A member of an every day lineup limited to offensive production.
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