Jon Gilmore is one of a few White Sox farmhands that have started the 2010 season brightly, but is he a legitimate breakout candidate, or is it all smoke and mirrors?
Jon Gilmore was one of the pieces that the
White Sox received in the deal that sent Javier Vazquez to the Braves on
December 4, 2008. Gilmore had just completed his age 19 season with the
Danville (Rk) and Rome (A-) Braves. Across the two levels Gilmore posted a
.294/.320/.394 triple slash line, not great, but not terrible for a player of
A supplemental first round draft pick (33rd
overall) in 2007 out of Iowa City HS (IA), Gilmore was noted for his strength and
athleticism. He was considered a strong defensive prospect at 3B with with terrific bat speed and huge raw power, so obviously expectations were high.
In his first season as a member of the White
Sox organization Gilmore was something of a disappointment. Playing at Low-A
Kannapolis as a 20 year old, he was age appropriate for his level, but his
performance was lacklustre and all he could manage was a .683 OPS. Gilmore did
take steps forward with his plate discipline, improving his K% from 16.9% in
'08 to 16.5% in '09 and his BB% from 3.9% in '08 to 6.2% in '09. His power,
however, was almost non-existent and his ISO sat at just .087 (you're looking
for an ISO>.200 for a power hitter). He also made a lot of errors at 3B and
his TotalZone was -5 runs.
To start the 2010 season Gilmore is hitting a
robust .366 with a .400 OBP and .463 SLG (.863 OPS). An impressive way to open
the season you may think, but let's dig a little deeper into the numbers. Gilmore's
power is up from 2009, but his ISO still only sits at a modest .097 and only
20% of his hits have gone for extra bases, none of which have been home runs. His
BB%, 6.67%, is slightly up from last year but still far lower than you would
like. The average BB% for Major League third baseman this year is ~10%, so
Gilmore is significantly below that as well. To go along with Gilmore's slight
increase in BB%, his K% has sky rocketed from 16.5% in '09 to a career high
22.2%. Now, as DRaysBay reminds us, you need a 150 PA sample size in order to
put stock into K% data, so you can expect some regression to Gilmore's mean
here, but it's a worrying sign nonetheless. And if errors mean anything to you, Gilmore has racked up 4 of them through his first 10 games.
So if Jon Gilmore is striking out a lot, not
walking much or hitting for any power, how has he been able to hit for an .863
OPS? By hitting for an unsustainably high batting average. A quick look at
Gilmore's BIP data shows that over 48% of the balls Gilmore hits into play are
going for hits, which is roughly 15.7% above his career average. There WILL be
regression to the mean here, and when it happens, Gilmore's triple slash will
start to fall in line with his luck adjusted line of .268/.311/.341 (.652 OPS).
All in all, Jon Gilmore's start to the season
is nice to see, but is it likely to continue? Unfortunately not. I'm not ready
to completely write off a player with Gilmore's tools, but to date he hasn't
shown that the tools can or will translate to on field performance. He
shouldn't be considered more than a fringe prospect at this point and I think
it's safe to put him into the small sample size tease category.