After a monster season in the California League, Zach Borenstein is suddenly on everyone's prospect radar. The question now is can he stay there?
Position: OF Highest Level: Advanced-A
Bats: L Throws: R Height: 6'0" Weight: 205
Age: 23 Born: 7/23/1990
2013 Rank: Unranked
2013 Season Stats
Advanced-A: 465 PA, .337 AVG, .403 OBP, .631 SLG, 22 2B, 7 3B, 28 HR, 95 RBI, 88 SO, 5 SB, 5 CS, .366 BABIP, .436 wOBA, 163 wRC+
AFL: 56 PA, .136 AVG, .321 OBP, .227 SLG, 1 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 9 SO, 0 SB, 3 CS, .147 BABIP, .289 wOBA, 68 wRC+
Contact = B
Borenstein is especially effective at making contact with pitches middle-in and certainly doesn’t get cheated on them. He has the build and strength to turn on pitches on the inner half and drive them 400+ feet. He does tend to get a bit long on pitches on the outer half, but this isn’t anything he couldn’t work on.
Power = B+
Zach’s calling card as a prospect right now is his ability to drive the ball with authority. One look at his thick legs and python arms and you’d definitely see why. He comes up to the plate with the idea that he’s going to hit the ball as far as he can and in the Cal League environment, this approach was very effective.
Discipline = C+
Again, Borenstein was quite vulnerable on pitches on the outer –half of the plate and would chase. It is important to note however that Borenstein posted an impressive K/BB ratio in the Arizona Fall League. While his performance was certainly a disappointment against the game’s elite prospects, he did show a level of refinement that should transfer to the higher levels.
Speed = C
Borenstein is heavy footed and not the greatest base-runner, but he makes up for this in leg strength and game intelligence. He’s an average base-runner right now but in the future I’d expect this grade to be below average.
Arm = C
Borenstein is a left fielder by trade, so he doesn’t necessarily need to have a strong arm. This works to his advantage as I’d grade his arm out as average, probably along the line with Mike Trout’s arm except less accurate.
Fielding = C–
Borenstein really struggled in the outfield later in the season, but from what I understand this was a result of injury. Still, as an outfielder, he’s average at best.
Range = C-
Borenstein has enough range to play LF competently, but RF would be a stretch as he lacks the arm and quick reactions to cover a generally larger gap and CF would be completely out of the question. In fact, a scout I spoke with wondered if 1B may be in his future as it’s expected he’ll lose a step but still be able to hit the ball with enough authority to pass at the position.
Performance = A
Borenstein really needed to have a year like 2013. His performance in the Midwest League in 2012 was rather lackluster and he was headed to Advanced A Ball as a 22 year old. He managed to lead the Cal League in batting average and home runs despite playing half of his games in a pitcher’s park. Still, when you look at his splits it’s clear his inflated numbers were largely a result of the extreme hitters environment his away games presented.
Projection = C+
I like Borenstein’s power enough to say it’s certainly possible he carves out a role as a power bat off the bench in the major leagues. It remains to be seen whether or not he’ll be able to destroy advanced pitching the way he did in the Cal League, where he’d often be fooled and hit weak grounders, but he’s certainly earned a shot. It will be interesting to see if the Angels have Borenstein skip AA the way they did with Kole Calhoun after his impressive Cal League campaign. If they do, his power should play up in a big way in Salt Lake, which may be the most hitter friendly park in the most hitter friendly league in baseball. Most likely Borenstein’s true prowess as a prospect will be tested in AA, which tends to separate prospects from pretenders.
Grade as a Prospect = C+
Borenstein offers a lot of what the Angels need right now, which is a left handed power bat that could come off the bench in the late innings. His upside as a prospect is still under review. Some parties are really high on him and his ability to drive the ball while others are suspicious of his lack of defensive tools and inflated numbers from the Cal League. Consider me luke-warm on him. There's something to be said for a player that produces better numbers than their scouting profile suggests. The Angels are quite good at finding these players and Borenstein very well could turn into one of them. He's an intriguing offensive minded OF that's a bit old for his level and most systems have at least one or two guys like that.
Estimated MLB Arrival Date = 2016
If Borenstein continues to see success, 2016 seems like a likely target date. He’ll be 25 years old by then, too old to be a prospect but still young enough to give the Angels some of his prime physical years.
2013 in Review*
After leading the California League in batting average and homers to win the league MVP, Zach Borenstein made a name for himself in the Angel farm system. Granted, that's not hard to do at this point, but still an impressive feat for a 23rd rounder. While Borenstein doesn't have much of a pedigree, it is hard to ignore some of his eye-popping stats. Even though the California League is a great hitter's environment, a .295 ISO is still out of this world. He even put up all of these big numbers despite spending a stint on the DL due to a hip problem.
Alas, Borenstein isn't without his warts. As Scotty mentioned, Borenstein did a lot of his damage on the road in more hitter-friendly ballparks. He also wasn't as dominant versus left-handed pitchers. While his average and OBP were not that different, he only hit two homers and posted a .117 ISO against southpaws. That has been the trend throughout his career.
Borenstein finished up his year in the prestigious Arizona Fall League. He didn't hit at all there, but it is such a small sample size that it isn't worth worrying about. The important thing is that the Angels thought enough of him to send him there.
Many fans have drawn parallels between Borenstein and Kole Calhoun, another lefty outfielder who was highly productive despite a lack of flashy tools, but Borenstein doesn't have the same polish. Borenstein doesn't strike out too much, but his plate discipline still needs work. As such, the Angels will likely take things slower with him than with Calhoun. That is probably for the best, because it gives them a chance to send Borenstein to Arkansas, a brutal environment for power hitters, to see just how legit his 2013 slugging display was.
If he can show the same pop, or something close to it, then everyone will have no choice to treat him seriously as one of those hitters that just finds a way to outperform his apparent tools. Until then, the skepticism will remain. That doesn't mean Borenstein isn't a prospect, it just means that he has to prove on the field that he is something more than a platoon bat with decent pop off the bench.
*As we do every year, the scouting reports and grades are provided by Scotty Allen while Garrett Wilson provides the 2013 in Review and Looking Ahead sections.