This week, I will be reviewing a minor leaguer who really isn’t on the major league radar at all. However, he is a friend of mine, with the two of us playing at the same university. Tony Mueller was drafted in the 13th round last year out of Winona State (MN) University, where he starred as a two-way player. He has spent his minor league career in the outfield, mostly as a center fielder.
So far, Mueller has not been great at the plate, though he has shown signs of progress this season. Last year, after a brief stint in Danville, he struggled mightily in Rome, posting a .217/.242/.255 slashline. He had a poor 5 BB, 35 K ratio, while only amassing six extra-base hits. The line is a bit deceiving, since he did reach base on ten errors, events I believe should not count as an official at-bat, but that’s a whole different post.
This year, the average has jumped to .266, and he has improved his plate discipline greatly. His 20:33 BB/K ratio has helped his OBP spike to .338. Unfortunately, the power has taken a step back, with his only extra-base hits being two doubles in 208 PA. This was a trend shown his junior year at Winona, where his XBH were cut in half with the introduction of the “dead” bats in the NCAA. The main problem lies in his 63% groundball rate and 15% line drive rate. It will be tough for him to progress if he can’t start hitting gaps more often.
Defense and speed are Mueller’s bread and butter. He has great speed, stealing 13 bases this season. He also has a good arm, something he showed in college on the mound, pitching between 88-91. These skills allow him to be a below-average hitter, but still provide average value to the team.
Mueller’s chances of advancing through the system will ride with his ability to show some sort of power. If he can increase his line drive percentage to 20% or beyond, he will not only get more hits, but start to get some extra bases too. Jose Constanza managed to make the major leagues despite his lack of power, so Tony can follow that path. I believe he is able to post a .280/.350/.350 line, which is near average and good enough to ascend through the system.