Name: Will Toffey
Height/Weight: 6’2’’, 205
How Acquired: Selected in the 4th round of the 2017 MLB Draft.
After a slow start to his pro career, Will Toffey demonstrated why the Oakland A’s were so high on him in the draft with a strong finish to his 2017 season. Can he continue his climb in 2018?
Toffey came to the A’s in the fourth round of last year’s draft after a breakout junior season for Vanderbilt. After a rough sophomore campaign, Toffey participated in the summer ball Cape Cod League and opened some eyes with a .283/.392/.402 line for Yarmouth. He continued to perform at a high level as a junior for the Commodores. In 56 games, he hit .354/.475/.602 with 12 home runs and more walks (48) than strike-outs (30).
Going into the draft, some talent evaluators were skeptical about whether Toffey’s power would translate to pro ball. However, scouts liked Toffey’s patient approach at the plate and his defensive abilities at third base. The A’s were happy to grab him in the fourth round.
“Will is just a really good baseball player. He can really swing the bat,” A’s Scouting Director Eric Kubota said shortly after the draft. “Offensively, he had one of the best performances of nearly any player in college baseball this year. He had a really good year and he’s a really good baseball player. Very instinctive. We like the bat. We like his chances to be a plus defender not only at third but maybe different places around the field, as well.”
Toffey was assigned to short-season Vermont after signing with the A’s. He got off to a slow start with the Lake Monsters and through July, he was batting .223 with a .336 OBP and a .311 SLG. A’s minor league hitting coordinator Jim Eppard visited with the Lake Monsters around that time and he noticed that Toffey was leaving his comfort-zone as a hitter.
“He was pulling the ball a lot. I hadn’t met him before that – other than just introducing myself – but just from following the game reports and stuff like that, I knew that he was trying to go outside of his game plan a little bit,” Eppard said of that in-season visit to Vermont. “He was pulling the ball more and chasing pitches outside of the ‘zone. It was one of the things that we talked about during my week while I was there. He said to me, ‘I don’t know why I am pulling everything. This is really not my game.’ He just got back into his game and into the flow and he ended up finishing strong in Vermont.”
Toffey turned things around quickly in August and September. He hit .302/.410/.387 in 30 games over that stretch. That lifted his final season line to .263/.377/.349, a solid line in a league where the average slashline is .240/.316/.340.
After the season, Toffey participated in the A’s fall Instructional League and earned praise from coaches for his work on both sides of the ball. He has a high baseball IQ and is advanced both in his pitch selection at the plate and with his footwork and decision-making at third base. Toffey waits a long time before committing to swing, and he is a natural opposite-field hitter, as a result. Toffey also doesn’t bail out with his lead shoulder and the left-handed hitter found plenty of success against left-handed pitchers with Vermont.
Toffey only hit one home run in his pro debut season (it went to the opposite field), but as he matures, he may be able to add some pull power by learning to identify pitches to turn on earlier. He is a good athlete who starred as a hockey player in high school and he has average foot speed.
Defensively, Toffey has a strong arm and should be able to stick at third base as he advances. Of course, third base is a bit of a dead-end for the A’s right now with Matt Chapman ensconced at the position. As Toffey moves up in the system, he is likely to see time at other positions to increase his versatility. Kubota said after the draft that Toffey should be able athletically to handle second base, as well as first base and the corner outfield spots.
Given how well Toffey played late in the season with Vermont and how he played at Instructs, he has a strong chance to skip Low-A and start the 2018 season with High-A Stockton. He turned 23 in December.
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