Prospect Profile: Jarrod Saltalamacchia
Name: Jarrod "Salty" Saltalamacchia
Jarrod Saltalamacchia was drafted in the first round (36th overall) of the 2003 draft out of high school in Florida. He was the 2nd player taken by the braves in the 2003 draft as Luis Atilano was taken just one spot ahead of Jarrod. Jarrod spent 2003 in the gulf coast league and really didn't play well except for the fact that he showed good plate discipline with 28 walks against 33 strikeouts. He hit .239 with only two home runs in 134 at-bats. Jarrod was promoted to Rome in 2004 and started to show some promise. He hit .272 while adding 10 home runs. However, his plate discipline suffered as he struck out to 83 times in 323 at-bats. Salty burst onto the prospect scene in 2005 with a terrific year in the pitcher friendly ballpark at Myrtle Beach. Salty hit 35 doubles and slugged 19 home runs while driving in 81 to go along with his batting line of .314/.394/.519. Jarrod's ascension took him to the top of the braves prospect list at the beginning of the 2006 season.
Where do we start with Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the 2006 season. Everybody who follows the minor leagues knows that he is having a horrific season. He is currently under the Mendoza line with a .198 batting average. His slugging percentage is just as bad at .298. So what has happened to the braves most prized prospect? A couple of excuses have been mentioned. The first is that he has spent so much time working on his defense that his offense has struggled to keep pace. Some speculate that he has been playing through an injury. Those close to him say that his swing looks different this year and his power has been zapped. I don't know exactly what has happened to Salty this year but I do know that he showed too much promise last year to completely fizzle for good. This season may be basically lost but he has plenty of time to reverse his fortunes and become a top prospect again.
Before this season I would have told you that Salty projects as a middle of the order slugger at the major league level. He was even impressive during spring training this march. Now I would say that he still has the skills necessary to be a major league hitter but he needs to quickly find the source of his troubles this year. I have a feeling that one of two things will happen. Either he will bounce back and be the big hitter that he has shown he can be, or he will never again find his stroke and possibly never make it to the big leagues. There's also a question of whether or not he will remain a catcher or become a corner infielder or an outfielder for that matter. With all of the work that he is done on his catching, I would imagine that the braves are intent on him being a catcher at the major league level.