Keon Broxton used to be one of the top prospects in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ farm system. Baseball America ranked him as high as tenth in the system in 2010, and had him in the top 20 from 2009-2012. During that time, he struggled in A-ball, only getting as high as a .763 OPS in his second run through the High-A level. He went to Double-A in 2013, where he once again saw struggles at the plate. At the end of Spring Training in 2014, the Pittsburgh Pirates acquired Broxton from the Diamondbacks for cash considerations, and sent him back to Double-A, where he would play in Altoona.
This time around, everything worked for Broxton. He was always a toolsy player, with a tall, athletic build, the ability to hit for some power, and enough speed to steal bases and give him the range to play center field. He’s dealt with pitch recognition in the past, including trouble identifying breaking pitches. The 2014 season not only saw him hitting for power and stealing bases, but he cut down on his strikeouts a bit, and increased his walk rate. He also got time in left and center field, showing off good range at each position, and displaying a plus arm which makes him an option in right field.
Despite the strong season, Broxton wasn’t added to the 40-man roster this off-season, making him eligible for the 2014 Rule 5 draft. He wasn’t selected, but he did get a vote of confidence from the Pirates by receiving an invite to Major League Spring Training. He is unlikely to make the team, but should go to Triple-A, where he will provide the Pirates with outfield depth throughout the year. Broxton’s speed, his ability to play all three outfield positions well, and his ability to hit for some power make him a good fourth outfield option in the future. He’s going to need to continue cutting down on the strikeouts in the future in order to have success in Triple-A and the majors.
I spoke with Broxton this week, talking about his breakout season in Altoona, and what went in to the change. He said the biggest thing was added confidence, while also noting that he focused on pulling the ball and using the middle of the field more. We talked about his inconsistent play throughout the 2014 season, which featured a few monster months, followed by a few disastrous months, and what he needed to do to avoid that in the future. The full interview, along with some video of Broxton’s swing while he takes batting practice, is below.