JAFF DECKER, CORNER OUTFIELDER
|Born: February 23, 1990
Drafted: 1st Round, 42nd Overall, 2008 (Padres)
How Acquired: Traded from Padres (for Alex Dickerson)
High School: Sunrise Mountain HS (AZ)
Agent: O’Connell Sports Management
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|The Padres drafted Decker in the supplemental first round in 2008. He’s not especially athletic, has below average speed, and is just passable in the outfield corners, although he has a good enough arm to play right. He has power potential due to a short stroke. Decker is a good example of why it’s not a great idea to get too excited about hitters who draw large numbers of walks in the low minors. He takes a lot of pitches, drawing sometimes huge numbers of walks but getting too deep in counts and striking out a lot. He’s mostly struggled against LHPs in the minors. His hitting tailed off as he moved up through the minors, as reflected by his rankings in the Padres’ system according to Baseball America; he was ranked third after the 2008 season, but gradually dropped to #23 after the 2012 season. The Padres designated him for assignment to clear roster space and then traded him to the Pirates with Miles Mikolas.
Decker put up big numbers in his rookie league debut, with a staggering number of walks but also a fairly high K rate. He played center about half the time.
Decker continued to hit, hit for power, draw walks and strike out in low A, leading the league in OPS as a teenager. He missed about a month with a concussion and a minor back problem. He played exclusively in left.
Decker’s hitting declined a little and his K rate increased in high A. He was playing in the hitting-happy California League, although his home park, Lake Elsinore, isn’t one of the league’s better hitter’s parks. He missed the first five weeks of the season due to a hamstring injury. After he returned he slumped badly, hitting .195 through mid-season. He recovered to hit 305/439/616 in the second half. Decker missed the last three weeks with a broken hand.
In AA, Decker’s hitting dropped off still more. He led the league in walks, but also fanned in just under 30% of his ABs.
The Padres sent Decker back to AA and he struggled early in the season, then missed three months with plantar fasciitis. He continued to struggle at the plate when he returned, aside from drawing a huge number of walks.
The Padres moved Decker up to AAA and he recovered somewhat, although it was in a hitter’s environment at Tucson in the Pacific Coast League. He played the majority of his time in center. The Padres called him up briefly in June and then for the month of August. They sent him down at the end of August and did not recall him in September.
Decker spent most of the season with Indianapolis, playing primarily left but also some in center. He also got two brief, injury-related callups that amounted to five unsuccessful ABs. Decker took a step backward in AAA, due in large part to a terrible April in which he hit 203/302/257. He struggled against LHPs, putting up only a .533 OPS against them. He did not get a September callup.
Decker had a fairly good spring and was in contention for a roster spot when he suffered a leg injury in late March. He wasn’t out for long and made a few appearances with Indianapolis in April, but he returned to the disabled list until late May. The Pirates called him up for the last two weeks of July and then brought him up for September. He mainly served as a pinch hitter, but got a handful of starts. While in AAA, Decker changed his approach to look more to get on base than hit for power, but his overall numbers weren’t impressive beyond a high walk rate. Similarly, with the Pirates he drew a lot of walks — which is certainly useful given the difficulty of pinch hitting — but didn’t hit much in limited chances.
The Pirates seem to like Decker more than his AAA numbers warrant. He’s out of options now, so he won’t be able to serve as AAA depth in 2016. If the team thinks he has a chance to win a roster spot out of spring training, they may hang on to him at least that long, especially if they don’t keep Travis Snider.
|2015: Major League Minimum|
|Signing Bonus: $892,000
MiLB Debut: 2008
MLB Debut: 6/20/2013
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2020
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: September 2, 2005
Options Remaining: 0 (USED: 2013, 2014, 2015)
MLB Service Time: 0.032
|June 5, 2008: Drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 1st round, 42nd overall pick; signed on June 20.
November 20, 2012: Contract purchased by the San Diego Padres.
November 20, 2013: Designated for assignment by the San Diego Padres.
November 25, 2013: Traded by the San Diego Padres with Miles Mikolas to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Alex Dickerson.