The purpose of the “Getting to Know You” series is pretty simple: to shine a spotlight on some of the lesser known and less publicized stars in Major League Baseball today. What better way to start a series than with a man who is the definition of an overlooked star? Milwaukee Brewers right fielder Corey Hart isn’t just living in the shadow of one phenom on the Brewers, he has two of them to compete with for attention. Sophomore slugger Prince Fielder and Rookie of the Year winner Ryan Braun exhausted just about all the press attention that Milwaukee received in 2007 and with good reason. One was the youngest player to ever hit 50 homers in a season and the other came out of nowhere to put up one of the most dominant rookie seasons ever. So where exactly did Corey Hart play into all of Milwaukee’s success?
Right smack-dab in the middle.
The young slugger will be turning only 26 this season and has already helped the incredible youth movement in Milwaukee by adding to the feared middle of the order. While spending most of his time behind Fielder in the five slot, Hart put up some fantastic numbers. He posted a line of .295/.350/.539 with 33 doubles, 9 triples, 24 homers, 81 RBI and 23 stolen bases, making him the fifth Brewer ever to produce a 20-20 season. In fact, Hart hit 23 of his 24 home runs between June and September last season and posted a .330 average with 6 homers and 20 RBI in September alone. Those are pretty good stat lines for someone many have not heard about.
To get a better feel of Hart as a player, here’s a look at my scouting report on him…
The lanky outfielder has a tall frame which is accentuated even more with his upright stance and long swing. Despite this long swing, however, he still has good bat speed and can turn well on inside pitches. He prefers the ball belt-high and down (big pull hitter) and absolutely destroys lefties. Hart also has a great ability to drive the ball well from right center all the way around especially when he gets his long arms extended.
His only real weakness, like many of his Milwaukee teammates, is his strikeout rate. Hart struck out 99 times last season in 505 at-bats, a rate of 17.4%, but still an improvement from 22.7% the previous season. But with as big a strike zone as he has to cover, you have to expect to see a higher strikeout rate. It should improve now that he has another season under his belt. Hart also has a knack for getting on base as he posted a .353 on-base percentage, pretty good for someone who only had a 6.9% walk rate (36 walks).
Corey Hart has very good speed and base running abilities for someone 6 foot 6. While this speed does help him some on defense, it doesn’t help him as much as it could. He still tends to get bad jumps on balls hit over his head. While Corey is an overall average outfielder, he does have a fairly strong arm which is essential in right field. On a team with some pretty big defensive holes, Hart certainly doesn’t stand out as one of them.
Now that you know a little more about Corey Hart, what does 2008 have in store for him? ZiPS has him projected at .289/.353/.518 with 25 homers and 85 RBI…very similar numbers to a year ago. I predict a line of .292/.362/.540 with 28 homers and 90 RBI. I believe we will see an increase in on-base percentage as he matures his eye at the plate and a higher slugging percentage and greater run production as pitchers are forced to pitch around Fielder and Braun.
Hopefully this helped shed some light on an often forgotten star in the Milwaukee lineup who should only continue to improve in the shadows of the giants named Braun and Fielder. In fact, having Hart’s bat in the lineup should also help protect the other two as more and more pitchers learn that Corey is a dangerous hitter in his own right.
Who knows…maybe someday when people hear the name Corey Hart they will think of the slugger in Milwaukee and not automatically think of this guy.
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