Dustin Geiger had one of the biggest breakout performances of 2013, and he did it in his first season against the tough pitching of the Florida State League. He had been known as one of those raw talents loaded with potential since the Cubs drafted him, but it wasn’t until the 2013 season that we really started to see what that potential looked like. Now there is little doubt but that Geiger should be mentioned on many of the Cubs Top Prospect lists this winter. How high will he go?
We’ll dig into that after we recap our purpose. The goal here is not to re-rank the prospects (that comes next year) or to assess the strengths and weaknesses of farm as a whole (that also comes next year). The goal for this series is to take each prospect individually, study the progress made so far, and see what we can learn about the future for that player.
One of the best things about Geiger’s season? He probably has some room to get better.
Dustin Geiger, 1B
Born: December 2, 1991
Acquired: The Cubs selected Geiger in the 24th round of the 2010 draft.
There is plenty of good news when it comes to Geiger. Starting with his slash line, Geiger posted an AVG/OBP/SLG of .281/.365/.458 on the basis of a 9.9% walk rate and just a 19.1% strikeout rate. Those are very solid numbers for a hitter in Daytona, and given that Geiger just turned 22 he was definitely not too old for the league. He also stole six bases in twelve tries and slugged a very nice 17 home runs. Add it all up and we have a guy who posted a wOBA of .378 and a wRC+ of 136. Those are very nice numbers, particularly in that they are coming from a guy that we were not really counting on before the season started.
That said, there is some room for upward movement. His ISO clocked in at .178 as compared to .215 in more limited action the year before with Peoria. That could be a reflection of tougher pitching in the FSL or a reflection of the differences in the geography of the leagues, but it could also indicate that he has some headroom in his power game. I doubt we see a significant increase over that .178, but I’d not be surprised if it climbs as high as .190 or so with Tennessee next year.
Looking at his splits, while Geiger unsurprisingly beat up left handed pitching at a .319/.418/.538 rate, he also held his own against right handers to the tune of .267/.346/.430. That is a pronounced platoon split, though, and already suggests that Geiger might have a future as a right handed bat off the bench if nothing else.
Where Does He Fit?
Geiger started his career at third base, but the Cubs have become so deep in that position that I don’t see Geiger moving back to that side of the diamond full time. He did spend 5 games there in 2013 and I suspect could continue to fill in at third as needed, but that is not his regular home. However, since as a first baseman he is blocked by Rizzo and eclipsed on the prospect boards by Vogelbach, that versatility is probably an asset for him. There is not much of a future in the Cubs system for pure first basemen right now.
Interestingly, he’s never played in the outfield as a professional. All of his time has come at first or third (plus a few games as a DH). For now I think we can assume that the outfield may not be much of an option for him, or at least not as a permanent home. That further limits his utility and restricts his future.
Even though the 2013 numbers are positive, Geiger is starting to look like one of those all-bat type of prospects that will only go as high as they can hit themselves and lack the athletic versatility to move around the diamond. To say that differently, he’s starting to look like a right handed version of Vogelbach, albeit with less power.
Still, a .365 OBP and a 9.9% walk rate in High A is something. If he can keep up those kind of numbers, hold the strikeout rate to a reasonable level, and push the SLG over .500, we’re talking about a potentially valuable major league bench bat one day, and possibly a second or third tier starter at first.
If he were a left handed hitter I think there would be buzz over Geiger, but right handed bats that are largely confined to first base generally need to be very potent. Geiger has some very nice numbers at the plate, but not quite that nice, and ultimately he looks like he will be limited by his glove.
Next season I think he will pick up the majority of the starts at first for the Tennessee Smokies, but after that I’m not sure where he goes. If the OBP stays up, the K% stays down, and he shows more power he should ultimately get a chance in the majors, but he’ll have a hard time claiming the starting first base job with the Cubs.
And, unfortunately, I’m not sure he’ll be able to claim a spot on the bench either. Right now he looks like a less offensively potent, less defensively versatile version of Josh Vitters (although if it turns out Vitters can’t handle the outfield then that “less defensively versatile” may not be accurate). As good as Geiger’s numbers were for Daytona, Vitters bettered them with Iowa.
I look for Geiger to start making some more appearances on some Top Prospect lists, including perhaps the Top 40 (he was 29th the last time I wrote it), but unless he improves enough at third to be a long term option there or shows he can handle the outfield, I’m not sure what sort of a future he has with Cubs.
That said, this is a guy who has taken major strides forward in each of the past two seasons. It is not impossible that he does that again in 2014 and emerges as the big breakout story of the year for the second year in a row. Regardless, I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do with the Smokies.