(Photo Credit: Jeremy Davis)
It may not happen very early in the year, but considering how Dodgers‘ prospect Willie Calhoun has stepped up to the plate amid his most recent opportunities to showcase his skills, don’t be surprised if the freshly turned 22-year-old California native gets a call to the bigs at some point during the 2017 season.
As one of the youngest players at the Double-A level in 2016, Calhoun won multiple Texas League Player of the Week honors, represented the Drillers in the league’s All-Star Game, participated in the MLB All-Star Futures Game, and ran away with MVP honors in the Arizona Fall League’s Fall Stars Game earlier in November.
Calhoun is certainly confident in his abilities, and believes that he’s up to the challenge for anything that the organization puts on his plate.
“This year was a lot of fun for me, being able to prove to the Dodgers that I’m able to do anything they throw at me,” Calhoun told Kelsie Heneghan of MiLB.com. “I like to compete and give it my all every day, so them moving me fast is really fun for me and rewarding and also shows that they trust me. I was just able to prove to them why they should.”
For those who follow the farm closely, you’ll remember it wasn’t long ago when Calhoun approached president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman at a workout even before the 2015 draft took place, and told the Dodgers’ boss that he “was going to put on a laser show” when he had his chance to exhibit his talents at the dish. A few weeks later, Friedman rewarded Calhoun’s efforts by choosing him in the fourth round of the draft.
“I’m a really confident guy,” Calhoun said. “I play with a chip on my shoulder; I like a challenge. I’m not the guy that’s shy and will sit in the corner. I like to go and approach people. And I felt like if I wanted to prove myself, that was the time to do it. That was the time to do it, and I did it.”
The 5’8″ converted outfielder, primarily playing second base, quickly zipped through three levels of the Dodgers’ farm system upon joining the organization, producing an overall slash line of .316/.390/.519 in 2015. This year, he hit .254/.318/.469 with 27 long balls and 88 RBI in 132 games for Double-A Tulsa before being promoted to Triple-A Oklahoma City for the club’s PCL playoff run.
“Willie has excellent baseball makeup and believes he belongs in the same breath as many of the game’s best players,” farm director Gabe Kapler said of Calhoun. “This confidence allows his natural bat-to-ball skills to shine on a regular basis. The contact is frequently loud. Willie has improved all aspects of his game and continues to open eyes wherever he plays.”
Often criticized for his lack of quickness and below-average glove work at the keystone, Calhoun continues to improve his defensive skills as he becomes more acclimated with the nuances of manning second base.
Considering that Howie Kendrick was shipped of to Philadelphia and the uncertainty surrounding a prospective return of veteran free agent Chase Utley, Calhoun’s path to the big league squad could be quicker than many anticipate, especially when noting the lack of well-polished second baseman throughout the organization. It’s probably safe to say that Calhoun will be looked at for an NRI invite to big league spring camp in February at Camelback Ranch.
Calhoun credits one of his former roommates, outfielder Andrew Toles, for providing many of the lower-level youngsters inspiration to work hard and strive for success in climbing the organizational ladder.
“It really just puts it in perspective that we’re that close to being right there with him,” Calhoun said. “Hopefully we’ll be with him at some point next year in Los Angeles.”