Jacob Andrew Nottingham
Age: 20 Position: Catcher
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Height: 6’ 3” Weight: 227 lb.
Drafted out of Redlands HS in the 6th Round of the 2013 MLB Amateur Draft
“The Sheriff of Nottingham” (everyone needs a nickname) is supposed to be the prize of the trade and for good reason. Still just 20 years of age, Jacob Nottingham has amazing size for a catcher and contributes heavily with his bat. It’s rare that a player with plus power – which he has demonstrated – also can hit for average. Over his short three-year career in the minors, he has grabbed the attention of many, and using the raving reviews that he’s received, I have compiled an all-you-need-to-know report about the newest addition to the Oakland Athletics farm system.
Last year playing for the Greeneville Astros of the Appalachian League in rookie ball, he caught the eye of evaluators with his smooth stroke and advanced offensive approach, something not common amongst catchers. These batting traits he carries are not ones that the position he plays tends to develop – its either you have it or you don’t.
And Nottingham’s got it.
After slashing just .238/.325/.385 in two years of rookie ball, he exploded in 2015. Nottingham absolutely wrecked the Midwest League on the Quad Cities River Bandits (Houston’s Single-A affiliate), slashing .326/.383/.558, while blasting 10 home runs in just 59 games. Easily earning himself a mid-season call up to High-A ball in the California League – known for grooming hitters – he continues to impress. Before being traded, he batted .324 while posting a .974 OPS and while it’s just been 17 games, there’s reason to believe the positive trend is not a fluke.
While playing for the River Bandits, according to FanGraphs.com, “Nottingham produced the third-best isolated-power figure (a .217 ISO, specifically) across all of Class-A.” The crazy part is his ISO number – measuring a hitter’s power and how often a player hits for extra bases – is up nearly 70 points in High-A. Another comforting trend is his strikeout percentage (SO/PA) ratio. Although his on-base percentage (OBP) has never fluttered below .300 (lowest is .307), he did have a problem early on with striking out often. His SO/BB reached its peak in 2014 when it ballooned to 27.0%, but in just a year’s span has lowered all the way down to 18.5%.
The reason for the huge difference in his batting has been the adjustments he’s made within his swing. When you watch the video below from 2014, you’ll see plenty of pop and plenty of power, something Nottingham naturally has. However, you’ll also see that when he begins his swing, he floats back before coming forward with somewhat of a lunge; in all it’s more of a coiled swing. His hands also flutter and drift back a bit before coming through the zone in sync with his small leg kick. The power is created by his backside becoming stacked before sending all his body through the ball.
The only problem with this is Nottingham makes himself susceptible to off-speed pitches because he naturally commits himself to swing because of the momentum he builds coming towards the ball. It seems like a relatively violent swing. Now take at this video below from 2015, where he is much more “quiet” and relaxed in his swing. What I mean by “quiet” is there isn’t as much motion. His stride isn’t as long, his hands move less and as a result, take a more direct path to the ball. For a guy with natural pop like Nottingham, he doesn’t need the extra coil in his swing like a lot of smaller guys do in order to send the ball out of the yard. There’s more of an ease about him than there was a year prior and from the sound of the ball, it doesn’t seem like they travel any less.
These adjustments made in just a one-year span have made a huge difference in his production.
On the other side of the ball, the only knock on the kid is if he will be able to stay behind the plate. FanGraph’s Kiley McDaniel who recently asked a scout about Nottigham’s defense ability the scout told him, “Nottingham gets a little too high or low on himself based on offensive results, and there are some mechanical issues to work out behind the plate, but this is normal for a 20 year old.” Whether or not he’s going to become a Gold Glover – he wont – makes no difference. The A’s have shown they have no problem sticking with ‘offense-first’ type catchers the last couple years: Stephen Vogt, Josh Phegley, Derek Norris, John Jaso. McDaniel’s final projection states, “Nottingham could be an above average everyday catcher.”
However, ESPN insider Keith Law feels the newest member of the A’s organization was a steal. In his glowing review, he sees Nottingham as a potential star so long as he can stay behind the plate. Law continues to project the future catcher as someone with a 70-grade raw power – on an 80-point scale – who could eventually develop into a 20 to 25 home run per year guy.
Now that’s a reason for Billy Beane to go after him and he expressed it yesterday during an interview on 95.7 The Game on the Damon Bruce Show. “We think that at this stage in his career, he’s got the potential to hit in the middle of the lineup,” he said. “An offensive player at a position that’s typically defensive is something that’s very hard to find, so we’re excited to have him.”
A’s fans should be excited too.