Before this season, here's how Baseball America finished their report on Adam Eaton, small-but-speedy minor-league outfielder: "Some scouts still see Eaton as a fourth outfielder, but his doubters are diminishing. He may start 2012 in Triple-A and could finish the season in Arizona."
Eaton was ranked in BA's Prospect Handbook as the Diamondbacks' No. 12 prospect (granted, they had an outstanding farm system).
Here's how John Sickels, in his Prospect Book 2012, finished up: "I like Eaton, and I think he'll be either a really good fourth outfielder or a David DeJesus-type regular."
John gave Eaton a B- grade, as a prospect. Which would have made him somewhere between the Diamondback's fifth- and 11-best prospect.
In the event, Eaton actually opened the season in Double-A, was promoted to Triple-A after 11 games, and batted .381/.456/.539 in the Pacific Coast League. In 119 games, he scored 119 runs.
The thing is, Eaton's always done stuff like this. His on-base percentage this season was .456; he entered the season with a career .456 OBP in the minors. According to Baseball America, he's good at all the outfield spots and throws particularly well.
So why haven't the scouts loved him? Well, he was a 19th-round draft pick. That's strike one. And he's listed at 5'8", which means he's probably 5'6" or 5'7". That's strike two. Fortunately, because all he's done is play brilliantly since signing with the Diamondbacks, there hasn't been a strike three and he keeps getting promoted.
Alas, while Eaton was in Tuesday night's lineup, it's not clear that there's a place for him next season. Not regularly, anyway. Chris Young, a decent hitter and a solid center fielder, is signed for next season at $8.5 million, so he'll be in center field unless management markets him aggressively. Jason Kubel's set in left, and of course Justin Upton is signed through 2015.
If you believe in minor-league numbers, though, it's hard to figure how Eaton's not good enough to play somewhere, for someone, just about every day.