At 5-11 and 205 pounds, LB Dantzler has been a hard hitter to peg for me. Is he the line drive hitter that he was prior to the 2013 college baseball season or is he the power hitter he has been this season? I've watched him in person and on TV and I could never get a solid gauge on what he is.
Dantzler joined the Gamecocks in 2012 after he transferred from junior college in Bradenton Florida. The Winter Haven native played third base for the Gamecocks in 2012 hitting for a .262 average, a .339 on-base percentage and a .433 sluggin percentage. He also hit 10 homeruns for the Gamecocks in 2012 good for second on the team behind 2012 fourth round selection Christina Walker. Dantzler didn't embarrass himself at third base, however, with the departure of Walker Dantzler moved over to first base for the 2013 season.
This year, as a senior, Dantzler has taken off and become the Gamecocks best hitter. This season he's improved his numbers across the board with a .332 average, a .445 on-base and .648 slugging percentage. In 70 less plate appearances he's hit five more home runs and taken six more walks. His defense, again, has been okay at first base.
When I look at his hitting stance and swing it reminds me a lot of Jeff Bagwell's with a few flaws. Before you go all crazy allow me to demonstrate.
In this GIF we have Dantzler striking out. Notice the wide stance, how he brings his hands back, the toe tap and the finish to the toe tap and the stillness of his head.
Now check out Bagwell hitting a homerun. notice some of the same things that Dantzler did in his at bat.
Now some of the things that Bagwell is doing differently than Dantzler. Bagwell takes a larger toe tap, has much better hip rotation and balance through out his entire body. Watch Dantzler's butt. It moves quite a bit, which shifts his entire hitting stance and throws off his balance. That's not to say Dantzler hasn't had success with his stance. Here is hitting a single:
There is the same shifting of center as he swings.
It's not really fair for me to compare a college hitter to one of the greatest hitters of all-time but I did it to show you that with the right coaching Dantzler could build on his senior season at South Carolina and become a pretty good professional hitter. Of course, Bagwell's stance was unique and not necessarily something you wanted to teach other hitters.
After going undrafted as a Junior, Dantzler won't get overlooked again after his strong Senior season. As a hitter, Dantzler easily brings the best raw power I saw from the Gamecocks lineup. He's got strong quick wrists that allow for him to drive the ball deep to all fields when he squares up the ball. His swing mechanics won't win him any awards but he knows how to sit back and work the count. Despite the disciplined approach, there's a lot of swing and miss in his game and I particularly noticed an inability to catch up to advanced speeds when I saw him face off against Ryne Stanek in April.
I have my doubts whether he'll be able to make consistent contact in the upper levels of the minors which could stall his career as minor league depth. However, the power upside - I think he's capable of putting out 25 a year - and the ability to draw walks - which should at least give him respectable OBP numbers - should absolutely attract a team looking for a solid senior value sign. He's also versatile defensively, only committing 5 errors as a Junior playing third base before shifting over to first as a Senior.
High minor league first basemen
I like the improvement I've seen from Dantzler which leads me to believe he can continue to improve with a good coaching staff. Lyle Overbay is an outcome I could see for Dantzler.
Projected Draft Round
Dantzler would be a good fifth through 10th round selection because he's a senior, which means he will be signing and he will be signing for cheap allowing a team to save on that draft slot while still getting a pretty decent hitting prospect.
Will He Sign?
Because it's an awesome video!
Dantzler has added muscle in college, but does not look like a typical power hitter. He is 5-11 and 205 pounds — an inch shorter and 15 pounds lighter than Walker, who hit 30 homers in three seasons at USC. But since Nick Ebert hit 23 homers in 2009, Dantzler’s 15 this year are two better than any other Gamecock.
Comparing Dantzler and Walker is difficult. Dantzler is a lefty hitter, Walker a righty. Dantzler’s strikeout-to-walk ratio the past two seasons is 83-to-66. Walker’s in his final two seasons was 54-to-87. Dantzler this year has four more homers than Walker had last year.
Dantzler’s batting average is 11 points higher. His on-base plus slugging percentage is 1.093, to Walker’s .975.
Hard as it might have been to envision three years ago, Dantzler is filling USC’s power-hitting needs just fine, in his own way.