Last season it was difficult to watch Clearwater Threshers right fielder Jose Pujols bat. He struck out almost half the time. He slashed at only .194/.247/.305 while hitting eight homer runs after leading the Sally League with 24 long balls in 2016. The Phillies did not even bother to protect him from the Rule Five draft after last season because no other team wanted to take a chance on him.
This season has been different. With the same amount of at bats as all of last season right now, Jose has struck out only 119 times. Still high enough for second in the FSL but last season he fanned 150 times.
Making more contact this season, Pujols leads the FSL in total bases, third in home runs with 16, third in slugging and fourth with an .856 OPS. No more coaching first base as he did in part of August last season because he was reduced to spitting time with Jan Hernandez in right field.
After a slow start this season, the RBIs are starting to come. In Jose’s last ten games he has driven in 11 runs. In last night’s game he went 4 for 5 including a two-run homer to help the Threshers to a 6-3 win over the Mets farmhands from St. Lucie. He has raised his batting average at this point by a 100 points from last season to .295 going into the final 38 games of the season.
Pujol has struggled defensively this season committing nine errors in right field compared to only two errors in the outfield all last season. He has shown a strong arm with 10 outfield assists this season compared to only four assists last season.
If Pujols can match what he did in June over the final month of the season, he just might put himself back on some team’s prospect list. So far in July he is hitting only .241 even after last night’s game. He hit .351 with a .979 OPS in June.
The really big question for the rest of the season is whether Pujols is a June, .351 hitter or a July, .241 hitter. After last night’s game Jose looks ready to finish “strong” and return to major league prospect status.