MLB Draft Video: Denis Karas

Now-former California third baseman Denis Karas has signed with the Miami Marlins. Slot money for his pick is an estimated $133,900. The Marlins are getting a smooth-fielding third baseman with a short, quick stroke at the plate, and potentially massive power, given his size.

The end of Karas’s season with the Bears — going 2-for-22 with 8 strikeouts in his final six games — distorts what he did, offensively, in his final campaign in Berkeley, but also provides an instructive look into the flaws that will have to be beaten out in the minor leagues.… Karas co-led the Pac-12 with 12 home runs, but hit .242. He regularly showed an ability to shorten up and go to right field, but when he’s pressing, he gets pull happy, his swing gets long and he jumps at off speed pitches. To reference “A League of Their Own,” he also likes the high ones, as it were — high fastballs are another color of kryptonite to Karas.

The troubles that I observed with Karas at the plate are analogous to those that plagued another Marlins draft pick out of Cal — Aaron Knapp — last season. Simply put: Inconsistency. Knapp’s swing got a bit long, and his beat-it-into-the-ground game plan went out the window. Karas hit like gangbusters in the fall, and hit fourth almost the entire year behind Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Andrew Vaughn, so the pressure was on him most of the year to deliver. The discipline to keep an opposite-field approach late in counts, and the ability to shorten up and not try to win the game with one swing are crucial parts of the mental game that he still has to develop.

That said, approaches can be taught, and Karas, when he’s going right, is a dangerous bat, with a repeatable, simple, short stroke. In a small sample size (2016), Karas didn’t have the responsibility of protecting a freshman No. 3 hitter, and didn’t have the heavy task of taking over for a hitter like Mitchell Kranson (recently called up to Advanced-A in the Minnesota Twins system). In as close to a psychological vacuum as he’s played in, Karas hit .319 with a .597 slugging percentage, with 5 doubles, 5 home runs and 18 RBIs in 29 games (15 starts) and an on-base percentage of .402.

For a two-week span this season, Karas re-captured that, getting hits in nine of 11 games, and going 15-for-47 (.319) with 11 RBIs, 5 home runs and 2 doubles as the Bears went 7-4. During that run, he hit a home run against USC over the Evans Diamond scoreboard in left center field, and onto the top of the Kleeberger Fieldhouse roof — a shot that landed about 375 feet away on top of a 40-plus-foot-tall building.

In the field, Karas has plus hands and plus arm strength, though accuracy can get dodgy at times. He’s quicker than he is fast, but he’s athletic with very quick feet. He didn’t make an error for his first two seasons, but made 8 this year, for a .948 fielding percentage. He doesn’t have a ton of range, but adeptly navigated a tough Evans Diamond infield that’s filled with odd hops and strange bounces.

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