When Jacob Amaya was taken in the 11th round of the 2017 draft, the Dodgers had acquired an elite fielding shortstop and had also made a dream come true.
Dream Come True
Amaya grew up just 20 miles East of Dodger Stadium and had influences around him that bled Dodger Blue. Jacob’s grandpa, Frank Amaya, played in the Dodgers organization for the Great Falls Electrics in the 1950s and eventually made it as far as AAA with Seattle in his career. Frank also became one of the most popular and successful coaches in the Los Angeles area and was known as being “old school” tough and changed the lives of an unknown amount of Southern California baseball players.
So playing baseball and loving the Dodgers were two things that were simply born into the young Amaya.
When asked about growing up a Dodger fan then getting drafted by them, Amaya said it was a dream come true.
“It was pretty much a dream come true. My grandpa passed away so he didn’t get the chance to be with me on that but he was a big influence. We would always talk about Dodgers games and we’d always tune in the 7th inning when all the exciting stuff happens and we’d talk about baseball.”
Amaya has professional baseball in his bloodlines, was drafted by one of the most iconic organizations in all of sports, and plays the most visible position in the game. So, the “limelight” is something he will have to be able to handle. Having been recruited since he was just 14 years old, then playing in front of scouts his entire High School career, the “limelight” is something that Amaya has grown up with.
South Hills High School is well known for its baseball and producing draft picks. Throughout the years the Huskies have produced 8 major Leaguers, 25 draft picks, and in the same year Amaya got drafted, Karlos Morales, a South Hills teammate, got drafted as well.
In his Junior and Senior years at South Hills High School Amaya shined hitting .348 with an on-base percentage of .429.
When evaluating young players, the easiest thing for scouts to do is to measure a player’s tangible qualities. The statistics they put up and the physical skills they possess are all measurable and done so at length.
The hardest part of the evaluation process, however, is truly understanding the intangible qualities that a player possesses. Draft picks like Amaya all had wildly successful High School careers, so knowing how they will handle the failure that the professional game will present is, many times, a guessing game.
As good as Amaya’s talent is on the field, his qualities of confidence, work ethic, and perspective might be his best skill set. Amaya has an incredibly quick first step, great timing, and an “Ozzie Smith” type quick release. Those tangible qualities are measurably elite, but he also has worked tirelessly to perfect those qualities.
Amaya’s physical skills have been enhanced by the hard work he has put into his preparation and it has paid off in several different ways. He has shown that he can be rock-solid consistent, fielding .981 at High A Great Lakes, and he has also shown he can be very flashy as well.
The timing and footwork, leading up to fielding the ball in this video, is elite. Amaya attacks the ball aggressively, but then also times the hop and fields the ball with the left foot in front and he does it without slowing down.
To be able to attack the ball this aggressively while also timing it as well as Amaya did on this play takes a good amount of talent, but, also takes an equal amount of practice
The next step of this play is what created the accuracy of the throw. After the ball was fielded, Amaya was able to turn his shoulders to point to his target, first base, but did so while keeping his hips square to first. This is a movement that takes a good amount of flexibility, but also a larger amount of work.
One of Amaya’s biggest strengths on defense is his ability to throw the ball from all different angles but still be accurate and strong with his throws.
His ability to keep his hips square to his target while turning his shoulders, as you saw in the picture above, is why Jacob can throw from so many different angles and still be so accurate. He lets his body do the work, then just simply lets his arm follow. These techniques have, no question, been taught to Amaya and have taken an enormous amount of practice on the field and a lot of flexibility work in the weight room to perfect.
The scouting report on Amaya is that he has a high baseball IQ, gets good jumps, has a quick first step, very quick hands, can throw from any angle, and has a very quick release. Here’s a video to show you all these qualities all in one play.
On this play, Amaya had already taken 2 steps before the batter left the batters box and the amount of range he covered shows how aggressive he is attacking the ball. Amaya shows his quick release, this time over the top, and shows a plus arm for the position he threw from.
Once again, even as aggressive as Amaya was, he still fielded with his left foot in front, then turned his shoulders to his target while keeping his hips square.
These fundamentals on display should lead to Amaya being a fielder that is rock-solid consistent, but also with the ability to make ESPN Web Gem plays as well.
Amaya is an offensive player that is still trying to put all the pieces together. In 2018 he hit .311 with a .442 On-Base Percentage, but he only had 20 extra-base hits and 3 home runs.
In 2021 he has hit a career-high 12 home runs but his average has dropped to .225 and his on-base percentage is 53 points below his career average.
So, as you can see, all the pieces are there, they just need to be put together. He has shown the ability to hit for average and get on base, and he’s also shown the ability to hit home runs, but he hasn’t been able to do those things simultaneously.
I am a firm believer that this is what development in the Minor Leagues is all about. If players ascend through the ranks 1 step at a time, as Amaya has, they get the opportunity to branch out and find out everything they are capable of. Amaya has been given the developmental time to try and spread his wings to hit for more power and will add this year’s power surge to his baseball toolbox.
But, when it’s all said and done, and Amaya has put his offensive puzzle together, he wants to be a gap to gap line-drive hitter.
When asked about his power surge this year Amaya acknowledged that he has hit more homeruns this year but quickly noted that he didn’t think that was the kind of hitter he is.
“Yeah, I’ve hit more homeruns this year than I have in previous years, but I don’t think that’s the kind of guy I am. I’m more of a gap to gap hitter, so the homeruns are always a blesssing. But I haven’t really worked on hitting more homeruns, I’ve just gotten stronger in the weight room so I guess that just comes with it.”
While Amaya’s defensive mechanics are near flawless, his offensive mechanics grade out well too.
From stride to contact Amaya is a hitter that stays behind the ball and stays very centered.
His offensive mechanics, like defensively, should allow him to have consistency in being a line drive hitter while also having power around it.
Comparing Amaya’s swing to Mookie Betts is a pretty high standard, I understand that. But, from start to finish, they are very similar mechanically.
They load and stride the same, they get to slot the same and they leverage the same at contact.
Now, I’m not trying to say that Amaya will be a perennial MVP-type offensive player like Betts. I’m simply making this comparison to driving home how mechanically sound and capable he is. More proof of how well he has been taught and how hard he has worked to create his mechanical structures.
I-10 to LA?
As with every position in the Dodgers organization, Amaya faces an extreme amount of competition above him to make it to LA. But, being around baseball as much as he has, he’s learned to not worry about things he can’t control.
When asked what his goals as a Dodger were, Amaya said he just wants to keep being himself.
“I just want to keep doing what I’m doing and control what you can control, that’s pretty much what I go by everyday. Whatever they like is what they like, so I just have to keep doing what makes me and keep playing my game”
Amaya is a prospect that is ascending through the ranks one step at a time and has plenty of physical talent. But, hopefully, now you understand that his talent is just the beginning of his positive profile. The confidence, work ethic, swag, and overall perspective that Amaya has is beyond his years. And he has a dream that hopefully, these traits will make his dreams come true and that he will someday don the Big League Dodger Blue.