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July 21, 2014

Minor League Update

Games of July 18-20

by Jeff Moore

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Friday, July 18

James Ramsey, OF, Cardinals (Springfield, AA): 2-4, R, HR, BB, K. As though the Cardinals needed more well-developed hitting prospects, they are beginning to see yet another former first-round pick develop into something on which they can rely. Ramsey, once thought to be more of a fourth outfielder, is seeing his power production increase in Double-A this season without any diminishing effects on the rest of his offensive output.

Javier Baez, 2B, Cubs (Iowa, AAA): 2-5, 2 R, HR. Anytime Baez homers, it’s noteworthy, but the most notable thing about this game was his position on the other side of second base. The Cubs are looking for ways to get all of their young talents into the lineup together, and using Baez at second base is an idea they toyed with this spring. At the very least, it gives them more flexibility and options going forward. At the risk of being incomplete, Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber also homered on Friday, but I can’t do an entire Cubs section of the Update twice in a row. It’s getting ridiculous what the Cubs have to offer these days.

Joc Pederson, OF, Dodgers (Albuquerque, AAA): 2-4, 2 R, HR, BB, SB. Even high-priced teams like the Dodgers need cheap production from young players, and Pederson is the best, and one of the few, internal options who could provide such production. Still, it’s going to take at least one, and possibly two, salary-dump moves to create room for him. If the Dodgers want to add to their lineup down the stretch this season, the major league-ready Pederson is by far their best trade chip. Pederson also homered on Saturday as well, just to put to rest any lingering doubts about his shoulder injury from a few weeks ago.

Hunter Harvey, RHP, Orioles (Delmarva, A-): 5 IP, 2 H, R, 0 BB, 8 K. The Orioles knew Harvey was a top talent, but even they probably didn’t expect the level of refinement that he’s shown in his game this season. His fearlessness on the mound allows him to attack hitters and helps his already-plus stuff to play up even further.

Alex Gonzalez, RHP, Rangers (Frisco, AA): 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 4 K. Chi Chi doesn’t have the highest ceiling, but the Rangers have yet to find a level challenging enough for him in professional baseball, as he cruises through the Texas League with the same amount of ease as his time in the Carolina League.

Saturday, July 19

Michael Feliz, RHP, Astros (Quad Cities, A-): 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 8 K. The Astros are still part-time piggybacking Feliz, but he’s being allowed to work deeper and deeper into games when his performance warrants it, which is becoming more and more frequent. He continues to miss bats as he finishes what should be viewed as a successful first foray into full-season ball.

Archie Bradley, RHP, Diamondbacks (Mobile, AA): 7 IP, 3 H, 2 R, BB, 10 K. It’s been a quiet season for Bradley, who has battled injuries and inconsistent play, but Saturday’s outing featured season highs in innings and strikeouts, perhaps signaling that a strong finish to the season is coming. Those who were calling for Bradley in the majors at the start of this season were badly mistaken, as the big right-hander still has a ways to go with his overall command, especially with the fastball, before he can challenge major league hitters on a consistent basis. The fastball/curveball combination is still among the best in the minors, but this season has forced us to take a step back and look at the difference between his ceiling and current levels of production.

Justin Nicolino, LHP, Marlins (Jacksonville, AA): 6 IP, 6 H, 2 R (0 ER), 0 BB, 5 K. There’s pitching to contact, then there’s what Nicolino is doing this year. His five-strikeout performance on Saturday represents a season-high, bringing him to 4.2 K/9 on the season. He’s never been a swing-and-miss guy, but that’s an unsustainably low rate that he’ll need to improve on to reach his ceiling as a back-end guy.

Lucas Giolito, RHP, Nationals (Hagerstown, A-): 5 1/3 IP, 4 H, 2 R, BB, 9 K. Despite actively working on things, like the development of his secondary offerings, during games, Giolito continues to dominate. The Nationals are likely to take it slow with Giolito, and he’s young enough to spend a full season at every level, but if they wanted to challenge him with a late-season promotion to the Carolina League, he could absolutely handle it.

Sunday, July 20

Josh Hader, LHP, Astros (Lancaster, A+): 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, BB, 7 K. Compared to some of the big name prospects the Astros reportedly asked for in return for Bud Norris, Hader could, in hindsight, look like a bit of a disappointment. In that unrealistic context, perhaps that’s true, but the Astros should end up being pleased with their return, if they are not already. Hader has a major league arm, the role of which is still being determined, but his impressive handling of the California League bodes well for his future development.

Addison Russell, SS, Cubs (Tennessee, AA): 2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, BB, K. Whether it was the added pressure of being traded for, or joining such a deep system, or the whirlwind of switching leagues and teams, or just a simple slump, Russell had been in a bit of a funk since joining his new organization. That ended on Sunday with authority, showing just how quickly the cream rises to the top. Great talents like Russell don’t stay down for long.

Spencer Kieboom, C, Nationals (Hagerstown, A-): 2-5, R, 2B, HR, K. With a tremendously great name, it’s easy to like Kieboom, but he also has a few things to offer that aren’t on the back of his jersey. The free-swinging Kieboom will get himself out a lot, but when he makes contact, he features better power potential than most catchers. He’s still learning how to drive the ball over the fence with regularity, but the doubles power is legitimate and could be a sign of things to come.

Eric Jagielo, 3B, Yankees (Tampa, A+): 2-4, R, HR, K. Jagielo has average natural power, so when he gets his pitch to hit, he can put a drive into the ball, but his swing is very one-dimensional and he’s susceptible to attack in a number of different ways. Because of his raw talent, he’s going to put up some decent counting numbers, but in an extended look this weekend, the former first-round pick was the least impressive among the big four Tampa hitting prospects.

Jeff Moore is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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