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August 1, 2014

Minor League Update

Games of Thursday, July 31

by Jeff Moore

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Hitter of the Night: Javier Baez, 2B, Cubs (Iowa, AAA): 3-5, R, HR, K.
Baez his flaws, as does just about every hitter not named Mike Trout, but he’s officially out of whatever slump was slowing him down in April. We’re going to have to put up with some low OBPs, but we do it for Adam Jones, and no one seems to mind. No one seems too mad at Yoenis Cespedes, either. And neither of them is playing second base, where power is scarce.

Pitcher of the Night: Lucas Giolito, RHP, Nationals (Hagerstown, A-): 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, BB, 6 K.
There’s a reason why we ranked Giolito as the best pitching prospect in baseball despite him being in Low-A. No pitcher in the minors can match his fastball/curveball combination, and as he gains experience, he’s learning how to set hitters up and unleash his weapons properly. His changeup has also made good progress this season.

Best of the Rest

Jorge Lopez, RHP, Brewers (Brevard County, A+): 7 IP, 5 H, R, 3 BB, 8 K. I’ve talked before about Lopez’s lack of a changeup and how I think he’ll eventually make a nice reliever. Now let’s talk about how impressive it is that he’s able to go out and pitch like this while traveling back and forth to Miami to help care for a sick newborn. Absolutely incredible, and a sobering reminder of the human element we so often forget.

Bruce Caldwell, 2B, Cardinals (Palm Beach, A+): 2-3, 2 R, HR, K. Caldwell is the type of player you have to see for an extended period of time to appreciate. The tools don’t jump out at you, mostly because he doesn’t have any that grade out as better than average, but he holds his own at both second and third base and has a little pop in his bat. It’s not enough to be an everyday third baseman, but it would be average power at second base. At best, it’s probably a utility profile, but a left-handed stick that can play a few positions and hit a home run every now and then isn’t a bad profile, especially for a 15th-round pick.

Rafael Montero, RHP, Mets (Las Vegas, AAA): 6 2/3 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K. Montero has been uncharacteristically wild this season, but I wouldn’t want to throw a ball anywhere near the plate in Vegas either. He’s not quite on the level of fellow prospect Noah Syndergaard, but he’s ready for another shot in the majors whenever the Mets have a spot for him in their rotation. He still profiles as a mid-rotation to back-end starter.

Michael Taylor, OF, Nationals (Harrisburg, AA): 2-4, 2 R, HR, BB, K. Home runs, strikeouts, walks, stolen bases. That’s Taylor’s game, and he does them all well. Twenty years ago, we’d just assume that his contact issues would keep him out of an everyday lineup, but we simply don’t worry about strikeouts the way we used to as long as there’s enough power and plate discipline to go along with them. When we can factor in speed and up-the-middle defense into the equation, it leaves us with a pretty solid player.

Franchy Cordero, SS, Padres (Eugene, SS): 3-5, 2 R, HR, K, 2 SB. After an impressive spring, Cordero struggled with an aggressive assignment to Low-A Fort Wayne. Simply put, he wasn’t ready to make the jump to full-season ball, which isn’t really a knock on him. He’s showing the talent that made the Padres believe he could handle it now that he’s at an appropriate level in Eugene.

Aaron Nola, RHP, Phillies (Clearwater, A+): 5 IP, 2 H, R, BB, 8 K. The jump all the way from college to the Florida State League is a big one, and it hasn’t been all smooth sailing for Nola, but he’s getting comfortable and gaining consistency. He’s pounding the strike zone and taking advantage of less-talented hitters, setting himself up to start his first full season in Double-A next year.

Jose Osuna, 1B, Pirates (Bradenton, A+): 3-5, 2 R, 2 HR, K. Osuna is a one-dimensional player who needs every bit of his raw power to play in games in order to have a chance to develop. That hasn’t happened now in two full seasons in the Florida State League, and even though it’s a tough league for hitters, a .438 SLG isn’t going to get it done.

Travis Demeritte, 2B, Rangers (Hickory, A-): 3-5, 3 R, 2 HR, 2 K. Some organizations stockpile arms. Others, like the Cubs apparently, collect shortstops. The Rangers love their second basemen. Demeritte, the 30th overall pick last season, has struggled with his plate discipline, resulting in high strikeout totals and a low batting average, but he has 23 home runs on the season, so he’s managed to be incredibly productive anyway. He may not stay at second base, and the Rangers have moved him all over the infield, but his power should play somewhere if he can refine his approach.

Ryan McMahon, 3B, Rockies (Asheville, A-): 3-4, 4 R, 2 2B, HR, K. It will be fascinating to see how McMahon makes the transition away from a notoriously hitter-friendly home park in Asheville (not that things will be too much tougher in the California League) next season, but there’s no denying his power production at third base.

Fight Another Day

Lance McCullers, Jr., RHP, Astros (Lancaster, A+): 5 IP, 12 H, 8 R, 3 BB, 2 K. McCullers has a fastball/curveball combination that can rival just about anyone’s in the minors (though not Giolito’s), but his lack of control and inability to develop a third pitch likely makes him a reliever down the road. The Astros won’t make that switch just yet, but it’s coming if he continues to struggle the way he has this season.

Aaron Blair, RHP, Diamondbacks (Mobile, AA): 4 2/3 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 3 BB, 6 K. Blair survived the California League and hit the ground running in Mobile through his first two starts, but he hit a bump in the road on Thursday. His peripherals and performance have generally been good, however, so there’s not much reason for concern.

Kyle Crick, RHP, Giants (Richmond, AA): 1 IP, 4 H, 5 R (4 ER), BB, K. It appeared that Crick was turning things around recently, throwing more strikes and working deeper into ball games. Throwing strikes wasn’t the problem on Thursday, but throwing good strikes was. Even as his control improves, his command is still lacking (there’s a big difference between the two), and it’s going to be the difference between him being a starter and a reliever.

Notable Pitching Performances

  • Zach Lee, RHP, Dodgers (Albuquerque, AAA): 6 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 3 K.
  • Edwin Escobar, LHP, Red Sox (Pawtucket, AAA): 6 IP, 5 H, R, BB, 5 K.
  • Ben Lively, RHP, Reds (Pensacola, AA): 7 1/3 IP, 2 H, 2 R, BB, 6 K.

Jeff Moore is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jeff's other articles. You can contact Jeff by clicking here

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