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August 4, 2014

Minor League Update

Games of August 1-3

by Jeff Moore

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Friday, August 1st

Alex Yarbrough, 2B, Angels (Arkansas, AA): 3-4, 3B. Yarbrough took a somewhat expected step back this year after leaving the California League behind, but he’s still hitting the baseball, just not with as much authority. He still has very strong doubles power, which is part of a tool at least, and in the Angels system, that makes you worth mentioning. Still, his profile isn’t strong as a below-average defender who will need his bat to carry him.

Max Pentecost, C, Blue Jays (Vancouver, SS): 4-6, 2 R, 2B, SB. I’ve talked to scouts who believed Pentecost was a safe pick because he’d stick behind the plate whether he hit or not. I’ve also talked to scouts who liked the pick because he’d hit even if he couldn’t stay behind the plate. So far, he’s doing both.

Taylor Williams, RHP, Brewers (Wisconsin, A-): 7 IP, H, 0 R, 0 BB, 11 K. Reports have had Williams in the mid-90s this year, and he’s missing enough bats to back it up. More importantly, he’s throwing a ton of strikes to go with it. The knock on him is his size, but the stigma is fading on sub-six-foot right-handers. Williams’ breakout season this year gives the Brewers a legitimate pitching prospect.

Trevor Story, SS, Rockies (Tulsa, AA): 2-4, R, HR, K. Much like they were in his first try at Modesto, Story’s swing-and-miss issues have been exploited since his promotion to Double-A. He’s been significantly more patient at the plate this season, which is a good thing but will also contribute to his strikeout totals. They won’t be an issue if he slugs over .500 like he did in A-ball, but his inability to make consistent contact could prevent that from happening. His development could still take many paths.

Saturday, August 2nd

Matt Olson, OF, Athletics (Stockton, A+): 3-5, 3 R, 2B, HR, BB, K. This is pretty standard for Olson, what with the home run, strikeout, and walk and all, but what’s noteworthy about this outing is that Olson was in the outfield, something the A’s have had him doing lately. He’s not a terribly gifted athlete, so he’ll never be a plus defender at any position, but in prospect development, options are always a plus, so testing him out in the outfield can’t hurt. For what it’s worth, it doesn’t appear to be affecting his hitting, as he was back out there again on Sunday as well and again went 3-for-5 with a home run.

Franklin Barreto, SS, Blue Jays (Vancouver, SS): 2-5, 2 R, 2 HR, K. Barreto has flashy tools, especially at the plate, and decent power, especially for a guy who’s 5-foot-9. He may not stick at shortstop, but there’s no reason he can’t stay somewhere in the middle of the field. Regardless of where he ends up, he should hit.

Marco Gonzales, LHP, Cardinals (Memphis, AAA): 6 1/3 IP, 7 H, R, 0 BB, 7 K. Let’s not forget about Gonzales just because he was rushed to the majors and struggled. The Cardinals needed an arm and knew he could handle the task, if not by getting major league hitters out then by dealing with it when he didn’t. He’s back in Triple-A now, which would be an aggressive assignment in and of itself, and he’s holding his own, thanks to a plus-plus changeup that will continue to be his calling card at every level.

Julio Urias, LHP, Dodgers (Rancho Cucamonga, A+): 4 IP, 2 H, 0 R, BB, 6 K. I don’t know what to say about Urias that hasn’t already been said, other than that I can’t wait to see how he handles facing hitters a third and fourth time in a game. That’s the one challenge he has yet to face, let alone overcome. He’s been remarkable successful, albeit in short stints because of his delicate age. The Dodgers are handling him with caution, but I hope he doesn’t get to Triple-A before he’s allowed to pitch the seventh inning of a game.

Marcos Molina, RHP, Mets (Brooklyn, SS): 8 IP, 5 H, R, BB, 9 K. You want to put Urias in context? Molina is 19 and is dominating his competition in his first taste of baseball off the Mets complex, and yet he’s a year-and-a-half older than Urias and still two levels below him. And that’s not a knock on Molina, he’s exactly where he’s supposed to be and is pitching exceedingly well.

Jorge Alfaro, C, Rangers (Myrtle Beach, A+): 3-5, R, 2 2B, HR. In a similar amount of playing time as he received all of last year, Alfaro has put up remarkably similar numbers. That’s both a testament to his development and a product of his inability to adjust his approach at the plate. Alfaro has his flaws, namely an ultra-aggressive approach, but he gets the barrel on the ball enough to make it work and work with some pop. He’ll never be more than league average at getting on base, but with above-average power for a catcher and a great arm, it’ll be enough.

Sunday, August 3rd

Preston Tucker, OF, Astros (Oklahoma City, AAA): 2-5, 2 R, 2 HR, K. Tucker has done nothing but produce during his professional career, yet the knock continues to be whether or not it will continue against better competition. His production has dropped off in the early stages of his Triple-A stint, though not excessively, and the sample size is still small enough to be dramatically affected by a game like he had on Sunday, which raised his slugging percentage 34 points and got it back over the .400 mark.

Javier Baez, SS, Cubs (Iowa, AAA): 2-3, 3 R, 2 HR, 2 BB, K. We know about the power, but the walks are a great sign. Players draw walks in one of two ways—they lay off of pitches that are out of the zone that aren’t meant to be, or they lay off of pitches that were never intended for the strike zone in the first place. As soon as Baez realizes that half the pitchers he faces want no part of throwing him a strike, he’ll be a significantly better hitter. Triple-A pitchers weren’t afraid of him early in the season, and he chased their junk and struggled. Then he adjusted, hit a bunch of home runs and scared the crap out of them. Now they pitch to him more carefully and he’s back to normal. The same thing will happen when he gets to the majors, though the swings of the pendulum could be even more extreme.

D.J. Peterson, 3B, Seattle (Jackson, AA): 2-5, 2 R, 2B, HR. I tend to give little credence to worrying where a prospect will play, especially if it’s because he’s blocked by other prospects or veterans at the major league level. That said, Peterson is moving quickly; he’s handling a tough jump to Double-A as well as could be expected for a hitter in his first full pro season, and he should be in the Mariners’ major league plans soon. Many questioned his ability to stay at third base in the long run anyway, and Kyle Seager isn’t going anywhere, meaning Peterson probably has a shift across the diamond in his future. The Mariners haven’t said anything yet, but don’t be surprised to see him with a first baseman’s mitt in his bag this winter.

Michael Conforto, OF, Mets (Brooklyn, SS): 2-4, R, HR. Conforto has gotten his professional career off to a terrific start by dominating inferior competition, but his lack of power has gotten Mets fans into a frenzy, especially after witnessing the power outage that has plagued last year’s first-round pick Dominic Smith all year. Conforto put those worries to rest this weekend, getting off the schneid earlier in the weekend, and then backing it up with another bomb on Sunday.

Jeff Moore is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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