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August 11, 2014

Minor League Update

Games of August 8-10

by Jeff Moore

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Friday, August 8th

Charlie Tilson, OF, Cardinals (Springfield, AA): 2-4, 2 R, HR, BB. Power isn’t Tilson’s game, but it’s important that he runs into one every now and then just to keep pitchers honest. He’s got just enough power to keep pitchers from taking advantage of him and can turn on inside pitches enough to creep up on double-digit homers.

Jorge Soler, OF, Cubs (Iowa, AAA): 2-3, 3 R, 2B, HR, 2 BB, K. Soler could learn a lot from coach/teammate Manny Ramirez, a former immensely talented yet sometimes troubled player. No one is doubting Soler’s talent, but he’s had some hustle-related issues that the Cubs may not want to reward with a call-up. Still, he doesn’t appear to be getting too much of a challenge in the minor leagues. He’ll probably see some time in the majors this year.

Joc Pederson, OF, Dodgers (Albuquerque, AAA): 3-4, 2 R, HR, BB, SB. I get asked often whether Pederson’s season is a product of playing in the Pacific Coast League. As with so many great PCL seasons, we don’t really know the answer. Pederson’s power is real, and he’s proven that in less-hitter-friendly places like the Double-A Southern League last season. His speed and plate discipline are for real too, as he’s always run well and worked deep into counts. The PCL inflates numbers for sure, but Pederson is ready to be a major league contributor no matter where he plays.

J.P. Crawford, SS, Phillies (Clearwater, A+): 3-4, 2 R, 2 HR, K. SB. After a rough start in the Florida State League, Crawford has adapted nicely and is actually showing off more power in a tough league for hitters without sacrificing control of the strike zone.

Raul Mondesi, SS, Royals (Wilmington, A+): 2-5, 2 R, 3B, HR. Mondesi will likely never be a big power hitter, but it’s important to see him driving the ball with some authority toward the end of what has been a disappointing season with the bat. It’s not that he’s not capable of putting a charge into the ball so much as he doesn’t put himself in good hitting situations regularly because of his free-swinging approach and tendency to bunt for hits. He also homered on Saturday and Sunday, giving him three straight games with a blast and more than doubling his total on the season.

Saturday, August 9th

Clint Coulter, C, Brewers (Wisconsin, A-): 3-4, 2 R, 2 HR, BB. Coulter got off to a red-hot start, hitting .324 in April with a 1.065 OPS, but he’s settled back into a more realistic groove since, posting an OPS in the .880s in the following three months. That’s about where Coulter is going to sit, racking up some strikeout numbers mainly thanks to his tendency to work deep counts. That also keeps his on-base skills up regardless of how he’s hitting, something that should help keep him from being subject to wild swings in production.

Jorge Alfaro, C, Rangers (Frisco, AA): 4-5, 2 R, HR. It’s basically been a long-weekend thus far in Frisco for Alfaro, with six games under his belt at the Double-A level by weekend’s end and far too small of a sample size to determine how he will handle the challenge. So far, it’s been so good, as Alfaro has been on fire in August to combat a slow July. Still, despite the slow month, the Rangers saw it fit to push Alfaro for the remainder of the season. Some players respond to the challenge, and it will be interesting to see how the aggressive Alfaro responds to more advanced Double-A pitching the remainder of the year.

Hobbs Johnson, LHP, Brewers (Brevard County, A+): 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 5 K. Seven strong innings were enough for Johnson to earn the complete game victory on Saturday in a shortened contest. Short is also an appropriate description for the 5-foot-11 lefty with underwhelming stuff. Johnson sits in the high-80s with a decent fastball/changeup combination. He doesn’t miss a ton of bats, but he’s been highly effective this year in generating bad contact, making the most out of his limited profile.

Marcos Molina, RHP, Mets (Brooklyn, SS): 6 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 11 K. Saturday represented the hardest Molina has been hit around this season, but he also missed a slew of bats, so he was doing something right. Molina is striking out a ton of batters—more than one per inning—while also throwing a ton of strikes, which is all you can ask for from a young pitcher in his first year competing off of his team’s complex.

Dominic Smith, 1B, Mets (Savannah, A-): 2-4, 2 R, 2B, HR, 2 K. Smith projects to have above-average power and shows it off in its raw form in batting practice, but he made it to this point in his first full season without seeing it manifest itself in game action. He’s now on the board and there should be more to come, though with a first-base-only profile, he’ll need to make big strides in that department.

Sunday, August 10th

Daniel Norris, LHP, Blue Jays (Buffalo, AAA): 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, BB, 10 K. Norris has ridden his fastball/slider combination all the way to the upper levels of the minor leagues this season, with Buffalo representing his third stop along the way. He’s missed bats in droves at every stop and showed no sign of slowing down in his first Triple-A start on Sunday. He’s still got a ways to go to become a complete pitcher, including the development of the changeup he’ll need in the majors, but for now he’s able to get by with two potential plus pitches.

Taijuan Walker, RHP, Mariners (Tacoma, AAA): 7 IP, 2 H, R, BB, 13 K. It’s been an inconsistent season for Walker as he’s battled back from injury, but this is the prospect we’ve come to know and love. An outing like this could be the stepping-stone he needs to rejoin the Mariners big-league rotation for the stretch run.

Trea Turner, SS, Padres (Fort Wayne, A-): 3-5, 2 R, HR, 2 K. Much like Tilson’s, Turner’s game revolves around speed, but he should have just enough pop in his bat to keep pitchers from taking advantage. He won’t hit a lot of home runs, and what power he does have will be partly speed-driven, but for right now, he’s racking up doubles and sneaking one over the fence every now and then.

Jeff Moore is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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