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August 25, 2014

Minor League Update

Games of August 22-24

by Jeff Moore

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Friday, August 22nd

Joc Pederson, OF, Dodgers (Albuquerque, AAA): 2-4, 3 R, HR, 2 BB, 2 K. This is the full monty from Pederson, with power, patience, and strikeouts all in one game. I’m not breaking new ground here: At this point, we know who Pederson is and what he can do, and he certainly has nothing left to prove in Triple-A. It’s just a matter of finding him at-bats in the majors.

Kyle Freeland, LHP, Rockies (Asheville, A+): 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, BB, 6 K. Freeland’s experience, stuff, and, most importantly, his pitchability have been a torturous combination for the minor leagues since he was selected eighth overall this June. He’s now given up one run in four full-season appearances and should be able to move quickly through the Rockies system as an advanced college arm.

Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers (Chattanooga, AA): 2-5, R, 2 2B, 2 K. Seager has handled the move to Double-A incredibly well, though it’s probably at least a partial red flag that an already aggressive hitter has seen his walk rate drop in half (albeit in a small sample) and his home run power doesn’t seem to have made the trip with him just yet. This means he’s getting by on a lot of singles finding open spaces at a rate he can’t possibly sustain. That said, I’m nitpicking. Regardless of a little luck, he’s 20 and is hitting .347 in Double-A with an already established strong track record, and while the ball may not be carrying over the fenc,e, the doubles power is still intact. Corey Seager is going to be just fine.

Dalton Pompey, OF, Blue Jays (Buffalo, AAA): 2-3, 3 R, 2 K, 2 SB. The emergence of Pompey this season has been one of the more fun storylines to follow in the prospect world, as the former 16th-round pick has turned himself into a future everyday player for the Blue Jays. He probably won’t hit in the middle of the Jays major-league lineup, but he can be a solid table-setter on a competitive team and play up the middle. The Blue Jays would probably like to see him spend some more time in Triple-A next season, but he should be the long-term solution if Colby Rasmus leaves this offseason.

Saturday, August 23rd

Jorge Soler, OF, Cubs (Iowa, AAA): 5-5, 3 R, 2B, 3B, BB. Everyone is wondering when or if Kris Bryant will get a call-up this September, but there’s probably a better chance that Soler will get a taste of the big leagues this season. With a major-league contract that’s already in effect regardless of service time, there’s no reason for the Cubs to hold him off for anything other than baseball-related reasons, and he’s quickly eliminating those from their minds. It’s more than just the prodigious power; he’s showing a good all-around feel for hitting.

Tim Anderson, SS, White Sox (Birmingham, AA): 4-6, 2 R, 2B. Anderson has been red-hot since his return from the DL (fractured wrist) and subsequent jump to Double-A, where he had seven hits in his first two games before an 0-fer on Sunday. Anderson is a supremely talented athlete who is still learning how to best utilize that talent on a baseball field and thus probably won’t remain at shortstop, especially if the White Sox continue to move him quickly, something they have a propensity to do with top prospects. His offensive game, while full of potential, needs refinement, as evidenced by his 73-to-9 K:BB ratio this season. Still, the athletic package and tools are second to none.

Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians (Columbus, AAA): 4-4, R, HR, CS. It’s when, not if, for Lindor, and it’s hard to believe that when won’t be sometime in the next week when the major-league rosters expand. He is the Indians shortstop of the present and future, and his glove alone will keep him in the lineup for the next decade. The offensive output will determine the difference between regular and All-Star.

Maikel Franco, 3B, Phillies (Lehigh Valley, AAA): 4-4, 2 R, 2B, 3B, HR. Yes, that’s a cycle for the not-so-fleet-of-foot Franco, who has put together a strong two months to turn his season from disastrous to just disappointing. He’s always going to be a streaky hitter because of his wild approach (he hasn’t walked in August), but he’s hot now, which could earn him a September call-up for a Phillies organization looking for something to look forward to.

Trea Turner, SS, Padres (Fort Wayne, A-): 1-2, R, 2 BB, K. 3 SB. Stolen-base totals can be suspect in the minor leagues, especially in the low minors where pitchers are still learning to hold runners properly and a large portion of the catchers will eventually move off of the position. But they’re also a large part of Turner’s game and a significant source of his value. He’s shown a strong ability thus far to get on base and create havoc, which is what the Padres were looking for when they selected him 13th overall in June.

Julio Urias, LHP, Dodgers (Rancho Cucamunga, A+): 5 1/3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 9 K. What Urias is doing this season is simply stupid. He’s only five years older than some of the kids you just watched in the Little League World Series, but he’s dominating the toughest pitchers’ league in the minors. Yes, he needs to throw more strikes, but so do all 18-year-olds. He’ll get there.

Sunday, August 24th

Nick Gordon, SS, Twins (Elizabeth, R): 4-4, 2 R, SB, CS. Going from high school to pro ball can be a tough transition, even for the son of a former big leaguer, but Gordon’s big day gets him up to .296 on the Appalachian League season. More power will come as he learns the nuances of the pro game, but he’s off to a solid initial campaign.

Dixon Machado, SS, Tigers (Erie, AA): 4-4, R, HR. Days like this will be considered a bonus if Machado ever sees regular playing time with the Tigers. He’s simply not an impact hitter, though he does show some decent on-base skills, and any career he has will be thanks to his glove. He’ll carve out a role in the majors, but he won’t help the Tigers offensive woes at shortstop.

J.P. Crawford, SS, Phillies (Clearwater, A+): 2-4, 2 R, 2 HR. Walks and strikeouts aren’t the end all, be all when it comes to prospects, but I mention them a lot because they are good indicators of how a player is handling a level. Crawford struggled when he first got to Clearwater, but even despite his struggles he maintained a K:BB ratio close to 1-to-1, which means he was probably never all that far off.

Kyle Schwarber, OF, Cubs (Daytona, A+): 2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, BB. It was a hell of a weekend for Schwarber, who had homered in four straight games before going off for two on Sunday and raising his batting average 31 points over that stretch. The Cubs finally found a level that could challenge Schwarber for a few weeks after watching him terrorize the low minors like Godzilla roaming the streets of Japan, but like a true prospect, he made the necessary adjustments and figured things out. He drives the ball with authority and controls the strike zone well, two things that are difficult to teach. He can even catch in a pinch, though he’s playing more left field than anywhere else, which is a testament to how quickly the Cubs believe his bat will move. He’s a legitimate middle-of-the-order hitter.

Jeff Moore is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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