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July 4, 2006

Future Shock

Division Roundup, NL West

by Kevin Goldstein

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Arizona Diamondbacks

  • Triple-A Tucson (5-5 in last ten games; 51-33 overall)

    Despite the complete freefall of the Diamondbacks, they're still just three games out of first place, which means we are still unsure as to whether the plethora of big name prospects at Tucson will be showing up in Arizona this year or next. That said, there has been some stagnation. After a great start, shortstop Stephen Drew hit just .224 in June with one home run, and is at .283/.340/.443 overall. Outfielder Carlos Quentin (.285/.410/.470) continues to reach base like a machine, but the power (7 home runs in 281 at-bats) is a disappointment. There is good news on the mound, however, as 2005 draftee Micah Owings excelled in a surprisingly aggressive opening day assignment at Tennessee, and is 4-0 in his first four Pacific Coast League starts. The former two-way star at Tulane is also batting .316/.308/.500 at the plate with 11 RBI in 38 at-bats. Meanwhile in the bullpen, reliever Tony Pena--the former Adriano Rosario who was a highly-publicized age-gate/buscando story a couple of years back--has a 0.89 ERA in 17 games with six saves, thriving now that he's out of the rotation and can focus on his fastball/slider combination.

  • Double-A Tennessee (6-4; 40-44)

    While the Smokies averaged fewer than four runs per game in June, there is some good news in the form of resurgent corner infielder Jamie D'Antona, who starred with Quentin and Conor Jackson in the California League two years ago but has done little since. After hitting just nine home runs in 144 Double-A games entering the season, the former Wake Forest star is batting .278/.362/.488 with 12 long balls. Now if only outfielder Jon Zeringue (.217/.289/.310), who hit just .192 in June with exactly one extra-base hit, could also find his stroke. On the mound, righthander Garret Mock has always owned some of the best stuff in the organization, and his performance might be finally catching up after quality starts in six of his last seven outings.

  • High Class A Lancaster (6-4; 38-41)

    As hot as Carlos Gonzalez has been, shortstop Mark Reynolds has been even hotter, batting .336/.422/.660 while leading the California League in home runs (21) and RBI (71). At 23, Reynolds is a little old for the league, and few scouts see him staying at shortstop or maintaining this level of production as he moves up. With lefty Matt Chico and righty Matt Green moving up to Double-A, there is almost nothing left pitching-wise, as evidenced by a 6.36 team ERA in June. Righthander Kellen Raab's numbers almost look like a mistake, with a 7.86 ERA in 16 starts while allowing a whopping 139 hits in 79 innings. That's a .392 opponent average.

  • Low Class A South Bend (8-2; 42-35)

    Outfielder Justin Upton's numbers aren't bad at .278/.346/.410, but everyone expected more. We thought he'd have more than five home runs in 234 at-bats, we thought he'd have more than eight stolen bases, we thought we'd be wondering about a promotion to the California League by now. 23-year-old catcher Frank Curreri got some big money as a late pick, and he's not without skills, batting .285/.411/.415. At the same time, he's been injury prone and is well behind the development curve. You always have to root for a 50th-round draft pick, and reliever Kyler Newby, the team's final pick in 2004, is the new closer for the Silver Hawks, with a 1.47 ERA in 10 games and 26 strikeouts in 18.1 innings.

  • Short-season Yakima (3-11)

    One easy way to lose 11 of 14 games is to bat .211/.289/.295 as a team in the Northwest League. At least third-round pick Cyle Hankerd (.358/.414/.453) is holding up his end of the deal.

  • Rookie-level Missoula (6-7)

    Jason Neighborgall continues to flash the incredibly frustrating combination of some of the best raw stuff in the minors, and absolutely the worst control. In 4.1 innings, Neighborgall has struck out seven, but he also has a 14.54 ERA thanks to ten walks and eight wild pitches.

Colorado Rockies

  • Triple-A Colorado Springs (3-7; 34-50)

    Ryan Shealy (.291/.357/.592) has been the best performer on a pretty bad team, but he's blocked by Todd Helton and as a nearly 27-year-old one dimensional slugger, he doesn't have much trade value... not that the Rockies aren't trying. The best prospect on the team now is catcher Chris Iannetta, who had a huge half-season in Tulsa and is 6-for-21 with a home run and three walks so far at Triple-A. In his last five starts for Tulsa, righthander Ubaldo Jimenez gave up just one run and 10 hits in 32 innings, but his debut with the SkySox lost that momentum, as the 22-year-old Domincan gave up six runs on nine hits in 5.1 innings.

  • Double-A Tulsa (5-5; 46-34)

    It's been a tough run for the system's top two prospects of late. Third baseman Ian Stewart (.261/.339/.452) continues to just be pretty mediocre, as his regressing ratios are becoming a concern.

    2004 Lo-A  16.8    7.7
    2005 Hi-A  25.6    8.4
    2006 AA    52.2   10.9

    Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is also in a funk, batting just .217 in June to drop his season averages to .275/.346/.463. After batting .332/.418/.605 last year at Modesto, outfielder Joe Gaetti continues to hit (.298/.378/.548), but he's nearly 25 years old and limited to left field. With Jimenez moving on, the most interesting arm might be Panamanian closer Manny Corpas, who has a 0.98 ERA in 34 appearances and a 35/4 K/BB ratio thanks mostly to excellent command of a low-to-mid 90s fastball.

  • High Class A Modesto (2-8; 36-43)

    It's a non-descript team with a non-descript record. Outfielder Matt Miller (.303/.363/.472) is the team's top hitter, and was the South Atlantic League MVP last year, but he's a fringy prospect at best thanks to his age and limited defensive skills. The Rockies system has more raw-armed pitchers than most, and righthander Franklin Morales is the poster boy for them, as he has more than a strikeout per inning with 88 in 82.2 innings, but also has 47 walks, 10 hit batters and 13 wild pitches.

  • Low Class A Asheville (6-4; 42-39)

    Outfielder Dexter Fowler has the best tools in the system and has returned after missing more than a month with an ankle injury, and that's good news: he leads the team in OPS at .310/.382/.495 in what is that system's breakout performance of the year. Shortstop Chris Nelson--the team's top pick in 2004--has rebounded nicely from last year's nightmare to hit .280/.344/.441. 2005 first-round pick Chaz Roe joined the rotation in mid-May, but he's been hit hard in eight starts, giving up 49 hits in 42.2 innings with a 4.22 ERA.

  • Short-Season Tri-City (6-8)

    Righthander Shane Lindsay just keeps rolling along, as the 21-year-old Aussie has 25 strikeouts in 16 innings while allowing just four hits.

  • Rookie-level Casper (2-11)

    Outfielder Kevin Clark (.250/.375/.350), a sixth-round pick last June, has tons of raw power, a good feel for the strike zone, and a long swing (14 Ks in 40 AB).

Los Angeles Dodgers

  • Triple-A Las Vegas (4-6; 42-42)

    With all the injury fill-ins at the big league level, there isn't much left to talk about here, although infielder Willy Aybar may have a bit of big league-itis, going 4-for-32 (.125) since his return. The same might be true for first baseman/third baseman/left fielder/we don't know where to put him Joel Guzman, who is 12-for-50 with 15 whiffs since coming down. Lefthander Greg Miller had some minor control issues at Jacksonville that have become major ones with the Stars, as the former top prospect has given out 17 free passes in 17.1 innings.

  • Double-A Jacksonville (4-6; 54-30)

    In a bit of a domino effect, the Jacksonville roster has been raided by Las Vegas as they've lost their players to the major leagues. The best position prospect still around is slick-fielding shortstop Chin-lung Hu, who has slumped to .261/.333/.322. After that, we're stuck talking about guys like Brad Cresse and Craig Brazell. Closer Mark Alexander has a 0.77 ERA in 30 games with 55 strikeouts in 35 innings, but he's a weird one who pitches semi-backwards--using a nice slider to keep hitters off balance when he throws his average heater.

  • High Class A Vero Beach (3-7; 29-49)

    Second baseman Blake DeWitt is having a strange season in that he's coming into his power with six home runs in his last 15 games, and he's drawing walks at an unprecedented rate, yet he's also batting .213 in his last 25 games and .266/.343/.409 overall. Also on the strange front is injury-plagued first baseman Cory Dunlap, who has a .223/.402/.415 line thanks to 39 walks and seven home runs in 130 at-bats. On the pitching side of things the Dodgers have another elite arm coming up with power lefty Scott Elbert, who has allowed three runs in his last six outings while striking out 13.5 per nine.

  • Low Class A Columbus (5-5; 42-39)

    At .285/.442/.556, 2005 third-round pick Sergio Pedroza is positioning himself as a future Three True Outcomes hero. In 277 at-bats, Pedroza has 17 home runs, 64 walks and 79 strikeouts. As a player coming out of a big time college program (Cal State Fullerton), Pedroza needs a stronger challenge. Jonathan Meloan didn't join the Catfish until late May, but the 2005 fifth-round pick has been ridiculous as the team's new closer, allowing four hits in 17.1 innings and striking out 33.

  • Rookie-level Ogden (7-6)

    One of the top high school pitchers in Maryland state history, 2005 13th-round pick Steven Johnson has been missing bats left and right with the Raptors. After whiffing nine in 4.1 innings in his first start of the year, he whiffed eight in six one-hit innings in start number two and had a career-high 10 in seven shutout innings on Sunday.

  • Rookie-Level GCL Dodgers (9-2)

    2006 first-round pick Clayton Kershaw made his season debut last week, striking out three in two shutout innings.

San Diego Padres

  • Triple-A Portland (4-6; 40-43)

    Yes, Jack Cust is still around, and yes, he can still rake, as evidenced by his .292/.458/.528 averages. No, he's not a prospect, especially in a national league organization, where gloves are also required. Paul McAnulty (.321/.410/.538) and Jon Knott (.266/.337/.525) are two more good hit/bad field options. Sent over from Boston when the Sox reacquired Doug Mirabelli, reliever Cla Meridith has a 1.39 ERA in 24 games and looks every bit like a future middle reliever. Meanwhile, we have to wonder if former first round pick Tim Stauffer, who has allowed 115 hits in 95 innings while striking out 51, will ever end up to be even that.

  • Double-A Mobile (4-6; 34-49)

    Catcher George Kottaras is still the team's top statistical performer at .278/.395/461 despite a tough June in which he hit .198 with just four extra-base hits. It's a miserable offensive team that averaged just under four runs per game in June. Acquired from the Rangers, former big-budget signing Vince Sinisi (.256/.330/.367) is still a left fielder who doesn't hit much. Lefthander Sean Thompson has given up two earned runs over 21.1 innings in his last two starts, but as an undersized guy who depends on a plus curveball, his future is likely in the bullpen.

  • High Class A Lake Elsinore (5-5; 41-38)

    While enormous catcher Colt Morton (.242/.391/.431) has reduced his strikeout rate dramatically, it's had no effect on his average, and his power (five home runs in 153 at-bats) has dipped significantly. Third baseman Chase Headley has had a steady full-season debut at .274/.367/.432, but he'll need to tap into some power or hit for an higher average to take advantage of his on-base skills to bake it as an everyday player at the hot corner. Manny Ayala starred in the Golden League last year, and while the Padres delve into the indy leagues like no other team, Ayala is unique in that he's just 21 years old. Pitching out of the Storm's bullpen, he's allowed just 14 hits and four walks in 21.1 innings.

  • Low Class A Fort Wayne (5-5; 37-41)

    While a number of nagging injures has limited catcher Nick Hundley to 17 games since June 1, he sure has hit when he's in the lineup, batting .403 with eight home runs in 67 at-bats, and .295/.377/.513 overall. As impressive, but like Hundley a little old for the league is outfielder Will Venable, who is batting .331/.411/.482 under the tutelage of hitting coach Max Venable, his father. 2004 first-round pick Matt Bush is back after missing the first half of the season with a broken ankle and batting .273/.400/.333--which does seem like some kind of progress.

  • Short-season Eugene (7-7)

    First-round pick Matt Antonelli (.326/.483/.395) has scored 11 runs in 13 games thanks in part to 13 walks in 43 at-bats and six stolen bases.

    Rookie-Level AZL Padres (5-4)

    Supplemental first-round pick Kyler Burke (.256/.318/385) and third-rounder Cedric Hunter (.282/.383/.385) form one of the more athletic outfield combinations in the league.

San Francisco Giants

  • Triple-A Fresno (5-5; 34-49)

    I'm throwing my support once again behind Freddie Lewis, who has moved back to center field and is batting .264/.381/.454. As you can see by the numbers, Lewis is loaded with secondary skills, and he's also the best prospect in an otherwise yawn-inducing lineup. After a blistering first half in the California League, righty Nick Pereira was jumped all the way to Fresno with predictable results (5.82 ERA). Meanwhile, Merkin Valdez continues to see his stock tumble with a 6.30 ERA coming out of the bullpen. Yes, that really is former No. 1 overall pick Matt Anderson also pitching in the bullpen. No, he hasn't gotten any better (8.79 ERA).

  • Double-A Connecticut (3-7; 35-45)

    Eddy Martinez-Esteve's disappointing season--in which he hit just .272/.324/.446 in 27 games--is basically over before it even began after surgery on his left shoulder in late June. He's not the only disappointment for the Defenders as outfielder Nate Schierholtz (.234/.293/.318) hit just .137 in June for a team that went 7-21 while scoring a grand total of 66 runs. Despite a couple of major league looks, first baseman Travis Ishikawa (.245/.315/.438) hasn't exactly deserved them.

  • High Class A San Jose (7-3; 48-32)

    The team is winning despite a prospect-less offense, as the one real prospect on the team is the disappointing Marcus Sanders (.213/.302/.265) who is out with in injury. The pitching staff features arguably the best bullpen in the minor leagues, and while no one is a significant prospect, Darren Sack (0.63 ERA), Nathan Pendley (0.90), Brian Anderson (1.13) and Justin Hedrick (1.27) have combined to allow 69 hits in 131 innings while striking out 170. It's like the Nasty Boys plus one.

  • Low Class A Augusta (7-3; 47-34)

    As a fourth-round pick last June, outfielder Ben Copeland (.286/.360/.413) has come on with the warm weather, batting .400 in his last 13 games. More good news on the mound, as fifth-round pick Dan Griffin had a 1.86 ERA in five June starts with 30 strikeouts in 29 innings. At 6-foot-7 and 225 pounds, Griffin has a low-90s fastball and knows how to use his height to his advantage. Staying on the dominant-yet-fringy reliever tip, closer David Quinowski is a small lefty who has given up just 24 hits in 47 innings.

  • Short-season Salem-Keizer (12-2)

    Supplemental first-round pick Emmanuel Burriss (.208/.333/.271) has struggled while everyone waits for recently signed first-round pick Tim Lincecum to show up.

  • Rookie-level AZL Giants (8-1)

    19-year-old shortstop Sharlon Schoop hit for the cycle on Sunday and is 18-for-36 with eight walks and zero strikeouts in 10 games.

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

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