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July 18, 2006
Division Roundup, NL Central, 7/18/06
- Triple-A Iowa (9-1 in last 10 games; 48-45 overall)
With the Cubs out of it, and second baseman Todd Walker
a likely subject of trade talks, instead of wasting more plate appearances on Neifi
Perez, why not see if you can get something out of the Sammy
Sosa trade by giving Mike Fontenot a chance? He's always been a
decent hitter, but he's taken a step forward this year with a .313/.394/.476 line
and could have some limited value at the big league level in the end. On the
mound, it looks like Jerome Williams (4.74 ERA, 30 K in 57 IP) will
never live up to expectations. In other news, don't give up on Mike Wuertz just yet. With a
low 90s fastball and excellent command, the righthander has 60 strikeouts in 38
innings and just nine walks.
- Double-A West Tenn (3-7; 55-40)
What on earth happened to Brian Dopirak? After
threatening to break the Midwest League home run record with 39 dingers in 2004,
he slumped in the Florida State to just 16, and this year, he's become Clint
Barmes. He missed the first two months of the season with a broken foot,
and since he's returned, he's at 124 at-bats without a home run and counting.
Catcher Jake Fox seemingly came out of nowhere with 16 home runs at
Daytona in the first half, but the breakout has broken with a .217/.277/.383
line in 18 Southern League games. Speaking of breakouts--righthander Shawn
Gallagher has a 2.60 ERA in six starts, but already has handed out more
free passes (23) than he did in 13 starts for Daytona (21).
- High Class A Daytona (7-3; 51-41)
I talked about Ryan Harvey yesterday, and while he's
struggling, he's also one of the few position player prospects on this team,
unless you want to count outfielder Sam Fuld (.313/.393/.428), who
projects as no more than a fourth outfielder but could almost get to the big
leagues on makeup alone. Is it possible that Donald Veal has
leapfrogged everyone to become the top prospect in the system? In five starts
for Daytona, the power lefty has a 1.20 ERA--and in 19 starts total, his mark
is 2.25 with just 64 hits allowed in 103.2 innings. Only control issues (56
BB) prevent him from being elite.
- Low Class A Peoria (3-7; 53-40)
When catcher Mark Reed (.285/.336/.346) was among the
Midwest League leading hitters, he was an interesting prospect. Currently in an
8-for-63 slump and nearly a month out from his last extra-base hit, he's now a
singles-hitting catcher with no secondary skills. Funny how things work out.
The team lost their best starter when Veal moved up to Daytona, and the team
was even more aggressive with closer Ed Campusano, pushing him to
Double-A after he compiled a 1.21 ERA in 26 games with 47 strikeouts in 29.2
innings. He's 24, and occasionally touched 90 mph from the left side, so he's
no more than a possible future LOOGY option.
- Short-season Boise (14-13)
The Cubs gave righthander Jeff Samardzija a record
bonus that seemed way out of line with his skills, and they recently promoted
him to Peoria despite the fact that he didn't exactly light it up with the
Hawks, allowing 15 hits in 14 innings while striking out nine. Also failing to
impress is 2005 first-round pick Mark Pawelek, who has a 4.21 ERA in 17
innings with nearly as many walks (11) as strikeouts (13)
- Rookie-level AZL Cubs (6-14)
A ninth-round pick who got fifth-round money, toolsy
outfielder Cliff Anderson is struggling, going 9-for-54 (.167) with 22
- Triple-A Louisville (7-3; 51-43)
Can I take a pass here? Seriously, look
at this roster and let me know if anything interests you. Sure Chris
Denorfia (.347/.409/.454) has some nice numbers, but he's a singles hitter
who is the classic example of the kind of player that everybody wants playing
every day... until he actually starts playing every day and his weaknesses
are exposed. They're hardly bullpen studs and barely prospects, but I don't
understand why you don't give a guy like Mike Burns (1.21 ERA in 25 G)
or Brad Salmon (39 Ks in 31.1 IP) a chance in relief before you deal
two everyday players from your lineup. But maybe that's just me.
- Double-A Chattanooga (6-4; 59-36)
First baseman Joey Votto (.324/.401/.582) hasn't gone
two games without a hit since early May and, if anything, he's getting better
with a .364 batting average and 27 extra-base hits in his last 40 games. The
big story on the mound, of course, is righthander Homer Bailey. The
2004 first-round pick gave up his first Double-A runs on Saturday, upping his
ERA to 0.75 in four starts while limiting Southern League batters to a .169
batting average overall. Meanwhile, something interesting happened on July 5th.
Outfielder Rick Asadoorian, a 1999 first-round pick who has turned into
a journeyman, was put on the mound in an emergency stint. All he did was
strike out five over two scoreless innings and touch 95 mph. It's worth
another try, no?
- High Class A Sarasota (5-5; 39-53)
Very little here hitting wise, as second baseman Drew
Anderson, a marginal prospect at best, was promoted to Double-A after
batting .300/.360/.450 in 83 games. The Reds hope disappointing shortstop Paul
Janish (.251/.333/.372) can earn the same with a good second half, as he
continues to try to find some offensive value to go along with his top-flight
glove work. With Bailey gone, the best starting pitcher is 2005 fourth-round
pick Sam Lecure, who has a 1.72 ERA in his last six starts.
- Low Class A Dayton (6-4; 47-46)
The Dragons started the season with two outfielders loaded
with tools and high expectations, and the results could not be more different.
2005 first-round selection Jay Bruce has clearly established himself as
one of the top outfield prospects in the game with a .315/.383/.563 line that
includes 14 stolen bases, while B.J. Syzmanski has struggled to a
.238/.315/.428 mark with a whopping 123 strikeouts in 320 at-bats. Want more
good or bad news (depending on which player you're looking at)? Bruce is four-and-a-half
years younger. While 2005 second-round pick Travis Wood (4.14 ERA) has
struggled of late, third-round pick Zach Ward (2.45 ERA) has come on
strong, with an undefeated (7-0) record in 18 starts, including a 1.43 ERA mark
in his last nine.
- Rookie-level Billings (17-7)
First-round pick Drew Stubbs (.247/.374/.340) isn't
striking out (20 in 81 at-bats) at quite the alarming rate some expected, but
he's also yet to hit a home run. Still, he's shown good plate discipline and
used his speed to rack up three triples and 11 stolen bases.
Rookie-level GCL Reds (7-16)
Last month's fourth-round pick, speedy outfielder Justin
Reed, has four triples in 80 at-bats, but little else to brag about
- Triple-A Round Rock (7-3; 59-35)
While Jason Lane (6-for-17 in three games) can't be
happy to be back in the minors, he's probably having a better time than Charlton
Jimerson (.249/.285/.472), a Reggie Abercrombie clone when it comes
to both athleticism and lack of approach. Jimerson smacked a double on Sunday,
and that's notable because it was his first hit this month, ending an 0-for-35
slump that included 18 strikeouts, giving him a minor league-leading 135 whiffs
to go against just 16 walks in 341 at-bats. Righthander Jason Hirsch
(2.28 ERA) hasn't pitched in an official game since July 5th because
of the Futures Game and the Triple-A All-Star contest, but he's riding a four
game streak in which he hasn't allowed an earned run over 27 innings. Two
weeks from now, chances are good that he'll either be in the big league rotation,
or in another organization.
- Double-A Corpus Christi (4-6; 56-37)
Outfielder Hunter Pence (.298/.358/.567) ended a
14-game homerless streak on Saturday by going deep in both ends of a
double-header, while catcher J.R. House's comeback (.338/.391/.494)
continues to be the system's most pleasant surprise. Righthander Matt
Alberts looks to be over his problems with alcohol, as he has a 2.31 ERA in
18 starts to go along with some of the better raw stuff in the system. Closer Jailen
Peguero is an undersized, hard-throwing Dominican who earned a promotion to
Triple-A after putting up a 0.70 ERA in 27 games with 48 strikeouts in 38.2
- High Class A Salem (6-4; 43-48)
The worst offense in the Carolina League (3.86 runs per
game) has very little worth mentioning, although second baseman Drew Sutton
(.256/.367/.413) is at least a fringe prospect because of his power and
patience. The pitching staff keeps the team in games, particularly Chad
Reineke and Troy Patton. Reineke (2.98 ERA) touches 95 mph with his
fastball and gets good angles out of his 6-foot-6 frame, but he's also
three-and-a-half years older than not-so-tall lefty Troy Patton (3.12 ERA) who
hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in nine straight starts.
- Low Class A Lexington (6-4; 54-39)
On a team with disappointments throughout the lineup,
catcher J.R. Towles continues to rake (.314/.387/.519), though it's a
little surprising that he hasn't been moved up to Salem yet. As far as not
living up to expectations, take your pick from infielder Koby Clemens
(.232/.308/.348) or outfielders Mitch Einertson (.226/.274/.380) and Eli
Iorg (.235/.287/.395). A pleasant surprise on the mound has been
righthander Tip Fairchild, a 14th-round pick last year who
was promoted to Salem after compiling a miniscule 1.66 ERA in 18 starts, and
allowing just three runs over 42 innings in his last six. The Astros think
they have a late-bloomer in Fairchild, who has a low 90s fastball, two different
effective curveballs and excellent command.
- Short-season Tri-City (16-10)
The Astros challenged first-round pick Max Sapp by
starting him one level above rookie-ball, and he's struggled at the plate,
batting .208 in 17 games, but surprisingly, has been excellent behind it,
nailing seven of eight base stealers.
- Rookie-level Greenville (12-13)
20-year-old Columbian Ronald Ramirez spent three
years in the Venezuelan Summer League and is opening some eyes in his stateside
debut, going 34-for-72 (.432) in his first 20 games.
- Triple-A Nashville (8-2; 51-42)
In our studies for what exactly is a 4A pitcher, maybe we
should use Ben Hendrickson for the model. His numbers at Nashville include
a 1.84 ERA in 83.1 innings with just 48 hits allowed, yet in 58.1 big league
innings, he's allowed 50 runs and 78 hits. As a similar finesse/control
righty, Carlos Villanueva had more success than Hendrickson in the big
leagues, and fired seven one-hit shutout innings in his first start since
getting sent down. Meanwhile, outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. is going up
after batting .305/.363/.396. He could have a long career as a valuable bench
player based on his speed and defensive skills alone.
- Double-A Huntsville (5-5; 34-60)
2005 first-round pick Ryan Braun hit a disappointing
.274/.346/.438 at Brevard County, but has picked things up a bit in the
Southern League, batting .359 in his last 10 games to bring his averages up to
.278/.325/.514. He'll need to stay on a roll offensively, as based on his
defensive reviews at third base, a move to a corner outfield slot could be
coming soon. It wouldn't be a Brewers discussion without bringing up Yovani
Gallardo. The righthander began his Huntsville career with 18.2 innings
and a zero ERA--and while he gave up two earned runs on Friday, his overall
numbers remain gaudy: 1.76 ERA in 102.1 innings, 70 hits, 128 strikeouts.
- High Class A Brevard County (5-5; 44-44)
The Manatees began the year with one of the more interesting
middle-infield combinations in the minors, and it's been a 50/50 proposition
so far, as second baseman Hernan Iribarren has hit well (.316/.358/.386)
and played good defense, while shortstop Alcides Escobar has only done
the latter (.254/.302/.332). My sleeper remains Charlie Fermaint, as the
20-year-old center fielder fell a single short of the cycle on Sunday and is
batting .285/.353/.417 while drawing good reviews from scouts for his bat speed
and defensive skills. 2004 first-round pick Mark Rogers seemed to be
turning things around with a series of good starts in June, but then things
went south again as he walked 13 over nine innings in his last two starts
before getting shut down with "tightness in his shoulder." The
seriousness of the shoulder injury is unknown at this time, but any hiccup for Rogers at this point is a bad thing.
- Low Class A West Virginia (3-7; 49-43)
Not much to see offensively for
the non-aptly-named Power. Catcher Angel Salome has just one home run
in his last 35 games, but is still batting .310/.365/.466 and among the league
leaders in hitting, doubles and RBI. A third-round pick who pitched exceedingly well in his pro
debut last year, Will Inman missed a month will a sore shoulder, but
since returning, he's been kind of good, dealing 21 scoreless innings and
allowing just 11 hits. In 14 games this year, he's allowed a run just three
times. More importantly, we all wait for the team to play Lakewood, so West Virginia can start Will Inman while the Blue Claws counter with Josh Outman in
what could be an epic battle. Or something.
- Rookie-level Helena (10-16)
After helping lead Oregon State to their first College World
Series title, third-round pick Cole Gillespie just keeps on rolling,
batting .410 in his first nine games including a 6-for-6 effort last week.
- Rookie-level AZL Brewers (8-12)
First-round pick Jeremy Jeffress has been as expected--both dominant (8 Ks in 7.1 innings) and raw (five walks, two wild pitches).
- Triple-A Indianapolis (7-3; 51-41)
It's easy to forget about John Van Benschoten or Bryan
Bullington--both have yet to appear in a box score this year because of
shoulder surgeries--but Sean Burnett (5.07 ERA) still shows up every
five days, a shadow of his former self after elbow surgery, to remind fans of a
rotation that could have been. And then there's Oliver Perez, who whiffed 13
over seven innings in his first start after being sent down, but has given up
eight runs over 12.2 innings since. The lineup is a combination of never-was
and never-will-bes. Maybe infielder Craig Stansberry (.341/.396/.500 in
13 games since a promotion) can hit enough to earn a bench role, but he
epitomizes everything about the hitters for Pittsburgh's two upper level teams:
a bunch of guys for whom it's hard to project as anything more than replacement
- Double-A Altoona (6-4; 54-38)
More mediocrity here, although it's cool that veteran
outfielder Vic Buttler (.308/.358/.495) has 14 triples in 82 games.
Shortstop Brian Bixler is hitting .263/.328/.439 in 16 games after a
solid first half (.836 OPS) at Lynchburg. Speed is his best tool, and he could
hit his way to utility-man status. One of the keys to the 2004 Kris Benson
deal, righthander Matt Peterson is in year number three at Altoona, and with a 5.78 ERA, there's little reason to believe he'll ever find the success
he had in the Mets system.
- High Class A Lynchburg (1-9; 38-53)
Catcher Neil Walker gets a slight break for his
disturbingly bad season (.247/.303/.329) because he missed the first six weeks
of the season recovering from wrist surgery, but how much of a break do we give
him? He's a very aggressive hitter and his power is completely gone, with just
11 extra-base hits in 48 games, including only one home run. Shortstop Brent
Lillibridge is a step above of both Stansberry and Bixler when it comes to
both tools and performance. Promoted after batting .299/.414/.522 at Hickory, Lillibridge is loaded with secondary skills, including 11 home runs, 54 walks and
31 stolen bases in 83 games.
- Low Class A Hickory (7-3; 45-48)
While Andrew McCutchen's numbers
(.279/.350/.425) don't blow anyone away, the season is quite impressive when
taken into context. As a raw toolsy player, he offers tons of projection, and
his statistics are remarkably without a weakness--his average is good, he
draws a fair share of walks, and he's already reached double-figures in home
runs. So there's plenty of room for improvement, yet all of his skills
statistically are starting out as average or worse. Lots to like there. A 2002
10th-round pick out of Canada, lefthander David Davidson has
68 strikeouts in 53 innings and has been getting his arm stretched out lately
with three inning stints. In his last three outings he's allowed two hits over
eight shutout innings while striking out 13. With an upper 80s fastball and
plus curve, Davidson has been unhittable against lefthanded batters who have
gone 7-for-53 with 21 strikeouts against him.
- Short-season Williamsport (8-15)
Second-round pick Mike Felix and fourth-round selection
Jared Hughes both have WHIPs under one, though neither has more than a
strikeout per inning.
- Rookie-level GCL Pirates (12-10)
Brad Lincoln we
talked about yesterday. Seventh-round pick Austin McClune is another
one of those raw toolsy guys, and he's off to a good start with 20 hits in his
first 17 games.
St. Louis Cardinals
- Triple-A Memphis (2-8; 38-55)
Outfielder Chris Duncan (.271/.359/.448) recently got
the big call, but it's hard to distinguish him from other guys on the team like
Brian Daubach (.279/.387/.478) and John Gall (.287/.361/.408).
They're all limited defensively, Daubach is the veteran, Duncan has the power,
and Gall is probably the best pure hitter of the bunch. Another thing they
have in common is that none of them should be playing every day in the big
leagues. Remember Orber Moreno? The Venezuelan put up some wacky
numbers in the Royals system during the late 90s, but got hurt--then he ended
up less effective while bouncing up and down in the Mets system before getting
hurt again and missing all of 2005 while recovering from shoulder surgery.
He's back, he's 29, and he's allowed just one run on seven hits in 12 innings.
- Double-A Springfield (7-3; 50-42)
The team's top two hitters are gone, with minor league vet Rico
Washington moving up to Triple-A and outfielder Terry Evans moving
on to the Angels for the wrong Weaver. That puts more pressure on outfielder Cody
Haerther (.244/.297/.393) who the organization had high hopes for entering
the season. Those looking for fluky clutch statistics need to look no further
than reliever Justin Garza, who has a 2.86 ERA despite ugly peripheral
stats. How's this for pitching to the situation?
SITUATION AB H OppAvg
Bases Empty 52 15 .288
Runners On 80 18 .225
Scoring Pos. 52 8 .154
RISP w/ 2 out 26 2 .077
- High Class A Palm Beach (5-5; 50-44)
After a fantastic first half at Quad Cities
(.310/.373/.512), 2005 outfielder Colby Rasmus (.204/.291/.347) has
learned what fellow 2005 first-round pick Tyler Greene already has--the
Florida State League is hard. A third-round pick in 2003 out of Georgia Southern, the Cardinals have always liked righty Dennis Dove's arm strength,
and a move to the bullpen, where he can live primarily off his plus fastball,
has resurrected his career. 20-year-old lefthander Jaime Garcia (3.70
ERA) went to the Futures Game this year, but like Rasmus, he's finding that the
Florida State League is far more challenging than the Midwest League.
- Low Class A Quad Cities (6-4; 47-45)
A pair of 2006 draft picks, outfielders John Jay
(second round) and Shane Robinson (fifth round) have done well in
assignments to a full-season league, with Jay at .338/.403/.500 in 16 games and
Robinson batting .354/.389/.434 in 23 contests. Both lack power, and neither
have great walk rates, so be skeptical. The biggest sleeper in the
organization might be catcher Bryan Anderson. A fourth-round pick last
June out of a California high school, Anderson is hitting .315/.409/.451 in 74
games--showing a good approach and gap power--but his defensive skills lag
behind his bat.
- Short-season State College (12-13)
Supplemental second-round pick Mark Hamilton
continues to mash, with seven home runs in 85 at-bats as part of an overall
line of .294/.371/.588.
- Rookie-level Johnson City (9-15)
Still no signs of life from 2005 supplemental first-round
pick Tyler Herron, who had a 5.61 ERA for Johnson City last year, and is
at 6.38 this year, allowing 19 runs on 32 hits in only 24 innings.
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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