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August 15, 2006

Future Shock

Division Roundup, NL West

by Kevin Goldstein

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Arizona Diamondbacks

  • Triple-A Tucson (74-46)

    Promotions to the big leagues have left some holes in the Sidewinders' offense, but highly regarded prospects Alberto Callaspo and Chris Young (.278/.368/.543) are both doing their best to make up for it. At .336/.403/.470, Callaspo is already approaching season-highs in several offensive categories and could get a look at second base in 2007 if Arizona decides to go with a total youth movement and see if they can get some value from arbitration eligible Orlando Hudson. The system has had few disappointments this season, but Dustin Nippert is definitely one of them. The top pitching prospect in the organization entering the season, Nippert has a 5.01 ERA in 118.1 innings and has given up 141 hits, and scouts who raved about him last year, when he won the Southern League ERA crown, are wondering where the command and the consistently plus breaking-ball went.

  • Double-A Tennessee (62-58)

    So do we start taking Mark Reynolds seriously now? The .337/.422/.670 line at Lancaster looked like a total California League fluke, but the 23-year-old now has a .273/.344/.545 line at Double-A with eight home runs in 110 at-bats. One thing we have learned is that Reynolds is definitely not a shortstop, as he's split time at second, third and left field since moving up. Also finding some success since a promotion is lefthander Greg Smith (3.90), but his strikeout rate has dipped dramatically, and as a guy who depends more on command and a big breaking ball more than blowing hitters away, he'll need to prove himself at every level.

  • High-A Lancaster (57-61)

    At .303/.359/.569, outfielder Carlos Gonzalez is living up to all his lofty expectations by leading the California League in RBI and extra-base hits, but what ever happened to Jon Zeringue? After being selected in the second-round two years ago, Zeringue hit .335/.374/.552 at Lancaster, but he totally flopped at Tennessee, and is not exactly finding his stroke now that's he back on the left coast, hitting just .247/.302/.416 in 24 games. Scouts were concerned about him only being able to hit fastballs--looks like they were right. There's very little to talk about on the mound when the team ERA is 5.50, but closer Matt Elliot has 66 strikeouts in 47 innings and enough stuff to maybe make it as an extra reliever type.

  • Low-A South Bend (64-51)

    There are some good things to find in Justin Upton's .267/.347/.422 line as he's hit nine home runs in his last 50 games and has drawn 22 walks in his last 148 at-bats. The team's other first round pick last year, righthander Matt Torra, returned from shoulder surgery in late July and has 12 strikeouts in nine innings, including seven over three innings in his last outing. Undrafted out of Notre Dame, 7-foot-1 righthander Ryan Doherty was the best reliever on the team in the first half of the season, but hitters are starting to catch up to his sub-par fastball, as he's given up 10 runs and 18 hits over his last 12.1 innings.

  • Short-Season Yakima (17-37)

    Somehow the Bears are averaging fewer than four runs a game in the Northwest League, thus their record. Ninth round pick Eddie Romero has finessed his way to a 1.52 ERA in his first 29.2 pro innings.

  • Rookie-Level Missoula (26-27)

    Fifth-round pick Hector Ambriz has decent stuff, a deep arsenal and excellent command. He has a 1.84 ERA in 29.1 innings and 30 strikeouts.

Colorado Rockies

  • Triple-A Colorado Springs (54-67)

    Catcher Chris Ianetta shows no signs of slowing down, as after 37 games since his promotion to Triple-A his averages are still a healthy .350/.448/.508. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, he's a lock to be the starting catcher in the big leagues on Opening Day 2007. That's about it prospect-wise in the lineup, unless recently called up outfielder Ryan Spilborghs (.338/.400/.476) floats your boat for some reason. An equally unimpressive pitching staff was thought to be bolstered by righthander Ubaldo Jimenez, but his acclimation to both the Pacific Coast League and Colorado Springs has been a difficult one--the 22-year-old Dominican has seen his ERA balloon to 5.94 in nine starts by giving up 17 runs over his last 17.2 innings.

  • Double-A Tulsa (65-53)

    After coming to life and hitting .340 in July, third baseman Ian Stewart (.274/.355/.474) is going backwards again, currently in a 1-for-19 slump. At this point, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (.297/.375/.484) is roughly the same age, outperforming Stewart and playing a more difficult position--he's the better prospect. Juan Morillo's 4.84 ERA allows him to retain his title for biggest gap between stuff and performance, but there might be a bullpen sleeper in Judd Songster. The 26-year-old righty missed much of 2005 with arm problems and doesn't have closer stuff, but he combines an average fastball with a plus-plus change and has whiffed 60 batters in 52.2 innings while limiting Texas League batters to a .194 average.

  • High-A Modesto (57-62)

    Properly evaluating second baseman Corey Wimberly is a difficult task. He's batting .319 and 14 HBPs help bring his on-base percentage up to .402, but he has an only decent 23 walks in 257 at-bats, and his punch-and-judy hitting style has led to 74 of 82 hits going for singles. Number two overall pick Greg Reynolds has thrown nine shutout innings in his last two starts and has a 2.61 ERA in seven starts overall, but his peripheral numbers, including 20 strikeouts in 31 innings, are a bit blah. Like many Colorado pitching prospects, righty Sam Deduno has excellent stuff, as evidenced by 157 strikeouts in 127 innings, but little idea what to do with it, as evidenced by 72 walks and a whopping 29 wild pitches.

  • Low-A Asheville (62-57)

    He's not much of a prospect, but second baseman Eric Young, Jr. (.281/.374/.393) is certainly having an entertaining season. Running almost every time he reaches base, Young leads the minor leagues with 77 stolen bases and 29 times caught stealing, but the speed is his only plus tool. Speaking of tools, center fielder Dexter Fowler (.285/.366/.441) has them all, and if the power begins to manifest itself in game situations, he could move into elite territory. After tearing through the Northwest League for the second straight season, Aussie righthander Shane Lindsay got off to a slow start after a promotion to Asheville, but has allowed one earned run over his last nine innings while striking out 14.

  • Short-Season Tri-City (28-26)

    14th-round pick Jeff Kindel led Georgia Tech in runs scored this year and is batting .343/.424/.495, but the bat is his only average-or-better tool.

  • Rookie-Level Casper (20-33)

    Scouts were enamored with second-round pick David Christensen's tools, but many questioned his ability to hit. With a .208 average and 67 strikeouts in 154 at-bats, those concerns seem legit.

Los Angeles Dodgers

  • Triple-A Las Vegas (55-67)

    There have been some major power outages among some big name prospects with the 51s. Third baseman Andy LaRoche (.308/.394/.476) is not only batting just .237 in August, he's hit just three home runs in his last 31 games. Temporary rookie sensation Matt Kemp (.337/.425/.538) has a similar line to LaRoche in that he's hitting for average on the season and reaching base at a good clip, but has just one Triple-A home run in 104 at-bats. After fizzling out in the big league bullpen, the Dodgers are trying flame-throwing lefty Hong-Chih Kuo in the rotation, and he seems to be catching on nicely. In his last three starts, Kuo has given up just one run in 16 innings, and he even hit a grand slam on Saturday.

  • Double-A Jacksonville (76-44)

    It's been two very different experiences for two very highly regarded prospects who have moved up from Vero Beach. Second baseman Blake DeWitt is just 6-for-34 in eight games without an extra-base hit, but it's early. Meanwhile lefty Scott Elbert is establishing himself as one of the better pitching prospects in the game. Ignore the merely good 3.35 ERA. Look at the 24 hits in 40.1 innings and 55 strikeouts. Oh yeah, he just turned 21.

  • High-A Vero Beach (45-72)

    At .253/.426/.466, Cory Dunlap has one of the stranger lines in the minors. With 14 home runs, 77 walks and 64 strikeouts in 256 at-bats he's the Florida State League's Three True Outcomes king. Unfortunately, scouts say that Dunlap is also gunning for some FSL eating titles as well, as the first baseman is estimated to be somewhere between 40-60 pounds over his listed weight. Jonathan Meloan missed the first six weeks of the season with elbow problems, but last year's fifth-round pick out of Arizona was beyond outstanding in four games, striking out 27 in 18 innings before moving up to Jacksonville, where he's whiffed 10 in 5.1 innings. On the season and across three levels, the big righty has more than three times as many strikeouts (78) as hits allowed (24) in 46.2 innings.

  • Low-A Columbus (59-61)

    2005 was considered a breakout year for Travis Denker, but after hitting .220/.309/.330 in 54 games at Vero Beach, he found himself back at Columbus and back at second base. Denker has a strange .264/.433/.412 line, as he drew 24 walks in the Florida State League, but has 54 free passes in 55 Sally League games. Also walking quite a bit is 2005 second-round pick Ivan DeJesus (.281/.370/.337), who has shown a surprisingly mature approach to go with above-average defensive skills, but little power.

  • Rookie-Level Ogden (26-27)

    2005 fourth-round pick Josh Bell (.279/.328/.533) continues to flash plus power with 11 doubles and nine home runs in 165 at-bats.

  • Rookie-Level GCL Dodgers (29-18)

    First-round pick Clayton Kershaw has been every bit as good as advertised with a 1.41 ERA in his first 32 innings and a ridiculous 48/4 K/BB rate.

San Diego Padres

  • Triple-A Portland (59-62)

    Jack Cust (.296/.469/.548) has basically gone nuts of late, going 13-for-39 with 14 walks and seven home runs in his last 12 games, so if anything he might be in line for a bench bat role in September, which is much more than he was in line for, say, two months ago. The real prospect in the lineup is catcher George Kottaras (.250/.319/.469), but he's cooled off a bit, and his timetable might be more like mid-2007. With 2005 first-round pick Cesar Carrillo looking like he won't pitch again until the Arizona Fall League, the rotation features two fading first rounders in Dewon Brazelton and Tim Stauffer, who have combined to strike out 116 in 204.2 innings--good news for those of you who are fans of contact.

  • Double-A Mobile (50-69)

    Wow, it's almost depressing to look too closely at the Padres system--it's really, really bad. I'm left talking about how former Rangers bust Vince Sinisi (.261/.339/.404) is showing some limited signs of life or how enormous catcher Colt Morton (.224/.337/.434) draws walks and hits home runs but is otherwise like Rob Deer offensively. Lefthander Sean Thompson (3.46 ERA) has had some nice starts of late and could make it as a fifth starter or left-handed specialist. Let's move on.

  • High-A Lake Elsinore (60-59)

    Both second-round picks last year with similar last names, third baseman Chase Headley and catcher Nick Hundley seem to be moving in opposite directions of late. Headley is down to .283/.385/.437 because of a 3-for-31 slump, while Hundley (.300/.397/.400) has reached base 27 times in his last 14 games. Released by the Twins last year after coming down with a case of the yips, reclamation project Evan Meek (4.50) continues to flash occasional brilliance, striking out 20 over 16 innings in his last three starts with manageable control.

  • Low-A Fort Wayne (57-60)

    Former number one overall pick Matt Bush's severe hamstring strain might end his season at 21 games and 71 at-bats, with very little (.268/.333/.310) to show for it. The son of former big leaguer and current Wizards hitting coach Max Venable, Will Venable's solid season (.309/.391/.450) continues, but as a four-year college player he turns 24 in October; why the organization isn't seeing if he can hit in the Cal League is a bit of a mystery.

  • Short-Season Eugene (30-24)

    First-round pick Matt Antonelli (.284/.432/.355) certainly knows how to get himself on base, but zero home runs in 141 at-bats? In the Northwest League? C'mon.

  • Rookie-Level AZL Padres (26-15)

    Third-round pick Cedric Hunter (.377/.469/.465) has hit, shown gap power, stolen 10 bases and has nearly twice as many walks as strikeouts. An interesting semi-sleeper.

San Francisco Giants

  • Triple-A Fresno (50-72)

    Once the Giants acquired Shea Hillenbrand, it made Lance Niekro expendable, so all he's done since getting sent down is hit 10 home runs in 12 games. Meanwhile Hillenbrand is batting a useless .230/.240/.378. After pitching pretty well in a surprising assignment to the major league bullpen, lefthander Jonathan Sanchez is starting again at Fresno, allowing one run on three hits over five innings before getting skipped because of some arm soreness. Meanwhile, righty Jack Taschner will get another shot at a big league relief job after striking out 68 over 49.1 innings as the Grizzlies closer.

  • Double-A Connecticut (57-63)

    Every six weeks I seem to be talking about some prospect who raked at San Jose last year and is stinking now, but the trend stops here. Outfielder Nate Schierholtz (.256/.319/.399) has ugly season totals, but there is some hope, as the 2003 second-round pick is slugging .705 in August. Reliever Billy Sadler has been an unstoppable force of late, reeling off 14 straight scoreless appearances while striking out 27 in 14.1 innings. He doesn't have crazy good stuff, but it's hard to argue with 23 hits allowed in 44.2 innings.

  • High-A San Jose (70-50)

    How bad is the Giants organization when it comes to offensive prospects? 25-year-old first baseman Chad Santos, who started the year in Triple-A, has 14 home runs overall and that's good enough to lead the entire minor league system. Despite the impressive record, this is not a good team for prospects. Luckily, we have Tim Lincecum. The No. 10 overall pick in June, Lincecum has had little difficulty adjusting to professional baseball. On a strict pitch count of 60, Linecum has struck out 21 of the 42 batters he has faced as a pro in his 10.1 innings, and has already touched 99 mph on several occasions. You get the feeling that some of the teams who picked before the Giants but stayed away from Lincecum because of his size are going to be sorry.

  • Low-A Augusta (76-44)

    In a team desperate for sleepers, Augusta has a pair on their staff with undersized righty Sergio Romo (28th round, 2005) and undersized lefty David Quinkowski (40th round, 2004). With outstanding command and a plus curveball, Romo has excelled since moving to the rotation, giving up two earned runs over 27.1 innings in his last four starts while walking just one and surrendering 12 hits. Like Romo, it's hard to project Quinkowski as anything more than a low-leverage reliever, but he's limited Sally League hitters to a .145 average (34 hits in 70 innings).

  • Short-Season Salem-Keizer (37-17)

    Supplemental first-round pick Emmanuel Burriss (.281/.369/.328) was one of the few athletic college infielders in this year's draft, but his complete lack of power, as evidenced by just five extra-base hits, is a bit of a concern.

  • Rookie-Level AZL Giants (28-15)

    An eighth-round pick out of a Texas Junior College, catcher Matt Klimas just turned 19 and is batting .348 in his first 20 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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