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September 8, 2006
Great Leap Forward, NL
This is part three of a four part series in which we'll look at which players saw their stock rise and fall the most in each organization. We continue today with the National League, and the good.
A 16th-round pick in 2004, infielder-turned-outfielder Mark Reynolds absolutely exploded at High Class A Lancaster, batting .337/.422/.670 in 76 games before moving up to Double-A, where he hit eight more home runs in 114 at-bats before joining Team USA in their Olympic bid.
Honorable Mention: Just drafted last year, righthander Micah Owings reached Triple-A by midseason and went a perfect 10-0 there, although his 3.70 ERA and peripherals weren't that impressive. In addition, the former two-way star at Tulane went 21-for-59 (.356) at the plate with six doubles and a home run. A fifth-round pick last June out of William & Mary, outfielder Chris Rahl hit .327/.369/.502 at High Class A Lancaster and led the minor leagues with 186 hits.
Signed as an undrafted free agent last year, 21-year-old first baseman Kala Kaaihue led the organization with 28 home runs and hit .281/.407/.550 overall, but just .223 after a promotion to the High Class A Carolina League.
Honorable Mention: A second-round pick in 2003, righty Jo-Jo Reyes was finally healthy in 2006 and recorded more than a strikeout per inning while making 27 starts between Atlanta's two A-level clubs. Third baseman Van Pope's .263/.353/.430 line is pretty impressive for High Class A Myrtle Beach.
Lefthander Donald Veal got off to a great start at Low Class A Daytona and was even better after moving up to the Florida State League, finishing the season with a 2.16 ERA in 154.1 innings with nearly twice as many strikeouts (174) than hits allowed (91).
Honorable Mention: Last year, righthander Sean Gallagher had the stats, but not the stuff. This year, he had both--gaining 2-3 ticks on his fastball, reaching Double-A, and compiling a 2.51 ERA in 164.2 innings with 171 strikeouts. With 16 home runs, catcher Jake Fox fell only five short of the Florida State League home run title, despite playing just 66 games at High Class A Daytona. While he scuffled at Double-A, catchers with power don't exactly grow on trees.
In 2004, first baseman Joey Votto was really good. In 2005, Votto was pretty bad. This year, it was back to the good, as the Canadian slugger raked to the tune of .319/.408/.547 at Double-A Chattanooga while making a run at the Southern League Triple Crown.
Honorable Mention: From seemingly out of nowhere, 20-year-old righthander Johnny Cueto went 15-3 with a 3.00 ERA across the two A-level teams, striking out 143 in 138 innings. He's under six-foot, but he had scouts in Florida buzzing about a fastball that sat at 94-97 mph. Shortstop Paul Janish resurrected his prospect status by hitting .304/.371/.460 across three levels to go along with his trademark outstanding glove.
Catcher Chris Iannetta had a breakout campaign, batting .336/.433/.567 at Double- and Triple-A while giving the organization a premium prospect at a position where they really needed one.
Honorable Mention: Franklin Morales went from one of the hardest-throwing lefthanders in the minors to one of the best lefthanders period by leading the California League with 179 strikeouts in 154 innings--though control problems remain. Second baseman Eric Young Jr. led the minor leagues with 87 stolen bases, but he proved to be more than just a sideshow by hitting .353 in 55 games after July 1.
Honorable Mention: Righthander Josh Johnson has been one of the best rookie pitchers in baseball, consistently sitting among the National League ERA leaders. At the minor league level, righty Jose Garcia had a 2.88 ERA across three levels, starting the year at High Class A Jupiter and finishing it with a September callup.
A 12th-round pick last year out of the baseball factory that is the University of Southern Maine, righthander Tip Fairchild had a 2.45 ERA in 173 innings while walking just 38 thanks to excellent command of average stuff.
Honorable Mention: Outfielder Hunter Pence answered all of his detractors with a .283/.357/.533 campaign at Double-A Corpus Christi. Second baseman Brooks Conrad is 26 years old and anything but toolsy, yet he continues to just keep hitting with a .267/.334/.534 line at Triple-A Round Rock that included a minor league-leading 79 extra-base hits.
Los Angeles Dodgers
After a breakout season in the Florida State League, outfielder Matt Kemp hit .327/.402/.528 at Double-A Jacksonville, hit seven home runs in his first 15 big league games, and didn't go into a funk after being demoted to Triple-A Vegas, bashing opposing pitchers at a .368/.428/.560 rate.
Honorable Mention: Minor league Rule Five pickup Alberto Bastardo had 138 strikeouts in 125.2 innings, and scouts saw the small lefty as a major league bullpen-quality arm--quite a find from the scrap heap. First baseman Cory Dunlap's .261/.435/.461 is downright bizarre, but productive--leaving scouts to wonder what he'd be capable of if he was in shape.
Yovani Gallardo went from good right-handed pitching prospect to one of the best in the business, leading the minor leagues with 188 strikeouts in 155 innings while compiling a miniscule 1.63 ERA in 13 starts after a promotion to Double-A Huntsville.
Honorable Mention: Injuries and a tightly monitored workload limited righty Will Inman to 110.2 innings, but that was enough to lead the South Atlantic League with a 1.77 ERA. Third baseman Mat Gamel built on a solid debut with a .288/.359/.469 line at Low Class A West Virginia.
New York Mets
While he was limited to just 76 games due to a pair of injures to his wrist and thumb, 17-year-old Fernando Martinez sparkled in his pro debut, batting .333/.389/.505 for Low Class A Hagerstown and showing surprising power.
Honorable Mention: Last year, catcher Josh Flores had a .589 OPS in the Sally League, this year he tied for the Florida State League home run crown with 21. Philip Humber returned from Tommy John surgery earlier than expected and pitched better than expected--getting a September call-up after limiting opposing hitters to a .199 average in 14 starts.
Last year at Low Class A Lakewood, righty Carlos Carrasco had a 7.04 ERA in 13 starts. This year things were a little different, as the 19-year-old Venezuela had a 2.26 ERA in 26 starts while limiting opposing batters to a .182 average.
Honorable Mention: J.A. Happ is a finesse lefty, but he's a big (6-foot-5) finesse lefty who pitched well after a mid-season promotion to Double-A with a 2.65 ERA and 81 strikeouts in 74 innings. Lefthander Josh Outman's plus fastball with plenty of deception led to a 2.95 ERA and 161 strikeouts in 155.1 innings at Low Class A Lakewood.
A fourth-round pick last year out of the University of Washington, shortstop Brent Lillibridge hit .305/.419/.480 across the Pirates' two A-level teams while showing outstanding secondary skills with 49 extra-base hits, 87 walks and 53 stolen bases.
Honorable Mention: Signed in 2005 as a draft-and-follow, righthander Todd Redmond sat in the low 90s and finished among the South Atlantic League top five in wins, ERA and strikeouts. While nobody was surprised to see 2005 first-round pick Andrew McCutchen have a good season, you'd be hard pressed to find somebody who predicted 17 home runs.
St. Louis Cardinals
Already considered one of the steals of the 2005 draft, lefthander Jaime Garcia flashed a plus fastball and above-average curve, pitched in the Futures Game and had a 131/34 K/BB ratio in 155 innings.
Honorable Mention: Chris Duncan's performance has been a godsend in St. Louis, but his minor league track record shows absolutely no evidence for it being the real thing. Once considered a rising star, righthander Blake Hawksworth had his first injury-free season as a pro and put up a 2.92 ERA in 163.1 innings.
San Diego Padres
More of a basketball star at Princeton, outfielder Will Venable made some impressively quick adjustments, batting .314/.389/.477 at Low Class A Fort Wayne while finishing second in the Midwest League in batting, runs and RBI.
Honorable Mention: Gigantic first baseman Kyle Blanks had an impressive first half at Low Class A Fort Wayne, batting .292/.382/.455 and making the Midwest League All-Star team before his season came to an abrupt end by an ankle injury that became infected and required surgery. Jack Cust is still Jack Cust, but the Padres did the right thing by letting him be a September bench bat after 143 walks (.467 OBP) and 30 home runs (.549 SLG) at Triple-A Portland.
San Francisco Giants
After pitching in the South Atlantic League last year, southpaw Jonathan Sanchez was converted to the bullpen to accelerate his timetable and pitched well in a relief role before moving back to a starting role at Triple-A. In his first big league start this week, he got the win at Cincinnati and is line for a full-time rotation slot next year.
Honorable Mention: In a pair of out-of-the-blue performances, Nick Pereira went 7-1, 2.06 in 13 starts at High Class A San Jose but struggled after a two-level promotion to the Pacific Coast League. A 24-year-old minor league castoff who was far too old for the level, infielder Eugenio Velez nonetheless was the South Atlantic League MVP, batting .315/.369/.557 with 64 stolen bases and 20 triples.
Kory Casto had no trouble making the jump to Double-A, batting .272/.379/.468 at Harrisburg while finishing third in the league in on-base percentage while showing some versatility by splitting time between third base and the outfield.
Honorable Mention: A 12th-round pick last year, righty Craig Stammen opened some eyes with excellent command of a four-pitch mix. Ryan Zimmerman having a good rookie season is not surprising, but the fact that he should finish the year with 20+ home runs and 100+ RBI is.
Next Tuesday: NL Disappointments