September 12, 2006
Two Steps Back, NL
This is part four of a four-part series where we look at which players saw their stock rise and fall the most in each organization. We finish off today with the National League, and the bad.
After winning the Double-A Southern League ERA title last year as well as raves from scouts, the Diamondbacks hoped righthander Dustin Nippert could contribute at the big league level this year. Instead, he struggled at Triple-A Tucson with a 4.87 ERA and just nine quality starts out of 24 attempts.
Honorable Mention: 2005 second-round pick Matt Green was battered by California League hitters for a .318 average, finishing with a 5.14 ERA in 136.2 innings while allowing 182 hits. Two years after a fantastic debut at High Class A Lancaster, outfielder Jon Zeringue found himself back there after batting .217/.289/.310 at Double-A Tennessee.
While he entered the year as baseball's top catching prospect, only a blistering July could save Jarrod Saltalamacchia's season numbers, as he finished at .230/.353/.380 for Double-A Mississippi and didn't have his average permanently over the Mendoza line until mid-July.
Honorable Mention: After ending the 2005 season by surrendering the big home run to Chris Burke in the NLCS, 2005 first-round pick Joey Devine struggled with health and mechanics, but seemed to finally put things together in the final two weeks of the season, allowing two hits over 11 innings while striking out 20 at Mississippi. After impressing observers with both his tools and performance in his pro debut, Cuban shortstop Yunel Escobar muddled through a .264/.361/.346 season at Mississippi.
Since making a run at the Midwest League home run record by smashing 39 in 2004, first baseman Brian Dopirak has completely fallen apart, as he hit just one long ball in 179 Double-A at-bats during an injury-plagued season.
Honorable Mention: After consistently putting up great numbers while being too old for the level he was playing at, first baseman Brandon Sing finally hit a wall, finishing the year at a miserable .196/.330/.341 in 118 games split between the two upper-level squads. Righthander Grant Johnson had a 4.70 ERA at High Class A Daytona. After Johnson received a $1.26 million bonus as a second-round pick in 2004, you'd think the Cubs would have learned something about paying over-slot money to Notre Dame pitchers.
Already almost 24 years old, outfielder B.J. Syzmanski showed why spending money on raw college players is a very risky business, as he hit just .239/.309/.415 for Low Class A Dayton while leading the minor leagues with 191 strikeouts.
Honorable Mention: 2005 12th-round pick Adam Rosales hit .325/.388/.558 in his pro debut, but was unable to replicate that success in his first full season, batting just .250/.328/.398. Once highly regarded, Richie Gardner came back from shoulder surgery and was rocked for a 6.97 ERA in five starts at High Class A Sarasota.
After a monstrous spring training, third baseman Ian Stewart failed to bring his hot streak into the regular season, finishing the year with Double-A Tulsa at a disappointing .268/.351/.452 with just ten home runs in 462 at-bats.
Honorable Mention: 2005 Supplemental first-round pick Chaz Roe was held back in extended spring training to work on mechanics and limit his workload, but finished with a 4.09 ERA at Low Class A Ashville, disappointing scouts not only with his command, but with a fastball that dropped 2-4 mph from his high school days. Entering the season with career averages of .303/.393/.495, Matt Macri moved from shortstop to second base, and he was an offensive zero at Double-A Tulsa (.233/.294/.372) before his season was ended in mid-July by a broken bone in his hand.
Scouts never trusted the gap between righthander Yusmeiro Petit's outstanding stats and marginal stuff, and it all seemed to catch up with him this year, as he had a 4.68 ERA at Triple-A Albuquerque and just looked lost in the big leagues, allowing 36 hits in 21.1 innings to go with an 8.72 ERA.
Honorable Mention: First baseman Jason Stokes continued his four-year run of more injuries than production since his monster year at Kane County in 2002. 2005 second-round pick Kris Harvey was arguably the best healthy power prospect in the system, but he hit just .245/.291/.428 at Low Class A Greensboro with 82 strikeouts over 367 at-bats in an injury-riddled season.
While he showed some signs of life late in the season, 2005 first-round pick Brian Bogusevic pitched just 70.1 innings at Low Class A Lexington because of tendonitis and an inflamed elbow, and finished the year with a 4.73 ERA.
Honorable Mention: A pair of 2005 draftees who had big seasons at rookie-level Greeneville in their pro debuts fell flat at Low Class A Lexington. Outfielder Josh Flores hit .253/.313/.371, while third baseman Koby Clemens, who shocked everybody by hitting .297/.398/.477 last year in his pro debut, fell to .229/.313/.346, with his well over-slot bonus of $380,000 looking more and more like a concession to his father.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers realized that Joel Guzman was not only no longer a shortstop, but that he had moved all the way across the defensive spectrum to the first base/left field side of things, so his offensive profile quickly went from pretty good to pretty bad. Luckily they were able to flip him to Tampa Bay, who normally knows better.
Honorable Mention: Once one of the top lefties in the minor leagues, Greg Miller has never been the same after a pair of shoulder surgeries, as he walked 46 over 59.2 innings in a relief role. 2005 second-round pick Josh Wall pitched poorly at short-season Ogden, with a 5.86 ERA in 14 starts while allowing 117 base runners in 66 innings.
While it's easy to fall in love with shortstop Alcides Escobar's tools and athleticism, he hit just .257/.296/.306 at High Class A Brevard County in a season that included just 12 extra-base hits and 19 walks in 87 games.
Honorable Mention: Righthander Mark Rogers seemed to be finally on track after a three-game stretch in June when he allowed one run in 20.2 innings while striking out 29, but he would struggle and pitch just 16 more innings while dealing with a sore shoulder. Now four years removed from leading the minor leagues with 116 RBI, Brad Nelson found himself back in Double-A for the fourth straight year and hit just .248/.374/.382 overall.
New York Mets
Infielder Anderson Hernandez was expected to compete for the starting second base job or at least a utility role in the big leagues, but he went 6-for-41 (.146) for the Mets in the season's first two weeks and never got things going at Triple-A Norfolk, finishing at .249/.285/.295.
Honorable Mention: After leading the organization with 36 home runs in 2005, first baseman Brett Harper lasted 19 homerless games at Double-A Binghamton before tearing his labrum during a swing. After giving 2005 fourth-round pick Hector Pellot a sizeable $350,000 bonus, the second baseman hit .189/.292/.259 at Low Class A Hagerstwon.
While third baseman Welinson Baez hit .281 after July 1st, his full-season debut at Low Class A Lakewood finished at .232/.305/.368 and included 158 strikeouts in 427 at-bats. As a 22-year-old, much more was expected after the Dominican native hit .324/.408/.524 in the New York-Penn league last year.
Honorable Mention: 2004 first-round pick Greg Golson saved his season with a strong run at High Class A Clearwater, but overall he still hit just .233/.277/.374 with a K/BB ratio sitting at a laughable 160/30 in 546 at-bats. After hitting .303/.383/.442 at Lakewood last year, Aussie infielder Brad Harman hit just .241/.322/.305 at Clearwater.
A 2005 third-round pick who the Pirates were very high on, outfielder James Boone had foot surgery during spring training, and hit an absolutely empty .192/.302/.222 in 28 games for Low Class A Hickory before injuring his shoulder.
Honorable Mention: The Pirates seemingly took a page from the Cubs' book on pitching injury information when it comes to a pair of shelved righthanders. Bryan Bullington, the No. 1 overall pick in 2002 was expected to be back from labrum surgery by mid-season but instead missed the entire year, while 2001 first-round pick John Van Benschoten, initially expected to be ready for Opening Day after a number of shoulder surgeries, didn't pitch until mid-August and left his final start of the year after one inning with, you guessed it, a sore shoulder.
St. Louis Cardinals
2004 first-round pick Chris Lambert pitched very well at A-ball, but has struggled since. After a 6.35 ERA in 18 starts for Double-A Springfield last year, his improvements were no more than incremental, as he finished with a 5.30 mark in 23 Texas League starts this year.
Honorable Mention: 2005 first-round pick Tyler Greene has a season of two halves--hitting just .224/.308/.325 at High Class A Palm Beach, but slugging .552 with 15 home runs in 223 at-bats following a demotion to Low Class A Quad Cities. I might be more optimistic if that happened in reverse. After hitting 20 home runs last year at Double-A Springfield, third baseman Travis Hanson hit three in 475 at-bats with final averages of .223/.278/.295.
San Diego Padres
2005 first-round pick Cesar Carrillo hasn't pitched since early June because of elbow soreness and his timetable continues to get pushed back. While the Padres insist that Carrillo doesn't need surgery, he's now doubtful for the Arizona Fall League after reporting pain during a mid-August throwing session.
Honorable Mention: After 2005's nightmare full-season debut, 2004 No. 1 overall pick Matt Bush was limited to just 22 games due to ankle and hamstring troubles, and when he was healthy, he hit just .268/.333/.310. Righthander Jared Wells moved up to Triple-A after putting up a 2.64 ERA in 12 starts at Double-A Mobile, but had a whopping 7.27 ERA in 15 Pacific Coast League starts.
San Francisco Giants
Infielder Marcus Sanders' shoulder problems continued into 2006 as he struggled to find his swing after off-season surgery, hitting a useless .213/.302/.265 in 54 games for High Class A San Jose, and going just 4-for-33 (.121) as he tried to come back in the Arizona League.
Honorable Mention: Now three years removed from top prospect status, righthander Merkin Valdez continued to slide with a 5.80 ERA out of the Triple-A Fresno bullpen. After hitting .274/.360/.463 last year with 20 home runs and 35 stolen bases, outfielder Dan Ortmeier fell to .247/.307/.375 with eight home runs and 15 swipes.
Now two years removed from Tommy John surgery, 2002 first-round pick Clint Everts has seemingly never recovered from the procedure, finishing the year at High Class A Potomac with his ERA sitting at an even six in 90 innings.
Honorable Mention: After limiting Sally League batters to a .222 average last year, 6-foot-5 righty Collin Balester struggled from day one in the Carolina League, ending with a 5.19 ERA in 118 innings before finishing the year with a semi-rebounding three-start run at Double-A. The Nationals jumped shortstop Ian Desmond to Double-A with no statistical justification for doing so, and he hit just .182/.214/.231 before going back to High Class A Potomac where he began to show signs of gap power.