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September 25, 2006

Future Shock

Monday Morning Ten-Pack, 9/25/06

by Kevin Goldstein

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Minor league numbers can be unfair. A player who is having a big season will often have to start from scratch, statistically speaking, after earning a promotion or getting dealt to a new team. Here are ten players who played for more than one team and who had some pretty impressive season totals.

Reid Brignac, SS, Devil Rays

TM  LEV   G   AB   R  H  2B 3B HR RBI  BB  SO SB CS   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
VIS HiA  100 411  82 134 26  3 21  83  35  82 12  6  .326  .382  .557   939
MON  AA   28 110  18  33  6  2  3  16   7  31  3  0  .300  .355  .473   828
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
TOT      128 521 100 167 32  5 24  99  42 113 15  6  .321  .376  .539   916

A second-round pick in 2004, Brignac hit a relatively tame .264/.319/.429 at Low-A Southwest Michigan in 2005, but scouts were universal in their praise for his hitting skills and power potential. This year it all came together as Brignac won California League MVP honors and was named Tampa Bay's minor-league player of the year over the weekend. He doesn't turn 21 until January and he more than held his own at Double-A, so this is clearly a significant prospect. The only question is where he'll end up defensively--while he's made some improvements, and some scouts think he can stay at shortstop, many others do not. Experience has shown us that that even a hint of suspicion about a player's defense almost always leads to a future move. The problem is that anywhere you'd logically consider moving him--like third base or a corner outfield slot--is already pretty crowded in the deep Devil Rays system.

Terry Evans, OF, Angels

TM  LEV   G   AB   R  H  2B 3B HR RBI  BB  SO SB CS   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
PAL HiA   60 238  43  74 10  1 15  45  20  50 21  1  .311  .373  .550   923
SPR  AA   21  75  13  23  4  0  7  20   3  21  5  1  .307  .369  .640  1009
ARK  AA   52 188  48  58  9  2 11  22  18  56 11  6  .309  .385  .553   938
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
TOT      133 501 104 155 23  3 33  87  41 127 37  8  .309  .377  .565   942

Your completely-out-of-nowhere story of the year, Evans was a career .239/.303/.394 hitter entering this season, but he got off to a ridiculous start with the Cardinals before getting traded to the Angels for the other Weaver. He hit for every team he played for and finished with a 30/30 season, but it's still hard to find a lot of Evans supporters in the scouting community. He turns 25 in January and he strikes out an awful lot, so we still need more proof, and I'm not convinced that it's coming.

James Hoey, RHP, Orioles

TM  LEV    G  W  L SV   ERA   IP    H  R ER  BB  SO  AVG
--------------------------------------------------------
DEL LoA   27  2  1 18  2.54  28.1  17  8  8  10  46 .175
FRE HiA   14  0  0 11  0.64  14.0  13  3  1   5  16 .228
BOW  AA    8  0  0  4  4.00   9.0   9  5  4   3  11 .243
--------------------------------------------------------
TOT       49  2  1 33  2.28  51.1  39 16 13  18  73 .204

Here's your pitching version of Evans, only scouts like this one. A Tommy John survivor who pitched a total of 21 2/3 innings in the last two seasons, Hoey rarely got out of the low 90s in the past, but showed up this season pounding 97 mph heat with a plus slider. He began the year in Low-A and finished it in the majors, where he's been better than his 10+ ERA indicates; a pair of miserable outings makes the entire line look bad. His two plus pitches should be good for a significant big-league career if he can refine his control.

Andy LaRoche, 3B, Dodgers

TM  LEV   G   AB   R  H  2B 3B HR RBI  BB  SO SB CS   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
JAX  AA   62 230  42  71 13  0  9  46  41  32  6  3  .309  .419  .483   901
LVG AAA   55 202  35  65 14  1 10  35  25  32  3  2  .322  .400  .550   950
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
TOT      117 432  77 136 27  1 19  81  66  64  9  5  .315  .410  .514   924

LaRoche had a mid-season scare when a shoulder injury looked much more serious at first glance, but in the end he missed just two weeks and finished with these fine numbers. While I think we have learned that his 2005 home-run surge was directly related to hitting in Vero Beach, he still has average-to-plus power to go with fantastic basic hitting skills--as shown by his excellent walk and contact rates. I'm normally not a big fan of comps, but imagine John Olerud. Now add a ton of athleticism and the ability to play third base--that's a hell of a player.

Brent Lillibridge, SS, Pirates

TM  LEV   G   AB   R  H  2B 3B HR RBI  BB  SO SB CS   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
HIC LoA   74 274  59  82 18  5 11  43  51  61 29  8  .299  .414  .522   936
LYN HiA   54 201  47  63 10  3  2  28  36  43 24  5  .313  .426  .423   849
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
TOT      128 475 106 145 28  8 13  71  87 104 53 13  .305  .419  .480   899

A fourth-round pick last year out of Washington, Lillibridge was unimpressive in his pro debut. This year he was outstanding, particularly with his secondary skills: walks, stolen bases and gap power. His strikeout rate is a little high, and he's probably not really a .300 hitter, but he does so many things beyond his batting average to more than make up for it. He's a little undersized, but he's a good athlete and a good defender at shortstop. In a system desperate for prospects from sources other than the big-money first rounders, Lillibridge just might be the guy.

Jeff Natale, 2B, Red Sox

TM  LEV   G   AB   R  H  2B 3B HR RBI  BB  SO SB CS   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
GRE LoA   50 175  38  60 10  0 10  41  41  20  2  1  .343  .487  .571  1058
WIL HiA   82 273  46  76 13  0  7  46  62  54  1  0  .278  .419  .403   822
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
TOT      132 448  84 136 23  0 17  87 103  74  3  1  .304  .446  .469   915

A 32nd-round pick last june, Natale hit like Ted Williams at Low A, and Ted Williams without power at High A. A .446 OBP on the year is nothing to sneeze at, but Natale is nevertheless no more than a marginal prospect. At 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, he's the same size as Dustin Pedroia, he hasn't gotten to Double-A yet, and he's a year older than Pedroia. It's hard to imagine less projectability. So one would think that at best he could become a utility player, but his arm and range are short for the left side of the infield, and there really is no such thing as a roster spot for a backup second baseman. Unless you're the Cubs.

Sergio Pedroza, OF, Devil Rays

TM  LEV   G   AB   R  H  2B 3B HR RBI  BB  SO SB CS   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
COL LoA   89 317  61  89 24  1 21  75  73  91  2  6  .281  .437  .562   998
VB  HiA   13  39   7   6  2  0  3   9   8  18  0  0  .154  .282  .436   728
VIS HiA   29  99  23  31  9  1  4   9  20  26  0  2  .313  .447  .545   993
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
TOT      131 455  91 126 35  2 28  93 101 135  2  8  .277  .427  .547   974

A third-round pick last year out of Cal State Fullerton, Pedroza got off to a great start at Low-A and was included in the deal to Tampa Bay that netted Julio Lugo. With a Three True Outcomes percentage approaching 50%, some think Pedroza has Rob Deer potential, but that's the most optimistic one can be about his future, and I don't think he has that kind of power. A good college player from a major program is expected to rake in the Sally League, but walks and power are his only tools. He's not a good runner, he's limited to left field defensively, and with a strikeout rate of nearly one for every three at-bats, Double-A could be a nightmare for him next season.

Max Ramirez, C, Indians

TM  LEV   G   AB   R  H  2B 3B HR RBI  BB  SO SB CS   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
ROM LoA   80 267  50  76 17  0  9  37  54  72  2  0  .285  .408  .449   857
LKC LoA   37 127  19  39  6  1  4  26  30  27  0  0  .307  .435  .465   899
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
TOT      117 394  69 115 23  1 13  63  84  99  2  0  .292  .417  .454   871

Here's a bit of a hidden gem--I was convinced that I hadn't mentioned his name all year, but a quick search of the archives proved me wrong. Ramirez put himself on the map by hitting .347/.424/.527 in the Appy League last year, and his hot start at Rome made him valued enough to be used in a trade to the Indians for Bob Wickman, where he changed teams, but not leagues. While he's just slightly behind the curve (he turns 22 in October), this is your classic solid young catching prospect. He's not a good defender, but scouts see defensive potential, and at the plate he has a patient approach--despite some big holes in his swing--and gap power. With the trade to Cleveland, he went from a system with Brian McCann at the big-league level and Jarrod Saltalamacchia at Double-A, to a minor-league system with pretty much no catching in it, period. So he went from buried to number one on the organizational depth chart. A nice change of fortunes, no?

Mark Reynolds, INF/OF, Diamondbacks

TM  LEV   G   AB   R  H  2B 3B HR RBI  BB  SO SB CS   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
LAN HiA   76 273  64  92 18  2 23  77  41  72  1  1  .337  .422  .670  1093
TEN  AA   30 114  23  31  7  0  8  21  11  37  0  1  .272  .346  .544   890
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
TOT      106 387  87 123 25  2 31  98  52 109  1  2  .318  .401  .633  1034

While Evans won the out-of-nowhere honors, here's your runner-up. A 14th-round pick out of Virginia in 2004, Reynolds hit 19 home runs last year at Low-A South Bend, but he was splitting time between shortstop and third base and was a 22-year-old college player with an aggressive approach, so reviews were understandably tepid. By the midpoint of the 2006 season, Reynolds was leading the minor leagues in home runs and RBI, and if it wasn't for a season cut short because of a commitment to play for Team USA, he would have made a run at the season titles as well. Reynolds now gets good reviews from scouts as a solid hitter, but not as any sort of future impact player. He's proven himself to be more than a shortstop, and possibly not an infielder at all, as he played most of his Double-A games in left field. That's a much tougher road, and he'll need to keep this up at Triple-A Tucson before anybody gets too excited.

Homer Bailey, RHP, Reds; Scott Elbert, LHP, Dodgers; Sean Gallagher, RHP, Cubs; Yovani Gallardo, RHP, Brewers; Philip Hughes, RHP, Yankees

HOMER BAILEY
TM  LEV    G  W  L SV   ERA   IP    H  R ER  BB  SO  AVG
--------------------------------------------------------
SAR HiA   13  3  5  0  3.31  70.2  49 35 26  22  79 .189
CHT  AA   13  7  1  0  1.59  68.0  50 13 12  28  77 .208
--------------------------------------------------------
TOT       26 10  6  0  2.47 138.2  99 48 38  50 156 .198

SCOTT ELBERT
TM  LEV    G  W  L SV   ERA   IP    H  R ER  BB  SO  AVG
--------------------------------------------------------
VB  HiA   17  5  5  0  2.37  83.2  57 27 22  41  97 .193
JAX  AA   11  6  4  0  3.61  62.1  40 26 25  44  76 .187
--------------------------------------------------------
TOT       28 11  9  0  2.90 146.0  97 53 47  85 173 .190

SEAN GALLAGHER
TM  LEV    G  W  L SV   ERA   IP    H  R ER  BB  SO  AVG
--------------------------------------------------------
DAY HiA   13  4  0  0  2.30  78.1  75 24 20  21  80 .260
WTN  AA   15  7  5  0  2.71  86.1  74 30 26  55  91 .239
--------------------------------------------------------
TOT       28 11  5  0  2.51 164.2 149 54 46  76 171 .249

YOVANI GALLARDO
TM  LEV    G  W  L SV   ERA   IP    H  R ER  BB  SO  AVG
--------------------------------------------------------
BRV HiA   13  6  3  0  2.09  77.2  54 24 18  23 103 .196
HUN  AA   13  5  2  0  1.63  77.1  50 18 14  28  85 .187
--------------------------------------------------------
TOT       26 11  5  0  1.86 155.0 104 42 32  51 188 .192

PHILIP HUGHES
TM  LEV    G  W  L SV   ERA   IP    H  R ER  BB  SO  AVG
--------------------------------------------------------
TAM HiA    5  2  3  0  1.80  30.0  19  7  6   2  30 .178
TRE  AA   21 10  3  0  2.25 116.0  73 30 29  32 138 .179
--------------------------------------------------------
TOT       26 12  6  0  2.16 146.0  92 37 35  34 168 .179

Man, did the Florida State League have some pitching this year, or what? There are many more, but these five all graduated quickly to Double-A, and to a man, they all didn't skip a beat. One thing that caught my eye--and I'm sure it brought a smile to Will Carroll's face--is the total innings for each pitcher. These are very manageable workloads for precious young arms, and all of them stayed healthy throughout the season. Bailey and Hughes are obviously the studs here, though Elbert could inch closer to them if he can throw strikes more consistently. Gallardo is a step behind them in terms of stuff, and Gallagher another step behind that, but this is a group who three years from now could be combining for 75-100 wins in the major leagues.

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

Related Content:  Terry Reynolds,  OBP

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