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April 13, 2007

Future Shock

Minor League Miscellany

by Kevin Goldstein

I collect lots of notes on stuff from articles, conversations, emails, etc. Some of them turn into full-fledged pieces, most do not. Here's a bunch of things I've been thinking about, noticing, or whatever, stuff that's too short for a blog entry or article, but hopefully enough to make for an entertaining, if not rambling piece. On to baseball, and any statistics here are going into Thursday's games...

Major League Stuff

Can anybody explain to me why Lastings Milledge is in the majors right now? With Shawn Green off to a strong start, Milledge has gotten a grand total of two at-bats this year, so he's not helping the Mets, and that's not helping his development; it just makes no sense at all. Stories are starting to spread that he's heading to Triple-A in the next few days, so my rant here may be irrelevant.

When Mike Mussina pulled up lame early in Wednesday's game with a hamstring problem, all I could think about was Philip Hughes. Not that one should ever actively root for injuries, but whether we like it or not, that's where the likely first opportunities for Hughes and the other big name Triple-A pitchers ( Tim Lincecum, Homer Bailey, and Yovani Gallardo ) are going to came from. For Hughes watchers, it's probably still going to be a while, as Mussina is expected to be back to action quickly, with Sean Henn taking his next turn in the rotation.

Minor League Stuff

Remember that whole DVD stuff with the Rangers and how that trio of young arms was finally going to give the Rangers a pitching staff to match their explosive offense? Yeah, that's not going so well. John Danks is in a White Sox uniform, Thomas Diamond is out for the year following Tommy John surgery, and now Edinson Volquez is in some kind of personal hell. Dropped two levels down to High-A in order to work on his command, his breaking ball, and build up some confidence, the gambit has been an abject failure so far, as Volquez has given up 14 runs over eight innings in his first two starts for Bakersfield in the California League, including four home runs allowed--opposing batters are currently slugging .758 against him. Rangers fans are reduced from having three fine young prospects close to being ready with a younger Eric Hurley just behind to simply just having Hurley.

Got a lot of time on your hands? Head on over to see the Lancaster Jethawks, Boston's new High-A affiliate in the Cal League. Through seven games, the average game time is a whopping three hours and 16 minutes, and keep in mind that they don't have the longer ad-driven between-innings breaks that the big leagues do. What's taking so long? Rallies. The 5-2 Jethawks have scored 70 runs already this year, batting a composite .361/.439/.631 in their hitting-happy home park, while the pitchers have allowed another 50 runs of their own. The average Jethawk game has featured 26 hits, 10 walks, two hit batters, and 15 strikeouts.

In a hurry? Maybe the Royals' High-A affiliate in Wilmington plays to more your speed. In seven games, the 2-5 Blue Rocks have scored nine runs, and allowed just 14. That's just over three runs combined per game, and barely over 15 base runners per. Average game time: two hours and 17 minutes.

Triple-A Columbus, the Nationals' new top-level affiliate, has a prospect-less roster, and has scored just six runs in six games, but don't blame veterans Darnell McDonald and Michael Restovich, who are both batting over .400. The pair has combined for 17 hits, while the remainder of the team has combined for just 19 in 139 at-bats, "good" for a .137 batting average.

What's going on with Mariners outfielder Michael Saunders? A toolsy-yet-raw Canadian product, Saunders did nothing special in his full-season debut last year at Low-A Wisconsin, batting .240/.329/.345. He did show decent patience, drawing 48 walks in 359 at-bats, but there was no sign of what was to come. Now with High-A High Desert, Saunders has suddenly transformed into the Canuck God of Walks. He drew a pair of free passes in his first two games, and then upped the ante with three more in each of his next two. After a pair of walk-free affairs had it looking like a fluke, he went 0-for-2 on Wednesday night with four walks. Add it all up, and he's currently 4-for-21 with 14 walks, good for a bizarre triple-slash line of .190/.528/.286.

Writing about how one can't read too much into slow or fast starts is a common theme in April. Nonetheless, I was a little worried about Cameron Maybin after I found myself saying in a number of BP 2007 promotional appearances that Maybin had the best shot of being the number one prospect in baseball at this time next year. In his first four games for High-A Lakeland, Maybin went 0-for-11 with six whiffs, and one would quickly be reminded of the only alarming part of Maybin's game last year: the 116 strikeouts in 385 at-bats. In three games since, he's 6-for-10 with a double and three home runs, and all is well again.

Friday night, as the Fort Myers Miracle host the Dunedin Blue Jays in the Florida State League, it's the annual "Lehigh Rotary Take A Kid To The Game" night. It's also the first "Happy Hour Friday" of the season, with one dollar beers from six to seven p.m. Kids and binge drinking--now that's a match made in heaven.

Finishing With A College Tidbit

Grand Valley State in Michigan is better known for their football team, which has won four Division II national championships in the last five years. However, the baseball team is pretty good as well. They're currently sporting a 23-2 record behind an offense that is batting a combined .387/.483/.556 and averaging just under ten runs a game. The Lakers' leader at the plate is a scrappy 5'8" senior second baseman hitting .462/.523/.835 and leading the squad in home runs, RBI, and stolen bases while striking out just five times in 91 at-bats. His name, and I kid you not, is Spud McKenzie.

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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