April 25, 2007
State of the Systems, NL Central
Triple-A Iowa (Pacific Coast League; 9-9)
With Felix Pie and Rocky Cherry now in the big
leagues, we're left with little to talk about. The two best offensive
prospects on the team, third baseman Scott Moore (.218/.368/.291) and
second baseman Eric Patterson (.239/.300/.261) are both struggling early
in the season, not that there is an immediate opportunity awaiting them in the
bigs, anyway. The I-Cubs most impressive pitcher has been Carlos Marmol,
who still has a power arm and is showing much-improved control this year with
24 strikeouts and just four walks in 16.1 innings.
Double-A Tennessee (Southern League; 9-7)
Another frustrating year for first baseman Brian Dopirak,
who took 30+ at-bats to hit his first home run of the year, and then got hurt
again. Jake Fox (.321/.339/.518) has built on his Florida State League breakout season in 2006, but he's no longer catching, which limits hilong term future. The team's best hitter has been Josh Kroeger (.365/.389/.500), but the former Arizona prospect is now no more than an organizational player. While the pitching staff has been solid overall with a team ERA of 3.62, top prospect Donald Veal has struggled in three outings,
with a 9.00 ERA and 13 walks in 12 innings. Righthander Sean Gallagher
is living up to expectations with a 3.12 ERA in three starts with 17 whiffs in
17.1 innings. The big surprise so far has been 2005 third-round pick Mark
Holliman, a finesse righty who has a perfect 0.00 ERA in 21 innings.
High-A Daytona (Florida State League; 9-8)
A prospect-free lineup other than 2006 first-round pick Tyler
Colvin, who is off to a good start at .313/.327/.500. Catcher Mark Reed,
but like older brother Jeremy, Mark doesn't offer much in the ways of power or
patience, so he needs to hit .300+ to be valuable. Instead, he's hitting
.243/.263/.243. All eyes have been on Jeff Samardzija after his gigantic contract. The good news is a 2.40 ERA in three starts, the bad news is a grand total of four strikeouts in 15 innings. He's still a project and worth nowhere near what he got. After finishing among the Midwest League leaders in wins, ERA and strikeouts last year, Mitch Atkins is on pace
for the same in '07, with a 2.14 ERA in four starts, as well as 17 strikeouts
in 21 innings with just 13 hits allowed. He's a sinker/slider guy who's yet to
Low-A Peoria (Midwest League; 9-7)
2005 first-round pick Mark Pawelek made two
appearances, gave up four runs in four innings and got send back to extended
spring training, sounding off plenty of alarms, as his stuff has gone
considerably backwards since being drafted. Third baseman Josh Lansford
(Carney's son) is off to a slot start at .213/.240/.340, but keep an eye on
Dominican catcher Welington Castillo, who leads the team with three home
runs while showing plus defensive skills.
Triple-A Louisville (International League; 8-9)
While other elite pitchers at Triple-A have shown at least
flashes of greatness, we're still waiting on Homer Bailey to do so. The
1.76 ERA is sparkling to be sure, but the 11/8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 15.1
innings is hardly inspiring. More disappointing has been Joey Votto.
All but handed the first base job in 2008 when Scott Hatteburg's
contract is up, Votto is batting just .172/.329/.293 - so at least he's drawing
walks. The most pleasant surprise has been lefty Phil Dumatrait, as the
2000 first-round pick by the Red Sox has a 0.38 ERA in four starts, giving up
just 12 hits in 23.2 innings.
Double-A Chattanooga (Southern League; 7-11)
The offense is stagnant, batting a composite .231/.304/.333,
as nobody on the team has an OPS over .800. Shortstop Paul Janish
(.269/.380/.358) is doing what he does best - reaching base and playing
outstanding defense. The best starter on the team is former University of Texas dropout Sam Lecure, who has a 1.93 ERA and more than a strikeout per
inning in three starts. Sleeper alert goes to reliever Calvin Medlock.
He's about as big as Dustin Pedroia, but he's got a solid fastball and a
plus changeup. Since giving up two runs on five hits in his season debut,
Medlock has fired 9.2 shutout innings, allowing two hits and punching out 14.
High-A Sarasota (Florida State League; 13-4)
So far so good for uber-prospect Jay Bruce, who is
batting .343/.400/.597, although he has struck out 19 times in 67 at-bats.
Outfielder B.J. Szymanski is having a repeat of last year's whiff fest
with a .200 batting average and 16 strikeouts in 50 at-bats. The team's best
hitter has been first baseman Jeremiah Piepkorn (.418/.426/.527), but
his name remains much better than his prospect status. The organization's most
interesting rotation has gotten mediocre results from Johnny Cueto, Richie
Gardner and Travis Wood.
Low-A Dayton (Midwest League; 12-2)
There's some breakouts going on in Dayton among position player prospects.
2006 first-round pick Drew Stubbs is silencing critics so far
by batting .350/.400/.483 with a greatly reduced strikeout rate (13 in 60 at-bats).
He could be in Sarasota by mid-season. Building on his surprising debut is
shortstop Chris Valaika, who still hasn't struggled in pro ball. Currently batting .411/.443/.571 in 14 games, he now sports a
career batting average of .338, and like Stubbs, could move quickly in preparation
for a 2008 campaign beginning in Double-A. Bryan Smith spent
some time yesterday praising Justin Turner, who has decent
numbers at .294/.390/.392, outstanding fundamentals, top of the order makeup,
and scouting reports that wonder what to make of an undersized right-handed
hitter with limited secondary skills. Even more fun on the mound as Rafael
Gonzalez, a long-time organization disappointment who has yet to live
up to some gaudy scouting reports has given up just two runs in 17.1 innings.
Reds sleeper alert No. 2 goes to righty Daryl Thompson. Acquired
from the Nats in last-year's Kearns/Lopez deal, Washington liked Thompson's
stuff, but had trouble keeping him healthy. He's 100% now and has given up
one run in 17 innings with 13 strikeouts and just one walk.
Triple-A Round Rock (Pacific Coast League; 9-10)
Following a remarkable spring training, outfielder Hunter
Pence started the year in a 4-for-23 slump but is batting .415 since and
.342/.405/.579 overall. He's still on pace to show up once the Craig Biggio
death march to 3,000 ends. Fellow outfielder Josh Anderson is still
very fast, and has proven to have just enough offensive skills to be a decent
bench outfielder. Expected to be one of the team's strong points, the rotation
has been a let down so far, with only Juan Gutierrez (2.35 ERA) living
up to expectations so far. While he's not striking out hitters at last year's
ridiculous pace, reliever Paul Estrada has 12 whiffs in 10.2 innings and should get a look-see at some point during the year.
Double-A Corpus Christi (Texas League; 6-11)
At some point, we have to give Johnny Ash some props
as at least a decent prospect, even if he is small, 24 years old and limited
to second base. Entering the season with career averages of .313/.379/.420,
Ash is off to a .345/.410/.455 start and has struck out just twice in 55
at-bats. Catcher Lou Santangelo (.298/.353/.362) has enough hitting
skills to get there, and it's not like the incumbent provides an immense
roadblock. On the mound, southpaw Troy Patton (2.88
ERA) still has yet to dominate at Double-A, with just 14 strikeouts in 25
innings. After a breakout campaign last year, righty Tip Fairchild has
been roughed up for 14 hits and eights runs in a pair of starts, as his
don't-throw-hard-but-throw-strikes strategy has seemingly hit its logical wall.
High-A Salem (Carolina League; 8-7)
It's a lineup filled with could-have-beens as Eli Iorg
(.271/.327/.333) is older and unproductive, Mitch Einertson
(.261/.370/.348) has done little since a record-breaking pro debut, and
shortstop Tommy Manzella (.204/.254/.241) just doesn't hit enough to
make his outstanding glove work worth a darn. Even better prospects like
catcher J.R. Towles (.220/.400/.293) have caught the slump bug. At
least speedy outfielder Josh Flores (.333/.386/.500) is off to a good
start. 2006 second-round pick Sergio Perez continues to impress with a
2.16 ERA in three starts and a WHIP under one. The Astros think they have
something in righty Brad James, a groundball machine who has given up
just nine hits and one earned run in 20 innings.
Low-A Lexington (South Atlantic League; 8-10)
First-round pick Max Sapp got a mulligan for his disappointing
pro debut as he was in over his head in the New York-Penn League, but after
getting out of the gate at .129/.349/.161, concerns are being raised. Last
year's fourth-round pick, corner infielder Chris Johnson has been much
more impressive at .328/.373/.525 while showing the rare combination of power
and contact skills. Scouts like righty Bud Norris' stuff, and his
peripherals (eights hits and 15 strikeouts in 12.2 innings) are much better
than his 5.68 ERA.
Triple-A Nashville (Pacific Coast League; 12-6)
Memo to Brewers: You want a shot at running away with the NL
Central crown? Get Yovani Gallardo into the rotation and Ryan Braun
into the lineup - now. Early panic struck in Brewer Nation when the former surrendered
four runs over five innings in his season debut, but one scout in attendance
still gave him a glowing review, citing some bad defensive breaks. Since then,
more has been going his way, as in his last three outings he's allowed just
seven hits in 18 innings with 26 strikeouts. As for Braun, he's hitting a
measly .338/.423/.765, and more importantly to team brass, has committed just
one error. Remember Brad Nelson, the hulking first baseman from Iowa who had the huge season in Low A . . . five years ago? Well, he's still around,
despite doing almost nothing since, with his .326/.370/.581 line possibly being
a bit of too little, too late. Jose Capellan waits for another
opportunity with 9.1 shutout innings of relief.
Double-A Huntsville (Southern League; 8-8)
Like Nelson, catcher Lou Palmisano is more of a
former prospect than anything else, but his bizarre .364/.511/.515 line,
bolstered by 11 walks in 33 at-bats gives some room for optimism. Always
promising yet always injured, lefty Manny Parra has been outstanding in
three starts, striking out 21 and walking just four in 18.1 innings. Former
big leaguer Grant Balfour, trying to work his way back, has stated his
case strongly with 19 strikeouts in 9.1 innings. Also in the bullpen, sleeper
candidate Robert Hinton has allowed just two hits in 8.1 shutout
High-A Brevard County (Florida State League; 8-8)
Repeating at High-A, slick-fielding shortstop Alcides
Escobar is showing some progress at first glance with a .306 batting
average, but unfortunately, that's also his slugging percentage. Top 10
prospects Lorenzo Cain (.192/.236/.192), Mat Gamel (.262/.314/.323)
and Cole Gillespie (.237/.324/.407) are also off to slow starts, with the
offense has been carried by 2006 draftee Chris Errecart (.391/.426/.500).
On the mound, Will Inman continues to defy standard scouting
categorizations by allowing one earned run over 16.2 innings with 22
Low-A West Virginia (South Atlantic League; 12-3)
After leading the Sally League in stolen bases last year, outfielder Darren
Ford is back to driving catcher's nuts by hitting .366/.413/.390 with
11 stolen bases. Also running wild with eight stolen bases is the well-regarded
and aptly named Brant Brewer, though the shortstop hasn't been
nearly as impressive with the bat (.271/.328/.373). Righthander Zach
Braddock's success was detailed in Monday's
Triple-A Indianapolis (International League; 10-6)
With Ronny Paulino doing nothing at the big league
level, catcher Ryan Doumit could be on the verge of another opportunity thanks to a .426/.517/.702 batting line that includes 15 RBIs in 14 games. Center fielder Nyjer Morgan (.327/.413/.382) is leaving Chris Duffy
with little wiggle room should a slump arrive. Nearly every starter is an high
draft pick who's trying to come back from surgery. The good news is that 2003
number one overall pick Bryan Bullington has looked pretty good, though his ERA 1.52 doesn't line up well with his 13/10 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 23.2 innings. The bad news is that the window of opportunity is nearly closed for Sean Burnett (4.35 ERA with six strikeouts in 20.2 innings) and John
Van Benschoten (4.73 ERA).
Double-A Altoona (Eastern League; 7-7)
After a miserable start, top prospect Andrew
McCutchen is showing some signs of life with multi-hit contests in three of
his last five games. Catcher-turned-third baseman Neil Walker is
batting .314, but without power or patience, his triple-slash line is a far
less impressive .314/.333/.431. Given nearly $2 million in the offseason as a
Cuban import, Yoslan Herrera is getting battered by Eastern League hitters, as the righthander has given up 21 hits in 14 innings and sports a 7.71 ERA. Speaking of Cubans, former Met Alay Soler delivered five no-hit innings in his last start and might get a look.
High-A Lynchburg (Carolina League; 6-7)
First baseman Steven Pearce (.265/.351/.653) continues his bashing ways with five home runs in 49 at-bats, but he's 24 and in High A, and needs a more appropriate test of his skills. After driving in 100+ runs last year, outfielder Brad Corley is struggling at
.216/.255/.373. From the "Remember Me?" files comes former Baltimore first-round pick Tripper Johnson, who is hitting a fairly shocking .404/.472/.596. With a strikeout per inning and an opponent's batting average of .232, righthander Todd Redmond has pitched far better than his ERA
(5.79). The Pirates hoped reliever Pat Bresnehan could move quickly, but he's allowed 11 base runners in 3.2 innings.
Low-A Hickory (South Atlantic League; 7-8)
After a lost 2006 season, ultra-athletic James Boone
is having a bounce-back campaign so far at .333/.415/.456, but like Pierce,
he's 24 and needs to get going. Another polished college product, local hero
Jim Negrych (he rewrote the record book at Pitt) is hitting .326/.392/.442
against much younger competition. Sleeper alert goes to the more age-appropriate Jamie Romak. Acquired from the Braves in the Adam LaRoche deal, Romak's big time raw power has been on display early on, as he leads the team with four bombs while batting .313/.433/.646. Just a warning however - those averages are going to be hard to maintain with his strikeout rate (18 in 48 at-bats). With a team ERA of 5.99, the pitching staff has been as bad as the offense has been good. A pair of high 2006 draftees, lefty Mike Felix (12.38 ERA) and righty Jared Hughes (4.02 ERA) have been especially disappointing.
St. Louis Cardinals
Triple-A Memphis (Pacific Coast League; 9-10)
Outfielder (that's right, outfielder) Rick Ankiel has
a strange batting line of .235/.280/.588, which tells you everything you need
to know about him as a hitter - very raw, massive power. There's little else
to talk about in lineup filled with has been and retreads. Former top prospect
Chris Narveson's remarkable comeback from shoulder surgery and years of
ineffectiveness could end with a big league look soon after a recent five-hit
complete game. After nearly making the big league squad out of spring
training, reliever Dennis Dove (4.50 ERA) is scuffling a bit.
Double-A Springfield (Texas League; 5-9)
The Cardinals rushed a pair of very young players to
Double-A, and while top prospect Colby Rasmus (.211/.297/.386) is struggling,
Bryan Anderson (.316/.366/.553) is beginning to establish himself as one
of the better catching prospects around. Joining Rasmus in the struggling
department is 2006 draftee John Jay (.190/.266/.259), and 2005
first-round pick Tyler Greene (.191/.255/.340), as the shortstop looks
incapable of hitting anything other than Midwest League pitching. On the
mound, lefty Jamie Garcia (2.81 ERA), has limited hitters to a .185 average while coaxing plenty of groundballs, while future closer candidate Chris Perez has 11 strikeouts in six innings while giving up just four hits and one walk.
High-A Palm Beach (Florida State League; 9-7)
After an impressive pro debut, first baseman Mark Hamilton (.147/.194/.294), while outfielder Shane Robinson
(.246/.261/.323) proves why judging college players solely on their numbers is
a bad, bad idea. 2006 first-round pick Adam Ottavino (2.75 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 19.2 innings) has been impressive, while last June's
third-rounder, Gary Daley, has fired 11.2 innings of scoreless relief, depending more on keeping the ball on the ground than blowing away hitters (five strikeouts).
Low-A Quad Cities (Midwest League; 9-9)
It's a weak lineup on a talent level, as the best prospect
on the team, outfielder Daryl Jones (.185/.323/.259) continues to be
more tools than talent. He at least shows a good approach. The best
statistical performer is catcher Omar Falcon (.327/.431/.551), who is in
Low A but also entering his eighth pro year. The pitching staff also offers
little to get excited about, although 2006 second-round pick Brad Furnish
(3.14 ERA) is a command and control lefthander who should get there.
Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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