September 12, 2007
Two Steps Back, National League
Our four-part series finishes up with the National League, and the bad news to be found within each system.
After leading the minor leagues in hits last year as part of a .327/.369/.502 year at High-A Lancaster, Double-A proved to be a much tougher challenge for outfielder Chris Rahl, who dropped down to .259/.286/.398.
Almost as Disappointing: After hitting eight home runs in 18 California League games last year, 2006 third-round pick Cyle Hankerd managed to hit just eight all year this time around, with a .285/.268/.422 line at High-A Visalia. A speedy second-baseman who needs to hit for a high average because of his lack of secondary skills, Emilio Bonifacio fell a bit short with a .285/.333/.352 line at Double-A Mobile.
After showing outstanding glove work to go with impressive power and patience last year, third baseman Van Pope's production simply collapsed at Double-A Mississippi this year, and he finished the season at .223/.298/.340.
Almost as Disappointing: Fellow third baseman Eric Campbell struggled with shoulder problems and bad behavior, hitting just .221/.312/.406 for High-A Myrtle Beach, which boils down to some impressive power but little else. Former 2005 second-round pick Jeff Lyman began the year by returning to Low-A and showing little progress, finishing the year with a 5.59 ERA in 28 games while allowing 227 base runners in 135 1/3 innings.
Even though he finished the season with a nice run at Double-A, right-hander Jeff Samardzija's final numbers fell well short of the expectations set by his record bonus, as the former wide receiver was hit around for a .306 batting average while striking out just 65 batters in 141 2/3 innings.
Almost as Disappointing: The one thing top left-hander Donald Veal couldn't afford was a step backwards in command, but that's just what happened, and he finished with a 4.97 ERA at Double-A Tennessee with 73 walks in 130 1/3 innings. The fifth overall pick in the draft four years ago, outfielder Ryan Harvey is just treading water--playing only 63 games due to a severe hamstring injury, returning to High-A, and hitting just .246/.269/.446 when he was available.
A high-profile draft-and-follow who hit .372 in 14 games after signing last year, infielder Milton Loo was placed on the Restricted List during spring training for undisclosed personal reasons, and that status is still the case, as Loo missed the entire season.
Almost as Disappointing: Left-hander Travis Wood recorded more than a strikeout per inning at High-A Sarasota, but also got hit hard for a 4.86 ERA before getting shut down with shoulder tendonitis. After being a first-round pick in 2006, Drew Stubbs was given a conservative assignment to Low-A, where he hit .270/.364/.421 with 142 strikeouts.
Shortstop Jonathan Herrera's breakout 2006 campaign looks like a California League mirage after a .257/.315/.338 year at Double-A Tulsa that included just nine extra-base hits after the All-Star break.
Almost as Disappointing: 2006 number-two-overall pick Greg Reynolds was outstanding in eight Double-A starts with a 1.42 ERA, but his season was cut short by shoulder surgery. The good news is that doctors found only some fraying in his rotator cuff, but no tears. Danny Christensen, a 2006 second-round pick, had a rough pro debut, and was not much better in his second go-around in the Pioneer League, batting .223/.284/.397 with 95 strikeouts in 229 at-bats.
Top prospect Sean West's season ended before it began, as the six-foot-eight power lefty underwent shoulder surgery in spring training.
Almost as Disappointing: Now 24 years old and limited to first base, Gaby Sanchez needed to put up more than a .279/.369/.433 line at High-A to maintain his prospect status. Outfielder Kris Harvey might want to think about following in his father's footsteps and move to the mound after a .238/.301/.376 year in the Florida State League.
After getting tabbed as the club's 2006 first-round pick, Max Sapp entered pro ball with a reputation for a power bat, but he produced just two home runs in his full-season debut as part of a .241/.330/.333 year at Low-A Lexington.
Almost as Disappointing: After a strong finish in 2006, Jimmy Barthmaier hit the wall at Double-A, as Texas League hitters teed off on the big right-hander for a .312 average, resulting in a 6.20 ERA. Reliever Paul Estrada recorded 134 strikeouts out of the bullpen last year, but both his stuff and command took a step backwards this year, as he recorded eight losses and a 5.12 ERA at Triple-A Round Rock.
After surprising people by being picked in the first round in 2006, in part because of his defensive problems, Preston Mattingly did surprise anyone by playing his way off shortstop (and wasn't much better at second base), but his struggles at the plate were a much bigger upset, as he hit just .210/.251/.297.
Almost as Disappointing: First baseman Cory Dunlap has basically eaten his way out of prospect status, hitting .226/.337/.323 at Double-A, which is barely slugging his weight. Former top prospect Greg Miller still has filthy stuff, striking out 97 in 76 2/3 innings, but even with that low workload, he still led the minor leagues in walks with 89.
Years after being a 2004 first-round pick, Mark Rogers was seemingly coming into his own at the end of 2006, but he underwent major shoulder surgery in spring training, and the damage was so severe that some wonder if he'll ever be able to come back from it.
Almost as Disappointing: A first-round pick in 2006, Jeremy Jeffress was blowing away opposing batters and scouts at Low-A West Virginia, but whispers about makeup troubles culminated with a 50-game suspension for testing positive for a "drug of abuse." Outfielder Lorenzo Cain saw his power, walk rate, and contact ability all take a dip at High-A, finishing the year at .276/.338/.344.
Almost as Disappointing: Outfielder Fernando Martinez struggled with a hand injury while being in over his head at Double-A, and limped home with a .271/.336/.377 line. Entering the year looking like one of the few power prospects in the system, first baseman Mike Carp smacked just 11 home runs while also looking over-matched in the Eastern League with a .251/.337/.387 line.
Something of a surprise from the moment he was made a 2006 first-round pick, Kyle Drabek was leaving scouts scratching their heads with some unimpressive outings at Low-A Lakewood, but things became more clear when he required Tommy John surgery at mid-season.
Almost as Disappointing: Acquired in the Bobby Abreu deal, former Yankees top pick C.J. Henry now looks like a complete bust after a .184/.232/.322 line at Lakewood that included 139 strikeouts in 342 at-bats. Outfielder D'Arby Myers proved to be even more raw than expected, with a .240/.286/.296 showing in the New York-Penn League.
Twenty-six-year-old Cuban defector Yoslan Herrera was given nearly $2 million with the hopes that he could help in the big leagues almost immediately, but instead he showed up in Double-A having problems throwing pitches beyond the mid-80s, finishing with a 4.69 ERA and just 70 strikeouts in 128 2/3 innings.
Almost as Disappointing: Neither of the organization's last two big draft picks had seasons to remember, as Brad Lincoln missed the entire year after undergoing Tommy John surgery in April, while Andrew McCutchen never found his stroke after an aggressive push to Double-A, finishing up at .258/.327/.383.
One of the best athletes in the system, outfielder Daryl Jones proved to not be ready for a full-season league, as he was unable to get his batting average permanently above .200 until mid-July, and finished at .217/.304/.296 for Low-A Quad Cities.
Almost as Disappointing: After hitting .342 in his pro debut, outfielder John Jay suffered through an injury-plagued season, and when he was healthy, his lack of secondary skills caught up with him, as evidenced by a .265/.328/.387 line spread across three levels. Blake Hawksworth's impressive rebound campaign last year is now a thing of the past after a 5.28 ERA in Triple-A in a year made worse by a plummeting strikeout rate.
Top pitching prospect Cesar Carillo's constant elbow problems finally resolved themselves, but not happily, as he was shut down to have an early-season Tommy John surgery.
Almost as Disappointing: After compiling a .458 on-base percentage in his pro debut, outfielder Cedric Hunter's first full season finished with an underwhelming .282/.344/.373 line at Low-A Fort Wayne. That same team was expecting big things from draft-and-follow righty Aaron Breit, but he got hammered for 139 hits in 108 1/3 innings and a brutal 6.73 ERA.
Slugging "outfielder" Eddy Martinez-Esteve got a mulligan for a rough 2006 as he recovered from shoulder surgery, but more injuries and a .240/.329/.291 line across three levels have given his prospect status a major hit.
Almost as Disappointing: Thought to be ready for a big league relief job, Billy Sadler stopped throwing strikes at Triple-A, striking out 59 in 42 1/3 innings but walking 35--leading to a 5.95 ERA for Fresno. Athletic outfielder Michael McBryde's .276/.328/.386 season at Low-A was a disappointment for many who predicted a breakout year.
After crashing out of the majors by going 7-for-54 (.130), Kory Casto's downward slide continued with a surprisingly awful .246/.334/.384 line at Triple-A Columbus.
Almost as Disappointing: After an impressive pro debut in 2006, reliever Zech Zinicola proved to be not ready for an assignment to Double-A, putting up a 5.46 ERA in 42 games with nearly as many walks (36) as strikeouts (45). The club's 2006 third-round pick, Stephen King, lasted just 35 games in Low-A, hitting .180/.261/.258. While he rebounded a bit in the Gulf Coast League, he still amassed 105 strikeouts in 313 at-bats.