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May 29, 2008

Future Shock

NL West Notebook

by Kevin Goldstein

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Arizona Diamondbacks

Not What They Were Hoping For: In last year's draft, the Diamondbacks spent a little over a million dollars on a pair of West Coast college right-handers who were high on polish and low on pure stuff. Supplemental first-round pick Wes Roemer and second-round selection Barry Enright both won a ton of college games with average velocity, decent breaking balls and laser-like precision, and that was enough for Arizona to begin both pitchers in the High-A California League. So far, both are still filling up the strike zone, but both are getting hit awfully hard as well. Roemer has an impressive 50 strikeouts against just 17 walks in 58 innings, but he also has a 5.12 ERA thanks to 76 hits allowed, including 10 home runs; Enright has a similar line of 47 whiffs and just 13 walks in 55 1/3 innings but, like Roemer, he's been torched for 77 hits, leading to a 5.37 ERA. Once seen as a pair of pitching prospects who lacked high ceilings but could move quickly through the system, the brakes are now firmly engaged on both.


Colorado Rockies

Drilling For A Closer: While Colorado's Double-A affiliate at Tulsa languishes in the Texas League's basement with an 18-32 record, there are still prospects to be found on the Drillers roster, and one scout who recently evaluated the team came away especially impressed with reliever Casey Weathers. The organization's first-round pick last year out of Vanderbilt, Weathers has responded well to an aggressive first full-season assignment, compiling a 2.21 ERA in 20 appearances while limiting both left- and right-handed hitters to a sub-.200 batting average, striking out more than a batter per inning and compiling a ground ball ratio of nearly three to one. "His arm action is a little long, but it's such good stuff," said the scout. "You're talking 95 mph with really good movement--and that's very unusual with that kind of velocity." Weathers' only issue this year has been throwing strikes consistently, as he's walked 11, but the scout did not see that as a long-term concern. "He's a very good athlete and he repeats his delivery, so I don't think these control issues are something that's going to be with him long term," concluded the scout. "For me, he's absolutely a big league closer in the end." With the Rockies already flipping closers once this year, they might be ready to flip again if Weathers can carry himself well in a late-season audition.


Los Angeles Dodgers

Like They Really Need A Young Catcher: Last year at Low-A Great Lakes, catcher Carlos Santana hit just .223/.318/.370--not the kind of numbers that generate any kind of attention. Even so, scouts saw something in his raw tools, and those are starting to show some promise this year at High-A Inland Empire, as the 22-year-old Dominican switch-hitter is off to a .306/.421/.513 start in 47 games, with more walks (32) than strikeouts (24) in 160 at-bats. One West Coast scout who recently saw the 66ers walked away impressed: "For me, that's an everyday catcher," said the scout. "He's a good hitter from both sides and he's strong--there's some juice in his bat." Defensively, Santana also earns high marks: "The arm is great, and will be even better with some improved mechanics. He's a little raw behind the dish, but he certainly has the athleticism to get better."

Meanwhile, this year's catcher at Great Lakes is also putting up unimpressive numbers, but is nevertheless intriguing scouts. A native of Curacao, 20-year-old Kenley Jansen is batting just .198/.270/.376, but also has five home runs in 101 at-bats. "He's listed at 6-2, 220, but he's even bigger than that," said another scout. "He can really throw and has tremendous raw power. I know the numbers are pretty bad, but he's pretty interesting."


San Diego Padres

Not Great, But Big Leaguers: While the Padres pride themselves on pitching (and with a big league club average just over three runs a game, how could they not?), there's more coming, and two arms at San Diego's Double-A San Antonio affiliate caught the eye of one pro scout. Left-hander Steve Garrison and righty Will Inman, both acquired in last summer's Scott Linebrink trade, are both pitching well for the Missions, and one scout who recently evaluated the pair thought that both will be successful in the majors, although on a somewhat limited level. "Inman is just so unusual," said the scout. "He's a fly-ball pitcher with a funky arm angle and a funky breaking ball, and it's all just kind of weird. I don't like him as a starter--just too many balls up and flat--but he'd be great for their bullpen in that park." As for Garrision, the scout gave him a slightly higher grade when it came to upside. "Like Inman, he's not overpowering, but he's big-league worthy," the scout continued. "I could see him starting or relieving, really. The fastball is average, but the other stuff is pretty good, and he's got plenty of feel, command, athleticism and aggressiveness." A concise conclusion: "They're not phenomenal, but they're good."


San Francisco Giants

Don't You Forget About Me: While most of the attention on Giants pitching prospects has been focused on 2007 first-round picks Tim Alderson and Madison Bumgarner, righty Henry Sosa, who ranked higher than both in our off-season prospect rankings, made his season debut over the weekend for High-A San Jose, allowing two hits over four shutout innings while walking one and striking out five. A long, lanky Dominican who sits in the low to mid-90s and can touch 98 mph at times, Sosa missed the first two months of the season recovering from knee surgery, and it could turn out to be a blessing in disguise, as his workload will be somewhat limited.

When They Say No-Hit, Don't Take It Literally: With six picks in the first 51 selections last June, the Giants had to understandably cut some corners here and there on a cost basis. One of those cost-cutting moves came with Oklahoma State catcher Jackson Williams, whom the club selected with a supplemental first-round selection despite a reputation for being a good-glove/no-hit catcher. Williams has lived up to that reputation in his pro debut, perhaps a little too much. He's thrown out half of the opposing base robbers and been charged with just two passed balls, but offensively he's been one of the worst regulars in all of the minors, batting just .127/.185/.182 in 32 games, including a .074 (2-for-27) mark against lefties. When facing righties, on the other hand, he's batting a robust .145.

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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