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August 23, 2008

Future Shock

Minor League Batting Leaders

by Kevin Goldstein

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As we enter the final ten days of the full-season minor leagues, it can be fun to track the overall statistical leaders. Statistics don't tell even half the story for prospects, but they can be a jumping-off point for any discussion. So let's look at the races in some select categories-batting average, home runs, RBI, hits, and total bases-simply as an excuse to talk about the players. All numbers are through Thursday's games.


Rk Hitter          Org  Lvl    AVG
1. Ben Revere      MIN   A-   .379
2. Terry Tiffee    LAN  AAA   .375
3. Angel Salome    MIL   AA   .361
4. Jim Negrych     PIT   AA   .361
5. Jamie D'Antona  ARI  AAA   .356

This is Revere's to lose. Tiffee is on the Olympic team and his numbers are essentially frozen, so the question becomes whether or not Revere can maintain his four-point lead. Ranked as the top prospect for the Twins coming into the year, Revere has upped his stock since joining Beloit in late April and holding his average above the .400 mark into July. That said, he's hitting just .262 in his last 15 games, so this lead is precarious. Entering the year with a reputation as a speed-only type, Revere has surprised scouts not only with his hitting, but also his ability to drive the ball-this fast little guy is far more than just a slap hitter, and in that he reminds me of Erick Aybar. There are plenty of very real prospects just missing this top five; the next three are Baltimore's Matt Wieters, beefy Giants catcher Pablo Sandoval, and Phillies breakout performer Michael Taylor.


Rk Hitter            Org  Lvl  HR
1. Dallas McPherson  FLO  AAA  40
2. Nelson Cruz       TEX  AAA  37
3. Chris Carter      OAK   A+  36
4. Brad Eldred       CHA  AAA  34
4. Kila Ka'aihue     KCA  AAA  34
4. Mike Stanton      FLO   A-  34

Earlier in the year, it looked like McPherson was going to get his shot when he went on a hitting streak at the same time that Jorge Cantu was struggling at the big-league level, but Cantu turned things around and McPherson was left to bash away in one of the friendliest hitter's parks around. With 40 home runs in 423 at-bats, the 28-year-old former Angels prospect probably deserves some kind of look with somebody, but he still strikes out too much (157 K) and his window is still closed enough that he may never get much of a shot at a full-time job. While Cruz has had plenty of chances with the Rangers (and failed in every one of them), someone is likely to give him some kind of a look next year, as a .343/.432/.705 line at Triple-A is hard to ignore. Carter maintains his lead among actual prospects over Ka'aihue and Stanton. Before anybody asks, yes, Kila Ka'aihue is a real prospect, based on the reports I've heard from scouts. He's not projected to be a star-level player, but he could become an average big-league first baseman with patience and power. Ka'aihue currently leads the minors in walks (96) and on-base percentage (.457).


Rk Hitter          Org  Lvl  RBI
1. Joe Koshansky   COL  AAA  111
2. Carlos Santana  CLE   A+  109
3. Tommy Everidge  OAK   AA  108
4. Scott McClain   SFN  AAA  103
5. Jake Fox        CHN   AA  102
5. Josh Whitesell  ARI  AAA  102

Despite Koshanky's impressive numbers, he's probably not the long-term answer at first base for the Rockies. He's a big guy with a lot of power, but he's taking advantage of a friendly home park, hitting just .243/.329/.482 on the road, and scouts see a long swing that doesn't translate well to the big-league game. Santana has a chance to catch up, and he's also going to walk away with the runs title, having crossed the plate 114 times this year before any other minor league player has hit triple digits in the category. As for all the deadline deals, the Dodgers' Casey Blake rental still seems like the most lopsided; in Santana the Tribe pulled in a Top 100-level prospect in the deal. There are no other prospects of note on this list-just a number of minor league-slugger types.


Rk Hitter           Org Lvl  Hits
1. Cedric Hunter    SDN  A+   174
2. Alcides Escobar  MIL  AA   172
3. Renny Osuna      TEX  A+   170
4. Jim Negrych      PIT  AA   168
5. Mat Gamel        MIL  AA   166

Hunter has regained much of his prospect status to make up ground lost after a middling full-season debut last year, but at the same time, scouts just aren't sure what to make of him. His .319/.362/.440 line with 12 stolen bases pretty much says it all-he's a singles hitter who lacks power, lacks patience, and has only average speed. Escobar is one of the better shortstop prospects in the game-just look at that hit total and remember that his best tools are on defense. Osuna is a surprise, even to the Rangers, but like Hunter hitting singles is his primarily skill. Negrych is an interesting semi-sleeper in the Pirates system, a former star at Pitt with hopes of becoming a home-town hero. Negrych, like the others on this list, can hit for average but does little else, with a line-drive swing that does not make up for an overall lack of athleticism.


Rk Hitter        Org Lvl   TB
1. Mark Trumbo   LAA  AA   275
2. Mat Gamel     MIL  AA   272
3. Lou Montanez  BAL  AA   271
4. Chris Carter  OAK  A+   265
5. Jake Fox      CHN  AA   263

Gamel's late-season slide gives us the opportunity to once again throw some props to Trumbo, because his breakout campaign has garnered precious little attention. An 18th-round pick in 2004, Trumbo received a $1.425 million bonus at a time when that kind of money for that late a pick was unheard of, but he had all but fallen off the radar after going into the year with a career batting line of .254/.313/.409. After two straight years in the Midwest League and a season-high of only 14 home runs, his .283/.329/.553 line with 26 homers in 103 games had some wondering if the breakout was a function of the California League, but he's beginning to convert player evaluators with a .295/.337/.568 line at Double-A with six home runs in 88 at-bats. I don't think he's a sleeper any longer-he's become a prospect again.

Next week, we'll take a look at the pitching leaders.

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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