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April 9, 2010

Future Shock

Friday Morning 12 Pack

by Kevin Goldstein

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Andrew Cashner, RHP, Cubs (Double-A Tennessee)

Thursday's stats: 4.1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 10 K 

The line doesn't really do it justice, as for the first four innings of Thursday's game in Mississippi, Cashner was the story of the night. He struck out the first seven batters he faced, and nine of the first 10, before ruining his night in the fifth by starting off with two walks and a home run by Braves slugger Cody Johnson. Cashner, a 2008 first-round pick, had a wild spring, walking eight over five innings, and it was the same story last night; when he's throwing strikes, he's dominant and nearly big-league ready with a fastball/slider combination that allows for plenty of dreaming. When he starts missing the zone, however, he still struggles big-time, even in the minors.

Jhoulys Chacin, RHP, Rockies (Triple-A Colorado Springs) 

Thursday's stats: 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K

Chacin's value as a prospect was always as a guy with above-average stuff that played up due to above-average command and control. The second half of that equation went away in the second half of last year, leaving him as a pitcher with above-average stuff and below-average location, which isn't that much of a prospect. The ability to not only throw strikes, but to throw good ones returned on Opening Day, and if he keeps it up, he won't be in the Top 101 next year because he spent too much time in the big leagues.

Eduardo Escobar, SS, White Sox (High-A Winston-Salem)

Thursday's stats: 4-for-5, 2 2B, R, 2 CS

Escobar is a special defender, and easily the best glove man in the White Sox's organization. The problem is, he just can't hit, rarely showing power, or anything resembling a patient approach, with his only plus offensive tool so far being above-average speed. With all warnings about small sample sizes put aside for a moment, this one could be worth watching, as he rifled a pair of balls for doubles and according to one in attendance, "just looked more physical." One side note though: With a career stolen base rate of just 63 percent and two more caught stealing last night, he might want to work on the baserunning a bit.

Kyle Gibson, RHP, Twins (High-A Fort Myers)

Thursday's stats: 3.2 IP, 6 H, 5 R (3 ER), 2 BB, 7 K

Gibson was a sure-fire single-digit pick in last year's draft before a stress fracture in his right forearm was discovered, which plummeted him to 22nd overall. An impressive spring showing had some wondering if the Twins got away from grand larceny last June, but his pro debut showed there is still some work to be done. The good news is that Gibson missed bats, and his defense certainly didn't do him any favors, but he also had location problems and gave up a pair of home runs while allowing five runs and seemed to scuffle in every inning but the first. It's just one start, and too early to panic, but it shows that this spring was also too early to heap too much praise.

Vince Mazzaro, RHP, Athletics (Triple-A Sacramento)

Thursday's stats: 4.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 K

While he pitched too much in the big leagues last year to maintain his prospect status, once Cashner crashed and burned in the fifth last night, Mazzaro's performance ended up being the pitching showcase of the night. While he wasn't the most efficient pitcher ever, needing 72 pitches to complete his 4 1/3 shutout innings, he didn't have a ball leave the infield, with seven whiffs and six ground balls thanks to a low-90s fastball with heavy sink. Too many starters is a nice problem to have, but Mazzaro should be back in Oakland at some point during the year.

Brad Mills, LHP, Blue Jays (Triple-A Las Vegas)

Thursday stats: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 K

A fourth-round pick in 2007 as a cost-effective senior sign, Mills is the definition of a fringy, command-and-control lefty, but he sure is good at it. After pitching exceedingly well at three levels in 2008, Mills reached the big leagues last year, only to miss the second half of the season with a rib injury. He rarely gets out of the 80s with his fastball, but he hits every spot at will, and his changeup can give hitters fits. The Blue Jays' rotation is hardly set in stone, and Mills could find his way back, although there is still plenty of debate as to how well his stuff will play in the majors.

The Peoria Chiefs Bus

Thursday's stats: 205 minutes, SIPL (Stuck In Parking Lot)

The Chiefs had a successful opening night, holding off Clinton for a 5-4 win on the road. Things took a different turn after the game however, as the team's bus wouldn't start, stranding the club at Clinton well into the evening. According to Chiefs broadcaster Nathan Baliva, the team made the best of things by watching baseball in the clubhouse, ordering some food, and moving onto UFC once the games were over, finally getting a repair just short of 1 a.m. The minor leagues: It's a glamorous life.

Buster Posey, C, Giants (Triple-A Fresno)

Thursday's stats: 3-for-5, HBP

It's been the most common subject in my inbox, and was the most common question in my recent chat. What's this guy still doing in the minors? And why did the Giants re-sign Bengie Molina? Sorry folks, I just don't have an answer for you. Sure, he's a little rough around the edges defensively, but all of the tools and athleticism for considerable improvement are there, and there are plenty of big-league catchers who are worse receivers. Posey makes the Giants a better team right now, period, and I have no idea what they're thinking here.

Garrett Richards, RHP, Low-A Cedar Rapids

Thursday's stats: 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K

Richard's low-to-mid-90s fastball and plus curve intrigued scouts for years, despite lackluster performances in college. The raw tools were enough to make him a supplemental first-round pick last June, and he's been putting it all together since signing, compiling a 1.53 ERA in eight Pioneer League starts last year and retiring 15 of the 17 batters he faced on Thursday night, with 13 of his outs coming via whiff or ground ball. If he keeps it up, he could move quickly through the Angels' system, and his ceiling is higher than any of their starters.

Carlos Santana, C, Indians (Triple-A Columbus)

Thursday's stats: 4-for-5, 2B, 2 HR (2), 2 R, 4 RBI

Look, we all know that Santana can hit, especially after last year's .290/.413/.530 showing that earned Eastern League MVP honors. Those hitting ways continued on Thursday night, as Santana took a pair of fringy relievers yard in a 17-4 thrashing of Indianapolis. In the end, as with so many catchers, it's going to come down to defense. All of the tools are there; he just needs to master some of the intricacies of the position such as working with a pitching staff, calling a game and taking on that field-general role. Once the Indians are comfortable with those aspects of his game, he'll be in the big leagues, as it's rare to find a catcher who can hit in the middle of the order, and Santana is just that. 

Blake Smith, OF, Dodgers (Low-A Great Lakes)

Thursday's stats: 5-for-6, 2 2B, HR (1), 3 R, 5 RBI

A second-round pick out of Cal-Berkeley last spring, many teams liked Smith far better as a power reliever, but the Dodgers couldn't get past hit tools as an outfielder, no matter how much he struggled at the plate. While he hit just .214/.317/.302 in his pro debut, he still showed well above-average raw power, a tick above-average speed, and an outstanding arm. He had touched 95 mph with the Bears last spring. Of course, 22-year-old college players are supposed to put up big numbers at Low-A, but Smith kept up his end of the bargain on opening night, and then some.

Mike Stanton, OF, Marlins (Double-A Jacksonville)

Thursday's stats: 3-for-4, 2B, HR (1), K, 2 R, RBI

When pushed to Double-A last year as a 19-year-old, Stanton struggled, batting .231/.311/.455 in 79 games. He remained the most impressive power prospect in baseball, but his contact issues caught up to him in the end as he whiffed 99 times in 299 at-bats. Back at Double-A this year, he got off to a good start, going deep in his first at-bat of the year and later adding a single, double, walk, and ultimately, a strikeout. I was asked in a recent chat who my choice was for Minor League Player of the Year honors. It's a difficult question because to win it one has to actually stay in the minors and rack up numbers as opposed to getting promoted to the big leagues. While Stanton has a shot to bash his way into the big leagues, a September call up is the most likely scenario, making him the top choice.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

Related Content:  The Who,  Triple-A,  Stats,  Year Of The Injury,  The Call-up

18 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

billgoofnow

No mention of alvarez's bomb, eh?

Apr 09, 2010 04:49 AM
rating: -1
 
harderj

As a Giants fan, I agree with you, but I hope they figure it out by early May, and relegate Bengie to backup catcher/ph vs. lhp and spot start Posey at first as well as install him as regular catcher.

Saving service time, perhaps? I hope if they continue hot out of the blocks that they throw this concern away.

Absolutely, positively ensuring he succeeds in the majors? I guess, but as with Lincecum a few years ago, it seems like he's ready for the show.

If you had a choice of Posey or Santana as your catcher for 2011-2015, who would you take?

Apr 09, 2010 05:26 AM
rating: 2
 
Swingingbunts

How did Hellickson do?

Apr 09, 2010 06:25 AM
rating: -1
 
eighteen

http://www.baseballamerica.com/statistics/players/cards/?pl_id=33527

Apr 09, 2010 14:24 PM
rating: 0
 
pepper

The Giants have assembled one of the finest collections of young pitchers of the last couple of decades. They won 88 games last season with Molina working that staff. They're in a pennant race and will likely have very little margin for error. Yup, they got no stinkin' offense and Posey would help a lot. But, the Giants have made the reasonable baseball decision that Posey's contributions at the plate could easily be negated by his lack of experience behind it. And the damage to young pitchers could be serious...maybe even permanent. I'd love to see the Posey era begin (I own him on my roto team), but making sure his intellectual skills are as ready as his physical ones is prudent of the Giants.

Apr 09, 2010 07:29 AM
rating: 0
 
Swingingbunts

Didn't Posey catch these same guys in the minors on the way up? He didn't damage their arms there, why would he damage them now?

Apr 09, 2010 07:47 AM
rating: 0
 
roycewebb

Posey has exactly 151 PAs above high-A ball. That's not a lot of time per pitcher, plus look at the Giants roster -- who would he have caught down there? Runzler and Joaquin, *maybe*, and since they're relievers that would have been for very short stints. I don't necessarily agree with the injury argument of the original post, but I find even less logic here.

Apr 09, 2010 09:28 AM
rating: 1
 
Jonathan

Why in the hell has this comment been "negatived" into being hidden? Jesus. If you disagree, write a dissenting opinion, don't just click "-."

Apr 09, 2010 20:59 PM
rating: -3
 
Dan

Was Mazzaro taken out because of a strict pitch count, or was there some sort of injury concern?

Apr 09, 2010 07:53 AM
rating: 0
 
mymrbig

I sympathize with the Peoria Chiefs. Back in the day, I played for the Mat-Su Miners in the Alaska League. Our bus broke down about 90 minutes south of Fairbanks (between Fairbanks and Denali) when we were heading back to Mat-Su and we were stuck there for 4+ hours from like 11 p.m. until 3 a.m. (or something). It was heineous, but memorable.

Apr 09, 2010 08:14 AM
rating: 2
 
Rusty Pecker

Hellickson went 5 ip 6 k's 1 earned run. Sat behind the plate for that one, that change is nasty.

Apr 09, 2010 08:27 AM
rating: 0
 
sanott

i was there, too, just behind 1st base dugout. oswalt comp? his fastball seemed to explode and hit 93 a few times on the park gun (which always seems slow). then he'd drop an evil 79 mph curve and change. saw him break a few bats and get a lot of really late swings on the fastball. good game, great weather too.

Apr 09, 2010 08:51 AM
rating: 1
 
harpago17

So Cashner K's 10, and then DOESN'T strike out Cody Johnson?!

Apr 09, 2010 10:56 AM
rating: 3
 
John Carter

Sorry, I missed the chat, yesterday, but I'll put my question here in hopes Kevin has time to answer it.

Robert Andino is better than Adam Everett, isn't he? Is the only reason Detroit didn't release Everett and give Andino a shot because the marginal improvement that Andino represents is not enough to upset whatever team chemistry that Everett might bring to the Tigers' clubhouse?

(OK, technically there are two questions in there. Boiling it down to one would be: how much better is Andino than Everett? - negative quantities are allowed.)

Apr 09, 2010 12:54 PM
rating: 0
 
smitty25039

Mariekson Gregorius had a good night going 4-for-6 with a triple.

Apr 09, 2010 13:12 PM
rating: 0
 
Dave Holgado

Kevin, thanks for the updates. I had read from more than one source (maybe even from you) that Carlos Santana's power was not expected to fully return for up to a year following the hamate bone surgery he had in December. And indeed, I thought Pedro Alvarez's timetable on that front (a similar surgery in the spring of '08, reduced power in his final season at Vandy, and arguably not a true return to form until 2H '09, coinciding roughly with his promotion to Altoona) might be instructive on what we could expect from Santana this season and even early next (decent AVG, but only a shell of his former and expected future self pop-wise). I know we're talking one game here, and some less than stellar relievers (one coming in unexpectedly after an ejection, and one on mop-up duty), but is it possible that the power came back early?

Apr 09, 2010 13:46 PM
rating: 0
 
sharksrog

The Molina/Posey situation isn't as clear-cut as it seems. Like you I would have passed on Molina and installed Buster right away.

But the Giants' pitchers love Bengie and were ecstatic when he returned. Tim Lincecum in particular pleasure with the move, saying that Bengie probably deserved half his Cy Young Awards -- and joking that he would probably give him one rather than cutting both in half.

Another factor is if the Giants wait to call Buster back up, they may avoid having him become a Super Two. Had the Giants waited 10 more days to call Tim Lincecum up in 2007 they would be paying him $1 million or so as a non-arbitration eligible player instead of $9 million.

I think the Giants were foolish to call Buster up last September if they weren't going to use him, but I think they wanted him as insurance should Bengie's injury be more serious than it turned out to be.

The Giants used the excuse for re-signing Bengie that they were worried Buster wasn't quite ready to catch. Bruce Bochy said late in the spring though that Buster's catching had caught up to his hitting, which obviously is very good. Being conservative is disappointing, but it's not the end of the world and in fact might work out better in the long run.

The Giants believe that Buster will not only be good defensively (threw out one of two base stealers last night) but will be a great leader for their pitchers and their infield. He likely could play about any position other than shortstop or center field for his "rest" position. He was a natural this spring at first base.

My prediction is that Buster will be called up on June 18th. That should be late enough to avoid Super Two status, and it would coincide with the Giants' final series in which they can use a DH.

Buster's three hits last night were a line drive to right and two liners to center. Perhaps his greatest strengths as a hitter are good plate discipline and the ability to hit the ball to all fields.

Apr 09, 2010 19:59 PM
rating: 4
 
tumlauf

The Posey dilemma isn't Molina and why the Giants resigned him or haven't relegated him to a PH role. It's about why Huff is starting at 1st base over Molina. Huff has been terrible since 2005 (except for a surprisingly amazing 2008) and Posey could fill in at catcher on Molina's off days. Seems like a service time consideration to me.

Apr 10, 2010 08:55 AM
rating: 0
 
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