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May 4, 2010

Future Shock Blog

Minor League Update: Games of May 3

by Kevin Goldstein

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It's Now The Mike Stanton Rule

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

Monday's stats: 2-for-4, HR (13), R, 3 RBI, K

Last year we had the Josh Vitters rule, which basically said that if the guy keeps hitting home runs, he'll keep showing up in this space. Vitters has just three bombs in the Florida State League, so we're renaming the rule for Stanton, who smacked No. 13 on Monday afternoon, giving him ten in his last ten games, a stretch during which he's amassed 52 total bases and driven in 22. If there's a better offensive prospect in the minors . . . there's really nothing to say here, as the question is moot. 

Unlike Strasburg, There Are No Mitigating Factors

Aroldis Chapman, LHP, Reds (Triple-A Louisville) 

Monday's stats: 5 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 1 BB, 8 K

The day after Stephen Strasburg had his worst career start, Chapman followed up with his version. Unlike Strasburg, Chapman wasn't dealing with a tiny strike zone and some cheap hits, he just wasn't on. The fastball was certainly there, as it missed plenty of bats, but his often inconsistent slider was flat all night, forcing him to rely on the fastball and often being forced to groove pitches when behind in the count. He's not nearly as big league ready as Strasburg, and Monday night proved once again that there is still work to be done. 

Fine, I'm Finally Concerned

Dustin Ackley, 2B, Mariners (Double-A West Tenn) 

Monday's stats: G1: 0-for-2, BB; G2: 0-for-2, BB, 2 K

The second overall pick in last year's draft, the one thing everyone thought they knew about Ackley was that he could hit. His month-long struggles in April were met by chants of small sample size, but at what point is it no longer a small sample size? At what point is there something wrong here? If he was hitting .225 or something, I'd accept it, but after yesterday's 0-for-doubleheader, he's down to .139/.292/.215, with zero hits in nine of his last ten games. Pure hitters can have slumps, but of this size? It's rare enough where we can assume that something, somewhere, somehow is wrong for now. 

Your Actual Yankee Catcher Of The Future?

Austin Romine, C, Yankees (Double-A Trenton) 

Monday's stats: 2-for-5, HR (2), 3 R, 2 RBI, BB, 3 K

While Jesus Montero is clearly the best prospect in the Yankee system, his defensive struggles would have some scouts telling you it's Romine who's the best catcher in the system. While his receiving skills are a bit rough around the edges, his overall tools are well above-average for a backstop and scouts project him as an above-average defender down the line. Offensively, he's also quite good, including a 12-for-24 mark in his last six games with home runs in his last two to raise his batting line to .351/.429/.554. 

It's Good To Feel Good

Everett Williams, OF, Padres (Low-A Fort Wayne) 

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

A second-round pick with a lot of tools and an equal amount of rawness, Williams got off to a slow start this year, but it was more than the challenge of a pitcher's league in April, as he was dealing with a severe sinus infection that sapped him of his strength and stamina. Finally breathing right, the tools are on display, as the compactly built Williams has gone 7-for-14 in his last four games with eight RBIs. With 20 strikeouts in 58 at-bats, there are still plenty of holes in his swing, but his upside is well worth the risk. 

From The "Remember Me?" Files

Joe Borchard, OF, Giants (Triple-A Fresno) 

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

It's now been nearly ten years since the White Sox drafted Borchard and paid him a then-record $5.3 million bonus to give up his Stanford football career. In return for that investment, they received 12 big league home runs and 93 strikeouts, but it kind of worked out in the end, as he was traded to Seattle in 2006 for lefty power reliever Matt Thornton. Still grinding away and now in his fifth organization, the 31-year-old is nothing more than an insurance policy at this point for the Giants, but Monday night he put himself in the record books with the cycle. Gotta love the lifers. 

Others Of Note:

  • Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pirates (Triple-A Indianapolis): 2-for-3, 3B, 2 RBI, BB. 15 total bases in last four games after miserable April.
  • Brian Bogusevic, OF, Astros (Triple-A Round Rock): 3-for-3, HR (3), 2 R, 4 RBI, BB. A real live Astros prospect? Projects as more of a fourth outfielder for many, but converted pitcher is 8-for-13 in last three games and up to .326/.396/.500.
  • Brad Boxberger, RHP, Reds (High-A Lynchburg): 6 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K. Five starts for Hillcats, has yet to give up more than one earned run.
  • Domonic Brown, OF, Phillies (Double-A Reading): 2-for-3, R, RBI, BB, K, SB. Almost quietly having a great year at .349/.411/.651 with half of his hits going for extra bases.
  • Barry Enright, RHP, Diamondbacks (Double-A Mobile): 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K. Pure command and control guy has 6-to-1 K/BB ratio; could get there as 5th starter type.
  • Scott Gorgen, RHP, Cardinals (Double-A Springfield): 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 K. Undersized righty has miniscule 1.21 ERA in five Texas League starts; far more poise and polish than stuff.
  • Corban Joseph, 2B, Yankees (High-A Tampa): 4-for-6, 2 2B, 3 R, 3 RBI. Up to .330/.369/.511; aggressive approach could catch up to him at higher levels, but scouts love the swing.
  • Jesus Montero, C, Yankees (Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre): 2-for-5, 2 2B, 2 R, RBI. Finally getting going? .238/.304/.381 line is disappointing start.
  • Mike Moustakas, 3B, Royals (Double-A Northwest Arkansas): 2-for-3, 2B, 2 R, BB. Up to .395/.471/.860 in 11 games; first time in career he's played in anything close to a hitting friendly environment.
  • Jerry Sands, 1B, Dodgers (Low-A Great Lakes): 2-for-4, HR (10), R, 2 RBI, BB, SB. Three home runs in four games, 1.302 OPS overall; just doesn't belong in Low-A.
  • Brett Wallace, 1B, Blue Jays (Triple-A Las Vegas): 2-for-5, 2B, R, RBI, 2 K. 1.006 OPS; you'd think Jays might want to show off their shiny new toy soon.
  • Nick Weglarz, OF, Indians (Double-A Akron): 2-for-5, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 2 K. Third straight two-hit game, has reached based in all but two games and overall line of .324/.429/.568.

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

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

BP Comment Quick Links

jrfukudome

Are you buying into the power that Wallace is showing this year, or is it impossible to separate from the environment?

May 04, 2010 09:28 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

I'm not buying into it all all. Five home runs at home in a Las Vegas launching pad, two each at Salt Lake and Colorado Springs, also big time home run parks.

May 04, 2010 09:43 AM
 
Randolph314

Ackley's lack of power concerns me much more than his lack of BA. If you're a relatively fast, athletic player, I don't think it's possible to have only 10% of your balls in play fall for singles over a large sample size.

May 04, 2010 09:48 AM
rating: 0
 
Randolph314

For instance, Denard Span and Chone Figgins (the first two active players that came to mind as comps in the sense that they are fast, have good control of the strike zone, and don't have much power) have each had almost exactly 28% of their balls in play fall for singles. And that's at the major league level, where defenses are better. If we adjust Ackley's stats to give him what I'll call a "normal" singles rate of 28%, that would put his stat line at .291/.415/.367. Still not fantastic, but much less scary.

May 04, 2010 10:03 AM
rating: 0
 
Dave Holgado

The problem with assuming some sort of regression to a more "normal" BABIP for Ackley is that "normal" means normal for a big league (or in this case, AA) player that has already established some baseline level of ability to hit major league (or in this case, AA) pitching. For instance, I am quite sure that my BABIP against AA pitchers would start out obscenely low, and yet not stand any chance of regressing up to .280 over the course of 600 AB, or, well... ever. The difference between Figgins/Span on the one hand and Ackley on the other is that the former two have established that baseline whereas Ackley is still TBD. Ack did hit about .300 in the AFL last year, and this would seem to be some demonstration of an ability to hit this level of pitching (I would guess the average quality of AFL pitching is AA level, though that may change from year to year). But at this point, 100 AB into this gad awful slump, I'm now getting more curious about who exactly served up his AFL hits and who gave him AFL fits.

That being said, I'd still say chances are better than 50/50 (maybe even 80/20) that what we have here is a league full of pitchers refusing to pitch (or at least pitching very carefully) to the bonus baby, and the bonus baby -- anxious to prove his worthiness -- being way less patient than he ought to be. Word gets around about the lack of patience, and lather, rinse, repeat. This may be manifesting itself only partly in Ackley's (somewhat higher than expected) K rate, since his (reputedly) excellent contact ability may mean that, rather than striking out when swinging at these bad pitches, he's instead making weak contact on them. Rolling over outside breaking stuff with grounders to second, popping up high fastballs, etc., where other hitters might simply whiff.

I say this with no training as a scout, and literally no observation of a single one of Ackley's ABs this year. I did, however, stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

May 04, 2010 11:13 AM
rating: 7
 
Randolph314

I agree that one can't assume that Ackley is as good of a hitter as Span or Figgins. But it doesn't make sense to me that such a horribly low singles average on balls in play would be skill-related (or predominantly skill-related). My understanding has been that if a player is hacking at stuff outside the zone, the result is a high strikeout/walk ratio and low power, not a good strikeout/walk ratio and an obscenely low BABIP. Even if all he is hitting is ground balls I think he would end up with a significantly higher batting average over time. It would be helpful to know his line drive rate, pop-up rate, swing percentage at pitches outside the zone, etc, but as far as I know that data isn't publicly available.

May 04, 2010 11:35 AM
rating: 0
 
rweiler

FWIW, Madison Bumgarner had a poor spring, and a couple of horrible starts at AAA that had a lot of people, including KG and me wondering WTF? And since then, he has made 3 decent starts in a hitters league and the only thing you can really complain about is that his control hasn't been great. It's pretty easy to forget with all the hype that we are talking about guys that are 20-22 years old. It really looks like the Mariners started Ackley at too high a level. Maybe advanced-A would have been more appropriate.

May 04, 2010 12:59 PM
rating: 1
 
Dave Holgado

Ooo... Ackley... yard work. Weak contact, schmeak schmontact!

May 04, 2010 17:40 PM
rating: 0
 
pobothecat

ha ha ha

May 04, 2010 22:47 PM
rating: 0
 
billm21

My first time seeing Ackley in person was during the AFL last year. After the first couple of weeks I noticed that I was never seeing him drive the ball very hard. He eventually starting showing more power and allayed my concerns. Maybe it just takes him a while to adjust to a different level of baseball, but I agree with Kevin that it's time to start being concerned.

May 04, 2010 10:57 AM
rating: 0
 
oPlaiD

Ackley isn't showing contact issues and he's walking quite a bit.

The lack of power is worrisome, but when you have a .160 BABIP or whatever his is right now, you won't show much power, either, since all the balls you are making harder contact with are not going for hits. Many of the bad luck he'd be having would be him getting robbed of doubles and not just singles.

It'd be nice for him to show some HR power, but he never was supposed to have much of that, was he?

May 04, 2010 12:30 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

These are all great relevant points, and I think it proves that we JUST DON'T KNOW what's going on here. Like I said, I'd easily brush it off if it was .220, but it's .139, and I don't know how fluky THAT bad can be.

May 04, 2010 13:32 PM
 
PeterBNYC

Kevin, over 100 AB, the difference between .220 and .139 is eight hits. Small sample size indeed. Or rather, DFA Ackley to my club right now! Sorry,

May 05, 2010 09:03 AM
rating: 0
 
elm
(41)

Romine's been drawing a lot more walks this year. Is it a change in approach, small sample size fluke, or a reflection that the Thunder don't have much in the lineup behind Austin? If the increase in patience is for real, Romine could turn into a top-flight catcher.

Also, Montero seems to be doing pretty good throwing out basestealers. (I don't have the season totals, but I've noticed in recent box scores that he's had a lot of CS's.) Is this for real? And is it a reflection of improving overall catching skills?

May 04, 2010 10:07 AM
rating: 0
 
HankScorpio

While you're on the topic of NW Ark.....can Royals fans start getting even a little bit excited about Derrick Robinson's start? I know the BABIP is way above his norm, but he's significantly increased his BB rate, and it seems he's really been driving the ball since late last year. Am I just being a fan boy, or is there reason to start hoping that he could be a legit CF/leadoff hitter in KC sometime in the next couple years?

May 04, 2010 10:09 AM
rating: 0
 
gogotabata

I'm no expert, but it's certainly looking like a legit breakout? He put together a great last month last year after making some adjustments in his stance. The huge development in his plate discipline suggests he's putting together an effective approach; he's always had great tools.

His BABIP is gonna come down to earth a bit, but with his speed, and if he keeps hitting line drives, he's gonna have a healthy BABIP. From my armchair, he looks that treasured species: the athlete who puts skills together to match the tools.

By the way, how about the 18 to 3 steals to caught-stealing ratio?

May 04, 2010 10:30 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

I'm not going to throw breakout down on him yet, but I do agree this is a real step in the right direction by all accounts, both statistical and scouting.

May 04, 2010 13:33 PM
 
rweiler

In all seriousness though, why shouldn't the Giants give Borchard a shot? He isn't likely to perform worse than Eugenio Velez or Bowker, and Bowker supposedly has an option. Even if Velez didn't, I find it hard to believe anybody is desperate enough to claim him. 190/277/381 corner outfielders just aren't that hard to come by and, FWIW, Velez isn't all that much younger than Borchard.

May 04, 2010 10:11 AM
rating: 0
 
HeavyHitter

Dustin Ackley = Mark Kotsay. Both were fantastic college players.

May 04, 2010 10:48 AM
rating: -2
 
Bill N

Kevin,

I'm not sure of Chapman's experience in this regard, but... it was very, very cold and damp last night in downtown Buffalo. Like, mid 30's by the the 3rd inning. Chapman seemed fairly uncomfortable, getting "bees in the bat" on one of his hats and wearing a jacket while running the bases.

Not to say he shouldn't be able to handle the weather, but might this have been the first time he's had to deal with cold that extreme during a game?

May 04, 2010 11:46 AM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

This is a great point. Playing in cold weather definitely is a months-long adjustment.

May 04, 2010 13:34 PM
 
Jay Taylor

What would you think is the timeframe for Chapman to get called up? at this point do you think he is just a September call up kind of guy? Or do you think he will be up before the All Star break?

May 04, 2010 14:23 PM
rating: 0
 
ashwinsuresh1

As if on cue, Ackley goes 3-5 with a HR, 2 RBI and 2 R.

Please keep complaining, Kevin!

The fact is that once a player displays a skill, he owns it. Whether it's Bumgarner or Ackley, as soon as "major worry" builds, the worry looks unjustified.

Not every prospect will be Jason Heyward.

May 04, 2010 23:30 PM
rating: 0
 
Eric

ashwinsuresh1,

You beat me to the punch with Ackley's line from last night. I graduated from UNC, still live in the area and my business is a vendor to the University so I had the privilege of watching Ackley week in and week out. He can flat out hit. Simple. It will come....patience.

May 05, 2010 09:33 AM
rating: 0
 
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