September 18, 2008
AL Two Steps Back
For this year's 'Two Steps Back' series, we're going to deal with some constraints, dealing only with players who entered the year on their team's Top 11 Prospects list, while also trying our best to avoid players with injuries. We're looking for those who played their way down, as opposed to those who went down because they didn't play. Numbers in brackets represent their ranking on the team's list coming into the season.
A first-round pick in 2006, Billy Rowell  hit just .248/.315/.368 at High-A Frederick, showcasing a long swing and defensive deficiencies. Multiple scouts are questioning his effort, and for a 6-foot-5 beast with massive raw power, he's hit just 16 home runs in 727 at-bats over the last two years.
Runner-up: Righty Pedro Beato  lost a tick or more on all of his offerings, finishing the year with a 5.85 ERA in 19 High-A starts while striking out just 51 in 97 innings and being battered around for a .306 average against.
Toolsy Oscar Tejeda  had a horrible first half, but he did show some minor improvements once the roster at Low-A Greenville was opened up and he was installed at shortstop. Still, he finished the year at .261/.301/.347 while showing very few secondary skills.
Runner-up: Outfielder Ryan Kalish  gets a one-year mulligan for a wrist injury, but nonetheless showed very little power by smacking just five home runs in 114 games split between Low- and High-A, with an overall line of .273/.365/.363.
Runner-up: One of the reasons for a shakeup in the White Sox scouting department, 2006 first-rounder Kyle McCulloch  was overmatched at Double-A Birmingham, with a 4.65 ERA in 28 games, just 85 strikeouts in 156
After earning some leeway for a tough 2007, southpaw Chuck Lofgren  went backwards again, ending up with a 5.99 ERA at Double-A Akron and finishing the year in the bullpen, where scouts noted some marginal improvements in stuff and control. His work ethic has come into question by many.
Runner-up: After putting up a 20-20 season in the Carolina League in 2007, shortstop Josh Rodriguez  collapsed and hit just .241/.335/.359 at Double-A with just seven home runs and 12 thefts. He got worse as the season wore on, hitting just .183 after the All-Star break.
A player who couldn't afford a delay in his progression because of his age (26), infielder Michael Hollimon  reached the majors for an 11-game stint, but otherwise struggled at Triple-A Toledo, showing only power in a .211/.306/.420 line.
Runner-up: After looking like a possible bullpen piece coming into the season, righty Yorman Bazardo  never got on pace at Toledo, finishing the year with a 6.72 ERA in 130 innings while giving up more than twice as many hits (177) has he had strikeouts (75).
Right-hander Julio Pimentel  finally saw his inability to miss bats catch up to him at the higher levels, as his Double-A ERA more than doubled to 5.38 while he allowed 193 hits in 157
Runner-up: Outfielder Chris Lubanski  might finally be out of opportunities, as there was no second-half magic for him in this .242/.306/.448 season, all but cementing his fate as no more than an up-and-down player.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Top pitching prospect Nick Adenhart  was plagued by control problems throughout the year and went backwards in terms of stuff as well as he began to dial it back in an attempt to aim the ball. In the end, nothing worked, and he finished the year with a 5.76 ERA in 26 starts for Triple-A Salt Lake, allowing 31 baserunners in 12 big league frames.
Runner-up: Entering the year with a career ERA of 2.19, finesse right-hander Sean O'Sullivan  was among the minor league leaders with 16 wins, but that masked a 4.73 ERA and more than twice as many baserunners allowed (228) than strikeouts (111).
Tools-laden center fielder Joe Benson  made no progress in translating his athleticism into baseball skills, hitting just .247/.325/.380 at Low-A Beloit while repeating the level.
Runner-up: After entering the year with an outside shot at a big-league job in the rotation, southpaw Brian Duensing  did little to help his cause by raising his ERA by more than a run at Triple-A Rochester while striking out just 77 in 138
While he was downright outstanding (.348/.402/.562) following his trade to Pittsburgh, both makeup and conditioning issues clouded the future of Jose Tabata  early in the year, as he hit just .248/.320/.310 at Double-A Trenton.
Runner-up: Desperate for starting pitching, the Yankees were unable to get it from Ian Kennedy , who continued to dominate in the minors, but had an 8.17 ERA in ten big-league games due to command problems that were surprising for a pitcher who depends on nearly perfect location to succeed.
Handed the starting first-base job, Daric Barton , entered the year with minor league career averages of .301/.414/.459, but his job is in jeopardy thanks to a .213/.315/.333 line in the majors where he has shown little in the way of progress.
Runner-up: After earning Midwest League all-star honors last year, outfielder Jermaine Mitchell  was unable to take advantage of the California League, hitting just .244/.338/.377 and making 2009 a critical make-or-break season.
Scouts had trouble connecting the stuff of left-hander Robert Rohrbaugh  to his outstanding numbers at Double- and Triple-A last year, but he fell back to earth this season with a 5.25 ERA in 19 starts for Triple-A Tacoma.
Runner-up: Expectations were high for 2007 third-round pick Danny Carroll  after the athletic outfielder hit .312/.398/.408 in his pro debut, but his approach fell apart in his first exposure to full-season ball, and he struggled to a .216/.295/.278 line in 79 games that included just 19 walks against 101 strikeouts.
After leading the Sally League with 30 home runs and a .601 slugging percentage in 2007, outfielder Ryan Royster  cranked out just nine home runs in 426 at-bats at High-A Vero Beach as part of a highly disappointing .265/.318/.373 season.
Runner-up: Acquired from the Twins as part of the Delmon Young/Matt Garza deal, fire-balling reliever Eduardo Morlan  lost 3-5 mph of fire on his fastball, and has scouts scratching their heads after his mediocre season (3.64 ERA) at Double-A Montgomery.
Right-hander Eric Hurley  saw his projection drop to that of no more than a back-end starter after putting up a 5.30 ERA at Triple-A Oklahoma City and struggling to miss bats in a brief big-league appearance.
Runner-up: Blake Beavan  had a 2.37 ERA at Low-A Clinton, but scouts who were expecting a dominating combination of power and command from the 2007 first-round pick saw only the latter, as his fastball rarely got out of the 80s after touching the mid-90s at times in high school. He struck out just 73 batters in 121
The Jays' top pick last summer, third baseman Kevin Ahrens , has strength and raw power, but a line-drive swing with little loft or backspin limited him to only five home runs on the season, as he hit just .259/.329/.367 in 122 games for Low-A Lansing while striking out 135 times.
Runner-up: After leading the Gulf Coast league with 10 home runs last year, second baseman John Tolisano  only hit six in his full-season debut, batting .229/.315/.352 in 120 games for Lansing.
Next time we'll cover the National League teams.