September 15, 2009
Great Leaps Forward, AL
Season wrap-ups also give us a chance to revisit our Great Leap Forward series, looking at those minor leaguers who saw their stock jump the most. [We'll have a recap of the seasonal statistical leaders on the pitching side of things later this week.]
Baltimore Orioles: Acquired from the Reds in the offseason as part of the package for catcher Ramon Hernandez, corner infielder Brandon Waring still has plenty of questions about his future position as well as a high strikeout rate, but he also hit more than twice the home runs of anyone else in the organization with 27, finishing the year at Double-A with .274/.357/.521 numbers.
Boston Red Sox: After playing only shortstop in 2008 after getting a $3 million bonus as a first-round pick in 2008, right-hander Casey Kelly began 2009 on the mound, where he was an absolute revelation, putting up a 2.08 ERA across two levels while allowing just 65 hits in 95 innings with above-average stuff and command. After batting .222/.302/.340 in the second half while back at shortstop, the Red Sox hope he's now convinced as to where his future lies.
Chicago White Sox: The breakout pitcher of the year, right-hander Dan Hudson went from a non-descript fifth-round pick in 2008 to a big-leaguer, pitching at all four full-season affiliates while finishing with a 2.32 ERA and a remarkable 166/34 strikeout/walk ratio in 147
Cleveland Indians: Some teams wondered if third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall was truly worthy of a first-round selection last year, but he responded to the challenge of a High-A assignment with a .276/.346/.492 line for Kinston before finishing the year at Double-A, and finishing among the organizational leaders with 22 homers and 92 runs driven in.
Detroit Tigers: Entering the year as the official sleeper in the system, catcher Alex Avila began his first full year at Double-A Erie and hit .264/.365/.450 with outstanding secondary skills and plus defense before getting a surprising call to the big leagues. He's outplayed Gerald Laird since arriving in Detroit, and could enter next spring as the favorite for the everyday job.
Kansas City Royals: Outfielder David Lough combined impressive tools will considerable rawness last year while playing at Low-A Burlington, but he put everything together in 2009, batting .325/.376/.496 across two levels, including a .331/.371/.517 mark at Double-A Arkansas. Already boasting a dangerous power/speed combination with an instinctual feel for contact, if he develops better plate discipline he could move up even further.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: A 19th-round pick in 2006 out of Loyala Marymount, outfielder Chris Pettit was a breakout performer in 2007, but saw his stock slide with a rash of injuries last year. He's been healthy once again this year, though, and earned a big-league call-up in September with a .321/.383/.482 line at Triple-A Salt Lake.
Minnesota Twins: First baseman Chris Parmelee didn't have a blow-you-away year with his .258/.359/.441 line at High-A Fort Myers, but that's a tough park in a tough league, and his 16 home runs tied for third in the circuit. His strikeout rate also went way down, so there might be something here yet.
New York Yankees: Even though he began the year as the top prospect in the system, catcher Jesus Montero went from best prospect in the Yankee system to one of the best in all of baseball by batting .337/.389/.562 across two levels, and having no problems handling Double-A pitching as a teenager. For those questioning his age, remember, he's Venezuelan, so it's legit.
Oakland Athletics: A second-round pick in 2007 who played entered the year with just 14 career games played thanks to a disastrous run of injuries, outfielder Grant Desme more than made up for lost time, batting .288/.365/.568 across Oakland's two A-ball affiliates while leading the minors in power/speed number (34.9) with 31 home runs and 40 stolen bases.
Seattle Mariners: Yes, playing in the pinball machine environment had a lot to do with it, but Italian third-base prospect Alex Liddi's .345/.411/.594 season still represents a dramatic improvement. He just turned 21 in August, and the tools were always impressive.
Tampa Bay Rays: After bursting onto the scene in the Appy League last year, Matt Moore finished this year as one of the top left-handed prospects in the game. His control problems (70 BB in 123 IP) are very real, but he still led all minor league pitchers in strikeouts (176) and batting average against (.195), the two 'missed bat' numbers that mean the most in predicting future success.
Texas Rangers: Drafted in the 17th round two years ago, the Rangers initially thought about converting Mitch Moreland to the mound, but now they're certainly glad that they didn't. After another monster year, this one split between High- and Double-A, he now sports career averages of .321/.387/.518 in 266 career games. After the bat and the arm, there's not much going for him tools-wise, so he needs to keep hitting.
Toronto Blue Jays: Still seen by many as no more than an oddity, 5-foot-7 right-hander Tim Collins struck out 116 over 77