A look at Carlos Correa, Javier Baez, Billy Hamilton and others in a tour of the minors.
Carlos Correa, SS, Astros (Low-A Quad Cities) The top pick in the 2012 draft started his full-season experience by hitting .221 in April, which didn’t raise any red flags because he was only 18 and playing at an advanced level. Because of a work ethic that pushes scouts to label his makeup as elite, Correa has taken huge developmental steps forward throughout the season, and has emerged as one of the premier prospects in the game. Finding comfort at the plate and learning to trust his hands and explode into the ball, Correa is showing the Midwest League his plus potential hit tool and maturing power. Once his timing clicked, the contact grew louder and louder, and the young prospect has produced an OPS near 1.000 in the second half. The glove has also been better than advertised, as the actions are clean and smooth, and several sources said he has the chops to stick at the position for the foreseeable future. Let’s break it down: Correa is still only 18, he’s hitting better than .330 in the Midwest League, he’s hitting lefties to the tune of .450-plus, he can play a premium defensive position, he has natural hitting instincts, the doubles will eventually turn into home runs, and the makeup is applauded by people who aren’t prone to applause. That’s a monster talent, the kind of player who can change the fortunes of a franchise. –Jason Parks
Javier Baez, SS, Cubs (Double-A Tennessee) I’ve been fortunate enough to do a lot of radio hits in the Chicago market, and I’m usually asked about the positional depth in the Cubs’ org, and which prospect has the highest ceiling. Baez has long been my answer despite the fact that Baseball Prospectus ranked Almora higher on the pre-season and mid-season lists, mostly due to the fact that Baez was viewed by many to be a high-risk player. The tools are very loud, with elite bat speed at the plate and excellent hands in the field, but the aggressiveness and one-speed-at-all-times approach in all phases of the game painted the picture of an immature player, a prospect that might spoil his future before it has a chance to blossom. After an impressive run in the Florida State League, the blossoming we have eagerly anticipated has taken place after a promotion to Double-A, where Baez already has 26 extra-base hits in his first 40 games. Double-A is a test level, a separator level where pretenders are exposed and future major-league players are uncovered. It’s a small sample but a positive developmental step, and Baez is showing that he is not only prepared for the test but talented enough to excel against much older and wiser competition. He could be a star, a role 7 type with a middle-of-the-order bat and left-side chops in the field. Whatever his future role might be, the Cubs have an extremely valuable commodity in Baez.–-Jason Parks
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A look at some of the top high school prospects, who played in San Diego this weekend.
Last Sunday Petco Park hosted the 11th All-American Classic, and the second since Perfect Game began headlining the event last summer. Always one of the most highly scouted events on the summer circuit, this year’s PGAAC saw more 225 scouts in attendance to evaluate 49 of the top amateur talents in the country, as well as the top draft-eligible talent north of the border.
The full showcase included multiple workout days at the University of San Diego, live-streamed (and archived) at Perfect Game’s website, along with the nine inning game itself, which was carried on MLB Network. Jason Parks and Chris Rodriguez attended the events in person, while Nick Faleris followed remotely. This is what they saw.
The first of a 3 part series on getting your kids ready for Halloween. Jason looks at which costumes are most popular, and which are the most dangerous. Mike takes you through some homemade fall snacks, that parents won't throw out.
Mark Appel gets his first pro win, plus updates on Jonathan Singleton, Kyle Hendricks, Alex Jackson, and others.
Mark Appel, RHP, Astros (Low-A Quad Cities)
Mark Appel earned his first win as a professional during his seventh appearance, his fifth as a member of the Quad City River Bandits in the Low-A Midwest League. Appel worked five innings, giving up two hits and a walk while striking out a pair. Neither of the two runs he allowed was earned, as batters had difficulty squaring the ball up against him. He came out firing against the powerful (though Buxtonless) Cedar Rapids Kernels, throwing almost exclusively 98 mph fastballs in the first inning. The velocity continued to sit at 96-98 in both the second and third innings before settling in around 93-96, while still touching 98, in innings four and five. The arm action continues to be easy, repeatable, and clean, and he threw downhill while working the bottom half of the zone pretty well, as evidenced by his 12-to-2 groundout-to-fly out ratio. With an approach typical of college pitchers, Appel started the game by trying to get hitters swinging outside, and looked much better an inning or two later when he started to trust his fastball to establish the inner half. His slider continues to be a swing-and-miss pitch thrown at 85-86 mph, while he also showed a polished changeup in the same velocity range. The slider at its best is a plus-plus pitch with sharp two-plane break that makes it nearly unhittable, although he will need to work at making it a plus-plus pitch more consistently. His changeup works well as a perfect slow-ball complement to his fastball, given how well he maintains his arm action, though my only minor complaint with the pitch is that I wish there were a little more speed differential between it and his breaking ball. As Appel continues to gain confidence in his fastball while honing the consistency of his slider, he's going to be a strikeout pitcher at the highest level. His cool, poised demeanor on the mound also serves him well, and in this game he clearly recognized the importance of pitching to contact to make the most of his limited pitch count after a long college season. The Astros have no need to rush Appel, even though they could, so don't be surprised to see him spend most, if not all, of 2014 in Double- and Triple-A. ––Patrick Ebert and Chris Wimmers
While in Cincinnati, Jason gives Skyline a try and comes away with a better impression than expected
My opinions on Cincinnati chili were confidently written with permanent ink, chiseled into stone, and placed behind impenetrable sheets of glass—subsequently displayed with pride in the entryways of my culinary home. Cincinnati chili was a joke to me, a pretender in the world of chili. The context of this strong-willed preference is important to the discussion, as the chili of my bloodline was normally placed in direct contrast to the chili of my scorn, pitting the two together as rivals and forcing a nationalistic reaction as a result. I was raised in Texas and spent too many weekends during my youth attending chili cook-offs and chili-specific gatherings, which not only familiarized my palate with thoughtful bowls of the delicious slow-cooked meat but also with the process and preparations involved with chili construction, not to mention the eccentric cast of characters who made such constructions a significant part of their lives. It’s a very unusual sub-culture, and for whatever reason, my family enjoyed spending their free time sampling the significance of another person’s meat-based passions. I was forced into a life of chili. My opinions were formed. My opinions were strong.
A trade union lawyer named Mike Ferrin (John Saxon) kills a burglar in his house. Only an unorthodox plain-clothes detective named Jason (Joe Don Baker) believes that Ferrin is guilty of something more than self-defense...
Ranking the prospects who changed teams at the deadline.
The forecast called for a prospect-heavy deadline, with rumored deals involving proven major league talents like Cliff Lee and Jake Peavy who were expected to fetch some big names in the minor league world. However, the main haul in the Jake Peavy trade turned out to be young, major league ready talent, not names that appeared on the mid-season top 50. And despite a lot of words getting wasted on the possibilities, the Cliff Lees of the world were not turned into prospect treasure.
This led to a very lackluster deadline, with the Matt Garzatrade responsible for moving around the most impact talent, while the majority of deals were centered around fringe prospects or relief arms that aren't easy to get excited about. While the book isn't written on any of the players, the minor leaguers who changed hands this summer are unlikely candidates to change fortunes, and without the dream of a high ceiling or high impact, it's hard to sell the reality of average-at-best skill-sets to fanbases that were anticipating a brighter tomorrow. I tried to anyway. Because I'm a good person.
A tour of the minors, with looks at Mookie Betts, Garin Cecchini, Dorssys Paulino, Sergio Alcantara, and more.
Mookie Betts, 2B, Red Sox (High-A Salem) A fifth-round pick in the 2011 draft, Betts was a multi-sport athlete with good feel for baseball, an ideal talent to bring into the professional fold. In a limited look, his plus athleticism was obvious, as he showed easy plus speed on times to first and when on base. His swing had bat speed and was short to the ball, and rarely did it fail to find some contact, showing off his natural bat-to-ball ability. The pop isn’t empty but more line-drive than over-the-fence, and with his wheels, could produce solid extra-base hit numbers. In the field, the glove wasn’t flashy but the range was above average, and the overall defensive profile could give him some left-side versatility if he’s eventually pushed into a utility role. While Betts doesn’t look to be a top prospect with a first-division ceiling, he does have the type of feel for the game and athletic talent to develop into an interesting player, one with bat-to-ball skills at the plate and some leather in the field. He’s fun to watch. Big motor in a little frame. –Jason Parks
Garin Cecchini, 3B, Red Sox (Double-A Portland) After taking the Carolina League by storm, the 22-year-old left-handed hitter has continued his hot hitting in the Eastern League, posting a .331/.424/.468 line in 33 games at the level. Cecchini’s grinding, patient approach at the plate has served him well during his transition to facing higher quality arms. A typical plate appearance by the third base prospect sees him methodically work the count for an offering he can attack. Cecchini’s secondary skills have certainly shown to be up to the initial task, and early signs point toward these traits continuing to have the necessary impact within his game to carry the player to the big leagues.