Our prospect guru takes a trip through some early-season results in the off-season leagues.
Johermyn Chavez, OF, Mariners (VEN: Navegantes)
A big slugger who came from Toronto in the Brandon Morrow deal, Chavez hit .315/.387/.577 for High-A High Desert this year, including a 1039 OPS after the All-Star break, but at the same time, he's exactly the kind of player who should put up big numbers in that park. His job in 2011 will be to prove he's for real, and he's gotten off to a head start with a .333/.417/.524 line in his first 11 Venezuelan games. He has massive power and equally huge holes in his swing, but with some adjustments, he has the tools to be more than just another High Desert mirage.
After a breakout year in the Pioneer League in 2008, Rosario hit just .266/.297/.404 at High-A Modesto this season, but there are plenty of mitigating factors, as he was one of the youngest players in the league at the toughest position and constantly beset by injuries. He clearly found a grove towards the end of the season, batting .319/.365/.507 after the break, and now he's swinging the bat well in Arizona. Ignore the overall numbers; he's still an outstanding catching prospect.
After giving up three runs over two innings in his first start for the Solar Sox, Cashner has given up just one in his last three-a span of 11 2/3 innings. The 2008 first-round pick has been sitting at 93-97 mph with his fastball, to go with his plus to plus-plus slider and, arguably more importantly, he's been throwing a ton of strikes, including 35 of 49 pitches on Thursday. The debates as to his future being a reliever or starter still goes on, but more and more are ending up on the side of the latter.
Rogers was such a nice story this year. After missing all of 2007 and 2008 with a variety of shoulder problems and surgeries, he pitched every five days in short stints for High-A Brevard County, putting up a 1.67 ERA with more than a strikeout per inning. Even more promising was that the fifth overall pick in the 2004 draft was getting up to the mid-90s with his fastball. While he pitched just 64 2/3 innings, he stayed healthy, and one wondered what he could do once the reigns were loosened a bit. The Arizona Fall League has been a disaster however, as Rogers now sports a 17.61 ERA in six appearances, and even more concerning is the fact that he's clearly tired, sitting at just 90-92 mph while his control has abandoned him. If 70 innings is too much for his ravaged arm, that's not a good thing.
After batting .304/.333/.368 during the final six weeks of the regular season in the big leagues, Escobar seems lined up to assume everyday shortstop duties for the Brewers in 2010, and he's still hitting back home in Venezuela. Of course, nearly any kind of offense from him is gravy, as his defense is so spectacular, but the real story here might end up being what the Brewers end up doing . . . or getting for J.J. Hardy.
A lowdown on who's hot and who's not as the fall and winter leagues kick into high gear.
Johermyn Chavez, OF, Blue Jays (VEN: Magellanes)
Chavez made tremendous strides in 2009. Overmatched at Low-A in 2008 and batting .211/.272/.323 as a 19-year-old, Chavez returned to the Lugnuts this year and raised his OPS by 227 points, finishing second in the Midwest League with 21 home runs, and third with 241 total bases. Used sparingly so far for the Navegantes, Chavez got his first start on Sunday and responded with a 3-for-4 night that included a double and three RBI. In a system desperate for prospects, Chavez is definitely one.
The Grant Desme ridiculous train continues to roll and other news and notes from the winter leagues.
What am I supposed to write at this point?
Grant Desme, OF, Athletics (AFL: Phoenix) Yesterday's stats: 3-for-4, 2 HR (10), 4 R, 4 RBI, BB, K
More fun with numbers. In 12 games, Desme is batting .469/.544/1.143. In the first three innings of games, he's 8-for-14 with four home runs. When playing left field, he's 8-for-13 with five home runs. He has no home runs when leading off an inning in 12 at-bats, so when not leading off an inning, he has 10 home runs in 37 at-bats. It's just ridiculous.
Whatever order you want to put them, Cashner, along with infielders Josh Vitters and Starlin Castro, are the top three prospects in the Cubs system, and all of them are having outstanding seasons so far for Mesa. Four no-hit innings are even more impressive considering the offensive context of the league, and his stuff matched the stats, as he sat at 92-96 mph with his fastball, and his slider is a wipeout offering at times.