The Yankees first-round pick in 2003, Duncan never developed as expected, fizzling out of the system after three years of non-production at Triple-A and career averages of .242/.320/.400. He hooked on with the Braves as a play-everywhere guy for their Double-A team, and he's starting to do some things with the bat, hitting .314/.368/.447 in 44 games while holding his own at four positions, including a surprisingly solid job at second base. At 25, and with his track record, it's hard to call him any part of Atlanta's future, but scouts have noted his hard work and good physical conditioning, and there's at least a shot here for a great story down the road.
In nearly any other system, Hellickson would be a big leaguer. With Tampa Bay, he's stuck waiting for his turn. On Monday he delivered his best start of the year, taking a perfect game into the seventh while lowering his ERA to 2.79. As always, it wasn't the quality of the stuff (which is definitely plus, however), it was what is arguably the best command and control in the minors that led to his success. One way or another, he'll find his way to the big leagues this year.
The 11th overall pick in last year's draft took nearly a full year to make his pro debut, as negotiations that went down to the deadline prevented him from pitching last year, while the Rockies chose to keep him in extended spring this year until the weather became more reliable. Finally unwrapping their shiny new toy turned out to be worth the wait. While he was a bit rusty on a command level, his stuff was top of the line, including a fastball that sat in the mid-90s at times and two plus breaking balls.
Now in all fairness, Kyle Russell is supposed to tear it up in the California League, and of late he's been doing his best Mike Stanton impression by going a remarkable 13-for-26 with six home runs in his last six games to up his averages to .341/.431/.652. Drafted as a college senior, he turns 24 in June so it's time to move him up, and scouts still aren't convinced that he can hit enough at the upper levels, as evidenced by his 53 whiffs in 164 at-bats. One way or another, it's time to find out.
The Cedar Rapids squad is one of the Midwest League's most prospect-laden, and the performances of Mike Trout and others mean guys like Skaggs aren't getting the attention they deserve. A supplemental first-round pick last June, Skaggs is a tall, projectable lefty who already has a tick above-average velocity to go with a killer slider, and his ability to command the strike zone is highly advanced for a player that doesn't turn 19 until July. With 41 strikeouts and nine walks in 38 innings, to go with a 2.37 ERA in nine games, he'll be getting notice eventually.
Others Of Note:
- Tim Alderson, RHP, Pirates (Double-A Altoona): 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K. Best start of the year lowers his ERA to a still poor 5.17.
- Josh Bell, 3B, Orioles (Triple-A Norfolk): 2-for-4, 2B, RBI, 2 K. Four straight games with multiple hits and a double; OBP still under .300.
- Engel Beltre, OF, Rangers (High-A Bakersfield): 3-for-4, 3 R. Everything about his game, from approach to attitude, has shown marked improvement; tools remain outstanding and he's still only 20 years old.
- Joe Benson, OF, Twins (High-A Fort Myers): 3-for-6, 2 HR (4), 3 R, 4 RBI. Was playing well at Double-A despite a lack of batting average; deserves to go back with .382/447/.853 line in eight Florida State League games.
- Hank Conger, C, Angels (Triple-A Salt Lake): 3-for-4, 2 2B. 9-for-21 in last five games; would Scioscia even consider a hit-first catcher?
- Nick Franklin, SS/2B, Mariners (Low-A Clinton): 3-for-4, 2 R, 3 RBI, 2 SB. Up to .328/.366/.586; could argue he's the best position player in the Midwest League not named Mike Trout.
- Ryan Goins, SS, Blue Jays (Low-A Lansing): 5-for-5, 2B, RBI. Fourth-round pick from '09 now batting .312/.392/.399; scouts aren't convinced he's a shortstop in the end.
- Dee Gordon, SS, Dodgers (Double-A Chattanooga): 4-for-5, R, 2 SB, CS. Slumping in May; lack of power and patience is a concern; batting an fairly empty .291/.332/.355.
- Mark Hamilton, 1B, Cardinals (Triple-A Memphis): 3-for-3, HR (4), 2 R, 3 RBI. Three home runs in last seven games have brought slugging up to .506; obviously no future for him in St. Louis.
- Martin Perez, LHP, Rangers (Double-A Frisco): 4.2 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 2 K. It's not like he's been awful or anything, but I think everyone expected more as it's the end of May and he has zero quality starts.
- Buster Posey, C, Giants (Triple-A Fresno): 4-for-4, 2B. Nothing left to prove, just biding his time.
- Jose Tabata, OF, Pirates (Triple-A Indianapolis): 3-for-5, 2B, 2 R, K, CS. Batting .328/.385/.437, but only getting it done against RHP.
- Ben Revere, OF, Twins (Double-A New Britain): 2-for-5, 2 R, SB. 16-for-31 in last seven games; 17 for 21 in stolen bases after entering year with 74% career success rate.
- Jerry Sands, OF, Dodgers (Low-A Great Lakes): 2-for-5, HR (15), 2 R, 2 RBI, BB, K, SB. Again, shouldn't be at this level, but some scuttle about High-A outfielder Kyle Russell moving up to Double-A, and Sands taking his place at Inland Empire.
- Stephen Strasburg, RHP, Nationals (Triple-A Syracuse): 5 IP, 5 H, 2 R (1 ER), 0 BB, 5 K. One more minor league start?