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Hitter of the Night: Billy McKinney, OF, Cubs (Myrtle Beach, A+): 1-1, 2 R, HR, 4 BB. If you favor tools, and our team admittedly does as a whole, then McKinney may not be your guy. He doesn’t have the flashy raw tools, but he’s about as polished of a 20-year-old as you’ll find. There’s nothing left for him to prove in A-ball, as he’s handled all three leagues at the level and is showing that his approach is far too advanced for the pitching he’s facing. Double-A will be a test, but he’s well equipped to handle it. Big raw power? No. Blazing speed? No. Premium defender? No. Great pure hitter? Yes. Sign me up.

Pitcher of the Night: Noah Syndergaard, RHP, Mets (Las Vegas, AAA): 8 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 8 K; 3-4, 2 R, 2B, HR, K. Unlike last year when he pitched like a guy who wanted to be anywhere but Las Vegas, Syndergaard is now pitching like a guy who wants very badly to be at Citi Field. This is the top-shelf stuff we’ve come to know from Syndergaard, and he’s proving that he’s ready whenever the Mets need to call his name. Additionally, the big right-hander hits left-handed with a…oh, who am I kidding, he’s a better hitter than Bartolo Colon. That’s all I’ve got.

Best of the Rest

Ozhaino Albies, SS, Braves (Rome, A-): 3-4, 2 R, 2B, 3B, BB, SB. There were those who were leading the charge on Albies this offseason, and while we were hardly unaware of his existence or potential, we showed some uncharacteristic restraint in projecting Albies’ tools into big-time production just yet. It’s not that the tools aren’t loud. His hit tool/speed combo would be enough to carry him on its own merit, even if he didn’t offer strong defensive value at a premium defensive position. There’s a lot to like here. But since 1998 (last expansion era), the list of 5-foot-9 or shorter shortstops with similar power (generously considered to be 40 power—between 8-12 HR per year) is as follows:

Rk Name Yrs From To Age
1 Jimmy Rollins 5 2002 2010 23-31 Ind. Seasons
2 Rafael Furcal 5 2002 2011 24-33 Ind. Seasons
3 David Eckstein 2 2002 2005 27-30 Ind. Seasons
4 Miguel Tejada 1 1998 1998 24-24 Ind. Seasons
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/8/2015.

That’s a pretty small window of opportunity. As I said, there’s a lot to like, but this is a tough profile.

Eric Jagielo, 3B, Yankees (Trenton, AA): 2-4, R, HR. Jagielo is showing a better in-game version of his raw power translation this season, impressively enough while making the jump to Double-A and during a cold-hitting month in the Eastern League. This all bodes well for the former first-rounder, who will need every bit of his power to stick as a regular player. He’s not a good third baseman and will likely need to shift to first sooner rather than later, meaning he’ll need every ounce of power he has.

Corey Littrell, LHP, Cardinals (Palm Beach, A+): 8 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K. After coming over to the Cardinals in last year’s Allen Craig/John Lackey trade, Littrell looked to be another strong addition to an already deep Cardinals farm system. He looked more like that on Thursday after struggling out of the gate, failing to miss bats early in the year at an alarmingly low level (just six strikeouts in 22 2/3 innings entering Thursday).

Blake Snell, LHP, Rays (Montgomery, AA): 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 K. Something about the Southern League strike zone is agreeing with Snell, as his previous issues throwing strikes have not followed him to his new destination. It’s just two starts, but we’re getting a glimpse of how effective he can be when he’s in the strike zone, and it’s a lot of fun to watch.

Duane Underwood, Jr., RHP, Cubs (Myrtle Beach, A+): 7 IP, 3 H, R, BB, 4 K. The 20-year-old Underwood is pitching like it’s a personal insult that people talk about all of the Cubs hitting prospects but continually overlook their young pitchers. I asked Mauricio Rubio about Underwood and he said “he has the highest ceiling of any arm in the Cubs system. Quick arm whip, plus fastball, and a curve that is just a pain. He has big potential. Seriously, the curve is a pain in the (fill in the body part here).”

Lance McCullers, RHP, Astros (Corups Christi, AA): 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 9 K. McCullers has the pure stuff that could probably play in a big-league bullpen soon. But let’s not get carried away here. The Astros are showing little intention of doing that. McCullers, not yet 22, now has five Double-A appearances under his belt for a grand total of 25 innings. He’s throwing more strikes than ever and is missing more bats than ever. He may ultimately end up in a bullpen, but his overall progress as a starter is trending in the right direction.

Tyler Wagner, RHP, Brewers (Biloxi, AA): 7 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 K. Wagner’s stuff doesn’t jump out at you, but after dominating the Florida State League last year, Wagner has taken his show on the road to the Southern League where he’s finding similar success. He works well in the zone and has two above-average offerings, though his lack of a quality third option limits him, as does his low-90s velocity.

Fight Another Day

Trevor Williams, RHP, Marlins (Jacksonville, AA): 5 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 4 BB, 3 K. Williams was inconsistent last year in the Florida State League, at times looking like an overpowering fireballer without command, and other times looking like a refined groundballer who generates a ton of weak contact. Whichever version he wants to be hasn’t worked in Double-A, either last year after a promotion or this season. He’s around the zone a lot and doesn’t miss a ton of bats, so he’s susceptible to some bad luck.

Notable Starting Pitchers

  • Aaron Blair, RHP, Diamondbacks (Mobile, AA): 7 IP, 9 H, 2 R, BB, 3 K.
  • Tyrell Jenkins, RHP, Braves (Mississippi, AA): 6 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 5 K.
  • Julio Urias, LHP, Dodgers (Tulsa, AA): 6 IP, 4 H, R, BB, 6 K.
  • Jarlin Garcia, RHP, Marlins (Jupiter, A+): 6 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 6 K.
  • Nick Travieso, RHP, Reds (Daytona, A+): 5 IP, 5 H, 3 R (0 ER), 2 BB, 6 K.

…and Carlos Correa did awesome things (2-3, R, 2B, HR, BB, SB).

Thank you for reading

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bigchiefbc
5/08
Reynaldo Lopez had his first start of the year, and looked good: 5IP, 2H, 0R, 0BB, 3K
kringent
5/08
Hey, Jeff, love your work as always but I'm unclear what you're trying to say about Albies. The list is confusing because both Rollins and Tejada had more 12+ HR seasons than they did 8-12 HR seasons.
moore315512
5/08
Correct, which really takes them out of consideration for a comp and leaves only two players. This probably wasn't the place for this discussion and I may delve deeper into it at some point.
kringent
5/08
Thanks, I look forward to that. He's an intriguing player.
Hodiggity2001
5/09
Jeff,
I really enjoyed this comp analysis in this format. I know there is more depth you can get into, but it really helps you get a better feel for a players prospects. Don't let the comments deter you. This is great work. Have a feeling we will be missing your work soon (unfortunately) as you continue your career.
Shauncore
5/08
If you can believe it, Bubba Starling has hit back-to-back-to-back (3) home runs in AA the past 3 games.