It was a light day of minor league games, as the Carolina, California, Southern, Sally, Midwest and Pacific Coast Leagues were all off, but we’ve got you covered on the rest of the action.
Hitter of the Day: J.P. Crawford, SS, Phillies (Reading, AA): 2-4, R, 2B, BB, SB. Crawford was already on the verge of becoming an elite prospect at the start of the year, but he’s cemented that status thanks to a refined approach and strong contact skills. He’s walking more than he’s striking out, a rarity in today’s game, especially as the competition level increases for a player. He’s a threat with his legs and glove as well as hit bat, making him the type of all-around player we don’t see enough of at the premium shortstop position. With his progress this season and the promotions that have taken place throughout the game, it’s safe to say we’ll be calling him the game’s top shortstop prospect sometime soon, though it may be for only a short while before it’s his turn to hear his name called.
Pitcher of the Day: Manny Banuelos, LHP, Braves (Gwinnett, AAA): 9 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K (101 pitches). Not that he had a whole lot left to prove in this department, but if there was anyone still out there wondering if Banuelos was healthy, he answered their question for the final time. He’s been remarkably good this season, and while not the ridiculous bat-missing self of 2009-10 when he burst onto the prospect scene with the Yankees, he’s still a quite viable left-handed arm that appears to have mastered the minors’ highest level and is awaiting the day when the Braves need his assistance in the big leagues.
Best of the Rest
Alex Jackson, OF, Mariners (Everett, SS): 2-3, K, SB. The struggles for Jackson were significant in his full-season debut over the first three months of the season, so when the short-season affiliates began play this past week, the Mariners demoted Jackson to the level where he likely belonged all along. There was a lot of pressure on Jackson’s bat to perform after he was moved out from behind the plate, a move that some scouts deemed unnecessary, and it’s possible that that pressure caused Jackson to press. We can’t know for sure. All we know was that the supposedly refined high-school bat was in far over his head and is looking to get straightened out against a more appropriate level of competition.
Michael Conforto, OF, Mets (Binghamton, AA): 2-5, R, 2B, K. Conforto has been red hot since joining Double-A Binghamton, a stretch that will serve only to shoot the expectations for his potential higher than he can possibly reach in a way that only a Mets prospect can do. Conforto is a good young hitter, and the Mets are lucky to have him. What he’s not, however, is a potential franchise centerpiece the way some have set him up to be. He’s good, don’t get me wrong. But as a left-field only option, there is a lot of pressure on his bat to produce and the power is less than elite. He should hit enough to warrant everyday playing time, but it’s not the kind of bat around which a lineup will be built. If he’s batting fifth or sixth and driving in more talented hitters, however, the Mets will be in good shape.
Colin Moran, 3B, Astros (Corpus Christi, AA): 2-5, 2B, K. Moran missed part of the season with a fractured jaw, but upon his return, it’s been more of the same for the former sixth-overall pick. He shows exceptional feel for the barrel, but little else in the way of offensive tools. He does have strong raw power, but it simply does not play in games and he fails to pull the trigger on balls on the inner half or drive the ball with any authority. Most of his doubles come from the strength in his wrists and his innate ability to find the barrel of the bat, but there’s not enough damage there to warrant everyday playing time even at third base, let alone first where he’s destined to end up.
Charlie Tilson, OF, Cardinals (Springfield, AA): 3-5, R, 2B, K. Tilson has embraced the leadoff profile more successfully this season, increasing his walk rate while cutting his strikeout rate significantly. He’s never been a truly patient hitter, but his contact-oriented approach and plus speed lead to high averages on balls in play and help him make up for an aggressive approach. That approach has improved this season against better competition, however, allowing his speed to play better in games. It has to, as he offers little to no power, but when combined with his defense, it should be enough to allow him to be an everyday center fielder.
Nick Williams, OF, Rangers (Frisco, AA): 3-4, 2B. A simple adjustment in approach, raising his walk rate from abhorrent to passable, has allowed all of his other hitting skills to play to the potential at which scouts had raved was possible for years. It’s not a coincidence, by expanding the strike zone less, Williams is able to put his elite bat speed to work on better pitches on which he can do significantly more damage. The result has been a more balanced hitter, one who is more prepared to face the pitching challenges that await him at higher levels.
Adrian Rondon, SS, Rays (GCL Rays, R): 2-3, 2B, 2 BB. In his professional debut, the Rays jumped Rondon, their $3 million investment, all the way to the United States to face much older domestic competition, and the youngster did not disappoint. Still just 16, Rondon shows the kind of elite offensive tools that even a cost-conscious organization like the Rays are willing to open up their wallets for. Bringing him stateside less than a year after signing is an aggressive move for the Rays, but Rondon is the type of talent that can handle the challenge.
Notable Prospect Starters
- Jose De Leon, RHP, Dodgers (Tulsa, AA): 6 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 4 K.
- Jeff Hoffman, RHP, Blue Jays (Dunedin, A+): 5 IP, 7 H, 2 R, BB, 2 K.
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