Travis Buck, of, Double-A Midland (Athletics)
In 1931, Red Sox outfielder Earl Webb smacked 67 doubles, which remains the major league record. That mark has remained fairly safe during the offensive explosions of late–only six players have ever hit 60 in a season, none in the last 70 years, and Todd Helton‘s 59
in 2000 sits as the highest mark of the modern era. If you are looking for a
future contender, here’s your guy. On Friday night, Buck went 3-for-5, all of
them doubles, bringing his season total for two-baggers up to 32 in 277 total
at-bats, and he’s not just a one trick pony. At .329/.392/.549 (overall between
Midland and High Class A Stockton), the 2005 supplemental first-round pick
obviously leads the minor leagues in doubles, but also leads in minors in
extra-base hits (43), and is tied for the lead in hits (91).
Early in May, more fans became familiar with the uniforms of
the Durham Bulls than expected, as Delmon Young‘s bat-throwing incident was replayed ad nauseam by several national media outlets. Things got a little
more ugly for the Devil Rays’ Triple-A club over the weekend, as perpetual
shortstop prospect B.J. Upton was arrested for a DWI early on Friday morning, and outfielder Elijah Dukes was suspended indefinitely with no
comment as to why. Minor league managers have to be many things, including
baseball strategists, instructors, and at times, father figures. It’s rare
for anybody to call for a manager in the minor leagues to get fired, but it’s
time for John Tamargo to go. Between his embarrassing comments following the Young incident, his boorish behavior during an argument Upton had with an umpire earlier in the year, and his own suspension early in the year for bumping an ump, Tamargo has become the overly proud captain of a sinking ship. Irony of all Ironies: Young is scheduled to return from his suspension today. Maybe Tamargo shouldn’t be there when he walks into the clubhouse.
Zack Greinke, rhp, Double-A Wichita (Royals)
It was rehab day for the Wranglers on Sunday in Arkansas and the results were mixed. Reliever Mike MacDougall started the game with
a perfect first inning, and then it was Greinke’s turn. He faced a total of
ten batters, giving up four hits and four walks, with all eight base runners scoring to rocket his ERA up to 8.47 in four starts. To make any sort of judgment call on what’s going on here is to play amateur psychiatrist. We don’t really know what’s wrong with Greinke, we don’t really know what the expected recovery time is, and we don’t really know what the track record is for players dealing with what Greinke is dealing with. All we can do is hope.
Nick Hundley, c, Low Class A Fort Wayne (Padres)
A second-round pick last June, Hundley was seen as a solid
defender with some offensive skills, primarily good power and solid plate
discipline. The power was a long time coming, as the former University of Arizona star waited until his 35th game of the season to go deep.
Since then, everything his clicked. Hundley hit home runs on Friday and
Saturday (the Wizards were rained out on Sunday), and has now gone deep in five
straight games (including one two-homer game). Since returning from a stint on
the disabled list when he was hit in his throwing hand by a foul ball, Hundley
is 13-for-32 with seven home runs, and batting .272/.355/.487 overall.
Andy Marte, 3b, Triple-A Buffalo (Indians)
Speaking of everything clicking…
Marte was one of the biggest disappointments in the minor leagues, as a case of big league-itiscaused some pressing, and Marte’s approach fell apart. In the end, as per usual, talent finally came to the surface and the 22-year-old Dominican is showing once again why he is considered among the top infield prospects in baseball. After hitting just two home runs in his first 54 games for the Bisons, Marte has launched eight in his last 12 contests, including one in each of his last four, bringing his season averages up to a more respectable
.269/.332/.450 with all indicators pointing towards the sky.
Eduardo Morlan, rhp, Low Class A Beloit (Twins)
This just in: the Twins are loaded with arms. Matt Garza
has turned into an elite pitching prospect, Kevin Slowey, who struck
out the side on nine pitches in the Florida State League All-Star game on
Saturday, has taken a major step forward, and Francisco Liriano has arguably
become their top starter in the big leagues. Buried in all of this is
Morlan, a 20-year-old righty who was the team’s third round pick in 2004.
Friday night at Cedar Rapids, Morlan fired his first career complete game,
tying a season-high with 11 strikeouts while giving up two runs on seven hits.
On the season, Morlan has a 2.57 ERA in 11 starts to go along with 73
strikeouts in 63 innings and just 47 hits allowed. With a low-90s fastball
that touches 95 and a power curve, Morlan is very capable of taking that
Garza/Slowey step forward when he gets to the Florida State League in 2007.
Carlos Quentin, of, Triple-A Tucson (Diamondbacks)
A 2003 first-round pick out of Stanford who is back in Triple-A
because of an outfield logjam at the big league level, Quentin set a minor
league record in 2004 by getting hit by 43 pitches. By getting hit two more
times over the weekend, Quentin is on pace to break his own record. He’s been
plunked 22 times in 61 games, and only a callup (possible) or a change in his
top-of-the-plate stance (not likely) will prevent him from eclipsing his mark
from two years ago. At .279/.401/.476, Quentin is well off his .301/.422/.520
numbers from last year at Tucson, but he’s still lined up for a starting job in
Marc Reed, c, Low Class A Peoria (Cubs)
A second-round pick in 2004, Reed has been doing a pretty
good impression of his brother Jeremy Reed at the plate recently, going 8-for-14 over the weekend to extend a nine-game hitting streak in which he is 18-for-39 (.462). At .343/.388/.429 on the season, Reed is leading the Midwest League batting race, while shining behind the plate as well, gunning down 43% of opposing base stealers. Cubs fans can only hope his rise to the majors continues to mirror that of his older brother’s, only with a different result when he gets there.
Joey Votto, 1b, Double-A Chattanooga (Reds)
Votto established himself as one of the few real hitting
prospects in the Reds system with a big 2004 season, but the Florida State
League proved to be a tough challenge for the Canadian, as he struggled to a
.256/.330/.425 campaign at Sarasota last year. That performance is beginning
to look like a bump in the road now, as Votto went 7-for-14 with three home
runs over the weekend, and is now batting .321/.392/.567 overall in his first
taste of Double-A. If he stays put, he’s got an outside shot at the Southern
League Triple Crown. He’s currently 3rd in batting, tied for first
in home runs (13) and 2nd in RBI (43), with the leader, Dodgers
third baseman Andy LaRoche (46) now playing in Triple-A with no chance to add to the total.
Robert Woodard, rhp, University of North Carolina
While the Tar Heels had two starters–Andrew
Miller and Daniel Bard–get drafted in the first round this year, at times, Woodard was their best performer. He led the ACC in ERA last year, and has fewer losses than both Miller and Bard this season. On Sunday, Woodard fired a three-hit shutout against Clemson to put North Carolina in the bracket one driver’s seat. A 46th-round pick by the Cardinals this year, Woodard has little pro projection with a mid-80s fastball and just 54 strikeouts in 104.2 innings, but he’ll likely return to college next year as the ace for what could be the defending national champions–not a bad consolation prize.
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