Lonnie Chisenhall, SS, Short-Season Mahoning Valley (Indians)
Chisenhall was a mildly surprising first-round pick this year, as most saw him as more of a supplemental-round type of talent. He signed quickly, and then got off to a slow start in his pro debut, batting .158 in his first nine games. From that point forward, though, he’s been doing what he was paid seven figures to do—hit. With two doubles on Saturday and a triple and home run yesterday, Chisenhall is now batting .267/.328/.426 overall, and is 13-for-35 with three bombs in his last nine contests. He’s made 11 errors already, but he’s not really a shortstop anyway, and will likely slide to the left or right in his full-season debut next year. For now, what’s important is that he’s hitting.
Donaldson went 0-for-3 on Sunday, and during the first half of the year, when still with the Cubs‘ organization, that wouldn’t have been a big story, as Donaldson hit just .217/.276/.349 for Low-A Peoria and left scouts who had followed him at Auburn, or seen the 1000+ OPS line in his pro debut, wondering what the big deal had been about. Since the Rich Harden trade, however, Donaldson has suddenly been showing why he was seen as one of the better offensive catching prospects in the game entering the season, because after that 0-for-3, Donaldson is batting .386/.457/.651 in the California League with 24 RBI in 21 games—one more run driven in than he had during the entire first half of the year with Peoria. It’s far too early to just write off his miserable showing in the Midwest League, but this is a significant performance boost nonetheless.
Technically, he’s not really a prospect any more, but he’s still a young unproven player. Based on what Hughes showed on Saturday, though, he could be a factor in the post-season race. Once the top pitching prospect in the game, Hughes made his second rehab appearance since coming back from a rib injury, absolutely dominating Sally League hitters on Saturday, allowing one hit in 3
A supplemental first-round pick in 2007 after being one of college baseball’s top hitters, the problem with Kulbacki was that swinging the bat was really the sum of his skills, as he’s a little on the small side for a corner outfielder, doesn’t run well, and has a below-average arm. He hit just .164/.260/.295 during the first month of the season at Low-A Fort Wayne, but some numbers games roster-wise forced a move up to the California League, which turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to him. He hit just .221 during his first month for the Storm, but since then he’s been the best hitter in the league. A 7-for-12 weekend that included a double and a pair of home runs brought his season averages up to .347/.440/.620, and in his last 30 contests, he’s batting .433 (52-for-120) with nine doubles and nine home runs. As far as the ratio of offensive potential to media attention goes, Kulbacki is huge.
A 2005 draft-and-follow who signed the following year, Morrison had a solid full-season debut last year, showing power with a good approach, and a surprising feel for contact considering that he projects as a big, slugging left-handed first baseman. This year, he’s having the rare offensive explosion in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, made all the more impressive by his not turning 21 until three weeks from now. After going 9-for-12 over the weekend with three doubles and a pair of home runs, Morrison is now 24-for-44 during his 11-game hitting streak, and batting .355/.414/.547 on the season. He’s also leading the circuit in batting average, hits (139), doubles (34), and on-base percentage. In a system desperate for offensive prospects, the Fish have found one in Morrison.
One of many Latin American infield talents in the Red Sox system, Navarro started the year sharing shortstop duties at Low-A Greenville with Oscar Tejeda, but he was promoted to the Cal League after hitting .280/.341/.412 in order to create a full-time job for both players. Now, obviously the Cal League—and especially Lancaster—is a great place to hit, but 11 hits over the weekend is far too many to ignore coming from any league. With three hits on Friday, five on Saturday (including three doubles) and three more yesterday, the 20-year-old is hitting .366/.391/.549 in 18 games for the JetHawks while showing average defensive skills; he has soft hands but some scouts question his range. Even if he has to slide over to second, the bat should still play.
David Price, LHP, Double-A Montgomery (Rays)
There was one team in the American League East that was surprisingly quiet at the deadline—the Tampa Bay Rays. It wasn’t for lack of trying, as they were in on discussions for players like Jason Bay, but in the end they stood pat. It was a difficult situation for in some ways. Taking the long-term view of the team, this year’s squad is basically contending ahead of schedule, and while post-season opportunities can be hard to come by, to have made a deal would have altered the master plan for a team that is looking to be competitive in baseball’s toughest division not only this year, but for years to come. That brings us to Price, one of the biggest parts of that master plan. The number-one overall pick in the 2007 draft, Price had his best Double-A start of the season on Saturday, striking out ten over seven innings while allowing only one run on four hits. The Red Sox and Yankees both made big moves, but just because the Rays didn’t doesn’t mean that they can’t transform their roster for the stretch run, and Price could be the biggest part of that.
Carlos Santana, C, High-A Kinston (Indians)
Acquired from the Dodgers in the Casey Blake trade, Santana was hitting .323/.431/.563 for Inland Empire in 99 games at the time of the deal, but that’s the Southern Division of the California League, a great place to put up big numbers. Even though scouts liked what they saw, a downturn in the Carolina League was understandably expected, but that hasn’t happened yet, because Santana went 7-for-14 over the weekend for the K-Tribe, including his first home run as an Indian, giving him a .379/.419.586 line after his first week on the east coast, while also throwing out four of seven attempted basestealers. The Indians have been without a top-notch catching prospect in the system for a few years now, but they’ve found one in Santana.
When the 18-year-old Triunfel got off to a slow start this year, there were a lot of questions. Had he risen too high too soon? Was last year’s initial showing in the Cal League (.288/.333/.356) a fluke? Those questions are being asked much less frequently of late, as Triunfel is batting .286/.334/.414 on the year after a three-hit game on Sunday. He’s also showing power for the first time in his career, hitting six home runs in July as part of a .371/.408/.586 month. There are older players making their debuts right now in the complex leagues, and that always needs to be considered, because it’s part of why Triunfel remains a hitting prospect with very high upside.
Josh Vitters, 3B, Short-Season Boise (Cubs)
A 6-for-51 pro debut and an injury-plagued first half of the season had many Cubs fans wondering if the team had made some kind of mistake with the third overall pick last year. Rest assured, they didn’t. The top pure hitter in last year’s draft is finally healthy, and has finally found his grove in the Northwest League, extending his current hitting streak to 11 games and upping his season averages to .336/.373/.517. Vitters has remarkable bat speed combined with amazing hand-eye coordination, the kind of combination that drew a few Howie Kendrick comparisons prior to the draft. Now the numbers finally match those comps.