Where experience and readiness collide

Mat Latos, RHP, Padres (Double-A San Antonio)
Monday’s stats: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R (2 ER), 0 BB, 12 K
The Padres’ top prospect finally got touched up for a few runs on Monday night, but still, it’s hard to get more dominant than 12 of 16 outs coming via the whiff. The six-foot-six righty got up to 96 mph on several occasions. With Jake Peavy out of the picture for quite a while, it seems way too early to give Latos, who has less than 170 innings of pro experience a big league look . . . or does it?

Delayed arrival

Austin Jackson, OF, Yankees (Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre)
Monday’s stats: 3-for-4, 2B

With Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera doing a serviceable job as the Yankees’ center field tandem, one can’t help but wonder is Jackson would be an upgrade. While it’s unlikely that he’s in line for anything more than a September call-up, the top prospect in the Yankee system is stating his case for something earlier, as he has hit at least .328 in every month of the year as part of an overall line of .345/.415/.459 while going a perfect 12-for-12 in the stolen base department.

Stuck in the middle with you

James Darnell, 3B, Padres (Low-A Fort Wayne)
Monday’s stats: 2-for-4, 2B, 2 RBI

For now, Darnell is kind of stuck in the Midwest League, though he clearly doesn’t belong there as a 22-year-old college player with an intriguing combination of tools and skills. Now 11-for-19 in his last five games with three doubles and batting .320/.466/.519 overall, Darnell ranks second in the minor leagues with 55 walks, but the guy he’s trailing, with 57, is Logan Forsythe, the San Diego third base prospect who is one step ahead of him at High-A Lake Elsinore. For now, he’s just biding his time and, clearly, remaining patient.

Little guy, big bat

Caleb Gindl, OF, Brewers (High-A Brevard County)
Monday’s stats: 1-for-2, HR (8), 3 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB, SB
While he’s only five-foot-nine, Gindl is actually one of the more impressive offensive prospects in the Milwaukee system, with good plate discipline, gap power, and at least average speed. The power has been for more than the gap variety of late, as with three home runs in his last four games, the 2007 fifth-round pick is now batting .287/.371/.470 in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League.

Like waking up from a long nap

Matt Dominguez, 3B, Marlins (High-A Jupiter)
Monday’s stats: 2-for-4, RBI, K
The Marlins first-round pick in 2007, Domiguez hit .296/.354/.499 last year in his full-season debut, and when you combined that with his plus-plus defensive ability, some thought he looked like a right-handed Eric Chavez. Moving to the Florida State League proved to be a far more significant challenge than expected, however, as his averages sat at a miserable .216/.277/.287 at the end of May. While his OPS is only up to .662 since then, the good news is that he’s definitely found his stroke, batting .351 in his last 13 games with a .630 slugging percentage.

For more than just a sleeper

Thomas Neal, OF, Giants (High-A San Jose)

Monday’s stats: 2-for-4, HR (12), R, RBI, K

A draft-and-follow signed in 2006, Neal bounced back from shoulder surgery and earned some praise for a solid season in the Sally League, but he’s really exploded this year in California, and now that the scouting reports are coming in, it’s looking like this guy is legit. With a stocky build that one evaluator likened to that of an NFL running back, Neal generates tremendous leverage in his swing, and has been hitting balls all over the place of late, going 18-for-39 in his last ten games with 37 total bases to raise his season averages to .346/.426/.626. This isn’t a sleeper folks, this is a very real prospect.

Thank you for reading

This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.

Subscribe now
You need to be logged in to comment. Login or Subscribe
Any concern that Austin Jackson has K'd 62 times in 229 AB and has only 1 HR on the year and only 20 extra base hits total?
Not to mention his .470 BABIP. Luck- and park-adjusted line, courtesy of Minor League Splits: .253/.333/.341.
So I guess the question re: Darnell is, why is Forsythe still at High-A when the Padres have two under-performing 3B at San Antonio?
Thanks for the update on Neal! I've been to a few SJ Giants games to watch Bumgarner, Posey, Villalona and the crew (I saw Bumgarner's first start of the year), and Neal is a guy who I saw really good things from, but since he wasn't on any prospect lists (despite being only 21 years old), I figured I was just seeing a fluke. Glad to see the cat is out of the bag, as I was going to e-mail you and ask you about why he wasn't more highly thought of... Question answered! Again, LOVE this column.

I was at the game last night and Latos was literally unhittable for the first 4 innings, retiring the first 12 batters. The only well-hit ball all night was the leadoff double in the fifth. It was followed by bloop single to plate the run and the second run scored on a sacrifice bunt that Latos threw into right field allowing th runner to score all the way from first. The third run in the sixth came on two singles and a sac fly.

I sat behind the plate and while I am not a scout nor do I even have enough experience to know the first thing about pitching, Latos looked great. His fastball had plenty of movement and was sitting around 93 while hitting 96 as Kevin mentioned. He was getting plenty of strikeouts looking on fastballs and his breaking stuff had several hitters fooled. Einertson struck out twice on breaking balls that just looked filthy.

He did seem to let the hits ruffle him a bit before he put it back together.
The Padres aren't going anywhere this year, so they really have no big incentive to rush Latos. I don't see a reason to give him a big league look any time before September, although I would enjoy seeing how he would do given the opportunity. I just think it would be prudent to let him continue developing in AA.
I have no data on this, but I wouldn't be too surprised to see the Padres take a chance on giving Will Inman a taste of the bigs.

Again, this is nothing but a hunch.
I just noticed today that Inman has been promoted to AAA and isn't doing very well. There's no reason to promote him over Latos.
BTW, I love the A and AA profiles.
I wonder if Austin Jackson's drop in (already marginal) power this year is more of a function of approach than abilities. Kevin -- can you shed any light on whether he is being groomed as an OB/lead-off guy such that he has stopped trying to swing from the fences? If so, he's following direction well.

I've only seen limited ABs from last year and this year, and his swing seems more LD oriented.
I've read somewhere that the Yankees emphasize approach and good at bats down at the minors and they figure they power will come from that, if it is ever to come. I also think the minor league environments he's played in have helped either, as the majority of the Yankee affiliates play in pitchers parks in pitchers leagues (which is kinda why Yankee pitching prospects get overrated (Joba, IPK, Hughes), while their hitting ones (Cano, Melky) seem to come from nowhere.

That all said, I've often wondered if Austin Jackson has been a bit overrated. His ceiling to me just seems to be that of an average center field bat. That's nothing to sneeze at, but he's also not going to be another Grady Sizemore or Matt Kemp. I definitely don't consider him the Yanks top prospect anymore as that honor goes to Jesus Montero, and I kinda also like both Zach McAllister and Austin Romine (average catcher > average center fielder) more than Jackson at this point as well.