The prospect three-day weekendby Jeff Moore
April 20, 2012
The minor league season is well under way, which means call-ups, injuries, hot starts, and guady stats. It also means that, just like their major league counterparts, there are some pretty ugly early stat lines.
I looked at some of these earlier in the week, including an absolutely brutal start at the plate for Jose Iglesias, who is hitting .195/.277/.195 on the early season. The bright spot for Iglesias at the plate is...wait, there is no bright spot. He's been awful. He's making Rey Ordonez look like Ozzie Smith, and Ozzie Smith look like Cal Ripken, and...well you get the idea.
The Red Sox almost kept him out of spring training because of his defense, but whoever got the final say on that decision got it right. Iglesias now has a career .546 OPS in 112 games against Triple-A pitching, and it's looking more and more like he's never going to be anywhere close to a productive major league hitter. In fact, it's getting to the point that, he may not ever provide average value as a ballplayer, even if he is in the class of Smith, Ordonez or Omar Vizquel with the glove.
One player who wasn't struggling was the Padres' Casey Kelly, but his numbers are going to stay where they are for a while. Kelly had his right (throwing) elbow examined after he reported soreness in it after his latest start, which is an even bigger shame than usual, given that Kelly was off to a solid start to the season.
Kelly has been included in the discussion of top prospects his entire professional career, despite a lot of non-top prospect-like performances. Kelly has the stuff that scouts love, and was given a free pass early in his career because he had never dedicated all of his efforts to pitching, having entered his pro career as a two-way player. Even in a repeat season of Double-A last year, he posted just a 3.98 ERA and struck out just 6.6 batters per nine innings. Heading to the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League in 2012, however, Kelly had turned in two strong starts, posting a 2.25 ERA thus far and striking out 14 batters in 12 innings.
Kelly was sent to San Diego to have an MRI, which revealed no structural damage—a great piece of news for the Padres. The team will shut him down for a few weeks, get him on a throwing program, and send him back to Tucson when he's ready, which will likely be in six to eight weeks. The lack of structural damage brings a sigh of relief for the Padres, but Kelly had been likely to get a call-up at some point this season, and now the Padres will have to look elsewhere when they eventually need reinforcements.
Several teams have already had to make such calls. The Diamondbacks brought A.J. Pollock up to Arizona to help out in a banged up outfield. With Chris Young and Geoff Blum on the DL, and Justin Upton battling a nagging wrist injury, Pollock will be manning center field for the next few weeks.
Pollock is a solid prospect, but he will end up being a lengthy step down from Chris Young, whose Gold Glove-caliber defense in center field will be sorely missed. Pollock can man the position in the meantime, but his range is fringy. In fact, he could end up being a tweener in the outfield, without the range of a true center fielder or the power of a true corner guy. On Wednesday, I did a full breakdown of Pollock, and what players he might compare best with.
Also getting the call to the majors this week was Todd Frazier, the Reds' super-utility man in the making, whose appearance in Cincinnati is about two years too late, thanks to Dusty Baker's always-present reluctance to play anyone under the age of 25. The crotchety old, tooth-pick chewing Baker won't have much of a choice but to play Frazier, who takes the place of the injured Miguel Cairo on the Reds roster. He will have to fill in at third base anytime Scott Rolen can't go.
Frazier offers true value to the Reds in terms of roster flexibility, and his ability to play three infield positions and both corner outfield spots virtually eliminates the need for Cairo in the first place. But given how Baker is handling the playing time of Devin Mesoraco, a far superior prospect, splitting it with the vastly inferior Ryan Hanigan, Frazier likely shouldn't get too comfortable in Cincinnati.
Game to watch this weekend
Gerrit Cole pitches on Friday, and we'll see if the Pirates will ever let him throw more than four innings in a ballgame. The kid gloves with which the Pirates are handling their top pitching prospects, especially Cole, a seasoned college pitcher, has passed beyond frustrating to the point that I'm interested to see the potentially harmful effects it has on their development long-term. Cole will face off in Bradenton against Adrian Salcedo of the Twins, an intriguing prospect in his own right.
References and Resources
Jeff Moore is the creator of MLBProspectWatch.com, your one-stop site for all the information you need about minor league prospects. He can be reached via e-mail at mlbprospectwatch AT gmail DOT com and can be followed on Twitter at @MLBPW