December 10, 2013
And here's the full roster.
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Minor Leagues Articles
Following are the one hundred most recent articles for the category Minor Leagues .
11/14/2013: Let’s discuss the THT Annualby Dave Studeman
12/10/2013: All about the latest Bill James Handbookby Dave Studeman
12/10/2013: Though night may fall, play ball!by Frank Jackson
12/10/2013: Roy Halladay retiresby Jeff Moore
12/09/2013: Leverage Index by inningby Dave Studeman
12/09/2013: How far are the Mariners from relevancy?by Brad Johnson
12/09/2013: Prince Halby Chris Jaffe
12/09/2013: Three underrated acquisitionsby Pat Andriola
12/06/2013: Cooperstown Confidential: Ed Charles and 42by Bruce Markusen
12/06/2013: The Athletics get busyby Brad Johnson
12/06/2013: Getting to know Ryan Haniganby Chad Dotson
12/04/2013: Cataloging the non-tendered playersby Brad Johnson
12/04/2013: Alone on the pedestalby Jason Linden
12/03/2013: Mascot fight!by Greg Simons
12/03/2013: Why is a sinker “heavy?”by David Kagan
12/03/2013: The role of fall leaguesby Jeff Moore
12/02/2013: Nationals make great deal for Fisterby Matt Filippi
12/02/2013: The Twins go holiday shopping, but to what end?by Brad Johnson
12/02/2013: The end of the benchby Chris Jaffe
11/29/2013: Card Corner: 1973 Topps: Danny Waltonby Bruce Markusen
11/29/2013: The best rookies of the ‘30sby Chad Dotson
11/27/2013: Towards an award prediction systemby Shane Tourtellotte
11/26/2013: MLB’s coffers are overflowingby Greg Simons
11/26/2013: The role of prospects in tradesby Jeff Moore
11/25/2013: Stepping up to the plateby Frank Jackson
11/25/2013: 10 things I didn’t know about player birthdaysby Chris Jaffe
11/22/2013: The end of the road for Chris Carpenterby Chad Dotson
11/21/2013: All the news that’s fit to inventby Azure Texan
11/20/2013: Marcus Stroman, the mythbusting machineby Kyle Boddy
11/20/2013: Welcome to the birthplace of… someone elseby Jason Linden
11/19/2013: 2013 THT awards reviewby Greg Simons
11/18/2013: THT Fantasy has moved to Rotographsby Dave Studeman
11/18/2013: Atlanta gets burned againby Frank Jackson
11/18/2013: The 2014 Hall of Fame VC ballotby Chris Jaffe
11/18/2013: Must See MLB.TV 2013by Dave Studeman
11/15/2013: The best rookies of the ‘40sby Chad Dotson
11/15/2013: Card Corner: Wayne Granger: 1973 Toppsby Bruce Markusen
11/14/2013: 10th anniversary: the A.J. Pierzynski tradeby Chris Jaffe
11/14/2013: The Screwball: The face of championship baseballby Azure Texan
11/14/2013: Player-A-Day: Casey Fienby Brad Johnson
11/13/2013: Player-A-Day: Tim Lincecumby Brad Johnson
11/13/2013: Pitcher performance after batting successby Shane Tourtellotte
11/13/2013: 25th anniversary: Rob Neyer writes a letterby Chris Jaffe
11/13/2013: Houston hoodoo ‘62by Frank Jackson
11/12/2013: It’s The Hardball Times Annual 2014by Dave Studeman
11/12/2013: Player-A-Day: Joe Mauerby Brad Johnson
11/11/2013: Fastball velocity by game stateby Jon Roegele
11/11/2013: The rise of the middle-aged managerby Chris Jaffe
11/08/2013: Player-A-Day: Josmil Pintoby Brad Johnson
11/08/2013: Hall monitor: The case for Andruw Jonesby Chad Dotson
11/07/2013: Big leaguers, bit partsby Azure Texan
11/07/2013: Player-A-Day: Nathan Eovaldiby Brad Johnson
11/06/2013: If he’d only gotten another shotby Jason Linden
11/06/2013: Player-A-Day: David DeJesusby Brad Johnson
11/05/2013: Player-A-Day: David Ortizby Brad Johnson
11/04/2013: Player-A-Day: Jose Dariel Abreuby Brad Johnson
11/04/2013: The Boston (Braves) Marathon of 1928by Frank Jackson
11/04/2013: 10 things I didn’t know about birthdays in 2013by Chris Jaffe
11/01/2013: Taking the close pitch with two strikesby James Gentile
11/01/2013: Card Corner: 1973 Topps: Don Baylorby Bruce Markusen
11/01/2013: The best rookies of the ‘50sby Chad Dotson
10/31/2013: The Screwball: Celebrate good times, come on!by Azure Texan
10/31/2013: Player-A-Day: Leonys Martinby Brad Johnson
10/30/2013: Player-A-Day: Jon Lesterby Brad Johnson
10/30/2013: Forecasting the major 2013 awardsby Shane Tourtellotte
10/30/2013: The effect of seeing pitchesby Jon Roegele
10/29/2013: Putting the knock on pitching changesby Joe Distelheim
10/29/2013: Player-A-Day: Ryan Howardby Brad Johnson
10/29/2013: Losing momentum in the sixth gameby Dave Studeman
10/29/2013: Previewing the fall Stars gameby Jeff Moore
10/28/2013: Player-A-Day: Travis Woodby Brad Johnson
10/28/2013: Marquis Grissom: Mr. October Jr.by Frank Jackson
10/25/2013: The blackballing of Dick Dietzby Bruce Markusen
10/24/2013: Player-A-Day: Xander Bogaertsby Brad Johnson
10/24/2013: The Screwball: Put it in neutral?by Azure Texan
10/24/2013: The all-decade team: the ‘00sby Richard Barbieri
10/24/2013: Player-A-Day: Michael Wachaby Brad Johnson
10/23/2013: Earn money watching baseballby Dave Studeman
10/23/2013: Player-A-Day: Jose Iglesiasby Brad Johnson
10/23/2013: 20th anniversary: The Joe Carter gameby Chris Jaffe
10/23/2013: Giants take a risk with Lincecum’s two-year dealby Matt Filippi
10/23/2013: BOB: Nolan Ryan retires…for nowby Brian Borawski
10/22/2013: Where does David Price fit?by Jeff Moore
10/22/2013: Survey says?!?!?by Greg Simons
10/22/2013: ALCS post-mortem: The Fielder playby Shane Tourtellotte
10/21/2013: The best rivalries of 2013by Chris Jaffe
10/21/2013: World Series workhorsesby Frank Jackson
10/20/2013: WPS recap: ALCS, 10/19/2013by Shane Tourtellotte
10/19/2013: WPS Recap: NLCS, 10/18/2013by Shane Tourtellotte
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June 07, 2011
Hey Bryce Harper, the jerk store called…It's hard to look at a line of .342/.435/.623 for an 18-year-old in the Sally League and find fault. However, go beyond the ridiculous numbers and we see that is the case with Washington Nationals farmhand Bryce Harper.
Harper is playing with Class A Hagerstown, and making a mockery of it. He has 14 home runs through 56 games. But, it's that latest home run that draws people back to what seems to be the only negative anyone can find with the kid.
Baseball Prospectus writer Kevin Goldstein covered Harper's profile as a prospect back in April of 2010. In that article, Goldstein relayed concerns of many scouts surrounding Harper's makeup. Among the unflattering traits was a concern over on-field behavior "that includes taunting opponents."
Harper did just that last night after hitting a home run, when he blew a kiss at the Greensboro pitcher he had just taken deep.
Goldstein's article prompted some at the time, especially those who might downplay things such as clubhouse chemistry, to opine that any concerns about Harper's makeup are squashed by the amazing talent he possesses. Rob Neyer, Tom Tango and Hardball Times guys noted that the Nationals wouldn't pass on a once-in-a-lifetime hitting talent because he's cocky. And they were right. The Nationals made him the No. 1 one pick anyway.
There is no way to know how Harper, a teenager who's been in the spotlight since before he could get a driver's license, will act once he gets called up to the Nationals. Maybe this situation gets handled by his managers in the minors, as Jim Bowden suggests. Mike Schmidt believes big league pitchers will stick one in Harper's ear if he brings that act to the show.
Presumably, those who are the best at what they do all carry a certain amount of confidence that may even tilt toward arrogance. It may also mean they are sometimes egomaniacs who obsess over their craft, which is sometimes what makes them so good in the first place. Didn't we learn this from guys ranging from chess prodigies like Bobby Fischer to ace fighter jet pilots like Pete Mitchell?
So, any major league player likely dominated his competition for years as a youngster. Any player who dominates his peers in professional baseball must surely know how good they are. These guys all possess a tremendous amount of confidence. Isn't that why it's so hard to believe All-Star pitchers might get "rattled" when a runner's on first, or that a tie game in late innings will unnerve a top-flight slugger? So, we've suspected for a while that Harper knows how good he is. If he didn't, the Sports Illustrated cover at age 16 may have let the cat out of the bag. If he didn't then, he may have figured it out when he destroyed the competition at his junior college.
What the Nationals have to figure out is how much of the bad they can take with Harper. Here's a quick guess: They'll take a lot.
That's the scary part for them. There's a ton invested in this kid. Not just the money, though it is significant, but the hype that follows this particular kind of talent. And the hope of ticket sales that accompany a guy who may grow into the type of player fans make it a point to watch hit, even in batting practice.
They have to ride with Harper 'til the wheels fall off, and they better hope that his attitude doesn't derail his track to the majors.
Posted by: David Wade
May 04, 2011
Brandon’s minor league beltingBrandon Belt won the San Francisco Giants' starting first base job in spring training, but struggled at the plate in the first couple of weeks of the regular season, and was sent back to triple-A to get his stroke going.
That seems to be working out pretty well. In 10 Pacific Coast League games, all Belt has done is put up a line of .500/.610/.843.
As of yesterday, the just-turned-23-year-old Belt has now accumulated 636 minor league plate appearances, or pretty close to a full season's worth. In 77 games at high-A, 46 at double-A, and now 23 at triple-A, his cumulative minor league batting average is .360. In 522 at-bats, he has 47 doubles, 10 triples, and 25 home runs, along with 103 walks. He's scored 108 runs and driven in 123. And, just for the heck of it, he's stolen 25 bases in 33 attempts.
One can scour the history of minor league statistics (and yours truly is just the sort of nerd who has) and discover very few minor league resumés as impressive as this one. Especially given that the Giants are mired in a team-wide hitting slump of epic proportion, it isn't exactly going out on a limb to predict that young Mr. Belt will find himself back in San Francisco fairly soon.
Posted by: Steve Treder
September 13, 2010
Moving the prospect meter, 9/13In the prospect world, this time of year is like the time for the rest of the sports world between the end of the Super Bowl and that glorious Thursday in March when the NCAA tournament madness begins. The minor league regular seasons have ended, and each playoff series that passes ends the season for another batch of prospects. We still have a few weeks before the winter leagues begin play, which means there's not a lot of action to report.
But that's what you have me for. If there's news out there, I'll find it for you. After all, no matter what time of year it is, the prospect meter is always moving.
Jesus Montero, the Yankees top hitting prospect and one of the top all-around hitting prospects left in the minors, will miss the remainder of the International League playoffs due to a leg infection. Montero was not slated to play in the Arizona Fall League, and in past winters has returned home to Venezuela to play winter ball. There is no announcement regarding just how long Montero will be out or whether it will affect the team's offseason plans for the catching prospect, only that he is done for the remainder of the playoffs.
It would seem advantageous for the Yankees to keep Montero in the country this offseason and have him work at the team's facility in Tampa on his defense behind the plate, as Jorge Posada is taking more and more starts as the Yankees' DH every year, and the only other positional option for Montero (first base) is occupied by Mark Teixeira. Montero showed this year that his bat is ready for the majors, and the Yankees would like to have him in their lineup at some point in 2011, perhaps in a rotation between DH and catcher along with Posada and Francisco Cervelli.
The Blue Jays have just announced that Kyle Drabek, the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year, will make his major league debut on Wednesday night against the Orioles. The move skips Drabek right over Triple-A, but between the Phillies and Blue Jays organizations, Drabek spent a year-and-a-half in the Eastern League and pitched 258.1 innings at that level.
Drabek likely would have been promoted earlier in the season, at least to Triple-A, but the Blue Jays have a logjam of young starters both in the majors and the upper levels of the minor leagues, and without other promotions, there was nowhere for Drabek to move. This brief audition in the majors will be the beginning of Drabek's attempt to make the Blue Jays rotation in spring training next year, but because he's still just 22, the team can still afford to be patient with its biggest return asset from the departure of Roy Halladay.
While most teams' prospects are done with their seasons, the A's still get to watch their top picks from the past two years develop for a few more games. Both Grant Green (13th overall in 2009) and Michael Choice (10th overall in 2010) are leading their respective teams in postseason action.
Green spent the entire regular season in the High-A California League, but joined the Double-A Midland Rockhounds for the Texas League playoffs and homered in his first at-bat to help send the team into the championship series. Green should get used to hitting in Midland, where he will likely start the 2011 season. The A's did the same thing with Choice, who spent the majority of his season in the short-season Northwest League (where he posted an impressive .284/.388/.627 line) and joined the Kane County Cougars for the Low-A Midwest League playoffs. Like Green, Choice homered in his first at-bat at the new level and he could start either there or in the California League next season.
Over the past decade, the Phillies have consistently and effectively developed mid-to-late round pitching draft picks into legitimate prospects. One of those is Jonathan Pettibone, who had one of the best starts of his young professional career, striking out nine and sending his Lakewood Blueclaws team to the South Atlantic League finals. Despite being 6-foot-5, Pettibone isn't the hardest thrower and in his first full season as a professional he struck out just 5.76 hitters per nine innings. That's a rate that won't allow him sustained success unless he manages an extremely high groundball rate (which he doesn't—his career rate is just under 50 percent), but the Phillies have to be pleased with a 3.49 ERA and a BB/9 rate of 2.81 by a projectable 20-year-old.
Posted by: Jeff Moore
September 10, 2010
Climbing the prospect ladder—AL editionOn Tuesday, we discussed one prospect from each National League organization who did enough this season to elevate his prospect status. Today, we'll examine the American League...
Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles system is rather bare these days, but for the right reasons. The graduation of Matt Wieters, Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, Josh Bell, and Chris Tillman to the majors has left the team's minor league ranks lacking in high level talent, especially talent near the majors, but that's okay for now. Until prospects like this year's top pick Manny Machado are ready for Baltimore, the team will have to hope players like Ryan Berry develop to higher levels than anticipated. Berry, a 9th round pick in 2009 out of Rice University, finished his first professional season with a 3.22 ERA and a solid 8.1 K/9 rate and a 2.94 K/BB ratio. Plus, you have to like a guy who is willing to sport this look. The O's pushed Berry to to High-A ball and he succeeded, so the next test will be Double-A. He likely won't get there until midway through 2011 (he should start next season back at Frederick), but advanced competition will be the determining factor as to whether Berry's arsenal of pitches is enough for him to remain a starter.
Boston Red Sox: Disregard the .350 BA. The reason Oscar Tejada established himself as a prospect in 2010 is the development of the power that suggests he can eventually become a major league hitter. Disregard the still below-average BB/K ratio, but notice that despite his increased power, he still managed to drop his K-rate below the 20 percent threshold. Tejada still has some work to do as a prospect, but his .148 ISO and 32 doubles means his development he's getting better as he faces tougher competition, which is what every organization wants for its prospects.
New York Yankees: Graham Stoneburner is at the top of my list of prospects most likely to make their major league debut for another organization, because he's good enough to get to the majors, plays for the Yankees, and is not quite good enough to crack a Yankees rotation typically stacked with major league veterans or stud rookies. Stoneburner burst onto the scene this year after being selected in the 14th round last season, and had no problem tackling either level of A ball. With the majority of his success coming in the pitcher's haven that is the Florida State League, the biggest test will be proving himself in a more neutral playing environment. If you are in favor of judging prospects based only on the challenges that have been put in front of them, you have to give Stoneburner some attention.
Tampa Bay Rays: Alex Cobb has been putting up good traditional numbers for a few years now, but in the stacked Rays system, it's easy to get lost among the Wade Davises, Jeremy Hellicksones, Matt Moores and Alex Colomes. But upon arrival in Double-A this season as a 22-year-old, Cobb elevated his strikeout rate for the second consecutive year, this time crossing the one K/IP mark while maintaining solid control numbers. Cobb has now played a full season at every level, and,in the Rays' one-year-at-a-time system, should have a full season in Triple-A next year. He still may not be in the same class as some of the other top prospects in the Rays system, but he proved this year that he's a legitimate starting pitching prospect.
Toronto Blue Jays: J.P. Arencibia. "What are you talking about, Jeff? He's exactly the kind of player we thought he'd be!" "Of course he is, back in 2008. But do you remember last year?" That's the imaginary conversation I think I would have with most Blue Jay fans after reading this, especially after Arencibia's crazy-awesome two-homer major league debut. But don't forget just how written-off Arencibia was entering this season. Heck, after the Jays acquired Travis D'Arnaud in the offseason, Arencibia wasn't even unanimously considered the Blue Jays catcher of the future. But after a .626 SLG in Triple-A? That title is his to lose.
Chicago White Sox: Ugh. The White Sox farm system makes me cringe. They traded their best pitching prospect (Dan Hudson) and their top hitting prospect (Jared Mitchell) missed the entire season, leaving virtually no high ceiling players. Of their mid-level prospects, none stepped up to fill the void, and the best thing you can say is that third base prospect Brent Morel put together his second consecutive solid season and looks like he could be a Jeff Cirillo-type player. Like I said. Ugh.
Cleveland Indians: Jason Kipnis has enough talent that he was a second-round pick last year, but after laying the groundwork last season, Kipnis's first full professional season was even more impressive. Anytime a left-handed hitting second baseman can post an .878 OPS with a respectable walk rate while playing more than half his time in Double-A, it's good enough for ladder climbing.
Detroit Tigers: It's the strikeouts that have put Charlie Furbush on the prospect map. Don't believe anything else you hear. It's the strikeouts. Starting the year as a 24-year-old in the Florida State League, Furbush wasn't on the radar of most prospect-watchers. But he's always missed bats, and he missed an entire season in 2008, so the talent has been there and we have an excuse for being too old. While challenging for the minor league lead in strikeouts all season, Furbush also made a rapid ascent through the Tigers farm system, all the way in Triple-A by the end of the season. He may never be the ace of the Tigers staff, but after a strong 2010, he's relevant once again.
Kansas City Royals: In a system stacked not just with prospects, and not just with pitching prospects, but with left-handed pitching prospects, John Lamb made the biggest jump from prospect to stud of any Royal southpaw. It's not that Lamb did anything different in 2010, he just did it better and he did it against better competition, jumping all the way to Double-A as a teenager. He'll start there again next season after a few bumps in the road, but he may be in Kansas City before he can legally drink.
Minnesota Twins: Everyone knew Joe Benson had power, they just needed to see it. The former second-round pick finally displayed the power that scouts had been saying was there, and did it primarily in Double-A. He'll never hit .300 or draw a ton of walks, but if he can hit for power like he did this past year, he can be a productive player for the Twins.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: It's hard to imagine Mike Trout raising his prospect profile, but that's exactly what he did this season, jumping from former first rounder and legit prospect to potential top prospect in all of baseball. The utter dominance Trout has displayed as a professional has to be more than even the Angels had expected upon drafting him last season. When it comes down to it, anyone who can jump 80 or so spots in overall prospect rankings certainly qualifies as a ladder climber.
Oakland A's: When the A's drafted Grant Green in the first round in last year's draft, they knew they were getting a player who could remain at the shortstop position, could run enough to steal some bases, and could handle the bat enough to be a major league regular. What they did not know, however, was that the inside-out swing of Green would be revamped, and that the former Trojan player would develop 40-double/20-homer power. Whether that translates to the majors remains to be seen, and his lack of plate discipline may prevent it from happening, but Green has already displayed more power than the A's bargained for upon drafting him, giving him the potential to become more than just a mid-level regular and instead be a potential all-star.
Seattle Mariners: Michael Pineda always had the talent. He just couldn't stay healthy or consistent. This season, he was both. Finally able to stay on the field, Pineda was able to throw 139.1 innings and reach as high as Triple-A. Minor league opponents, managers and scouts couldn't help noting the dramatic improvement on his off-speed offerings. Pineda conjures some of the highest regards of any minor league pitcher from those who have faced him, and the 2010 season allowed him to go from potential prospect to probable major league starter.
Texas Rangers: In just three minor league seasons, Michael Kirkman has gone from walking as many batters (or more) then he struck out, to the Pacific Coast League pitcher of the year, and an effective enough reliever in the major league bullpen that he may be included on the team's postseason roster. His long-term future still may be in the Rangers rotation, but if nothing else, Kirkman has proved that, at worst, he can be an effective left-handed reliever, something more than a specialist but not quite a set-up guy. Kirkman, just four years removed from walking more than 13 batters per nine inning, will compete for a spot in the Rangers rotation next season.
Now that's what I call climbing the ladder.
Posted by: Jeff Moore
September 07, 2010
Climbing the prospect ladderWith seasons wrapping up across the minor leagues and many top prospects either already exhausting their rookie eligibility in the majors or taking their first sips of their cup of coffee, today felt like a good time to look back on the 2010 season at the prospects who did the most to improve their prospect status.
Some prospects enter the professional ranks with a pedigree that affords them every chance to succeed, while others have to work their way up on their own. Some come in with assumed potential, then exceed expectations and catapult themselves to another level. Some have flopped, and must break out to regain their once-heralded potential. And some are unknowns who simply have too much success to ignore.
One season a prospect does not make, but after the 2010 seasons these prospects had, they've made themselves worth watching into next season.
Atlanta Braves: Brandon Beachy was undrafted out of college and has yet to even be a starter full time, but the former NAIA player is creating opportunities for himself by posting absurd K/BB ratios (5:1 this season between Double and Triple-A) and striking out more than 11 batters per nine innings. He finally had a chance to start regularly for the second half of the season in Triple-A and impressed with a 2.50 ERA in just under 40 innings of work. In a Braves system loaded with hard-throwing power arms, Beachy might still end up in the bullpen, but he's established himself as someone the Braves have to consider as a part of their future.
Florida Marlins: Kyle Skipworth had bust written all over him after back-to-back seasons of .208 hitting as a professional. The Marlins' first-round pick in 2008 (sixth overall) had shown neither the hitting acumen nor power potential that made him such a high selection, and was striking out almost four-and-a-half times for every walk he drew.
A repeat of of Low-A ball appears to be just what Skipworth needed (and did nothing to hurt his development, as he is still just 20). He finally displayed at least the power that the Marlins knew was there. His .250 batting average still doesn't scream major league hitter, nor does his 129:32 K/BB ratio, but 17 home runs and a slugging percentage that begins with a four are good signs that Skipworth may yet recover some of his status as an eventual major leaguer.
How much of his development was due to repeating a level will be seen next year when he presumably will move to the Florida State League (a notorious pitchers league), but for now, it appears Skipworth does, at the very least, possess some of the tools eighth-hat can help the Marlins sometime after they open their new stadium.
New York Mets: The Mets did not have a great season either in the majors or on the farm, so there wasn't a lot of breaking out to report, but Cory Vaughn, the son of former major leaguer Greg Vaughn and the Mets' fourth-round draft pick this year, did enough damage and displayed enough tools that he merits following closely next year.
It's important to remain wary of a college player dominating short-season ball right after being drafted. College players, hitters and pitchers alike, are often able to feast on the inexperience of young players who are in the league getting their first taste of professional ball. But regardless of the reason, when a a player posts a .239 ISO, steals 11 bases, and throws out six runners from right field in a half season the year he gets drafted, you have to look at him closely next season. The biggest knock on Vaughn from scouts was his tendency to swing and miss, and thus rack up huge strikeout totals, but given his power production and adequate walk totals, 60 strikeouts in 300 plate appearances wasn't a concern this season. What remains to be seen is how this number fluctuates when he gets to a league with pitchers who throw better breaking pitches.
Philadelphia Phillies: Jonathan Singleton was one of the hottest hitters in the minors for the first half of the season, and despite coming back down to earth in the second half, he still remained consistent and put up a great first full season of professional baseball. An eighth-round pick in 2009 by the Phillies, the 6-foot-2 first baseman was actually held back in extended spring training rather than join the team's Low-A affiliate in Lakewood right away.
Whatever the reasoning, the move worked, as Singleton showed a polished approach at the plate upon arrival, displaying good power for a young hitter and even better plate discipline (70 K/58 BB). The Phillies are determined to take it slow with Singleton, and with good reason as they have Ryan Howard locked up well into the future. But Singleton should move to the Florida State League next season; his power will be tested by the league's unforgiving parks.
Washington Nationals: If it looks like a fluke, and it smells like a fluke... I don't want to automatically dismiss Tyler Moore's season as an aberration, but how often do 23-year-old 16th-round picks just "figure it out?" All the signs scream that this will be the best season of Moore's life at any level, including his ridiculous 120:37 K/BB ratio, and the fact that his production is coming in a league he's too old for.
But at some point, 75 extra-base hits in one season are just too much to ignore, especially when they are in no part inflated by an unsustainable BABIP (.287 on the season). Moore's aggressive approach will certainly be tested next season in Harrisburg, but if his power remains, then perhaps he figured out just enough to turn himself into a major league role player of some sort down the road in Washington.
Chicago Cubs: The Cubs knew they had something in Kenneth McNutt when they give him $115,000 as a 32nd-round pick in 2009, but the 6-foot-4 righty (who goes by Trey) has already given the team more return on its investment than expected. McNutt put on a show this season, splitting time between both levels of A ball before two rough starts at the end of the season in Double-A. The two-promotion year should tell you what the Cubs think of him, but if not, his 10.2 career K/9 rate should do the trick. Drafted out of community college, McNutt turned 21 just last month, and should start next season in Double-A, just a phone call away from Wrigley.
Cincinnati Reds: Welcome back, Devin Mesoraco. After a disappointing 2008 season and a worse 2009 campaign, almost all of the luster had come off of the former first-round pick. But then, boom goes the Devin Mesoraco dynamite to the tune of 26 home runs over three levels in 2010.
Spending most of the season in High-A and Double-A ball, Mesoraco totaled 56 extra-base hits and a .312 batting average, while also improving his walk totals. He's even dropped a .987 OPS and three home runs in a brief (10 game) stint in Triple-A, where he will likely begin next season. The Reds will need catching help next season, but given Mesoraco's sudden turnaround, they could be looking at a one-year stopgap before turning over the reins.
Houston Astros: At what point does an unsustainable BABIP become somehow sustainable? The answer to that question will tell you the legitimacy of what J.D. Martinez has done in the Astros organization over the past year and a half.
Partly because of a career batting average of .344, and no BA lower than .303 at any level, the former 20th-round pick has established himself as a prospect mainly based on his power. Martinez has 100 extra-base hits in 206 games over four levels in the past season-and-a-half. But his .344 BA is due largely in part to BABIP's of .448, .353, .398 and .369 at each level respectively, which is clearly unsustainable, especially for a power hitter who doesn't run particularly well. Typically 879 plate appearances should be enough for things like this to correct themselves, but luck is unpredictable and Martinez appears to be on a heater. And you never walk away from the table when you're on a heater.
Milwaukee Brewers: In an all-around uninspiring farm system, especially when it comes to position players, second- round D-II senior signee Nick Shaw was a pleasant surprise in 2010. Known for his exceptional eye at the plate, and a number of other extremely average tools, Shaw made the most of his abilities by posting a .337/.467/.479 line in his first professional season.
Of course, he did this large in part to a ridiculous .410 BABIP, but the positives are that he walked more than he struck out and stole 14 bases, which are both attributes that should continue. He's almost certainly not a potential .337 hitter down the road, and there's no chance he ever slugs .479 again, but if he continues to handle the bat effectively and control the strike zone, he could eventually serve a role on a major league team.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Rudy Owens could have made this list last year after a break outseason, making this the year to watch to see if he backed it up. Not only did he back it up, but he raised the bar for himself once again, demonstrating impeccable control and an advanced knowledge of how to pitch. Never a flame-thrower, Owens is the classic "make the most out of what you have to work with" pitcher. Owens will never be a big strikeout pitcher, but by limiting the fly balls he allows and surrendering virtually no extra base runners, Owens has established himself as an integral part of the Pirates' future pitching rotation.
St. Louis Cardinals: Numbers from the Dominican Summer League and Gulf Coast League don't always mean much, but 19-year-old RHP Bryan Martinez has done nothing but produce in either league, so in a farm system devoid of young talent like the Cardinals', he's worth following to see what he does when he joins a travel league. Martinez has posted low ERAs at every stop, thanks in part to unsustainably low BABIPs, but he has also shown solid strikeout rates and low walk rates, which are good indications for the future.
Martinez may start next season in the GCL once again, but should move to short-season ball over the summer, and if he really impresses, the Cardinals could push him aggressively into full-season ball in Low-A.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Paul Goldschmidt is all bat and little else, but luckily for the Diamondbacks, there's plenty of bat there to make him worthwhile. Goldschmidt is challenging for the minor league lead in home runs (currently at 34) while also knocking 40 doubles.
Unfortunately, cases can be made for why his impressive performances, both this year and last, may not hold up. Last season, Goldschmidt posted a .303 ISO in the Pioneer League as a 21-year-old college hitter feasting on inferior competition. This season, his numbers have to be taken in the context of the hitters' haven that is the California League. Also, in both seasons, Goldschmidt has posted his numbers due at least in small part to high BABIPs of .390 and .378. This, of course, doesn't mean Goldschmidt won't continue to be a productive hitter as he progresses through the minors. It's simply the grain of salt that must be served when discussing his ridiculous production.
Colorado Rockies: Unfortunately for the Rockies, the player in their system that established himself the most is no longer in their system. But we're going to talk about him anyway. Chris Balcom-Miller was recently sent to Boston for Manny Delcarman, a strange move for a Rockies team that will always be in need of potential starting pitchers. Balcom-Miller, a 6th round pick in 2009 established himself as a reliable starter in his first full season of professional baseball, posting a phenomenal 6.16 K/BB rate. He's not overpowering, but has an good change-up for his age that should allow him to eventually become a back-of-the-rotation starter or reliever, depending on the development of his slider.
Los Angeles Dodgers: 2010 was the first season playing domestically for Rubby de la Rosa, who not only established himself as a prospect in the Dodgers organization, but also established himself as a potential starter and jumped as high as Double-A. While his 1.37 ERA at Chattanooga is not likely to hold up over time, de la Rosa has done enough to put himself in the same discussion as Ethan Martin and Aaron Miller as potential future members of the Dodgers rotation.
San Diego Padres: After a dominant season in High-A ball in 2009, Simon Castro backed up his performance with a good 2010 season in Double-A, effectively putting him on watch in San Diego. The sheer dominance of hitters wasn't there as the competition got a little stiffer for Castro, but the fact that he sustained his success at a higher level for a second straight season says more about his potential than simply dominating hitters might. He should start 2011 in Triple-A with his sights set on PetCo Park sometime next summer.
San Francisco Giants: Brandon Belt is in the discussion for Minor League Player of the Year, which should say something about how far he's come since being a 5th round pick by the Giants just last season. Ignore Belt's .383 batting average in the California League, but focus on the power numbers, which also include double-digit triples. Belt has good speed to go with his bat, and could allow him to play left field in San Francisco. He jumped three levels this season, and is currently wrapping up his monster season in Triple-A, just a phone call from the majors. And while I wouldn't expect .357/.461/.624 ever again, Belt's plate discipline (91 BB/93 K) and power/speed combination should play quite well in the expansive AT&T Park outfield. And it should play there soon.
Next Friday, we'll take a look at the American League.
Posted by: Jeff Moore
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