Minor League Notes (7/6/05)
Since I didn't have time for a normal full-length article today, I wanted to post a notes column, and I will be adding to it as the day goes on.
Normally, when one of my favorite prospects receives word of a promotion, I'm ecstatic. But instead the recent Yankees decision to move Melky Cabrera to AAA leaves me confused and worried. This was not someone that dominated AA by any stretch of the imagination, hitting just .267/.310/.413 with the Trenton Thunder. Granted this was a player hitting just .214 on April 26, I don't believe Melky was showing AAA-caliber play. But, it appears this may be a situation of him proving me wrong and the Yankees right. Since being moved up to Columbus eight games ago, Cabrera is 11/32 with four walks and five extra-base hits, three of them via the home run. The Yankees plan with their young outfielder is anyone's guess at this point, but with a player as talented as Melky, New York is proving that it's hard to look wrong.
THURSDAY UPDATE: Melky has apparently impressed New York brass so much that he will be called up today and play centerfield against the Indians. From the Midwest League to the Majors in a little over a year...wow. But sadly for the Yankees, I must say that I don't think Cabrera is going to solve any of their problems. And in case you were wondering, Bernie Williams didn't top the .800 OPS barrier until he was 25.
Another prospect favorite, Jon Lester, is starting to really accelerate in the Eastern League. Lester has been absolutely dominant in three of his last four starts, all of which he pitched six innings (7 innings twice, actually) and struck out at least ten AA batters. In those four starts, spanning 22 innings, Lester has allowed just three earned runs while striking out 37 batters. You can bet that if the Red Sox make a big July trade, Jon Lester will be in it. I know if I was an opposing GM, any deal would have to start with him.
Posted by Bryan at 10:32 a.m. CT
After mentioning two of my favorite prospects above, I should also mention two of Rich's favorites that had good weekends. First there is Daric Barton, who was kind enough to give Rich an interview during his hot streak that has him sent to AA. I could tell you how hot, but Kevin Goldstein handles that well in his most recent Prospect Hot Sheet:
In his last 28 games at high Class A Stockton, Barton reached base by hit or walk a remarkable 68 times, scoring 26 runs and driving in 25 in the process. Promoted to Double-A over the weekend, Barton was initially thought to miss Monday night's game due to a late flight, but he showed up at the ballpark and was intentionally walked in his first plate appearance, so word is getting around.
Another reason Mr. Lederer went to the recent Quakes-Ports game was to see his long-time favorite, Jered Weaver. Despite disappointing in that game, and for much of his first three starts, Weaver seems to be getting back into his old groove. In his fourth start of the season last night, Weaver pitched five innings with no earned runs, allowing two hits and no walks against seven strikeouts. Granted, Bakersfield isn't exactly a prospect-laden ballclub, but there could not have been a more positive sign for the Angels bonus baby.
Posted by Bryan at 11:33 a.m. CT
This season, I have been lucky enough to come across two of the Midwest League's better pitchers, and a former first-round highly regarded hitter. I've been trying to find a spot for my thoughts ever since, so here goes. First, we have Anthony Swarzak:
On Sunday, June 5, Anthony Swarzak appeared to be a teenager in over his head. In the course of two innings -- the second and the third -- Swarzak both allowed more earned runs than he had all May, as well as more home runs than he had all season. The problem was, without question, the fastball (or lack thereof) that Anthony displayed. While the Floridian right-hander showed both the ability to keep his change-up down and garner strikeouts with a plus curve, the Clinton Lumberkings got the memo to lay off the slow stuff. Instead, Swarzak often found himself behind in the count, forced to throw strikes...and therefore, fastballs. The problem was that, in his first June start, Swarzak's velocity was down in the 87-88 region. On all three home runs the hitters pulled fastballs, which they had obviously expected, well over the fence. Furthermore, what Baseball America had described as a "tall and...lean frame" has noticeably added some weight. To continue to have the success he enjoyed in May, Swarzak must learn to control his secondary pitches while keeping his velocity in the low 90s.
Next we have the Midwest League pitcher of April who still has an ERA under 2.00, Sean Gallagher:
In a system that has been flush with pithcing from even before Kerry Wood, many were surprised when the generally unknown Gallagher dominated like no other Cub prospect in April. Gallagher did so with a bit of increased velocity -- in the 88-92 range -- and the slow, loopy curveball which is his strength. Gallagher's breaking pitch has the potential to be thrown for a strike, and froze enough Kane County Cougars to work as a strikeout pitch too. I found two significant problems when watching Gallagher, the first of which was -- as Michael Lewis would say -- how he looks in blue jeans. On the mound, Sean's delivery and appearance are reminiscent of Bartolo Colon, known best for his substantial weight. Gallagher's other problem is his lack of confidence in a third pitch, as he threw nothing but fastballs and his devastating hook. That could lead to problems in upper levels, but should he develop something else, I would guess he has Josh Fogg-type potential.
Finally, we have Cubs outfield prospect Ryan Harvey, who is being moved through the system at about the slowest possible pace. Here was my impression:
Harvey's presence at the plate is intimidating, as his large frame foreshadows the considerable power he has in his bat. Ryan's body is not too big to kick him from the outfield, as he should always have enough speed and certainly enough arm to stick in right. The problem for Harvey will always be contact, as his swing seems to be too long, yielding an all-or-nothing approach. Ryan seemed very similar to Jermaine Dye, so it would be good to expect plenty of good and bad seasons in the future.
Posted by Bryan at 2:58 p.m. CT
Yesterday marked a first for Jose Capellan, as the Brewer flamethrower notched win #1 as a reliever. While most relievers win games after having allowed a run, Capellan did not, as the Sounds pulled out a 2-1 win. In fact, Capellan has not given up a run since becoming a reliever, spanning nine appearances. I wrote about his move a little over two weeks ago, and his success only strengthens my opinion that this will not be a short-term move. In those nine games, Capellan has thrown 14 innings, allowing just nine hits and six walks while striking out 15.
Jonathan Broxton, the other subject of that article, has not been so lucky in the earned run column. But, in his ten innings as a reliever, Broxton does have better peripherals having allowed just six hits, three walks, and striking out 14 batters. He has allowed one home run coming out of the pen, but it's hard to blame him, as it was against Delmon Young. Look for Broxton's ERA to start coming down as he gets more acclimated with mid-game stints.
In other news, Bobby Jenks was called up by the White Sox, after having blown just two saves in 21 chances at the AA level. I drew considerable criticsm when I had Jenks ranked as baseball 31st best prospect before the 2004 season, in my first prospect list. But with this call-up, I'm not sure how many of the pitchers I ranked behind him I'd rather have: Joe Blanton (well, one), Gavin Floyd, Travis Blackley, Chin-Hui Tsao, John Maine, Adam Loewen, Jeff Francis (my other surprise inclusion on that list, and number two), Merkin Valdez, Denny Bautista, Ryan Wagner and Blake Hawkesworth.
Posted by Bryan at 3:39 p.m. CT
While working on my midseason top 75 prospect list -- which I promise to have soon -- I created some top positional lists. I thought I might give my top 12 catching prospect list today as a sort of teaser for things to come. Enjoy...
1. Brian McCann (ATL): Huge power potential, walks enough, great contact skills. Incumbent atop this list.
2. Russ Martin (LAD): Most complete catcher in the minors. You know DePo loves that .453 OBP.
3. George Kottaras (SD): Great plate discipline, and gap power. In my opinion, Kottaras is the one Cal League catcher on this list not being especially helped by his surroundings. Question is whether those doubles will ever turn to HR.
4. Jeff Mathis (ANA): Hitting in AAA, but you have to wonder how much of that is because of the Salt Lake atmosphere.
5. Jarrod Saltalmacchia (ATL): I love him right now, and I think he will play even better when he gets away from that current stadium.
6. Miguel Montero (AZ): Early favorite for the Jeremy Reed/Ian Kinsler award, Montero's breakout is beyond unforeseen. The Cal League is helping him, but some of this is real. I'll remain a skeptic for now.
7. Kurt Suzuki (OAK): I'm not as high on Suzuki as most, but his dedication to discipline is a major plus. His defense is apparently awful, and I'm not sure his bat is enough to forgive that.
8. Neil Walker (PIT): Isn't having the results of some of these players, but the potential is there. Better catchers than him have had worse ISOs (.138) in their first full seasons.
9. Dioner Navarro (LAD): His age keeps him somewhat high on this list, but I'm just not sure he'll ever be much more than league average. He's walking more, but a .138 ISO in Las Vegas?
10. Kelly Shoppach (BOS): In the wrong organization, as he could be starting for a half dozen sub-.500 teams. His power and discipline are both huge strengths and are enough to carry the rest of his game that has quite a few weaknesses.
11. Mike Napoli (ANA): Another with plus plate discipline and plus power. I made the comparison in Spring Training, and I still believe it: Napoli is Aaron Rowand offensively.
12. John Jaso (TB): With Chris Shelton and Ryan Doumit graduating, Jaso is the next to hear Matt LeCroy comparisons for the next three seasons.
Posted by Bryan at 5:25 p.m. CT