Never on Break
My guess is by the time you have reached our site today, you have read dozens of articles on the boring All-Star Game and even worse Kenny Rogers saga. There will be none of that today, as I take a look at the place that never stops: the minor leagues. Today will be, again, primarily a notes column. Expect what's below to grow in size as the day wears on. Besides that, please enjoy the All-Star Break.
But what the Cardinals have seen from their troubled player has to be comforting. During this seven-game streak he's hit .417/.500/.708, with an extra-base hit in four of those games. He also has struck out just three times while walking four, a peripheral you would expect from his 2000 playoff performance, not as a hitter.
Sooner or later the Cardinals are going to have to challenge Ankiel seriously, rather than constantly babying him given a dark past. Ankiel's age cannot be overlooked, and a trip to the Florida State League might do him well. But, consider stage one of this experiment a success: somewhere, Michael Jordan is jealous.
Pedroza was the Dodgers third-round pick from Cal State Fullerton, a pick that likely satisfied both Logan White and Paul DePodesta. During his first two seasons as a Titan, Pedroza hit about .330/.405/.530, before having a big season with 16 home runs. He has now become the star of the Pioneer League with 23 hits, four home runs and six walks in 46 at-bats. But, what I told the person who e-mailed me is, Pedroza's PL sample-size is the wrong one to look at.
College hitters are supposed to dominate short-season baseball, and if you'd like, I could give you a million hitters who have done so en route to flaming out. But, my interest was what had Pedroza done against college baseball's best in his final season -- against the top of the heap. What I found was that Pedroza had 91 at-bats against Boyd Nation's top 20 teams, and he had done very well. In those games, Pedroza hit .275/.405/.670 with 11 home runs, 15 walks and 30 strikeouts. And there, my friends, is a scouting report. Expect Pedroza's contact skills to decline at more advanced levels, and that -- not his power, which is RF worthy -- to hold him back.
As far as Bianchi goes, his breakout is more impressive, even given the context of an easier league. Bianchi was drafted out of high school, so at very worst, his .500/.558/.883 line is coming against people his old age or older. Bianchi is showing power, with 12 extra-base hits in 60 at-bats, and patience, with ten walks. He was considered by many to be an overdraft, and possibly would have fallen to Kansas City in the third round. But, something must be said that the Royals scouting staff fell in love with Bianchi, and that the organization was afraid to not draft him.
At this point, using John Sickels' scale, both are probably C+ prospects, with Bianchi currently a bit higher. Wait to judge Pedroza until he's playing in Vero Beach (Update: He's one level closer,as a reader reports Pedroza will try full season ball in the SAL), and simply enjoy that for the rest of this year, the Royals scouting staff will probably be patting themselves on the back.
Name League AB/IP AVE/ERA Zimmerman EL* 57 0.607 Braun SAL* 15 0.467 Romero ^NYPL NA NA Tulowitzki CAL 34 0.594 Townsend NYPL 1.0 0.00 McCutchen GCL 42 0.916 Bruce GCL 38 0.643 Snyder APPY 17 1.076 Crowe SAL* 30 0.742 Broadway CAR 20.2 2.61 Volstad GCL 14.0 2.57 Henry GCL 53 0.858 Carillo CAL 7.1 1.23 Mayberry NWL 77 0.617 Pawelek AZL 8.2 0.00 Pennington MID 74 0.773 Thompson GCL 6.0 13.50 Ellsbury NA NA NA Bogusevic NA NA NA Garza APPY 19.2 3.66 Devine SOU* 4.0 0.00 Rasmus APPY 68 0.787 Marceaux NYPL 14.1 9.42 Greene NYPL 22 0.838
Note: A * after the league means that the player has already dominated a previous level, and has been promoted. In Ricky Romero's case, the carot indicates he has been assigned, but has not thrown.
A few notes:
*** Ryan Zimmerman might not look too impressive at the top, but he has been wonderful. Originally assigned to the South Atlantic League, Zimmerman took four games to prove it a mistake, going 8/17 with five extra-base hits before the Nats decided to promote him to AA. After starting his AA career 6/21 with two doubles, Zimmerman has gone into a 6/36 slump. OK, so playoff roster expectations were a bit lofty, but Zimmerman has a legit 2006 ETA, which is more than most offensive draftees can say.
*** The other dynamite pick has been Joey Devine, who cruised through the Carolina League in five innings before earning a promotion. With a bullpen in shreds, expect the Braves to try and get Ryan Wagner-like dividends with Devine this season. If his scoreless streak extends about 6-11 more innings, they will have to be thinking about another promotion.
*** It's really too early to be down, but early disappointments have included John Mayberry, Aaron Thompson and Jacob Marceaux. Mayberry should be doing a Pedroza or Stephen Head (10 XBH in 37 AB) impression, but instead has really struggled. Many considered the Texas selection a reach, and they could certainly end up disappointed. Both Marlins pitchers have ERAs over nine, with Marceaux especially disappointing considering he is out of college. I thought Thompson was a reach -- I liked HS pitchers Roe and Atilano better -- but Marceaux should be good value. Have patience.
*** First five of these players to make the Majors, in order: Devine, Cesar Carillo (read Ducksnorts' review!), Zimmerman, Lance Broadway, Trevor Crowe.
Any early impressions welcome on this draft class.
Currently, Wells is trying to become that big pitching prospect without the strikeout rate being there. In his last four starts, spanning a whopping 32.1 innings, Wells has allowed just one run. He's also only struck out 21 batters, which is just fair, no matter how impressive five walks allowed are. What has been best for Jared, who had a 10+ H/9 last year, is giving up just nineteen hits. And just like that, Wells' star is rising.
But in the words of Lee Corso, "Not so fast, my friend." During those four starts, Wells has had a BABIP of .200, almost reminiscent of Ryan Franklin in Seattle early this season. In fact, Franklin (with a 3.92 ERA and 6.62 K/9 for a career in the minors) works as a very good comparison to Wells. Both are innings-eaters (Wells has had just 2 starts this year under 6 IP) that are very dependent on their defense. Wells has a 1.41 GB/FB this year, but has been inconsistent on a start-by-start basis in getting the ball down.
Ryan Franklin did not pitch a full season in the Majors until he was 28 years old. He spent his time in the minors, collecting up the same solid-at-best numbers that Jared Wells has. These types of pitchers are almost entirely dependent on luck, and while Wells is in a good stretch now, expect that ERA to get back over 3.50 by the end of the season.
Personally, I'd take Sean Thompson in that system before Wells any day.