Around the MinorsMay 22, 2008
The Good and Bad of A-Ball
By Marc Hulet

We read an awful lot about the Salt Lake Bees after the club's record-breaking month of April. Now two-thirds of the way through May, it is a good time to take a look at how some of the other affiliates around Minor League Baseball are doing. As such, let’s take a look at the good and the bad from A-ball.

California League
The Best: San Jose Giants (San Francisco) and Stockton Ports (Oakland) 29-16 (.644)
The Worst: Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (Los Angeles AL) 19-26 (.422)

The Giants organization certainly isn’t known for its prospects, but the club still has the best record in the California League. Catcher Pablo Sandoval is leading the team in hitting with a line of .409/.469/.708. He’s hitting right-handed pitching at a .455 clip. The 21-year-old switch hitting catcher looks a little bit like current Giants catcher Bengie Molina with a 5-11, 245 pound body. 2007 first round pick Tim Alderson is having a nice first full season in the minors. He is currently 6-1 with a 3.14 ERA. The 19-year-old hurler has allowed 46 hits in 48.2 innings and has walked 19 and struck out 36. Not bad for a 2007 draftee out of high school who skipped A-ball and went right to High-A ball.

The Ports are led by two high 2007 college draft picks: first baseman Sean Doolittle and shortstop Joshua Horton. Doolittle is hitting .368/.454/.693 with 12 homers in 163 at-bats, which isn’t bad for a player who was supposed to be more Mark Grace and less Paul Konerko. Horton is hitting .308/.425/.390 and has 28 walks compared to 25 strikeouts in 146 at-bats. He does not have power (zero homers) or speed (zero stolen bases) so he needs to hit for a high average to have an impact. Right-handed pitcher Trevor Cahill, a 2006 first round pick out of high school, is currently 5-1 with a 2.96 ERA. He has allowed only 36 hits and 14 walks in 54.2 innings. He has struck out 68.

Outfielder Peter Bourjos, 22, is doing his best to help the Quake turn its season around. He is hitting .335/.367/.468 in 158 at-bats. He has also stolen 24 bases in 26 attempts. He needs to walk a little more (he has only eight) given his style of play. Former 2005 second round pick P.J. Phillips has had trouble turning potential into reality but could be a late bloomer like brother Brandon Phillips of the Reds. The infielder is hitting only .238/.269/.369 in 168 at-bats and has only four walks to go along with 49 strikeouts.

Carolina League
The Best: Potomac Nationals (Washington) 27-15 (.643)
The Worst: Lynchburg Hillcats (Pittsburgh) 17-27 (.386)

Chris Marrero, a 2006 first round draft pick, has found Potomac to be a difficult place to hit. He is currently hitting only .236/.329/.419 in 148 at-bats. The Potomac pitching has been more successful. Ross Detwiler, a 2007 first round pick, is currently 3-2 with a 4.12 ERA. He has allowed 40 hits in 39.1 innings of work, along with 21 walks and 41 strikeouts. Jordan Zimmermann, taken in the second round in 2007, had a 3-1 record and a 1.65 ERA in 27.1 innings before a promotion to Double-A. Starter Cory Van Allen, a fifth round from 2006, was also promoted to Double-A after going 3-0 with a 1.65 ERA in 27.1 innings.

Third baseman Jim Negrych is making the most of a bad season for Lynchburg. He currently has a line of .372/.444/.468 but lacks the power necessary to play the position long-term with only one homer in 156 at-bats. The 23-year-old University of Pittsburgh product was drafted as a second baseman in 2006. Daniel Moskos, the club’s 2007 first round pick, is holding his own. He has a 3-2 record and 4.89 ERA in 42.1 innings. He has allowed 41 hits and 10 walks. He has struck out 28 batters.

Florida State League
The Best: Fort Myers Miracle (Minnesota) 29-16 (.644)
The Worst: St. Lucie Mets (New York NL) 9-36 (.200)

Fort Myers has some interesting pitching prospects, although many are allowing a few too many hits to fall in. Tyler Robertson has an ERA of 3.04 in 50.1 innings. He has allowed 55 hits, although only two of those have left the yard. The 20-year-old lefty has walked 19 batters and struck out 49. Jeff Manship, 23, is a workhorse-type pitcher who won 15 games last season between Beloit and Fort Myers. Back in Fort Myers thanks to the Twins’ solid pitching depth, Manship is 5-1 with a 3.62 ERA in 49.2 innings. He has allowed 49 hits and 16 walks. He has struck out 51 and is probably due for a promotion. Alex Burnett, 20, has a 3.18 ERA in 45.1 innings but has allowed 52 hits. He has walked 13 batters and struck out 24, while allowing just one homer.

St. Lucie has few true prospects playing on the squad this season. It has by far the worst record in A-ball and the club was pounded by Dunedin for 15 runs on Monday night. First baseman Lucas Duda, a seventh round pick from 2007, has been one of the more impressive bat for St. Lucie. The 22-year-old is currently hitting .288/.367/.407 in 177 at-bats but the left-handed batter has a .152 average against southpaws. Starters Nicholas Carr and Eric Niesen are a combined 1-10 on the season. Despite allowing 50 hits in 43.1 innings, Carr has also struck out 42 batters. Tobi Stoner is the only pitcher on the team (four appearances or more) that has averaged fewer than one hit per inning pitched and he has allowed 26 hits in 26.1 innings.

South Atlantic League
The Best: Asheville Tourists (Colorado) 31-15 (.674)
The Worst: Lexington Legends (Houston) and Rome Braves (Atlanta) 13-31 (.295)

Third baseman Darin Holcomb is a long way from the majors but he is raising some eyebrows. He currently sports a line of .329/.397/.532 with seven homers in 173 at-bats. He also has walked 18 times with just 16 strikeouts. The 22-year-old was drafted in the 12th round of 2007 out of Gonzaga University. Everth Cabrera is a 21-year-old Nicaraguan with his currently hitting .295/.388/.382 in 173 at-bats. The second baseman has walked 24 times to go along with 32 strikeouts. He has stolen 27 at-bats in 31 tries and looks like the next Corey Wimberly or Eric Young Jr. Right-hander Jhoulys Chacin, 20, has also been making people sit up and take notice. So far this season he is 6-1 with a 1.77 ERA in 61 innings. He has allowed 41 hits, 17 walks and has struck out 54 batters. He is also average more than 2.5 groundballs for every flyball.

Houston is another organization that is not known for its prospects and Lexington is suffering as a result. Scrappy Matthew Cusick is leading the club with a line of .351/.436/.568 in 148 at-bats. He has walked 22 times with only nine strikeouts. Although he has a 1.004 OPS, he has little power and doesn’t run much, which limits his ceiling. Houston is slow at promoting prospects and the 2007 10th round pick out of USC should probably be in High-A ball. Sergio Severino is one of Houston’s few pitching prospects but he also turns 24 later this season. He has a 2.27 ERA in 47.2 innings and has allowed 30 hits and 21 walks. Severino, a southpaw, has struck out 50 batters.

The Rome offence is being led by 18-year-old offensive monster Jason Heyward, who was also Atlanta’s first round pick out of high school in 2007. Heyward is hitting .320/.359/.469 in 175 at-bats. He has hit five homers and stolen eight bases, which has helped him score 33 runs. That’s not bad for a teenager who is 6-4 and 220 pounds. Despite a 1-6 record Chad Rodgers has had a nice season. The 20-year-old lefty has a 3.47 ERA in 46.2 innings. He has allowed 45 hits and 12 walks to go along with 43 strikeouts. Freddy Freeman, an 18-year-old first baseman is showing power potential with 16 doubles and four homers. He has a line of .278/.318/.456 but needs to improve his patience. He has walked only nine times in 169 at-bats this season. He walked only seven times in 224 at-bats during his pro debut last season.

Midwest League
The Best: Clinton LumberKings (Texas) 30-11 (.732)
The Worst: Peoria Chiefs (Chicago NL) 15-30 (.333)

The youngest team in the league also sports the best record. The offence is led by Ian Gac, a slugging first baseman. He has a line of .346/.459/.738 and has hit 14 homers in 130 at-bats. He has struck out 33 times with 22 walks. Gac also has 40 RBI. Pitcher Neftali Feliz, obtained in the Mark Teixeira deal, has a 2.53 ERA in 42.2 innings of work. The 20-year-old has allowed only 28 hits, along with 16 walks. He has struck out 49 batters. Blake Beavan, a 2007 first round pick out of high school, began the year in extended spring training. Since moving up to Clinton, the right-hander has posted a 4.50 ERA in 20 innings. He has allowed 21 hits, one walk and struck out eight.

Peoria is a team suffering from a lack of prospects. The top hitter is Jovan Rosa, a first baseman who is hitting .305/.372/.482. The 20-year-old has just two homers in 142 at-bats. Catcher Josh Donaldson was a supplemental first round pick in 2007 who caught people’s attention by hitting .346 in short season ball last year. He has struggled mightily in 2008, though, and has a line of .196/.252/.318 and is hitting .176 against righties.