Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Hot and Not - June 24, 2009

Norris continues to bide his time, beating up PCL hitters in the process

As the Minor League season hits the half-way point, we have lots of player movement—both upward and downward. One name that is still waiting to move though, is 24yo, Astros’ right-hander, Bud Norris; who continues to mow down Pacific Coast League (PCL) hitters. Norris has a 20-inning scoreless streak that has him sitting atop this week’s list.

Hot Pitchers –

1) Bud Norris, RHP, HOU – I had to verify the Astros rotation before writing this. Nope, there was no Koufax/Drysdale/Sutton. .. No McNally/Cuellar/Dobson/Palmer…I didn’t find Maddux/Glavine/Millwodd/Smoltz either. What I did find was a rotation that after Roy Oswalt and Wandy Rodriguez consisted of Hampton (4.70 ERA), Moehler (6.43), Ortiz/Backe (5.19), and Paulino (6.18). Yet, Bud Norris and his 2.11 ERA and 20-scoreless innings streak in the PCL can’t get a shot. Norris has a 0.688 WHIP and a 16:6 K:BB ratio over the last two weeks.

2) Manuel Banuelos, LHP, NYY – The Yankees signed Banuelos out of Mexico as a 17yo in 2008. They sent him to the GCL where opposing hitters managed to hit all of .208 off him. This is an unbelievably polished 18yo, that already possesses plus pitches with his fastball and curve. The Yankees thought enough of him to start him in full-season ball this year with Charleston in the South Atlantic (SAL) League. Hitters there are only batting .207 off him. A solid change is all that currently stands between Banuelos and elite-prospect status, with plenty of time ahead of him to work on it. A 1.38 ERA, 0.615 WHIP with an 8:0 K:BB ratio over the last two weeks.

3) Jose Ortegano, LHP, ATL – Although still not able to shake the ‘soft-tosser’ label, the 21yo continues to dominate Carolina (CAR) League hitters. Ortegano has posted a 0.59 ERA, a 0.522 WHIP and a 14:2 K:BB ratio over his last three outings, leaving him with a 3.66 ERA on the year.

4) Trevor Bell, RHP, LAA – People forget that Bell was a first round pick by the Angels in 2005. After four solid, but unspectacular, seasons, he had somewhat disappeared from the radar screen. Still just 22yo, Bell put on a show in 11 Texas (TXL) League starts that earned him a promotion to the PCL, where he has been even better. In two PCL starts, he has 16 scoreless innings, a 0.375 WHIP, and an 8:1 K:BB ratio.

5) Jon Niese, LHP, NYM – Niese struggled badly after returning to Buffalo from a brief stint with the parent club, but seems to have regrouped now. Niese is working on an 18 inning scoreless streak where he has posted a 0.837 WHIP and a 15:4 K:BB ratio.

6) Homer Bailey, RHP, CIN – Bailey has repeatedly teased us with spectacular Minor League showings, only to fall flat when given the opportunity with the Big League club. With Micah Owings struggling, there would seem to be an opportunity once again in the Reds’ rotation. Watching him over the last few weeks, leads me to believe that this time will be different. Bailey has a 0.76 ERA, a 1.014 WHIP, and a 24:5 K:BB ratio over his last three starts.

7) Mike Montgomery, LHP, KCR – The Royals have a solid group of A-ball pitchers (Duffy, Melville, Montgomery, etc), and for our money, the 19yo Montgomery is the best of the bunch. While he still has some work to do on his control, a 0.84 ERA, 0.656 WHIP and a 10:3 K:BB ratio over the last two weeks leaves him with a 1.99 ERA on the season.

8) Zach Phillips, LHP, TEX – Repeating the California (CAL) League, this 2004 draft-and-follow seems to be having better luck this time around. Phillips has allowed only a single earned run over his last 23 innings and has been scored upon only twice in his last 11 outings. Opposing hitters are batting .123 against him on the year.

9) Alexander Perez, RHP,CLE – This is the third straight week on this list for Perez, who was given strong consideration in our recent Top 100 Prospect list. The 19yo Perez has posted a 2.50 ERA, a 0.667 WHIP and a 20:3 K:BB ratio over his last 3 starts and has now allowed more than 2 runs in only 1 of his 13 starts on the year.

10) Brian Matusz, LHP, BAL – Matusz really started to put things together in early May and closed his Carolina (CAR) League stint with a 1.32 ERA over his last six starts. Making his Eastern (ESL) League debut, last Wednesday night, Matusz put together his best outing of his brief professional career, going 6 scoreless innings, allowing three hits and walk, while fanning 10. Currently Matusz is working on a 27 inning scoreless streak.

Hot Hitters –

1) Anthony Rizzo, 1B, BOS – Rizzo was off to an excellent start in the SAL last season, prior to being diagnosed with Hodgkins’ lymphoma. Returning to the SAL, as a 19yo, this season, Rizzo has been even better. A .442/.478/.767 over the last two weeks, gives him an .859 OPS on the year.

2) Ike Davis, 1B, NYM – A repeater from last week, Davis is quickly putting the horrors that were his 2008 season behind him. Davis earned a promotion to the ESL this week, after closing out his CAR stint with an .863 OPS. Over the last two weeks, Davis has posted a .375/.487/.688.

3) Cameron Maybin, OF, FLA – After starting the year in the Marlins’ lineup, Maybin hit .202 through 26 games and was promptly demoted. He has handled the demotion without incident and has PCL OPS up to .878 after going .459/.545/.649 over the last two weeks.

4) Justin Maxwell, OF, WSN – Maxwell is one of those guys we call a ‘4’. He is either going to end up as a 4th OF type or a 4A player. At 25yo, we should be getting our answer soon, but Maxwell is demonstrating that he is better than a AAA player. A .357/.460/.786 over the last two weeks, leaves his International (INT) League OPS at .810 on the season.

5) Angel Salome, C, MIL – With the Brewers in the thick of things in the NL Central, they can be forgiven for not wanting to take too many chances, like going with a rookie catcher. Now I could completely understand that logic if it weren’t for the fact that they are starting .222 hitting, can’t throw anyone out, Jeff Kendall! Salome is the Brewers’ catcher of the future, and for my money the future should be now. Salome has posted a .395/.422/.674 over the last two weeks.

6) Lance Zawadzki, SS, SDP – I have been closely following Zawadzki for nearly two months now and I have been surprisingly impressed. He was a 4th round pick out of NAIA Lee University in Tennessee in 2007 and has put up respectable numbers in two previous seasons. At 24yo, he will have to perform at AA for the rest of the year to truly be considered a prospect, but a .429/.492/.625 over the last two weeks, leaves him with a .957 start.

7) Caleb Gindl, OF, MIL – Repeating from last week, Gindl continues to defy those who have difficulty with his size, but this is a ‘character’ guy through and through. A .278/.381/.611 over the last two weeks leaves him with a .823 OPS in Hi-A as a 20yo.

8) Kyler Burke, OF, CHN – Because he has posted three disappointing seasons, heading into this year, we tend to forget that Burke was a first round pick by the Padres in 2006. Just barely 21yo, Burke has found some comfort in a return trip to the Midwest (MWL) League, posting a .340/.456/.553. Never posting a SLG higher than .446 at any previous stop in his career, Burke has hovered near .500 all season. At 6’3, 205, there is more untapped power potential still to come.

9) Nick Weglarz, OF, CLE – A 3rd round pick out of Canada in 2005, Weglarz has always been an advanced hitter for his age. Now just 21yo, Weglarz is having his way with ESL pitchers. Weglarz shows excellent control of the strike zone, an indicator that his offensive skills should transfer to the next level. .310/.396/.643 over the last two weeks.

10) Alex Liddi, 3B, SEA – The beat goes on with Liddi, who has likely posted the most eye-opening offensive season of any player in the Minor Leagues. He is a 20yo, playing in Hi-A, with excellent projectable size. Over the last two weeks, he has hit .364/.447/.545, and his OPS stands at 1.009 on the year.

The Nots –

1) Chad Huffman, OF, SDP – The former second round pick’s career has relatively been in neutral since the first half of 2007. A jump up to AAA this season has resulted in .757 OPS, but over the last two weeks things have gotten miserable. Over his last 45 PAs, his line reads .053/.143/.132.

2) Greg Halman, OF, SEA – This is getting to be a broken record with Halman. Things have gotten so bad that the Mariners have sent him to their Arizona Rookie affiliate to try to get them straightened out, but he has fanned in 6 of 7 ABs since being there. A .091/.167/.091 with 12Ks in his last 25 PAs, leaves him with a .640 OPS on the year.

3) James Houser, LHP, TBR – Coming off of a monster 2008 season, Houser can’t seem to find the plate this year. A 12.41 ERA, 2.676 WHIP and a 4:13 K:BB ratio over his last three starts, puts his season ERA at 5.79

4) Tony Delmonico, 2B/C, LAD - Delmonico carried a .982 OPS into May, but it has been downhill ever since. His .160/.222/.160 over the last two weeks has his OPS sitting at .782 on the year.

5) Jack McGeary, LHP, WSN – McGeary fell to the 6th round in the 2007 draft due to his strong commitment to Stanford. $1.8 million later, the Nationals felt they got an additional first rounder. He has posted less than first round numbers over the last two years, but that is somewhat because he has started the season three months later than everyone else. Now playing full season ball for the first time, SAL hitters have not been very kind. A 11.37 ERA, 2.842 WHIP, with a 4:10 K:BB ratio, over the last two weeks, has left McGeary’s ERA at 6.79.

6) Michael Almanzar, 3B, BOS – The highest priced Latin American signing of 2007, has been significantly overmatched in his brief career. At 18yo, it’s still difficult to get a read on him due to the fact that he has been so much younger than his competition. After going .125/.125/.167 over the last two weeks in the SAL, Almanzar now finds himself back in the New York-Penn (NYP) League.

7) Tyler Chatwood, RHP, LAA – The Angels’ second round pick in 2008 got out of the gates fast this year, giving up 7 ERs in his first 6 starts. He has allowed twice that many in his last three. Over the last two weeks Chatwood has posted a 10.57 ERA, 2.348 WHIP with a 6:7 K:BB ratio.

8) Delta Cleary, OF, COL – Have I mentioned that I am not a fan of speedy, ‘toolsy’, prospects that are more potential than production? Cleary has gone .182/.182/.273 over the last two weeks and now has a .695 OPS on the year.

9) Sean West, LHP, FLA – The Marlins have tried just about everything this season to find a 5th starter. It came to reaching down to their AA Jacksonville affiliate and choosing between West, Bret Sinkbeil and Aaron Thompson. Thompson was the choice and pitched decent in his first four starts. The last two haven’t been so kind, as West has posted a 8.38 ERA, 2.069 WHIP with a 7:6 K:BB ratio.

10) Brad Emaus, 2B, TOR – Emaus got off to a solid start, and through May had an .820 OPS. June hasn’t been so kind, as Emaus has hit .120/.185/1.87 since the beginning of the month. Nothing here that will improve his ‘fringy’ prospect status.

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