Thursday, August 20, 2009

Hots and Nots – August 19, 2009

Francisco is slugging .750 over the last 4 weeks

After finishing second in Home Runs, and slugging .665, in the highly competitive Dominican League, as a 21yo, last Winter, the Reds’ Juan Francisco entered the season with high expectations. But after two months in the Southern (SOL) League Francisco was hitting .245/.270/.442. Worse yet, he was striking out once every four trips to the plate. But as the weather has warmed, so has Francisco’s bat, as he gone .320/.357/.578 since the beginning of June, and has cut his strikeout rate to just over 17%. That earned him a promotion to the International (INT) League this weekend where the hits just keep on coming. Looking like Scott Rolen’s replacement, sooner rather than later, Francisco tops this week’s list.

Hot Hitters –
1) Juan Francisco, 3B, CIN - Francisco has always had a tendency to be a streaky hitter, and he doesn’t walk enough to provide comfort that he will have success at the Major League level. Nonetheless, he has brought his strikeout rate down this season, possesses adequate 3B defense and awesome power potential. Francisco’s on a roll right now, going .435/.462/.855 over the last two weeks and the 22yo has an a .844 OPS on the year.

2) Alex Avila, C, DET - The son of the Tigers Assistant GM, was considered by some to be a ‘patronage’ pick when the Tigers took him in the 5th round of 2008. But so far, Avila’s success is the biggest surprise from that class, as he has turned a solid Eastern (ESL) League season into a Big League trial, and so far he has made the most of it. Avila has posted a .409/.519/1.000 over the last two weeks.

3) Travis Snider, LF, TOR – With the Jays going nowhere this season, they can hardly be faulted for trying to focus this year on what is best for Snider’s long-term development. Still , with a 1.094 OPS on the year, one has to wonder what took the Jays so long to get Snider’s bat back into the Toronto lineup. Snider returned to the Jays lineup Tuesday night, going 2 for 3 with a walk and a home run in the game. Over the last two week’s Snider has posted a .438/.518/.813 and is one of the hottest hitters at any level.

4) Julio Borbon, CF, TEX – Selected as a supplemental first round pick in 2007, Borbon made solid, if unspectacular, progress in 2008. A 23yo, Borbon put up good numbers in the PCL this year, albeit somewhat bereft of power. When Nelson Cruz went down, the Rangers seized the opportunity to get Borbon’s bat/speed in the lineup. In 28 Big League ABs, Borbon has posted a 1.016 OPS with 8 SBs in 8 attempts. He has the ability to electrify an offense and should be the Rangers everyday CF in 2010.

5) Ryan Kalish, OF, BOS – Kalish’s career has been marked by nagging injuries that had limited him to 575 ABs in three professional seasons, entering the year. After 115 Carolina (CAR) League ABs, the 21yo Kalish was promoted to the Eastern (ESL) League, where he has been solid, if not spectacular. However lately, Kalish has taken his game up a notch, posting a .353/.441/.725 over the last two weeks.

6) Buster Posey, C, SFG – Posey has been everything that was advertised when the Giants made him the 5th overall pick in 2008. He has first rate catch and throw skills and better than Major League average offensive skills. After posting a .967 in nearly 300 CAL ABs, the Giants skipped Posey to AAA, where he has posted a .910 OPS as a 22yo. Over the last two weeks he has gone .435/.480/.957, and he should become the Giants everyday backstop by early 2010. Posey currently is one of the top five prospects in the Minor Leagues.

7) Brett Jackson, OF, CHN – When the Cubs selected Jackson with the next to last pick of the first round, there were many scratching their heads, as the book on Jackson was that he was a decent OF, with solid offensive numbers, but lacked power and whiffed way too often for that production level. After 182 professional ABs, Jackson has shown surprising patience (32BB), better than expected power, and a K-rate (20%) that people can live with. Over the last two weeks he has posted a .333/.397/.606 and is proving, at least at the moment, to be a better pick than some of the more highly rated college OFs that went before him.

8) Kyler Burke, OF, CHN – A real resurrection story, entering the season, the 2006 first round pick had posted a .679 OPS in nearly 1000 professional ABs. Burke still had his supporters, and the Cubs decided to let him repeat the Midwest (MWL) League, where he could let his age catch up with the competition. This could be one of the best organizational decisions of the year, as Burke has broken through to the tune of a .911 OPS. The 21yo, has posted a .449/.578/.756 over his last 65 PAs, and has turned into a virtual walk machine, taking a free pass in nearly 21% of his PAs over the last month. For the season, his walk rate is nearly double what it was in 2008.

9) Matt Spencer, OF, OAK – Pretty much a throw-in in the deal that sent Joe Blanton to Philadelphia, Spencer has been anything but, as he has posted an OPS of more than .900 in nearly 600 ABs since the deal. Over the last two weeks Spencer has further upped his game, going .442/.500/.808 and now has a .883 in the Texas (TXL) League.

10) Alexia Amarista, 2B, LAA – While we have been touting Amarista since he posted the best age-adjusted performance in the Dominican Summer (DSL) League in 2007, the book on him entering the year was that he was a smallish, good-glove secondbasemen, with an upside of a utility infielder. Amarista is trying to rewrite that book this season, as he has gone .346/.433/.615 over the last two weeks and now has a .846 OPS, as a 20yo, in the not-so hitter-friendly MWL.

11) Jason Heyward, OF, ATL – Heyward had his worst week in months, going 3 for 23 in his quest to best Andruw Jones’ 157 AB, 1.107 OPS performance in 1996, and put together a historic Southern (SOL) League season by a player younger than 20. He now has fallen slightly behind Jones pace, with a 1.097 through 137 ABs.

Hot Pitchers –
1) Randall Delgado, RHP, ATL – The 19yo Delgado posted a top 10 age-adjusted season in the DSL in 2007, a top 5 age-adjusted season in the APY in 2008, and thus far has 121 Ks in 107 IP in the SAL this year. With additional projection left in his 6’3 frame, he should eventually have a mid-90s fastball, to go along with secondary offerings that have Major League potential. Over the last two weeks, Delgado has a 0.75 ERA, a 0.500 WHIP and a 18:2 K:BB ratio. There is significant upside in this right-hander who likely only trails Julio Teheran (ahead of Mike Minor) as Braves pitching prospects.

2) Casey Crosby, LHP, DET – While the signing of Jacob Turner this week likely bumps Crosby down to #2 on the Tiger prospect list, Crosby has put together a season that had him named by Baseball America as the top pitching prospect in the MWL. 1st in the League in ERA, 5th in WHIP and 3rd in strikeouts. Since the middle June, the 20yo has posted an ERA (0.72 ERA), allowing only 1 ER since July 15. Over the last two weeks, Crosby has posted a 0.00 ERA, a 0.786 WHIP, and is currently working on a 22-inning scoreless streak. On the year MWL hitters are batting only .195 against him.

3) Carlos Carrasco, RHP, CLE – Carrasco was in the midst of a relatively disappointing 2009 campaign when the Phillies made him the centerpiece of the Cliff Lee deal at the trade deadline. He seems to have turned things around though, as he has posted a 2.70 ERA, 0.771 WHIP, with a 21:4 K:BB ratio over his last three starts.

4) Jay Jackson, RHP, CHN – In one of those situation where you realize that developing a player is more than just teaching them plate discipline or how to throw a split-finger fastball, the Cubs demoted Jay Jackson from AA to the Florida State (FSL) League, despite posting a 3.70 ERA, at the end of July for ‘failure to comply with team rules’. The good news is that Jackson hasn’t pouted about it, and in four starts since his demotion he has posted a 0.36 ERA, a 0.711 WHIP, with a 24:3 K:BB ratio. With a 2.92 ERA on the year for the 21yo, Jackson looks poised to find himself in Chicago sometime next season—if he can get his ‘compliance’ problems straightened out.

5) Jordan Lyles, RHP, HOU – The 18yo Lyles is having an eye-popping season, where he has fanned 151 batters in 129 SAL innings. Over the last two weeks, Lyles has a 1.50 ERA, 0.889 WHIP, with a 18:3 K:BB ratio. The baseball world was certainly surprised when the Astros made Lyles a supplemental 1st round pick in 2008, but, at least for now, it is the Astros that appear to hold the last laugh.

6) Michael Montgomery, LHP, KCR – At least until the Kansas City signs Aaron Crow, Montgomery has established himself as the Royals’ #1 pitching prospect. A 2.45 ERA, 0.927 WHIP with a 16:4 K:BB ratio over his last three starts, gives the 20yo a 2.32 ERA on the season. CAR hitters are batting only .208 against him.

7) Daniel Gutierrez, RHP, KCR – In what appears to be the week where we talk more about the ‘ugly’ side of developing Minor League prospects, Gutierrez’s season debut was delayed due to arm ‘fatigue’ he was experiencing this spring. Gutierrez then switched agents to Scott Boras, and the Boras/Gutierrez camp got into a ‘tiff’ with Royals management, in May, about the injury rehab process. Kansas City sent Gutierrez home for a month and finally at the end of July Gutierrez made his season debut. 17 innings into the season, Gutierrez’s ERA sits at 2.70, his WHIP at 0.660, and he has fanned 17, while only issuing 3 walks.

8) Jaime Garcia, LHP, STL – A great comeback story, Garcia underwent Tommy John surgery last September and remarkably returned to the mound this July. While control is typically the last thing to return after TJ surgery, Garcia has a 28:6 K:BB ratio in 6 outings since his return. While Tony LaRussa is on the record as saying Garcia won’t see St. Louis this season, look for him to play a key role for the Cardinals in 2010.

9) Ryan Pope, RHP, NYY – A 3rd round pick in 2007, the 23yo Pope has struggled for much of the time this season, posting a 4.85 ERA in the ESL. That hasn’t been the case though for the last two weeks, where Pope has a 0.00 ERA, 0.615 WHIP and a 16:3 K:BB ratio.

10) Matt Moore, LHP, TBR – With David Price in Tampa, Matt Moore has assumed the title of the Rays’ best pitching prospect. The 20yo has dominated South Atlantic (SAL) League hitters this season, allowing them to bat .187 against him, while striking out 12.7 per 9IP. He’s been even better over his last three starts, with a 2.40 ERA, a 0.933 WHIP and a 24:7 K:BB ratio. Moore will still have to harness his ‘stuff’, but he is currently one of the more dominating pitchers in the Minors.

The Nots –
1) Anthony Swarzak, RHP, MIN - Swarzak is one of those WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get)pitchers, and what you see is a 23yo with stuff that is good enough to fall in to the back of the rotation, but not good enough to actually overpower Major League hitters. Because of that, he is struggling in his debut season. Over the last two weeks, Swarzak has posted a 19.24 ERA, a 3.4000 WHIP and a 3:1 K:BB ratio. On the year, his ERA in Minnesota is 5.87.

2) Cutter Dykstra, 2B, MIL – I can promise you that the Brewers expected more than the .594 OPS they have gotten from Dykstra this year, when they made him their 2nd round pick in 2008. Still only 20yo, there is time for him to turn things around, but a .119/.159/.167 over the last two weeks isn’t helping his cause any.

3) Tony Thomas, 2B, CHN – Thomas has made 2 appearances on both the ‘Hot’ list and ‘Not’ list this year, and I guess that is to be expected from a guy that is merely below average defensively and about average with the bat. Over the last two weeks, Thomas has posted a .121/.194/.121 and now has only a .740 OPS in the Southern (SOL) League.

4) Chris Hicks, RHP, HOU – Hicks was drafted in the 14th round in 2008, after spending 2 mediocre years in the Georgia Tech bullpen. After flashing a mid-90s fastball in the Hawaiian Winter League, the Astros decided to give him a shot at starting this year. Proving both that the California (CAL) League is tough on pitchers, and that a good fastball doesn’t always equal a good pitcher, it is beginning to look like Hicks career isn’t going to amount to much. A 21.94 ERA, 3.563 WHIP, and a 8:4 K:BB ratio over the last two weeks, leaves Hicks with a an ERA on the wrong-side of ‘6’ for the year.

5) Greg Veloz, 2B, WSN – Outside of Fernando Martinez, we weren’t enamored with the quality of Mets’ offensive prospects heading into the season, and too many players like Veloz are the reason why. Yes Veloz is athletic, and yes Veloz has some skills, but what Veloz isn’t (nor has ever been) is player that produces, entering the year with a lifetime OPS of .695. When the Mets went looking for some SS backup for Jose Reyes, they found Anderson Hernandez and couldn’t have been happier to unload Veloz in the process. After posting a .042/.148/.125 over the last two weeks, Veloz’s OPS sits at .577 on the year.

6) Jordan Danks, OF, CHA – In fairness, the White Sox 7th round pick in 2008 has put together a solid debut season, with a .784 OPS between stops in the CAR and SOL. He’s hit a bit of an ugly stretch though and is only .063/.189/.063 over the last two weeks.

7) Collin Balester, RHP, WSN – I’ll admit to never having been a fan of the 4th round pick by the Expos in 2004, and I think it speaks volumes to the state of the Nationals’ rotation that he has made 6 starts for them. While a 9.64 ERA, 1.714 WHIP and a 5:3 K:BB ratio over his last two weeks may be a bit on the extreme side, his 6.75 ERA on the year does seem to be a fairly accurate gauge of his talent level.

8) Josh Reddick, OF, BOS – I like Josh Reddick, and I give tremendous props to the Red Sox organization for forging their own path to player development and coming out on the right side more often than most. But can anyone explain to me what the 22yo Reddick was doing in a Red Sox uniform this year? He was good—not great in the ESL this season, and that seemed to be the right developmental level for him, but someone was dreaming if they really believed he was ready for the ‘show’. Hopefully the experience won’t come back to bite everyone as Reddick is now in AAA and has posted a .088/.114/.206 over the last two weeks.

9) Daniel Bard, RHP, BOS – Honestly I am not picking on Red Sox nation here, and I think Bard will be a good Major League closer—sooner rather than later. But it has been a rough couple of weeks for the 23yo, as he has posted a 13.50 ERA, a 3.000 WHIP and a 7:6 K:BB ratio over his last 6 outings.

10) Troy Patton, LHP, BAL – After becoming one of the ‘feel good’ stories from the first half of the season, Patton has floundered since his promotion to the International (INT) League. After giving up 6 runs, 6 hits and 3 walks in 3+ innings his last time out, the Orioles shut him down for the year. The hope is that he is just worn out in his comeback attempt and that it is nothing more serious.

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