Friday, April 30, 2010

Hots ‘n’ Nots – The Pitchers

Eastern League hitters are proving no match for Strasburg

Stephen Strasburg entered last June’s draft as, arguably, the best pitcher ever drafted. When Washington signed him at the deadline for the largest draft signing bonus it only heaped additional expectations on what already was a mountainous set. So one would be forgiven if they believed Strasburg would have difficulty meeting those expectations this season. After Tuesday’s stint of five-inning no-hit ball, all we can say is that if he is going to struggle, it isn’t happening yet. If there is a problem with Strasburg, it is the fact that he supposedly started his professional career in the Minors instead of the Majors because he had work to do in holding runners on and pitching from the stretch. Unfortunately, through four starts Strasburg has only faced 14 batters with a runner on base. We aren’t sure how much work he’s getting in on this at AA. It looks like Strasburg will make one more start in the Eastern League (ESL) this weekend, and then will likely be promoted to AAA next week for at least a couple of starts. At the moment there doesn’t appear anyway that he remains in the minors into June, and all this makes him our Hottest Pitcher of the week.

Hot Pitchers

1) Stephen Strasburg, RHP, WSN

We are not sure exactly what more to say about Strasburg, as he is the best pitching prospect to come along in at least the last decade. Over the last two weeks he has 12.3 shutout innings, where he has allowed 3 hits and has a 15:1 K:BB ratio. We’ll likely have to wait until June to see him really challenged.

2) Aneury Rodriguez, RHP, TBR

After being traded to the Rays at the beginning of 2009 Rodriguez put a lot of pressure on himself and struggled to a disappointing season. He seems to have put all of that behind him now and is trying to squeeze his way onto an already packed Tampa pitching staff. A 0.45 ERA, 0.600 WHIP and a 14:4 K:BB ratio over his last three starts, leaves him with a 1.13 ERA on the year, and opposing hitters are batting a mere .169 against him.

3) Jake Arrieta, RHP, BAL

Arrieta was never given any real consideration for breaking camp with the team this Spring, but he is showing why Brad Bergesen’s days as a starter are numbered. A 0.45 ERA, 0.800 WHIP and a 21:6 K:BB ratio over his last three starts leaves him with a 0.36 ERA on the year.

4) Jaime Garcia, LHP, STL

In case there was any doubt, Garcia is all of the way back from his elbow surgery. He nailed down the fifth starter spot with an excellent performance this Spring, and has been even better since the season has officially begun. A 0.90 ERA, 0.900 WHIP and a 12:6 K:BB ratio over his last three starts leaves Garcia 1.04 ERA on the year. While he lacks the stuff of a true top of the order stud, Garcia should become one of the better 2/3 starters in the League in a couple of years.

5) Simon Castro, RHP, SDP

The Padres challenged Castro by skipping him over Hi-A this Spring, but the Texas League (TL) hitters are proving to be of little more challenge than were Midwest League (MWL) hitters last season. Over his last three starts, Castro has posted a 0.93 ERA, a 0.776 WHIP and a 12:4 K:BB ratio. Only 22yo, Castro is a big powerful righty that looks to be on track for a debut in San Diego before season’s end.

6) Andrew Cashner, RHP, CHN

Cashner’s 2010 beginning will become the poster child for power arms that need to develop their secondary offerings. Now showing both an improved slider and change, that offset his mid-90s heat, Cashner has rewarded the Cubs stubborn belief that he is starter material. Over his last three starts Cashner has posted a 2.70 ERA, a 0.900 WHIP and a 19:5 K:BB ratio. For the year, he has fanned 29 batters in 24 innings.

7) Jay Jackson, RHP, CHN

After a 2009 season in which discipline issues forced Jackson to be demoted for part of the season, the 22yo is knocking on the Major League door with a stellar debut in the PCL. A 1.50 ERA, 0.778 WHIP and a 12:5 K:BB ratio leaves him with 2.35 ERA on the year. Opposing batters are hitting only .177 against him.

8) Tanner Scheppers, RHP, TEX

Many who saw him pitch in Arizona this Spring felt that his stuff was Major League ready. Given his injury history and a loaded Ranger pitching staff, Texas started him in the Texas League (TXL) in a relief role. His ability is clearly above this level, as the only run he has allowed all year was a home run on 4/13. On the year he has a 0.273 WHIP and an amazing 19:0 K:BB ratio in 11 innings. There will always be a concern as to how many pitches remain in that shoulder, but the Rangers would be wise to not waste too many on AA hitters.

9) Juan Oramas, LHP, SDP

Oramas has been Padres’ property for a couple of seasons now, but in 2009 he was on loan to the Mexican League, where the then 19yo was one of the circuit’s better hurlers. After dominating the MWL in five outings with very strict pitch counts, to open up 2010; where he posted a 1.20 ERA, a 0.800 WHIP, and a jaw-dropping 25:3 K:BB ratio; San Diego has promoted him to the California League (CAL), where he becomes one of the League’s youngest pitchers. This isn’t a guy with front of the rotation stuff, but he looks like a potential mid-rotation starter.

10) Manuel Rivera, LHP, BOS

After two solid, yet unspectacular seasons in the DSL, Rivera drew attention with his 2009 GCL performance that saw him fan nearly a batter per inning. In 2010, he is stating his case for true prospect status. Over his last three starts, Rivera has posted a 0.64 ERA, a 0.571 WHIP and a 17:1 K:BB ratio in the South Atlantic League. Only 20yo, this is a possible breakout season in the making.

The Nots

1) Daniel Hudson, RHP, CHA

This season Hudson is falling just as fast as last season’s meteoric rise. While many thought he had a shot at the #5 rotation spot enter spring, thus far he is making his AAA placement seem questionable. Over his last three starts, Hudson has posted a 13.50 ERA, and a 2.719 WHIP. Home Runs are apparently his bane, as he has allowed 6 of them in 16 innings this season. While the 23yo has plenty of time to right the ship, he is making many—including us, question his lofty pre-season ranking.

2) Cole Rohrbough, LHP, ATL

After the Braves made Rohrbough a 2006 draft and follow, he turned heads with a spectacular 2007 debut. Control issues have plagued him ever since, and it is about time to start doubting that he ever gets it figured out. Over his last three starts, the 23yo, Rohrbough, has posted a 13.06 ERA and a 2.710 WHIP. On the year he has walked 9 batters in 13 innings, with opposing hitters teeing him up to the tune of a .417 average against.

3) Tyler Kehrer, LHP, ANA

A supplemental first round pick by the Angels last June, Kehrer looked poised to become the next in a long list of unsung draftees that the Halos seem so adept in discovering. He started 2010 with a solid three inning debut, but has been horrendous ever since. Over his last three starts, the 22yo has been torched by MWL hitters to the tune of a 11.81 ERA, a 2.719 WHIP and a 7:14 K:BB ratio.

4) Troy Patton, LHP, BAL

For a good part of 2009, Patton looked to be the comeback story of the year following his 2008 shoulder surgery. It is now looking like he will become just more evidence as to why, in this day of advanced medicine, labrum issues sill essentially sound a death knell for Major League pitchers. Once one of the top pitching prospects in the game, the 24yo Patton has posted a 9.95 ERA and a 2.053 WHIP over his last three starts and is falling further behind what is looking like a future solid Oriole pitching depth chart.

5) Brad Bergesen, RHP, BAL

Speaking of Orioles’ hurlers that are tumbling down the depth chart, Bergesen, who shocked us with his stellar 2009 MLB debut, seems to be returning to earth in 2010. Over his last three starts, he has posted a 7.82 ERA and a 1.974 WHIP. His three Major League starts produced an ERA over 12.00. While the Orioles’ best pitching years appear to be in the future, Bergesen is clearly behind Matusz, Guthrie, Hernandez, Tillman and Arrieta in the longer term plans.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hots ‘n’ Nots – The Hitters

Mike Stanton is currently on fire for the Marlins

Welcome back to our weekly Hots ‘n’ Nots feature for the 2010 Minor League season. For those of you who are new here, this space attempts to provide you with the Hottest (and Notso Hottest) players currently going in the Minor Leagues. We track over two thousand players on a daily basis and this is our weekly look at who is turning in the most relevant performances. Each week we will be bringing you the ten most productive hitters, ten most productive pitchers, and then ten players with relevant performances on the other side of the coin. We measure their performance over the preceding two weeks. While this isn’t necessarily a prospect ranking, we do value the performance of a 20yo tearing up AA far more than a 22yo raking in the SAL. For those returning regular readers—you’ll notice a change. This year, we are doing our Hitter List on Wednesday and our Pitcher List on Thursday, instead of just one long list.

Mike Stanton heads the year’s first list, as he turned heads with his performance in Big League camp this Spring, and has continued his torrid pace all the way through the beginning of the year. There were those that felt he was ready for the Majors coming out of Spring, so the real surprise was when the Marlins returned him to Jacksonville to open the season. A little less than three weeks into the Minor League season the question still holds. Without further ado…onto the list.

1) Mike Stanton, RF, FLA -

Stanton struggled in roughly 300 ABs in AA in the second half of last season—mainly due to an abysmal 30% strikeout rate. So, to some degree we can understand the logic of returning him here despite an eye opening performance this spring. However, after 90 PAs to start the season Stanton is destroying Southern League (SOL) pitching. Over the last two weeks he has posted a .321/.446/.792 line, but the most impressive number has to be his 20:18 BB:K ratio and a strikeout rate that hovers around a much more palatable 20%. His nine home runs on the season lead professional baseball. At only 20yo, his AA days are numbered, but the real question is where he will be stopping next?

2) Lars Anderson, 1B, BOS –

Few players were maligned as much as Anderson was—and justly so, after his awful 2009 season. While we dropped him significantly in our off-season rankings (he finished at #95), we warned in our Guide that we were issuing Anderson a ‘mulligan’ for 2009, and we expected a rebound this season in the Eastern League (ESL). Anderson hasn’t disappointed, as he has posted a 1.086 OPS over his first 70 PAs to open the year. Over the last two weeks, the 22yo has posted a .410/.500/.821 line, and looks to be right on track for a Major league debut this fall.

3) Mike Moustakas, 3B, KCR –

Another player who put up disappointing 2009 numbers, Moustakas’ 2010 debut was pushed back because of an oblique injury, not making his debut until last week. Apparently, he is trying to make up for lost time, as he has posted a .360/.407/.840 line with 3 Home Runs in his first 25 Texas League (TXL) ABs. We still feel that RF will be his eventual destination, and thus requiring a more cautious development path, but we have few doubts about his ability to hit.

4) Eric Hosmer, 1B, KCR –

We were amazed at the number of people that were writing Hosmer off after a disappointing 2009. Six months later, Hosmer has become the poster boy for lasix surgery and is performing like the hitter the Royals thought they were getting with the third pick in the 2008 draft. Only 20yo, Hosmer has a 1.148 OPS over his first 73 PAs, and has put together a .409/.500/.591 line over the last two weeks. His 13:8 BB:K ratio provides further evidence that he is seeing things more clearly now.

5) Brett Wallace, 3B, TOR –

With an .860 OPS over 800 professional plate appearances, Wallace has left little doubt about his ability to hit. So it should come as little surprise that he has opened the season with a 1.052 OPS. But after hitting a home run every 27 ABs entering the season, Wallace has hit eight of them in 73 ABs in 2010, including six over the last two weeks. The Jays do have a tandem of Bautista and Encarnacion currently holding down third base in Toronto, but it shouldn’t be too terribly long before Wallace gets his shot. What we are still trying to figure out is why the Cardinals and Athletics were so willing to let him go?

6) Oscar Tejeda, 2B, BOS –

Comebacks after disappointing 2009 seasons seem to be the order of the day with the Hot list this week, and Tejeda fits right in, after a .643 SAL performance left him disappearing from prospect lists around the country this past off-season, including ours where he went from #16 after the 2008 season to #33 after 2009. But a switch to secondbase and an improved contact rate is making all the difference for Tejeda in 2010. Entering the season, it had taken over 500 ABs for Tejeda to hit five home runs. So far this year, he has five in his first 72 ABs. Over the last two weeks he has gone .364/.364/.691. Tejeda’s over aggressive plate approach is certain to lead to prolonged slumps as the year goes on, but remember that the Red Sox paid over $500,000 to sign him in 2006, and expected big things from him. Now just 20yo and playing in Hi-A, just maybe things are starting to click.

7) Japhet Amador, 1B, Diablos-MEX

Amador is a name you likely won’t find anywhere else, but we have been watching Amador closely for two seasons now, as he was the Mexican League’s first draft pick in 2008 and the League’s Rookie of the Year in 2009. The Mexican League, in overall quality, is someplace between the U.S. AA and AAA Leagues. This season, the 23yo is clearly the best offensive player in the League, as he currently leads the League in doubles; ranks second in the League in HRs, RBIs, SLG and OBP; and 3rd in AVG. No Major League team currently holds his rights, but much like the Padres’ pitcher, Juan Oramas, who we have been touting for just as long, he is worth giving an opportunity to. Over the last two weeks, Amador has posted a .400/.500/.767 line.

8) Gerald Sands, OF, LAD –

The Dodgers selected Sands out of a small Division II school in 2008. In his first two seasons, he has posted strong numbers (.934 OPS), but has always been old for his league. We truly had hoped the Dodgers were going to challenge him in 2010 with a Hi-A assignment after he posted an .871 OPS at Lo-A in 2009, but with Austin Gallagher at 1B and Mattingly and Russell set to man the OF corners, they instead returned the 22yo Great Lakes. Midwest League (MWL) pitchers have clearly been no match for Sands, as he has a .410 OPS in 75 PAs and has posted a .429/.478/1.000 over the last two weeks--the best numbers in the Minors. While we find the defensively challenged Sands an intriguing prospect, we will have no idea as to his upside until he plays against more appropriate competition.

9) Ryan Lavarnway, C, BOS –

It has been fairly widely accepted that the Red Sox are going to need a backstop answer sometime over the next couple of seasons, as Jason Varitek is nearing the end of his career and Victor Martinez isn’t likely to be able to stay there much longer. They are concerned enough about it to have recently signed Adalberto Ibarra to a $4.3MM Major League deal, and aren’t especially high on Federowicz, Exposito, Wagner or Brown that entered the season in front of Lavarnway. He lacks movement behind the plate, and is therefore a serious candidate to move to an outfield position, but Lavarnway is showing that his bat may play elsewhere. Over the last two weeks Lavarnway has posted a .370/.414/.741, and is showing an improved approach to strike zone management.

10) Bo Greenwell, OF, CLE –

While many thought that the Indians drafted Greenwell in the sixth round of the 2007 draft in large part because his father was long-time Red Sox OF Mike Greenwell, the truth lies in the fact that they thought they were getting a gifted athletic talent that had flown under the radar because his best sport in high school was football. Tremendously athletic, it is his hard-nosed approach that endears Greenwell to us. After three non-descript seasons, Greenwell has started to put everything together, hitting .388/.434/.694 over the last two weeks and now has a 1.099OPS on the season. He has always had excellent plate discipline skills, but now has shown signs of added power, as his three HRs this year in the MWL are more than his entire 2009 total. Greenwell has the potential to be one of the fastest movers in the Indians system in 2010.


1) Mycal Jones, SS, ATL –

Jones was a favored prospect this off-season, as he was a 4th round JuCo draftee by the Braves last year—an organization with limited talent at the shortstop position. We weren’t as high on him, as he is the typical ‘toolsy’, unproven talent that often cause us pause. He is off to an inauspicious beginning. A 23yo at Lo-A with a .310 OPS isn’t a good thing. Over the last two weeks, Jones has managed a meager .091/.111/.091, with no XBHs and a 1:17 BB:K ratio.

2) Drew Stubbs, CF, CIN –

Despite years of lofty prospect rankings, Stubbs has never made any of our Top 100 rankings list. The reason is that we have never been convinced that he will actually hit enough to be a productive Major Leaguer. Through 240 MLB ABs we have seen little to change our mind. Stubbs is struggling so far this season, and has managed a .097/.222/.097, with no XBHs, over the last two weeks. At 25yo, we aren’t expecting huge improvements and don’t really expect him to ever be even an average hitter.

3) Beau Mills, 1B, CLE –

As a first round pick, son of an ex-Major Leaguer, and extremely productive small college career, Mills entered professional ball with lofty expectations. While he has posted solid numbers since the Indians drafted him #13 in 2007, he has done little to distinguish himself in an organization that is loaded with 1B/DH types. Mills spent the entire 2009 season in the Eastern League (ESL), yet the Indians chose to return the 23yo to Akron to begin this season. It isn’t working out so far, as Mills has posted a .118/.151/.196 line over the last two weeks.

4) Jefry Marte, 3B, NYM –

Marte spent a number of weeks on the Not list last season, and returns here to open up 2010. This is a player that is still just 19yo, and one that has plenty of raw tools and upside, so there is no reason to panic, but a .111/.172/.148 over the last two weeks and a .374 OPS on the year aren’t positive signs.

5) Ty Morrison, OF, TBR –

Primarily due to a $500,000 signing bonus that Morrison received as a 4th round pick in 2008, plenty of people have been high on his long-term outlook. His ‘toolsy’, defensively-deficient, low baseball IQ, approach, has made us more weary than most. Morrison isn’t making anyone look good with his .147/.147/.206 line over the last two weeks. The biggest red flags for us are his continued strikeout rates around 25% and the fact that he has but a single base on balls in 52 ABs on the season. While still only a 19yo, his plate management challenges are going to hinder his advancement.