Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hots ‘n’ Nots – The Pitchers

Money is the only reason Strasburg is still in the Minors

If I had the time, I would do the math on this equation, because I can tell you that it feels like a bad idea. Start with the premise that after last night’s six inning, no-hit, performance that gives Strasburg 12 AAA innings with but one hit and two walks allowed—while fanning 13, there really is little left to prove for Strasburg in the Minors. The excuse that the Nationals used to not move him into their Big League rotation at the start of the season was they wanted him to get more experience with runners on base. In case Mike Rizzo hasn’t noticed, you can’t get experience with runners on base if there isn’t anyone on base. In fact Strasburg hasn’t allowed the first batter to reach in any of his 34 Minor League innings. So let’s be transparent in what this is—namely an orchestrated attempt to gain another year of service before Strasburg becomes arbitration eligible. From an organizational standpoint, this is a valid concern. But the Nationals have already stated that they are limiting Strasburg to 150 innings this season. With 34 of them already under his belt, this means Strasburg is likely to make approximately 19 more starts this season. The conventional wisdom is that Strasburg is now slated to make his Major League debut either June 4th in Houston or Home on June 5th. This means he will be wasting three of those starts, proving nothing in AAA. If Strasburg was promoted now, this would not only assure the Nationals of at least one additional home gate buoyed by the appearance of baseball’s ‘phenom’, it would give them 3 more Strasburg starts and three less by Luis Atilano or Craig Stammen. If you combined this with the addition of Drew Storen to the Nationals’ pen we could be talking about at least another victory or two, maybe more, for the Nationals this season. And just in case you haven’t been paying attention, the Nationals are only 1.5 games back in the NL East and are presently tied for the Wild Card spot. How much is one additional Strasburg gate receipt and a potential of a couple of playoff games worth? As I said, I haven’t done the math, but I have to believe it may be worth more than the money that they are hoping to save by eliminating any possibility of Strasburg to become a Super Two. In any case, in a relative no-brainer, Strasburg tops this week’s list.

Hot Pitchers

1) Stephen Strasburg, RHP, WSN

Not sure what more we can say here. He has been everything that was advertised and that alone has to be considered tremendously impressive as the hype was unreal. Over his last three starts he has posted a 1.62 ERA, a 0.720 WHIP and a 17:5 K:BB ratio. On the year he has a 40:8 K:BB ratio and only 22 batters have reached base in 34 innings. Remarkable!

2) Julio Teheran, LHP, ATL

Falling a spot to #2 this week, Teheran continues to be the fastest rising pitching prospect in the Minors. With Teheran, Vizcaino, Delgado and Minor, the Braves rotation could be deadly in a couple of seasons. Over his last three starts, the 19yo Teheran has posted a 1.37 ERA, a 0.814 WHIP and a 23:2 K:BB ratio. On the year he has a 1.14 ERA and 45 Ks in 39 IPs.

3) Kyle Gibson, RHP, MIN

While Gibson’s 1.25 ERA, 0.831 WHIP and 18:6 K:BB ratio over his last three starts is impressive, he has become a groundball machine, and has an almost unheard of 3.67 Ground Out/Fly Out ratio. Look for him to move to AA any day now, and be a serious contender for a rotation spot to open the 2011 season.

4) Chris Tillman, RHP, BAL

After posting a 1.29 ERA, a 0.762 WHIP and a 19:4 K:BB ratio over his last three starts, Tillman looks ready to make the jump to the Major Leagues. Both Brad Bergesen and David Hernandez have struggled of late, and either could be a candidate (although we prefer Hernadez’s upside) to be replaced by Tillman within the next couple of weeks.

5) Mike Leake, RHP, CIN

Leake is showing that quality pitching is quality pitching regardless of whether it is in college or the pros, as he has used the same formula that provided him with tremendous collegiate success to easily transition to the Major Leagues. Leake flirted with a no-hitter through six innings against the Cubs last Sunday, and has a 2.25 ERA, 0.850 WHIP with a 15:4 K:BB ratio over his last three Big League starts and now has a 3-0 Big League record. With Chapman struggling with control issues in AAA, Leake has been a welcome addition to the Reds’ rotation.

6) Jhoulys Chacin, RHP, COL

Through three Major League appearances this year Chacin has yet to allow a run. Only 22yo, opposing Major League hitters are batting a paltry .132 against him and he has fanned 16 batters in 15 innings pitched. Jimenez and Chacin could shortly give the Rockies their most potent 1-2 rotation punch in the Franchise’s history.

7) Liam Hendriks, RHP, MIN

Signed out of Australia in 2007, Hendriks made an impressive Gulf Coast League (GCL) debut before losing the 2008 season to injury. He had a solid comeback in 2009, but nothing overly exciting. Therefore, when Hendriks opened the year by ripping through Midwest League (MWL) hitters, as a 21yo, we approached things cautiously. But after last night’s Florida State League (FSL) debut where he tossed 7 innings, allowing 1 run on three hits while fanning 8, we can comfortably tell you to put Hendriks on your radar. Hendriks has a 1.32 ERA and opposing batters are hitting .136 against him on the year.

8) Bryan Morris, RHP, PIT

Morris is trying to put a career of injury-filled seasons behind him with his 2010 performance. While a tad old, at 23yo, for the Florida State League (FSL), Morris has been nothing short of spectacular, as he has now strung together 27 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run. On the year he has a 0.66 ERA, a 0.959 WHIP and a 36:5 K:BB ratio. It is time for bigger challenges here.

9) Alejandro Sanabia, RHP, FLA

Sanabia was a 32nd round pick in the 2006 draft, and until the FSL in 2009, he had done little to distinguish himself. But that isn’t due to a lack of upside, because the 21yo has a low 90s fastball, and an at least average breaking ball. Enter the season, he seemed to be a quality change away from becoming a successful mid-rotation candidate. 2010 is beginning to look like that breakout year. As through 7 starts, Southern League (SOL) hitters are batting a mere .182 against him. Over his last three starts, Sanabia has posted a 2.37 ERA, a 0.842 WHIP, with a 16:4 K:BB ratio.

10) Andrew Cashner, RHP, CHN

While most teams viewed Cashner as a reliever when he was drafted in 2008, the Cubs have held firm in their belief of him as a starter. A few adjustments this spring has led to great results on the season where Cashner had 2.75 ERA and 42 Ks in 36 AA innings before last night’s AAA debut. Cashner was outstanding, going six innings while allowing one run, five hits and a walk, while fanning six. Look for Cashner to join the Cubs rotation once they tire of Carlos Siva.

The Nots

1) David Bromberg, RHP, MIN

Bromberg had a solid first three starts of the 2010 season, but his last three haven’t been as good…especially his last outing. Over the last two weeks, Bromberg has a 6.75 ERA, a 2.591 WHIP, with only 6 strikeouts in 15 innings of work. This from a pitcher who has fanned better than a batter per inning over his career. While we have never been tremendously high on his upside, we are concerned about the drop in strikeout rate.

2) Jeremy Hefner, RHP, SDP

Hefner is another player that we have never been tremendously high on his upside, and another player that has had a rough few starts after a good beginning to the season. Over the last two weeks Heffner has posted a 7.07 ERA, a 1.929 WHIP and has a 6:7 K:BB ratio. At 24yo, Hefner needs to take a big step forward this season or risk prospect obscurity.

3) Ethan Martin, RHP, LAD

Martin has continued to flash tremendous skills, but hasn’t been able to consistently display them for any length of time since being the first prep pitcher drafted in 2008. At only 21yo, and facing the hostile to pitchers California League this season, Martin has struggled more often than not, posting a 12.34 ERA, a 2.657 WHIP, with a 11:12 K:BB ratio over his last three starts. His ERA stands at 6.41 ERA and he has walked 17 batters in 27 innings on the year. The good news is that he has fanned 31. No need to press the panic button yet, but we expect more.

4) Zach Stewart, RHP, TOR

Stewart is one of those players that we have never been as high on as some have, predominantly because we don’t see a path that ever adds up to him as a successful starter in the Big Leagues. That said, Stewart’s 2010 season has been even worse than we would have imagined, as he has a posted a 9.00 ERA. A 2.083 WHIP and a 6:9 K:BB ratio over his last three starts. This leaves him with a 6.84 ERA on the year, and 18:14 K:BB ratio. If we are running the Jays, we are getting Stewart ready for a future bullpen role.

5) Aneury Rodriguez, RHP, TBR

Rodriguez becomes the first player of the season to appear on both the ‘Hot’ and the ‘Not’ list, as he has cooled off considerably from his torrid start. Over his last three starts, Rodriguez has posted a 7.27 ERA, a 2.769 WHIP and has walked eight batters. Plenty of tools here, but still a struggle to find consistency, as he appears to be over-throwing.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hots ‘n’ Nots – The Hitters

Why is Stanton still in AA?

While Mike Stanton continues to tear through the Southern League (1.353 OPS on the year), the real question is rapidly becoming “Why aren’t the Marlins promoting him to AAA?” The obvious answer that jumps out, is his 24% strikeout rate on the season. The problem with that logic though is that Stanton has been so dominant that he is now being pitched around in the lineup and truly isn’t getting a chance to make the necessary adjustments at this level. Surely he would benefit more from the tougher challenge that he would face in AAA. With Jason Lane and Scott Cousins the most likely victims of reduced playing time that would come with a promotion, it’s not like the Marlins would be harming someone else’s development path. Worse yet, Stanton just keeps getting better. While he has a 1.353 OPS on the season, over the last three weeks, his OPS has been 1.638. More importantly, he has fanned in just 22% of his PAs over that stretch. While Stanton keeps making a mockery of the ‘Hot’ list, the baseball world waits to see the 20yo be truly challenged.
HOT Hitters

1) Mike Stanton, RF, FLA -

We understand it’s getting boring finding Stanton’s name at the top each week, but he has done little to deserve being dethroned. The last two weeks have seen Stanton go .381/.519/.952 and watched him walk in just about every 4th Plate Appearance. During that stretch he has belted six home runs, and continues to lead professional baseball in that category.

2) Jason Heyward, OF, ATL –

We typically head the list with someone playing in the Minor Leagues or Heyward just might Boldhave put an end to Stanton’s reign at the top of this list. The Braves are getting everything that was expected from Heyward—and more. Over the last two weeks, Heyward has been the Braves’ best offensive player, batting .462/.563/.962 and now has a 1.035 OPS on the year. It is hard to believe that he is just 20yo.

3) Mike Trout, CF, LAA -

Teams often worry about sending premium high school draft picks from the previous June to the MWL to open up the season, because the miserable weather and pitcher’s paradise that dominates the League can take its toll. After watching Trout’s 2009 GCL debut, the Angels felt confident that the 18yo was up to the challenge. How right they were, as perhaps no prospect in baseball has vaulted up the prospect rankings as much as Trout has so far this year. Through 150 PA’s, Trout has posted a .993 OPS and is tied for the Minor League lead in Stolen Bases with 19. Over the last two weeks, he has posted a .377/.433/.705 line, picking up 8 of those SBs. This is one of the best ‘true 5-tool talents’ in the Minor Leagues today and certainly looks to be the Angels’ future Center Fielder. If we were redoing our Top Prospect list today, he would find himself in the Top 10.

4) Mike Moustakas, 3B, KCR –

Moustakas is successfully putting his disappointing 2009 season in the long forgotten past, as he has posted a .389/.459/.685 over the last two weeks. On the year his OPS is up to 1.211 and he is only 21yo playing in the Texas League (TXL). While we aren’t as convinced as the Royals seem to be that he is their future third baseman, we solidly believe that his bat should play just about anywhere.

5) Buster Posey, C, SFG –
Things regarding Posey became less clear this weekend after receiving a 'vote of confidence' from the brains that run the Giants, Brian Sabean. You know the one that let us know that despite being one of the top two offensive players in the Giants’ system—at any level, Posey’s defense, behind the plate, just ‘isn’t Major League ready.’ Perhaps if I would have foolishly resigned Benji Molina in the off season, I would say the same thing. Fortunately for me I didn’t, so I can let you know that Posey’s .333/.448/.688 line over the last two weeks and .994 OPS on the year, rate with just about anyone in the PCL, and his bat will play at any position. I can also point out that what Posey lacks defensively, will be acquired much more rapidly catching the Gianst pitching staff rather than Fresno’s…and that $4.5MM that went to Molina would sure look a lot better if it had gone to someone who could man an Outfield corner position right now.

6) Dominic Brown, OF, PHI -

The 22yo Brown continues to sizzle in the Eastern League (ESL), going .340/.421/.740 over the last two weeks. His season OPS now stands at 1.088, yet we remain slower than most to truly embrace Brown as an elite prospect. We still worry about that 24% strikeout rate, and see him more in the above average, rather than superstar, mold, but there is no denying that he is one of the more exciting players to watch in the Minor Leagues.

7) Miguel Velazquez, OF, TEX –

If you haven’t figured it out yet, Velazquez has joined the ranks of premium position player prospects. After getting his career back on track in the Northwest League (NWL) in 2009, Velazquez has opened up 2010 by posting a .996 OPS in the SAL. Over the last two weeks he has posted a 408/.482/.735 line with a 7:4 BB:K ratio. He is presently playing Center, but looks to be a right fielder in the long run. Velazquez provides it all from a ‘tools’ perspective, and should move rapidly this season—perhaps all the way up to AA. His solid strike zone management skills should play well as he moves up. Expect the Rangers to move him to the California (CAL) League in the very near future.

8) Andrew Cumberland, SS, SDP –

Cumberland has flown under the radar screen since the Padres made him a supplemental pick in the 2007 draft. His numbers have been solid, but he really took a step up in the second half of last year. Over the last two weeks Cumberland has posted a .431/.463/.608, giving him a .991 OPS on the year. With plus speed and excellent strike zone management skills, Cumberland is rapidly becoming one of the Minors’ best shortstop prospects.

9) Juan Francisco, 3B, CIN –

Francisco made the Reds roster out of Spring, but played little and gave them little reason to keep him on the Major League bench, so they sent him to AAA after two weeks. Francisco didn’t handle the demotion well and struggled mightily until just about ten days ago. He has been the Minor League’s hottest hitter since then and has gone .375/.412/.708 over the last two weeks. While his OPS is only at .798 on the year, the 22yo is making significant improvements in his strikeout ratio, fanning only five times in his last 50 ABs.

10) Devin Mesoraco, C, CIN -
We have derided the Reds selection of Mesoraco in the first round of the 2007 draft as hard as anyone. We just don’t see a baseball body or a baseball bat. Mesoraco has proven us right thus far in his career, but looks to be turning things around in a big way in 2010. Over the last two weeks Mesoraco has posted a .396/.491/.708 line and now has a 1.098 OPS in the Carolina League (CAR) on the year. Just 22yo, while he isn’t making us believe our original assessment was wrong, he is breathing life into a career that appeared to be on life support heading into the season.


1) Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B, CLE

While we remain big believers in BoldChisenhall, we must admit that his first 200 ESL At Bats have given us reason to pause. The last two weeks have been extremely difficult as Chisenhall has posted a .105/.128/.132, with only 1 walk in his last 40 PAs. For the season his OPS stands at a meager .641. Still only 21yo, we have every reason to believe he will turn this around.

2) Steve Baron, C, SEA

If the early struggles of #2 overall pick Dustin Ackley weren’t bad enough, the Mariners grabbed Baron as the first pick in the supplemental round. So far on the season Baron is off to a horrendous .447 OPS, with a .088/.114/.088 over the last week. Making matters worse is his 26% strikeout rate. Baron can’t wait for the short season leagues to begin, because he is clearly in over his head in the MWL.

3) Mike Carp, 1B, SEA

Carp has put up inconsistent performances at other times in his career, the last of which came in the ESL in 2007. However, after ripping through the PCL in 2009 and posting solid numbers in his brief MLB debut, no one could have foreseen his 2010 performance thus far. A .093/.170/.116 over the last two weeks leaves Carp with a .657 OPS on the year.

4) Dee Gordon, SS, LAD

In fairness, Gordon has had bright spots this season and he did skip a level in order to play in the more age appropriate Southern League (SOL). Nonetheless Gordon has managed only a .169/.210/.169 over the last two weeks and his OPS is down to .653 on the season. More disconcerting is 6 walks in 140 PAs. There is a lot of athleticism in this 22yo, but we remained concerned about his power void and poor plate discipline. We are more cautious than most on him.

5) Junior Lake, MI, CHN –

It is hard to believe that after the 2008 season people were as excited about Lake as they were Starlin Castro. Now Castro is starting in the Majors, and Lake has a .422 OPS in the Florida State League (FSL). Over the last two weeks Lake has posted a .125/.186/.125 with a 3:13 BB:K ratio. Only 20yo, Lake has plenty of time to turn things around.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Hots ‘n’ Nots – The Pitchers

Teheran is quickly becoming one of the Minor’s best hurlers

We often caution against getting too excited about 16yo Latin American signings, as the gap between present and potential is often substantial. Pitchers are an especially dicey proposition, as one has to look no further than Michael Ynoa to see the inherent risks. While we at Diamond Futures have always been a big fan of the Braves’ Julio Teheran, he too has had his developmental concerns that have made us somewhat weary. Well, no longer. As the 19yo is presently carving up the South Atlantic League (SAL), we feel it is time to remove that protective veil, and dub Teheran as one of the most exciting pitching prospects in the Minor Leagues. Not only does he have a significant low-90s fastball with exceptional, easy, movement, his breaking ball is quickly gaining notoriety as one of the game’s best. He’ll still need to improve his change in order to fulfill his potential, but he’s on the fast track to becoming a true front of the rotation star. For that, Julio Teheran heads this week’s Hot Pitcher list.

Hot Pitchers

1) Julio Teheran, LHP, ATL

Building off of a solid 2009 effort in the Appalachian League (APY), Teheran has picked things up a notch this year. Over his last three starts he has posted a 0.49 ERA, a 0.818 WHIP and a 25:5 K:BB ratio, giving him 40 Ks in 33 innings on the year. Teheran is on the verge of becoming one of the top 5 pitching prospects in the Minor Leagues.

2) Rudy Owens, LHP, PIT

While not possessing an upside of anything more than a mid-rotation starter, Owens had a breakout 2009, and has been even better so far this season, where the 22yo has posted a 2.83 ERA in the Eastern League (ESL). Over his last three starts, Owens has a 1.50 ERA, a 0.722 WHIP, and an 18:3 K:BB ratio. He is looking more and more like a legitimate prospect with every start.

3) Michael Kirkman, LHP, TEX

Kirkman has had a bit of an up and down career since being selected in the 5th round of the 2005 draft. He put together a solid 2009 campaign, but has been somewhat overshadowed in the very deep and talented Texas farm system. Kirkman doesn’t dominate, but consistently fills up the strikezone and has the potential to be a middle of the rotation innings eater at the Big League level. Only 23yo, Kirkman has not been scored upon in his last 20 innings, while posting a 0.864 WHIP with a 21:9 K:BB ratio, leaving him with 1.82 ERA against the Pacific Coast League (PCL) this season.

4) Ian Krol, LHP, OAK

Had it not been for an unfortunate disciplinary incident prior to his senior season in high school that led to his dismissal from the team, Krol would have likely been a Top 40 pick in last June’s draft. Instead he fell to the A’s in the seventh round where they paid him first round money to sign. Only 19yo and virtually pitching in his back yard for Kane County, Krol is looking better with every start. Over his last three outings he has posted a 0.52 ERA, a 0.750 WHIP and a 14:3 K:BB ratio. He isn’t overpowering, but looks to have the quality stuff of a #2/#3 starter.

5) Tyler Skaggs, LHP, LAA

For much of last Spring, Skaggs was fighting Tyler Matzek and Matt Purke for the mythical title of ‘best available prep lefty’. But as Matzek was separating himself from the other two, Skaggs rolled an ankle and put an early end to his season…which somewhat inexplicable led to him being available to the Angels at the end of the supplemental round. Skaggs is a premium talent and has gotten off to a solid Midwest League debut, with a 0.47 ERA through his first five appearances. Only 18yo, Skaggs has posted a 0.00 ERA, a 0.556 WHIP and a 7:1 K:BB ratio over his last three outings.

6) Kyle Gibson, RHP, MIN

Prior to a late season forearm injury that caused him to drop to the middle of the first round, we had Gibson as the top collegiate pitching prospect not named Strasburg, entering June’s draft. The Twins look to have a steal here, as Gibson looks healthy and has been everything that has been expected of him. He pitches with a low- to mid-90s fastball, tremendous mound poise, fills up the zone and is perhaps the best groundball inducer at any professional level, as averaged by his 3.87 Ground Out/Fly Out ratio on the year. Over his last three starts Gibson has a 1.35 ERA, a 0.850 WHIP and a 14:6 K:BB ratio. Look for him to be a significant part of the Twins rotation in 2011.

7) Jose Ramirez, NYY

As a skinny 19yo in the Gulf Coast League in 2009, Ramirez led the League with a .159 average against, using mainly his low-90s fastball. Now starting to fill out, Ramirez has his fastball to nearly a mid-90s offering and has vastly improved his secondary offerings. This has led to a 0.95 ERA, 0.789 WHIP and a 17:5 K:BB ratio over his last three starts, and a 1.84 ERA on the year. With the Yankees lacking any Major pitching prospects at the upper levels, Ramirez joins Manny Banuelos as two of the systems brightest arms.

8) Kelvin De La Cruz, LHP, CLE

De La Cruz looked to be on his way to establishing himself as a premium pitching prospect when an elbow injury took away most of his 2009 season. He has avoided injury, and looks to be picking up where he left off. After posting a 2.45 ERA, a 0.709 WHIP and a 17:4 K:BB ratio over his last three starts, De La Cruz has ERA to 2.91 on the year.

9) Ryan Berry, RHP, BAL

Many teams were scared off of Berry by a mid-season shoulder injury in 2009 and a history of Rice pitcher abuse. Not the Orioles, as they landed him in the 9th round, giving him third round money to sign. Berry has thus far rewarded them, with a 0.43 ERA, a 0.762 WHIP and a 25:4 K:BB ratio over his last three starts, and a 2.23 ERA on the year, against SAL hitters. At 21yo, and with major collegiate experience, it looks time to challenge Berry with a promotion to the Carolina (CAR) League.

10) Bryan Morris, RHP, PIT

Considered a key piece in the Jason Bay trade, Morris has battled injuries throughout his professional career and has yet to put together a full season comprised of the promise that he occasionally shows. While a tad old, at 23yo, for the Florida State League (FSL), 2010 looks like this might be the year, as a 20 straight scoreless innings, with a 0.700 WHIP and a 21:2 K:BB ratio over his last three starts have left him with a 0.78 ERA on the year.

The Nots

1) Jordan Walden, RHP, LAA

Once considered the top prospect in the Angels system, Walden battled injuries throughout the 2009 season and is battling ‘too easy to hit’ (.349 average against), as he has posted a 9.39 ERA through 9 appearances this year. The Angels have decided that Walden’s change isn’t likely to play in a starting role, and although he is still reaching the mid-90s with his fastball, Walden is staring at an almost certain bullpen role. Over his four appearances, Walden has posted a 11.70 ERA and a 3.00 WHIP. His star is fading rapidly.

2) David Huff, LHP, CLE

We cautioned against Huff as an Indian starter this spring, and he is apparently living down to our assessment, as his last three starts have yielded a 7.16 ERA, a 2.082 WHIP and a 7:9 K:BB ratio. At 25yo, he looks like a pitcher with little more than back of the rotation stuff, and the Indians have better options within their organization.

3) Tobi Stoner, RHP, NYM

While we have never been tremendously high on the Mets right-hander, he did put together a solid 2009 season that appeared to have him in line for a potential bullpen opportunity with the Big League club this spring. Things haven’t worked out well for the 25yo though, as he has been knocked around hard by International League hitters. Over his last three starts, Stoner has posted a 8.59 ERA, a 1.909 WHIP, and a 3:6 K:BB ratio.

4) Brody Colvin, RHP, PHI

Colvin was in consideration as a first round pick for much of last Spring, before the Phillies tabbed him in the 7th round and signed him to sandwich round money. While only 19yo, Colvin hasn’t exactly gotten off to a stellar start, as he has posted a 10.38 ERA with a 1.923 WHIP over his last three starts, leaving him with a 7.31 ERA on the year. It’s way too soon to panic, but this isn’t encouraging.

5) Joe Savery, LHP, PHI

Savery was the Phillies first round pick in 2007, and like many Rice pitchers, he came to them with a history of being overworked. Savery has regressed every year since being drafted, and now appears to be no better than back of the rotation or bullpen fodder at the Major League level. A 5.63 ERA, a 1.938 WHIP and a 8:9 K:BB ratio over his last three starts leaves him with a 5.57 ERA on the year, and an even more disturbing 1:1 K:BB ratio.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Hots ‘n’ Nots – The Hitters

Stanton is on one of the biggest power tears in years

Two columns into the season and Mike Stanton is making the Hot Hitters list a bit boring, as he is presently on one of the greatest power tears in recent memory. Not only do his 13 Home Runs on the season lead all of professional baseball, but over his last ten games, entering today’s play, he has nine home runs and a 1.424 SLG. While there are a lot of big prospect names on this week’s list, no one was close to Stanton for the top spot.

HOT Hitters

1) Mike Stanton, RF, FLA -

The Southern League (SOL) is posing absolutely zero challenge to Stanton, as he has posted a .377/.500/1.057 line over the last two weeks, is hitting a home run approximately every 5 ABs, and is being pitched around so much that he is being walked every 5 PAs. While that 23% strikeout rate is still not a good thing, we think he’ll need to work on it in AAA, because this just isn’t a competition for him right now.

2) Mike Moustakas, 3B, KCR

Moustakas made a delayed start to the 2010 season because of nagging injuries, but he has wasted little time playing catch up. A .408/.473/.898 line over the last two weeks leaves him with a 1.408 OPS on the year, and makes his disappointing 2009 season look like a long forgotten past. The Royals are so convinced that he is their third baseman of the future that they sent Alex Gordon down to AAA to begin to learn to play Left Field. Only 21yo, we don’t expect him to make a Big League debut before September, but he is positioning himself to become the Royals’ everyday Third Baseman to open 2011.

3) Aaron Hicks, CF, MIN

It’s hard to believe that Hicks started the season by going 1 for 31. He’s been scorching ever since, and has posted a .447/.574/.660 over the last two weeks, which has brought his OPS up to .897 on the year. We still find it a bit disconcerting that the Twins returned him to the Midwest League (MWL) to open up 2010, but he should be showing his wares in the Florida State League (FSL) by month’s end.

4) Matt Davidson, 3B/1B, ARZ

Davidson was a key piece to the Diamondback’s 2009 draft class that is shaping up to be one of the better ones in recent memory with the likes of Bobby Borchering, Marc Krauss, A.J. Pollock, Ryan Wheeler, Chris Owing, Paul Goldschmidt and Mike Belfiore. Davidson is splitting time at 3B with Borchering in the MWL to open the year, but is likely to eventually move off the position. Wherever he ends up defensively, it looks like his bat is going to play, as he has posted a .444/.444/.796 over the last two weeks and is sporting a .992 OPS on the year.

5) Freddie Freeman, 1B, ATL

We had Freeman ranked at #31 in our Top 500 list, a bit higher ranking than most. What we wonder now is what it is going to take to get Freeman mentioned in the same breath as some of the more elite prospects in the Minors, as all he does is impress. Only 20yo, with a solid glove and playing in AAA, Freeman has posted a .373/.458/.745 over the last two weeks and now has an .843 OPS on the year. The knock on him has always been his lack of power, but not only does he have four home runs in 98 ABs, he is carrying a .500 SLG. Doubters are making a huge mistake.

6) Austin Romine, C, NYY

While Jesus Montero may get all of the press, ‘inside baseball’ has already accepted that Romine is the most likely candidate to replace Posada when he hangs it up in another year or two. Only 21yo, Romine is dominating Eastern League (ESL) pitchers to the tune of .413/.491/.783 over the last two weeks, and is now sporting a .997 OPS on the year.

7) Dominic Brown, OF, PHI -

While we remain slower than most to truly embrace Brown as an elite prospect, he continues to turn heads with tremendous athleticism, going .375/.474/.844 over the last two weeks. Brown now has a 1.052 OPS on the year, and appears to be on track to make his big league debut this fall. We still worry about that 24% strikeout rate, and see him more in the above average, rather than superstar, mold, but there is no denying that he is one of the more exciting players to watch in the Minor Leagues.

8) 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. Amador is presently about as hot as Stanton, going .452/.553/1.032 over the last two weeks, but is also nearly three years his senior. Nonetheless, we continue to ask the question as to why no MLB team has signed him?

9) Brandon Belt, 1B, SFG

The Giants signed the University of Texas product and Lone Star state native last June for $200,000 after drafting him in the 5th round. While scouts knock his mechanics, so far all that Belt has done this season is mash, as he has posted a .378/.531/.676 line over the last two weeks, and has a 1.184 OPS on the year. We love his 17:8 BB:K ratio and can’t wait to see him after the 22yo moves up to face ESL pitchers.

10) Miguel Velazquez, OF, TEX

Velazquez was one of the better Puerto Rican players to ever be available to the draft entering the spring of 2006, but when he was implicated in a shooting incident, his stock fell and the Rangers, who scout Latin America as well as anyone, were able to select him in the 19th round. While he had an impressive 2007 debut, more troubles with the law, caused him to miss the entire 2008 season. Last summer, Velazquez appeared to get the ship righted, and he posted the #4 Performance Score in the Northwest League. He hasn’t let up this season, as he has drawn rave reviews from the scouting community, while posting a .354/.456/.729 over the last two weeks and a .963 OPS on the year. At 22yo, he is a bit old for the MWL, but because of his disruptions to his development, he remains rather raw. He could take a huge jump this season, and it wouldn’t surprise us to see him in the California League (CAL) before the month is out.


1) Kevin Ahrens, 3B, TOR

It is sometimes difficult to remember that Ahrens was considered the best prep hitter in the state of Texas when the Blue Jays made him the 16th overall pick in the 2007 draft. It hasn’t turned out that way as Ahrens has struggled at the plate ever since. It is difficult to decide when to give up on players that possess as much raw talent as Ahrens does, but after making his 2010 debut he has posted a .095/.208/.095 with no XBHs. With over 1000 professional ABs under his belt, it is difficult to see a way that he turns this around.

2) Miguel Rojas, SS, CIN

It is his remarkable glove that has garnered Rojas accolades as a prospect, so it comes as little surprise that he is struggling with the bat. However, after posting a .665 OPS in 2009, he has followed that up with a .521 OPS beginning to the 2010 season. Over the last two weeks, Rojas has posted a .136/.156/.159. While his glove is spectacular, there is a minimum performance level with the bat to get one to the Major Leagues. It is looking doubtful that Rojas possesses it.

3) Matt LaPorta, 1B, CLE

Considered a key piece to their rebuilding effort, the Indians were counting on LaPorta heavily this season. Over the last two weeks, he has posted a .167/.242/.167, dropping his OPS to .484 on the year. At 25yo, he should be showing more if he is ever going to be considered a key piece to anything.

4) Robert Stock, C, STL

Stock has been on the prospect radar screen since he was designated Baseball America’s Youth player of the year in 2005. He entered college early to allow him to get a degree and still be young enough to develop professionally. However college didn’t go as planned, and most thought that he would be drafted as a reliever last June when the Cardinals surprised everyone by taking him in the second round--as a catcher. It looked to be a move of brilliance when Stock posted a .936 OPS in the Appalachian League last summer. However, full season ball has not been so kind to Stock, and in 76 MWL ABs, he has now posted a sub-.500 OPS. Over the last two weeks, things have been worse, and Stock has posted a .125/.222/.156 with 11 Ks in 32 ABs. Still just 20yo, Stock has plenty of time to right the ship, but Cardinal fans have to be disappointed by the early goings.

5) Daryl Jones, OF, STL

After a breakout 2008 campaign, where Jones posted a .909 OPS in 124 Texas League (TXL) ABs, things have been pretty much downhill for Jones. A series of injuries were blamed for his disappointing 2009 season where he posted a .738 OPS in the same TXL. Now back in the TXL for a third go-round, things are getting worse, as a .150/.244/.175 line over the last two weeks, leaves Jones with a .601 OPS on the season. What’s perhaps more disturbing is that speed played such an integral role in his prospect status, and he now has but 10 SBs in his last 373 ABs. Oh yeah…his strikeout rates have risen every season since 2008. It is panic time if you own stock in Jones.