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.

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