‘Round the Minors – 4.27.06
Posted by Jason A. Churchill on April 26, 2006
Taking a look around the minors at the top prospects in the game, there have been some very interesting results thus far.
A few can't-miss talents have struggled some, while others are doing their thing.
The top prospect in the game is Tampa Bay's Delmon Young (right), a five-tooler who has no weaknesses.
Young, 20, is slugging just .397 after posting a .531 SLG his first three seasons as a pro. He's yet to homer, and get this… Young threw his bat at an umpire on Wednesday after he was ejected for arguing a called strike three. He tossed the bat at the mid-section of the umpire as he barked at him. He's certain to be suspended for awhile for this – and it will delay his route to the majors.
Diamondbacks shortstop prospect Stephen Drew, a consensus Top 10 prospect, is tearing the cover off the ball in the PCL. He is aided by a sever hitter's park in Tucson, but his .325/.368/.600 line is still mighty impressive.
Drew, a left-handed hitter, is the D-backs shortstop of the future after the club moved last June's top overall pick Justin Upton to center field before he ever played a pro game.
Drew will see time in the bigs this season, and it could be very soon. He's very polished and can do everything. His six homers and 16 RBI lead the Sidewinders.
Speaking of Upton, he made his pro debut last week against the M's Midwest League affiliate in Wisconsin. He went 2-for-14 for South Bend but has three hits in his last four at-bats and has three steals. He's expected to move quickly, depending on his transition to center field, though he does have some experience playing the outfield.
He's hitting .278/381/.333 in his first five games.
LA Angels second base prospect Howie Kendrick entered this season with a career .359 average over four seasons. Well, apparently he wasn't satisfied with that and went out and hit .386 in his first three week in Triple-A. The Angels called up Kendrick Tuesday and he went 0-for-4 in his first start on Wednesday.
He'll probably never see the minors again, barring injury or a long struggle – but I wouldn't bet on that. Who wants Adam Kennedy? Anyone?
And Kendrick wasn't just hitting for average down in Salt Lake. At the time of his call-up, he was slugging .586.
Staying with the Halos, 1B/DH Kendry Morales and SS Erick Aybar are having seasons on the opposite ends of the spectrum. Morales is slugging just .378 and has a 13-1 K/BB ratio to boot. He's a man without a position so his bat is all he has.
Aybar is hitting .346/.393/.500 with 19 RBI and six steals while playing solid defense. He's a tremendous athlete whose baseball skills are endless. I like Aybar more than Kendrick because he brings plus speed and plus defense to a premium position. Kendrick isn't going to swipe many bases and is an average defender.
LAA's best pitching prospect Jered Weaver has had a solid start to his season, going 2-1 with a 3.91 ERA and 26 Ks in 23 innings. He's walked just four batters and has displayed much better stuff than he did a year ago. If Bartolo Colon is out for extended period of time, the 6-foot-7 Weaver is ready to help.
The Dodgers are another loaded farm system and it all starts with RHP Chad Billingsley (left) who is sporting a 2.21 ERA in the PCL, despite his home stadium being a big time hitter's park. Billingsley, 21, has allowed 15 hits in 20 1/3 innings and struck out 25 batters. He's the best pitching prospect in the minors and is less than a year from helping the Dodgers.
Russell Martin, perhaps the best catching prospect in the game and a teammate of Billingsley's, is hitting .296/.409/.426 with an impressive 11-7 K/BB ratio. He has moderate power potential but with catchers offense is the last thing to develop since the emphasis is greatly on their defense.
Martin will be the Dodgers backstop in 2007.
LAD's best offensive prospect is Joel Guzman, who's playing both first base and left field. The former shortstop outgrew his natural shortstop position and at 6-4 and 240 pounds, has all the raw power of a 40-homer type.
He's hitting .325/.345/.538 with four home runs, but has a terrible 21-2 K/BB ratio to clean up a bit. He's still a year from becoming a regular at Chavez Ravine, but he draws a lot of comparisons to Juan Gonzalez.
Braves catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia started off slowly but has picked it up of late. The soon-to-be first baseman is hitting .500 over his past five games and is at .258/.370/.484 with three homers for the year.
With the presence of Brian McCann, a superior defender, Atlanta is likely to slide Saltalamacchia to first base to keep his switch-hitting bat in the lineup everyday, both as he develops and after he is promoted to the bigs.
There are two blue-chip third baseman in the minors, both currently playing in Double-A Texas League. Alex Gordon (right) was the Royals' top pick last year, the second overall selection, and is lighting it up in Wichita. Gordon, 22, is hitting .321/.386/.577 with eight doubles and four home runs. He's even stolen five bases, but he does have 18 ks to just eight walks.
As soon as the left-handed hitter cleans that up a bit, he'll head off to the big leagues, and he may skip right over Triple-A Omaha. KC's current third baseman Mark Teahen is not a road block for Gordon.
Perhaps a better overall player is Rockies' third baseman Ian Stewart. Stewart, 21, is hitting .300/.374/.563 with 15 extra-base hits including 11 doubles, two triples and two bombs.
Most scouts see Stewart, also a lefty bat, as a 40+ homer guy at Coors Field with the ability to hit .290+ and play good defense at third.
His Tulsa Drillers teammate is shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, whom the Mariners were 12 hours from selecting with their third pick in last June's draft.
T2, 21, is also swinging the bat well, hitting .313/.384/.484 with 10 extra-base hits. He's homerless, however, and from what I have seen of him personally, he's likely to outgrow the shortstop position.
For now, he can certainly play there and is very good defensively. I think after three to five years in the majors, Tulowitzki moves to right field, since third base will be occupied by Stewart.
And a prospect update without mentioning Brandon Wood would make zero sense. Wood hit 58 home runs last season between Rancho Cucamonga and the Arizona Fall League and is slugging .619 in the Texas League right now. His six homers are among the league leaders, but he leads the circuit in strikeouts as well. His 31-8 K/BB ratio is one reason to let him develop in Class AA all season.
He's still playing shortstop but is certain to move to third and become part of the best young infield in the game with Casey Kotchman, Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick, with Jeff Mathis catching.
That doesn't even include Dallas McPherson, who is likely to make the switch to the outfield if he isn't traded.
The Angels are stacked.
Photo Credits –
Delmon Young – Getty Images
Chad Billingsley – Los Angeles Dodgers
Alex Gordon – Wichita Wranglers
Brandon Wood – Arkansas Travlers