Thursday, May 21, 2009

Who's Hot and Who's Not Around the Minor Leagues: Gerado Parra is Making it Look Easy

Parra has made an immediate impact on the Diamondbacks

At this time of year, hot performances often lead to Major League call-ups, and that is the case this week, as no less than 5 players are now either in the majors or on their way very shortly. That group is led by Gerardo Parra, who apparently has worked his way into a starting job with a smoking ‘Hot’ debut. Here’s a look at the ‘Hottest’ and ‘Nottest’ prospects over the last two weeks.

Hot Hitters –

1) Gerardo Parra, OF, ARZ – Anyone who paid attention to the Winter League performance of Parra won’t be surprised, as we named Parra our #1 Winter Wonder back in January when Parra, as the 5th youngest player in the Venezuelan Winter League, came into his own batting .329/.404/.504. Parra has never really been a free-swinger, but the difference this year is his patience at the plate, drawing 22 walks in 108 ABs before his callup. He is off to a .412/.474/.824 start with the Diamondbacks and has gone .355/.444/.645 over the last two weeks. At just 22yo, Parra is just scratching the surface of his potential.

2) Josh Vitters, 3B, CHN – If this was a one week performance list, there would be no question who would be #1, as Vitters has posted 5 straight 3-hit games and has homered in his last 4. Vitters went into the 2007 draft ranked by us as the top prep hitter (over Heyward and Moustakas), but suffered through some nagging injuries and got off to an unexpectedly slow start to his professional career. Now healthy, Midwest League (MWL) pitchers are getting the abuse. Vitters will still have to be more patient at the plate (3 BB in 132 ABs), but the 19yo has posted a .998 OPS to start the season. .422/.435/.733 over his last 45 ABs.

3) Brandon Snyder, 1B, BAL – The problem with drafting high school catchers, is rarely do they stay there. You then have to not only worry about whether their bat will play at another position, but there also is usually a transition period. Snyder is another example of just that case, after being drafted by the Orioles in the first round of the 2005 draft. Snyder seems to have things on track now as he has gone.475/.500/.925 over the last two weeks and now has a 1.060 OPS on the season.

4) Jaff Decker, OF, SDP – While it’s possible that we keep putting Decker on the list just because we like to say ‘Jaff’, it’s more probable that it has something to do with his performance. Decker is one of those bad-bodied players that scouts hate. Apparently so do MWL pitchers as Decker has a 1.062 OPS on the season. This is the third straight week that Decker has made the list, and he did it this week with a .368/.489/.711 in 49 PAs.

5) Andrew McCutchen, OF, PIT – Over the last decade, the Pirates have selected at an average of the 8th position in the first round of each June’s draft. Excluding Pedro Alvarez last year, they have exactly Paul Maholm and McCutchen to show for it. McCutchen has carried the pressure bad drafts past and hasn’t always handled it well. While performing adequately, he hasn’t really posted numbers that matched the expectations—until now. After lighting up International League pitching to the tune of .400/.489/.625 over the last two weeks, McCutchen’s OPS now stands at .838 on the season. More importantly, he is walking more than striking out. Look for McCutchen to force McLouth to a corner sometime in the next month.

6) Josh Bell, 2B/3B, LAD – The Dodgers have had high hopes for Bell ever since he posted .911 OPS in the Pioneer League in 2006. But questionable work habits and a string of nagging injuries have held him back. Bell seems to have things turned around this year, as he has posted an .880 OPS to open the Southern League (SOL) season. .382/.462/.647 over the last two weeks.

7) Alexia Amarista, 2B, LAA – Amarista is a player we have been high on ever since he posted the second best age-adjusted offensive season in the DSL in 2007. At just 5’8” and 150lbs, the scouts are never going to be excited by him, but he has great strike zone management skills and should develop adequate pop for his position. Amarista has gone .378/.500/.514 over the last two weeks and the 20yo now has a .935 OPS on the season. He’ll never be a superstar, but he has more upside than Alberto Callaspo who is a similar player putting together a solid season with the Royals.

8) J.P. Arencibia, C, TOR – The Jays are looking for Arencibia, their 2007 first round pick, to assume the full-time catching duties before the season is out. Once he does, you can expect a sound defensive backstop that is likely to hit 20 HRs, but will also fan 80-100 times—he just can’t help himself from starting the count 0-1. His free swinging approach is working as of late as he has gone .333/.407/.833 with 6 HRs in his last 55 PAs.

9) Lonnie Chisenhall, SS, CLE – As we told you earlier in the season, Chisenhall is better than the experts told you before Cleveland took him at the end of the first round last June. When he entered South Carolina, he was considered the best hitter in a program that included Justin Smoak, Reese Havens and James Darnell. Unfortunately he got himself in trouble with some non-baseball related issues and went under the radar screen. The scouts will tell you that he can’t stay at SS and can’t hit enough to play 3B. I’ll tell you that he won’t stay at SS, would hit above league average at 3B, but is likely to end up as one of the better offensive 2B in the league in a very short period of time. Chisenhall has posted .381/.447/.619 over his last 50 PAs and now has a .921OPS on the season, as a 20yo in Hi-A.

10) Roger Kieschnick, OF, SFG – The Giants were able to get Kieschnick in the 3rd round in June because he posted a disappointing junior season at Texas Tech. Kieschnick is one of the best pure power hitters in the Giants system, and has beaten up California League pitching this year to the tune of a .904 OPS. He will have to develop better strike zone judgment as he moves up the ladder, but he has gone .500/.500/.844 over the last two weeks.

Hot Pitchers –
1) Kris Medlen, RHP, ATL – Tommy Hanson gets the pub, but it will be Medlen who makes his big league debut first--on Thursday night. Medlen spent his first two seasons with the Braves as a reliever, but had a break-out season in 2008 after moving into the rotation. This year he has been even better going 5-0 with a 1.19 ERA for Gwinnett. Over his last three starts he has posted a 0.64 ERA, 0.643 WHIP, with a 16:4 K:BB ratio.

2) Jeanmar Gomez, RHP, CLE – While we have been talking about him for over a month now, somehow Gomez has still flown under the radar as he has gotten off to one of the Minor’s best starts. Between two stops, the 21yo, Gomez has posted a 1.64 ERA with a .727 WHIP. A promotion to the Eastern League (ESL) hasn’t slowed him down, as he has a 0.00 ERA, 0.467 WHIP and a 13:0 K:BB ratio over the last two weeks.

3) Casey Crosby, LHP, DET – Tiger fans had to wait nearly two years to see what they had in Crosby after he blew out his elbow in Instructional League and cost himself all but 5 IP of the 2008 season. Making his full-season debut as 20yo in the MWL, Crosby has not disappointed. This is a tremendously athletic kid who not only has a mid-90s fastball, but has three other pitches that he is not afraid to throw at any point in the count. His upside is through the roof, and so far this season he is off to a 2.43 ERA, 1.14 WHIP start. My guess is that the Tigers focus him on three solid pitches, and that he improves his command (currently walking nearly 5 batters per 9IP), while he spends the entire season in the MWL, but he looks like a good one. 0.75 ERA, 0.667 WHIP with a 15:4 K:BB ratio over his last three starts.

4) Matt Harrison, LHP, TEX – Though technically not a prospect, Harrison is on this list because of the turnaround he has put together since making the ‘Not’ list earlier this year. Through the season’s first 4 starts Harrison had a 7.893 ERA and a 2.077 WHIP. We told you not to worry, that the track record for pitchers that had more than a 100IP before their 24th birthday was very good. Over the last two weeks, Harrison has a 1.00 ERA, a 0.556 WHIP and a 12:1 K:BB ratio, including two straight complete games.

5) Ross Detwiler, LHP, WSN – Sometimes we get them right and sometimes…not so much. We were hard on Detwiler last season, as his 4.86 ERA and 1.589 WHIP for a 22yo in Hi-A was a big disappointment. The Nationals kept the faith and have been rewarded, as Detwiler made a solid big league debut this week and has posted a 1.80 ERA, 0.800 WHIP, with a 22:1 K:BB ratio over the last two weeks.

6) Daniel Duffy, LHP, KCR – The 20yo Duffy is one of those guys that isn’t a scout favorite, as he has dominated the minor’s lower levels with tremendous polish more than raw stuff. So there are significant questions surrounding his upside that will only be answered by proving himself each step of the way. So far Hi-A hasn’t proved any more of a challenge for Duffy, as he has posted a 0.79 ERA, a 0.706 WHIP with a 12:1 K:BB ratio over the last two weeks.

7) Trevor Reckling, LHP, LAA – After posting a 3.37 ERA with a 1.263 ERA as one of the youngest pitchers in the MWL in 2008, Reckling served notice that, despite a rather pedestrian 8th round pedigree, he was a legitimate pitching prospect. Three starts is all that it took this season, to cause the Angels to promote the 19yo (he turns 20 on the 22nd of May) to AA. Now the youngest full-time starter in the Texas League (TXL), Reckling has posted a 1.59 ERA, a 0.765 WHIP with a 13:3 K:BB ratio over his last three starts. While he doesn’t have the raw stuff for the front of a big league rotation, Reckling looks like a solid bet for a mid-rotation slot.

8) Edgar Osuna, LHP, ATL – Apparently this week’s list is dominated by lefties, as Osuna makes #7. This is a big year for Osuna, as, up to this point, he has dominated the lower levels of the minors more on guile than raw stuff. He doesn’t miss as many bats as I would like to see in a pitching prospect, but none the less he has posted a 1.38 ERA, 0.385 WHIP with a 12:1 K:BB ratio over the last two weeks.

9) Zeke Spruill, RHP, ATL – Spruill was a ‘projectability’ pick by the Braves in the second round of last June’s draft. A mere 19 years old, he is starting to fulfill some of that projection as he is 6-0 with a 1.91 ERA on the season. A 1.13 ERA, 0.750 WHIP with a 12:2 K:BB ratio over the last two weeks.

10) Arquimedes Nieto, RHP, STL – The “Who’s He Award” winner for the week, Nieto was signed by the Cardinals as a 17yo out of Panama in 2007. Though just 19yo at the time, Arquimedes pitched for Panama in this Spring’s World Baseball Classic. He had a solid US debut, going 6-1 with a 2.95 ERA in the New York-Penn in 2008, and brought his extremely polished repertoire to the MWL this year. The big question surrounding Nieto, is will he find an out pitch? The Cardinals hope that, at 175lbs on his 6’0” frame, he fills out a little and gains another couple of MPH on his fastball. Nieto has posted a 0.90 ERA, 0.400 WHIP with a 9:0 K:BB ratio over the last two weeks.

The Nots –

1) Brandon Morrow, RHP, SEA – Not really a prospect, but at 24yo his performance is worth noting. Part of this is on Morrow and part is on the typically confused Mariner organization. Let’s get this on the record, Morrow has a huge upside and hopefully gets things straightened out quick. That being said, he has been nothing short of awful this year. I have huge questions surrounding what the Mariners are doing with their first round picks, as Morrow, Aumont and Fields all look to be being groomed for the same job, but the constant questions surrounding whether or not Morrow is a starter or a closer is taking its toll. In his last 4 appearances, Morrow has posted a 36.00 ERA, 6.00 WHIP and a 2:3 K:BB ratio.

2) Brent Lillibridge, UT, CHA – Another ‘not really a prospect’, I think it’s time to put a fork in Lillibridge, who has been a fringy prospect since his breakout season in 2006. Unfortunately, he thinks he should be the next Ryan Howard instead of trying to be more in the mold of a Brian Roberts that he is better suited for. Two teams have now tried to work with him and have given up, and with this week’s demotion on top of a .150/.150/.150 line over the last two weeks, Lillibridge just might be out of chances.

3) Wendell Fairley, OF, SFG – Is it too early to declare 20 year-old, former first round, picks a ‘bust’? My vote is not in Fairley’s case. The Giants took him in the first round of 2007, a pick that appeared odd at the time, and he didn’t make his debut until the following summer, in the Arizona League (AZL), where he posted a .725 OPS with only 2 HRs in nearly 200 ABs. This year he has gotten off to a .217/.308/.293 start with 1 HR in over 100 PAs. More troublesome is his strikeout rate which is greater than once every 3 ABs. He’s gone .125/.160/.167 over the last two weeks.

4) Anthony Ortega, LAA – Calling up Ortega when they did, seemed to be a strange move by the Angels. Now a demotion and trip to the DL makes the move even more questionable. For my money, he just doesn’t have starter stuff. A 15.63 ERA, 2.684 WHIP and a 3:4 K:BB ratio over the last two weeks.

5) Jeremy Jeffress, MIL – Jeffres is a repeater from last week’s list and all of what we said then still applies. Four seasons into his professional career, Jeffress is still more thrower than pitcher. He is walking nearly 11 batters per 9IP. That’s earned him a demotion to Hi-A. He’s posted a 13.00 ERA, a 2.889 WHIP with a 8:16 K:BB ratio over his last three starts. If I am a Brewer fan, I am not counting on ever seeing him in Milwaukee.

6) Nick Schmidt, LHP, SDP – The Padres first round pick in 2007, Schmidt missed all of last season after Tommy John surgery. Working his way back has proved difficult thus far. A 9.82 ERA, 3.00 WHIP with a 6:6 K:BB ratio over his last three starts leaves his ERA at 6.64 on the year. At 23yo, and struggling in Lo-A, things aren’t looking good.

7) Brett Sinkbeil, RHP, FLA – It’s turning out to be two abysmal seasons in a row for the Marlins’ 2006 1st round pick. Since Sinkbeil began facing full-season hitters, they have lit him up with a batting average against greater than .300. A 9.64 ERA, 2.643 WHIP with a 8:11 K:BB ratio leaves Sinkbeil with a 10.29 ERA on the year.

8) Francisco Pena, C, NYM – It’s hard to imagine that entering the 2007 season, there were those that believed Pena was a better prospect than Jesus Montero. Two years later it isn’t even close. Pena has gone .120/.154/.120 over the last two weeks and now has a .561 OPS on the year. At just 19yo, and in the Florida State League, Pena has plenty of time to get things on track, but right now it just isn’t working.

9) Jefry Marte, 3B, NYM – Marte is another Met prospect that appears to be being pushed too fast. A .093/.133/.186 over his last 45 PAs leaves Marte with a .536 OPS on the year and a yearning for the NYP season to open.

10) Juan Ramirez, RHP, SEA – Ramirez is still a pitching prospect with a tremendous upside, but the 20yo is finding out what so many others have before him—the California League is a tough place to pitch. Ramirez has a 7.90 ERA, 2.049 WHIP and a 12:5 K:BB ratio over his last three starts. He was pitching better before he started calling himself as J.C.

Related Posts by Subject

blog comments powered by Disqus