Thursday, June 18, 2009

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not Around the Minor Leagues: Posey Man Among Boys in California League

Posey is heads and shoulders above his California League competition

This week’s list has repeaters at the top of both our ‘Pitcher’ and Not’ lists and a ‘Hitter’ list that is dominated by Hi-A players, but the name at the top was the 5th overall pick last June, who isn’t finding California League (CAL) pitching to be much of a challenge.

Hot Hitters –

1) Buster Posey, C, SFG – Memo to Brian Sabean: While we accept that Catchers require more Minor League seasoning than any other position, and we are in no hurry to see Buster Posey rushed, the time has undoubtedly arrived for a promotion to Connecticut. Posey has nothing left to prove in San Jose and, worse yet, he is being completely pitched around in the current lineup. Through May, Posey was walking once every 11 ABs. As CAL pitchers have determined that they can’t get him out, that number has moved to once every 4 ABs for the month of June. Over the last two weeks Posey has destroyed CAL pitching to the tune of .424/.558/.758, and now has a .970 OPS on the year.

2) Jemile Weeks, 2B, OAK – Weeks missed the first month of the season with some nagging injuries, but has quickly made up for lost time. Over his last 55 PAs, Weeks has posted a .444/.537/.711 and has a 1.134 OPS on the year.

3) Tyson Gilles, OF, SEA – Gilles has been on the Mariner radar for a couple of seasons, after being signed as a draft and follow in 2006. The breakout season that the Mariners have been waiting for, appears to have arrived, as the 20yo Gilles has hit .488/.523/.732 over the last two weeks and has upped his OPS to .934 on the year. Not likely to maintain the range to man CF in the Majors, Gilles will have to continue to show power if he is to become more than a 4th OF type.

4) Ike Davis, 1B, NYM – After going homerless in 215 New York-Penn (NYP) League ABs in his 2008 debut, and getting off to a slow start this year, Mets’ fans were beginning to wonder what happened to that power hitting first basemen they had drafted last June. Have no fear, as Davis is beginning to show that stroke he used with such success at Arizona State. .324/.410/.765 over the last two weeks, Davis now has belted five home runs in his last 13 games.

5) Wilson Ramos, C, MIN – Ramos got off to his traditional slow start, batting .257/.284/.329 in April. As the weather has warmed, so has Ramos’ bat. A .400/.417/.714 over the last two weeks, leaves his OPS at .770 for the year.

6) Moises Sierra, OF, TOR – Signed as a 17yo out of the Dominican Republic in 2005, Sierra, along with Joehrmyn Chavez, Gustavo Pierre and Balbino Fuyenmayor, makes up the center piece of the Jays burgeoning efforts in Latin America. Entering the year, with three seasons behind him, he hasn’t posted the type of numbers the Jays had hoped for, but 2009 is beginning to look like a breakout season. Sierra has posted a .383/.473/.596 over the last two weeks and now sports an .835 OPS in the Florida State (FSL) League.

7) Caleb Gindl, OF, MIL – It’s tough to get excited about a 5’9” Corner Outfielder, but after leading the Pioneer (PIO) League with a .372 average in 2007, Gindl posted impressive offensive numbers in the SAL last season—as a 19yo. After a .306/.404/.633 performance in his last 60 PAs, Gindl now has an .842 OPS in the FSL. This is a ‘character’ guy that will have to prove himself at each step, but he is certainly one to keep an eye on.

8) Thomas Neal, OF, SFG – Coming back from 2007 reconstructive shoulder surgery, the Giants kept Neal under wraps last season, having him spend most of the year as Villalona’s caddy in Augusta. Seemingly completely healed, Neal has been turned loose this year and the CAL pitchers are paying the price. A .455/.500/.939 over the last two weeks, gives Neal a 1.055 OPS on the year. Neal is not athletic and will be limited to LF or 1B as he moves up. He will have to continue to rake in order to have a shot at the Major League level.

9) Willie Cabrera, OF, ATL – Cabrera was a 2005 Draft and Follow by the Braves, who has struggled to put up the kind of numbers that the Braves would have hoped for. Now a 22yo in his 4th season, Cabrera is trying to turn things around. A .400/.471/.622 over his last 45 ABs.

10) Dustin Ackley, CF, SEA – The Mariners’ 1st round choice (#2 overall) last week, Ackley was the most polished hitter in college this past season. Big players play big in big games, and Ackley is no exception. In 10 post season games this year, Ackley has put a .511/.569/.911 with 5 home runs.

Hot Pitchers –

1) Travis Wood, RHP, CIN – Rarely do we see a player top the ‘Hot’ list for two weeks in a row, but after last week’s list came out, Wood threw a 7 inning shutout where he allowed but two baserunners and fanned nine, and therefore finds himself atop the list again. Wood has now tossed 25 straight scoreless innings and has only allowed 2 runs in his last 36. During that time he has a 34:4 K:BB ratio.

2) James McDonald, RHP, LAD – McDonald started the season in the Dodger rotation, but struggled in 4 big league starts. He was sent down in mid-May and didn’t find things much better in Albuquerque, as he had a 5.51 ERA through his first four starts there. He has seemingly turned things around though, posting a 1.89 ERA, 0.789 WHIP and a 28:6 K:BB ratio over the last two weeks. The Dodgers are still in need of a fifth starter, so don’t be surprised to see him recalled shortly.

3) Jose Ortegano, LHP, ATL – Signed by the Braves as a 16yo in 2003, Ortegano has spent five seasons with the organization, with little fanfare—despite having a career ERA under 3.00. The biggest knock on Ortegano is that he is somewhat of a ‘soft tosser’ with limited upside. Nonetheless, he continues to post solid numbers. A 21yo in the Carolina (CAR) League, Ortegano has posted a 1.15 ERA, a 0.638 WHIP and a 12:3 K:BB ratio over his last three starts, leaving him with a 3.81 ERA on the year.

4) Alex Torres, LHP, LAA – One of the best lefties in the Angels Organization, Torres had a breakout 2008, when he held his own in 10 CAL starts—as a 20yo. A Return to Rancho Cucamonga this year, has produced more of the same. Torres has posted a 0.42 ERA, a 0.750 WHIP, with a 18:5 K:BB ratio over his last three starts and now sports a 3.03 ERA on the season. Torres, still lacks a true third pitch at this point, and will be destined for the bullpen if he can’t find one.

5) Joe Paterson, LHP, SFG – Selected in the 10th round in the 2007 draft, Paterson has pretty much been lights out in two-plus professional seasons. It’s difficult for relievers to make this list, but Paterson has not allowed an earned run in 13 innings, nor has he allowed an earned run in 23 of his 24 appearances on the season. Over the last two weeks, the 23yo, has a 0.652 WHIP and a 10:3 K:BB ratio.

6) Chris Withrow, RHP, LAD – The 20yo Withrow was the 20th overall selection in the 2007 draft. The Dodgers loved his athleticism and a mid-90s fastball. Unfortunately, nagging arm injuries have caused him to miss all but 13 innings since being drafted. Seemingly healthy, the Dodgers have challenged Withrow with a CAL assignment. Withrow has responded, posting a 1.64 ERA and a .909 WHIP over the last two weeks, giving him 63 Ks in 52 IPs on the season. Due to Withrow’s ‘rust’ from not pitching much the last two seasons, he is still struggling with control—allowing nearly 5 BB per 9IP. If he gets the control problems ironed out, look for Withrow to take off.

7) Trey Haley, RHP, CLE – Haley was given first round money by the Indians, despite being a second round pick in the 2008 draft. Signing late, Haley threw only 2 innings last year. The Indians like his low- to mid-90s fastball and his very projectable 6’3” frame. Still just 18yo, the Indians kept him in extended Spring training before moving him to Lake County in mid-May. Over his last three starts, Haley has posted a 2.51 ERA, and a 0.907 WHIP. Haley has struggled with his command for most of the season, though does have his velocity up, consistently in the mid-90s. His arm is lively, but he still needs to learn to become a ‘pitcher’.

8) Nick Schmidt, LHP, SDP – Schmidt is a holdover from last week’s list and, at the moment, the 23yo is overpowering Midwest (MWL) League hitters. He needs to move up to find a more age appropriate challenge, but for now is humming along. A 0.53 ERA, a 0.765 WHIP , with a 19:5 K:BB ratio over his last three starts.

9) Zach Phillips, LHP, TEX – A draft and follow from the 2004 draft, the 22yo Phillips is in his second season with Bakersfield, after spending three seasons in Clinton. After a rough trip the first time, Phillips seems to have things figured out this time around. A 0.90 ERA and a 0.400 WHIP with a 11:2 K:BB ratio over the last two weeks, leaves Phillips with a 1.43 ERA on the year. Opposing hitters are batting .128 against him on the year.

10) Alexander Perez, RHP,CLE – Another holdover from last week’s list, the 19yo Perez has been one of the season’s biggest prospect movers. A 2.25 ERA, 0.750 WHIP with a 11:3 K:BB ratio over the last two weeks, has Perez sporting a 2.88 ERA on the year.

The Nots –

1) Greg Halman, OF, SEA – One of the most disappointing seasons by any player continues. Halman entered the year as the Mariners’ top prospect. He now has only 1 XB hit over his last 63 ABs and is striking out in 44% of his PAs. Over the last two weeks, Halman has posted a .097/.125/.129 and his OPS is now down to .648 on the year.

2) Zach Putnam, RHP, CLE – The Indians made Putnam their 5th round selection in last June’s draft. With a mere 33 innings of professional experience under his belt, the Tribe decided his future lie as a reliever and promoted the 21yo to AA. Perhaps they are going to rethink the plan. In 11 relief appearances, Putnam has a 5.79 ERA and a 1.554 WHIP.

3) Brad Emaus, 2B, TOR – Emaus has been a fringy prospect since the Jays made him their 11th round pick in 2007. He got off to a solid start, and through May had an .820 OPS. June hasn’t been so kind, as Emaus has a .118/.151/.196 since the 1st of June.

4) Emmanuel Burris, SS, SFG – Burris technically used up his ‘prospect’ designation early last season, but we are including him here because he has never stopped playing like a Minor Leaguer. There is not a worse offensive player in the Major Leagues today, and I can’t figure out why the Giants continue to waste ABs on this guy. Burris has posted a .069/.100/.103 over the last two weeks, which has dropped his OPS to .559 on the season. This guy doesn’t belong in baseball—yet alone the Majors.

5) Jason Berken, RHP, BAL – Berken is a curious case, as 5 solid AAA starts earned him a promotion to the Majors and his first two big league starts left him with a 2.25 ERA. The wheels have fallen off since then. Berken has a 15.26 ERA and a 2.478 WHIP over the last two weeks. In three previous Minor League seasons Berken has posted solid, but not spectacular, numbers and has typically been a bit older than we would like to see for his level of competition. The Orioles have Troy Patton, David Hernandez, Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta and Brian Matusz in the minors—all better prospects than Berken. I can’t help but feel his Major League days are drawing to a close.

6) James Skelton, C, ARZ – Skelton was a Rule 5 pickup from the Tigers system, that the Diamondbacks liked enough to work out a deal to keep him this Spring. It was a curious move to me, as Skelton doesn’t have tremendous defensive skills and doesn’t profile, offensively, as an everyday player at any position. This season in the Southern League has exposed his offensive deficiencies, as a .034/.152/.034 over the last two weeks, leaves him with a .575 OPS on the year. Skelton hasn’t had an XBH since May 25th.

7) Shelby Ford, 2B, PIT – Another repeater from last week, Ford is .139/.205/.139 over his last 40 PAs, with his OPS falling to .434 on the year. The Pirates had planned on Ford being Freddy Sanchez’s replacement as early as next year. It looks like they might want a new plan.

8) Kyle Winters, RHP, FLA – The 22yo Winters was ‘lights out’ in 5 FSL, earning a promotion to the Southern League, where things have been a little more challenging. A 9.00 ERA, 2.375 WHIP and a 4:5 K:BB ratio over the last two weeks, leaves his Southern League ERA at 5.40.

9) Wendell Fairley, OF, SFG – Fairley is a 2008 first round draft pick and is only 21yo. Usually a player with that record is given plenty of chances before being declared a ‘bust’…normally. After posting a .725 OPS in the Arizona League last summer, he has followed that up with a .598 OPS in the SAL this year. A .114/.205/.200 over the last two weeks, just further states the obvious—Fairley will never hit enough to become a successful Major League player.

10) Robert Fish, LHP, LAA – Fish is one of those players that has put up solid numbers in three professional seasons, striking out more than a batter per IP, but doesn’t have sound enough mechanics to believe he will succeed as he moves up the ladder. That lack of success apparently has found him this season in the CAL, as opposing hitters are batting .325 against him. A 8.22 ERA, 2.348 WHIP and a 6:5 K:BB ratio over the last two weeks, boosts his ERA to .659 on the season.

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Bcancer said...

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