Fishing Around: Checking in on the top prospects

In honor of Starlin Castro’s recent major league debut I thought now would be a good time to check in on how each organization’s top prospect* is faring thus far in the 2010 season.  I also wanted to do this since the Kansas City Royals are a painful and depressing team to watch at the major league level, but their top prospect, as you will soon see, is having one heck of a season thus far.

*I am using the rankings from Baseball America’s 2010 Prospect Handbook

Arizona Diamondbacks

RHP-Jarrod Parker (21) is currently recovering from October Tommy John surgery and is expected to miss the entire 2010 season.

Atlanta Braves

OF-Jason Heyward (20) made the Braves opening day roster, crushed a HR on opening day, and has done his part to live up to the enormous hype surrounding him.  In 105 PA he’s hit 0.291/.410/.616 with 8 HR, 16 BB, and 26 SO. He’s driven in 26 runs in 28 games and currently sports an impressive OPS+ of 171.  The only thing that has been able to slow J-Hey down thus far is his sore groin.  Officially he is listed as day-to-day and available for pinch hitting duties, but a DL stint is still a possibility.

Baltimore Orioles

LHP-Brian Matusz (23) made his professional debut in 2009 at High-A Frederick but the minors couldn’t handle him as he cut through A and AA with ease.  He made his major league debut on August 4th, 2009 and finished the season with a 4.63 ERA, 2.71 SO/BB, and 98 ERA+ in 8 major league starts.  Armed with four potentially above average pitches and advanced command, Matusz figures to be a force and continue to improve. So far in 2010 he has a 4.91 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 2.36 SO/BB, and an ERA+ of 87 in 40.1 innings.  His numbers this season are a bit misleading since they include his May 9th start against the Twins when he gave up 6 earned runs in only 3.2 innings.  Prior to that start, his ERA+ was an above average 108.

Boston Red Sox

OF-Ryan Westmoreland (20) went on medical leave in March after being diagnosed with a cavernous malformation in his brain.  His baseball career has been put on hold to undergo surgery, treatment, and therapy.  The mid-March surgery was a “success” but his future on the field remains very much up in the air.  There is no established timetable set for his return though he was released from Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital on April 24th. According to team sources he is making “steady” progress.

Chicago Cubs

SS-Starlin Castro (20) made his major league debut last Friday (5/7), went 2-5 with a HR, 3B, and 6 RBI.  His debut also inspired this article.  So far he is hitting 0.286/.375/.714 in 16 PA with the Cubs after torching AA to the tune of 0.376/.421/.569 in 121 PA earlier this season.  He’s a complete player who figures to be a multiple-time All-Star down the road.

Chicago White Sox

OF-Jared Mitchell (21) tore a tendon in his left ankle during spring training.  The injury required surgery and will cause the talented outfielder to miss the entire 2010 season.

Cincinnati Reds

Util-Todd Frazier (24) reached Triple-A for the first time last season and has the look of a versatile and solid but unspectacular major league player.  He is off to a slow start this year hitting just 0.217/.333/.337 in 100 AAA plate appearances while playing two-thirds of his games in LF.  Aroldis Chapman didn’t sign in time to make BA’s Prospect Handbook, but is without a doubt the Reds top prospect and is handling himself well in Triple-A.

Cleveland Indians

C-Carlos Santana (24) is a catching prospect I can believe in and see having an impact at the major league level while sticking behind the plate.  He spent the entire 2009 season with Double-A Akron and hit 0.290/.413/.530 with 30 2B, 23 HR, 90 BB and 83 SO in 535 PA.  The Indians moved him up to Triple-A Columbus to start the 2010 season and he hasn’t missed a beat.  Despite the more advanced competition, Santana is hitting 0.314/.444/.529 with 7 2B, 5 HR, 22 BB and 20 SO in 126 PA.  Like Posey with the Giants, the company line is that he needs to work on the defensive aspects of his game.  Unlike the Giants who brought back Bengie Molina preventing the ascension of Buster, Carlos is “blocked” by Lou Marson who is “producing” at a clip of 0.203/.261/.266.

Colorado Rockies

LHP-Tyler Matzek (19) signed late and has yet to make his professional debut.  He’s expected to join Low-A Asheville at some point this month.

Detroit Tigers

RHP-Jacob Turner (19) gets a special shout out since he was born in St. Charles, Missouri.  Because he signed late, he didn’t make his professional debut until this year.  That debut came with the West Michigan Whitecaps in Low-A and in 4 starts and 16.2 IP he has a 3.78 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 5.67 SO/BB.  So far so good for Turner and the Tigers.

Florida Marlins

OF-Mike Stanton (20) possesses power that is off the charts.  In 2008 he hit 39 HR in Low-A as an 18-year old.  He followed that up by hitting 28 HR between High-A and Double-A though his slash stats dropped off from 0.293/.381/.611 to 0.255/.341/.501.  The Marlins decided to have him start the 2010 season back in Double-A and I think that was the right move.  However it might be time to give him a new challenge.  In 133 PA this season he’s hit 0.340/.481/.854 with 8 2B and 15 HR.  The power numbers are ridiculous in their own right, but there are other signs he is seeing the ball extremely well.  Heading into this season Stanton has whiffed 2.63 times for every 1 walk he drew.  This season he’s drawn 28 BB to go with his 32 SO and is now striking out once every 4.16 PA as opposed to once out of every 3.63 PA heading into 2010.  Many are calling for Stanton to make his major league debut sooner rather than later, but I’d like to see him get a taste of Triple-A before that happens.

Houston Astros

C-Jason Castro (22) has the distinction of being the top prospect in baseball’s lowest ranked farm system.  That has nothing to do with Castro, or a handful of the team’s other top prospects, and everything to do with a vast lack of depth.  During 2009 he hit 0.300/.380/.446 with 10 HR, 55 BB and 76 SO in 511 PA split between High-A and Double-A.  Thus far in 2010 he’s hitting just 0.229/.360/.265 with zero home runs in 100 PA.  The silver lining in his numbers is the 17 to 13 BB to SO ratio.  For what it is worth, Baseball America likens Castro to A.J. Pierzynski.

Kansas City Royals

LHP-Mike Montgomery (20) gives my IRF (Inner Royals Fan) a chance to be legitimately excited about the team’s future.  Last season Montgomery dominated both levels of A ball and finished the season with a 2.21 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 2.72 SO/BB in 110.0 innings pitched.  The Royals took it slow and started him back in High-A Wilmington to open the 2010 season but he made sure it was a short stop.  In 4 starts he threw 24.2 innings on his way to a 1.09 ERA, 0.73 WHIP and 8.25 SO/BB essentially forcing the organization to promote him.  Double-A has slowed him down a little, but not a lot.  After 2 starts he has a 1.54 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 1.82 SO/BB in 11.2 innings pitched.  There is no guarantee Greinke will still be around by the time Montgomery reaches the majors, but my IRF can dream.

Los Angeles Angels

C-Hank Conger (22) has the distinction of being the Angels only 1st round pick from the 2005-2008 drafts.  He spent the 2009 season in Double-A and hit 0.295/.369/.424 with 11 HR in 524 PA while showing solid plate discipline (55 BB and 68 SO).  He’s now in Triple-A Salt Lake hitting 0.267/.351/.430 with 3 HR, 10 BB and 12 SO in 97 PA.  Conger may wind up being a solid major league catcher, and that is certainly valuable, but I have a hard time believing he will amount to much more than that.  I’m not going to lie.  Baseball America’s selection as Conger as the Angels #1 prospect is a bit mystifying.

Los Angeles Dodgers

SS-Dee Gordon (22) hit 0.301/.362/.394 with 12 3B, 43 BB, 90 SO and an eye-popping 73 SB in 601 PA while playing for the Low-A Great Lakes Loons.  The Dodgers saw enough to jump him over High-A and send him to Double-A to start the 2010 season.  The early returns suggest that it was a reasonable, if not downright wise, move.  In 134 PA he has hit 0.278/.308/.349 with 8 SB, 5 BB, and 15 SO.  Gordon remains extremely raw but he’s come a long way in a short time.

Milwaukee Brewers

SS-Alcides Escobar (23) got his first taste of Triple-A in 2009 and performed well enough (0.298/.353/.409 with 42 SB) that he got called up to make his major league debut on August 12th.  He went on to hit 0.304/.333/.368 in 134 PA and locked down the starting SS job heading into 2010.  Alcides has found things a little more difficult at the plate this season and is hitting just 0.214/.277/.350 in 113 PA.

Minnesota Twins

OF-Aaron Hicks (20) is a true five tool talent with an arm that rates at the top of the scouting scale.  Baseball America likens him to the Phillies top prospect Domonic Brown (see below) but amends the comparision by saying that Hicks has “more explosiveness in his hand and may have more raw power.”  When you are a prospect being compared to Domonic Brown you are in good company.  The Twins let him spend the entire 2009 season in Low-A Beloit last season, and while he did struggle at times he wound up hitting a respectable 0.251/.353/.382 with 40 BB and 55 SO in 297 PA.  He’s back in Beloit this year and is currently hitting 0.294/.421/.441 in 127 PA.  Considering the Twins track record of turning out quality outfielders, I see no reason to expect anything less from Hicks.

New York Mets

RHP-Jenrry Mejia (20) is one of the brighter spots of the New York Mets recent history.  Okay that might be a bit extreme considering he only got 15.1 big league innings under his belt, but it’s hard not to get excited about his performance so far based on his youth and upside.  On April 7th, he made his major league debut and gave up 3 hits and 1 earned run during his 1.0 inning of work.  He has a 2.35 ERA, 1.37 WHIP and ERA+ of 179 on the season, but the 4.7 BB/9, 5.9 SO/9 and 1.25 SO/BB have to dampen the optimism just a tad.  For now he’s found a measure of success in the Mets bullpen, but he has the potential to become a frontline starter down the road.

New York Yankees

C/DH-Jesus Montero (20) torched High-A and Double-A in 2009 to the tune of 0.337/.389/.562 with 17 HR, 28 BB and 47 SO in 379 PA.  He landed on the opening day roster of Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and has struggled thus far hitting 0.234/.294/.362 in 102 PA.  If you are a Yankee-hater, feel free to take this moment to rejoice over the stumbles of this top prospect.  Now to burst your bubble.  He’s only 20 playing at a level where the average age is 27.  That’s right, he’s seven years younger than many of his peers and it’s not like he’s completely overmatched.  In terms of age, he may be a boy among men, but Jesus Montero is a beast at the plate.  If Buster Posey and Carlos Santana aren’t ready defensively how can we buy into the rhetoric that he’ll be able to stick at a catcher in the majors?  It’s simple.  You can’t, but that bat sure can play.

Oakland Athletics

OF/1B-Chris Carter (23) spent the bulk of the 2009 season in AA before getting bumped up to AAA for 13 games.  Between the two stops he his 0.329/.422/.570 with 73 extra-base hits (28 of them HR), 85 BB and 133 SO.  Back in Triple-A to start 2010, he’s hit 0.250/.343/.500 with 8 HR, 16 BB and 35 SO in 134 PA.

Philadelphia Phillies

OF-Domonic Brown (22) hit 0.299/.377/.504 last season in three stops.  His 2010 season started where his 2009 season ended, in Double-A Reading.  He’s hitting 0.333/.388/.632 in 98 PA so far this season.  Of his 29 hits, 15 of them have gone for extra-bases.  The jump to Triple-A should be coming soon for this five-tool superstar in the making.

Pittsburgh Pirates

3B-Pedro Alvarez (23) started things off in an unusual manner.  After being drafted by the Pirates, he got caught up in some contract shenanigans at the signing deadline which also ensnared Royals 1st round pick Eric Hosmer.  With those things out of the way, he made his professional debut in 2009.  After hitting 0.247/.342/.486 in 284 High-A PA, Pedro was bumped up to Double-A Altoona.  Once there he hit 0.333/.419/.590 in 258 PA.  So far in 2010 his time in AAA has been reminiscent of his time in low-A as he’s hit just 0.248/.336/.479 with 7 HR in 134 PA.  The good news for Pirates fans is that he’s been heating up.  In his last 10 games he’s hit 0.303/.415/.606 and should make his way to PNC Park in short order.

St. Louis Cardinals

RHP-Shelby Miller (19) logged just 3.0 innings last year in the Midwest League after signing.  Low-A Quad Cities was again the destination for Miller to start the 2010 season.  He’s made 6 starts thus far and in 23.2 IP has a 5.32 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 15.6 SO/9 and 4.56 SO/BB.

San Diego Padres

OF-Donavan Tate (20) has had a rough start.  Last year after signing he lost time thanks to sports hernia and surgery to reattach an abdominal muscle to his pubic bone.  Then he broke his jaw in an ATV accident during November which also required surgery.  This spring he injured his shoulder diving for a ball.  Here’s hoping he stays healthy once he gets his career underway.

San Francisco Giants

C-Buster Posey (23) jumped from High-A to Triple-A last season and hit 0.325/.416/.531 with 31 2B, 18 HR, 62 BB and 68 SO along the way.  He also got a late season call-up and appeared in 7 games for the Giants.  Buster is back in AAA hitting 0.345/.436/.558 with 13 extra-base hits and a 17 to 19 BB to SO ratio in 133 PA.  For some reason he’s not the starting catcher in San Francisco.  The Giants say it is because he has to improve the defensive aspects of his game, but really they can’t be that bad.  Move over Molina, it needs to be Posey-time!

Seattle Mariners

2B-Dustin Ackley (22) made his professional debut this season in AA.  He’s hitting 0.192/.339/.293 with 20 BB and 19 SO in 121 PA, but he has started to pick it up recently.  In his last 10 games he’s hit 0.294/.442/.471 which is pretty impressive since he’s adapting to professional baseball and learning to play 2B on the fly.

Tampa Bay Rays

OF-Desmond Jennings (23) is a truly special and exciting talent.  He’s had very little difficulty handling the competition of the various levels of the minor leagues.  Staying healthy has proven to be a much greater challenge.  2009 was the first season he played in more than 100 games, but what a season it was.  Between AA and AAA he hit 0.318/.401/.487 with 31 2B, 10 3B, 11 HR and 52 SB in 577 PA.  Perhaps more exciting for Rays fans is the 1-to-1 BB to SO ratio (67 of each).  Thanks to another minor injury he’s gotten off to a bit of a slow start this season.  In 35 PA he’s hit 0.267/.371/.333 with 6 SB, 5 BB, and 5 SO.  With Jennings it’s not a matter of if but when.

Texas Rangers

RHP-Neftali Feliz (22) made his major league debut in impressive fashion last season hitting triple digits and striking out 4 of the first 6 Athletics he faced on August 3rd.  He didn’t fall off much from there ending the season with a 1.74 ERA, 0.68 WHIP, and 4.88 SO/BB in 31.0 IP for the Rangers.  He hasn’t recaptured the same dominance in his sophomore campaign, but he’s still been above average.  In 16.2 IP the young flamethrower has a 3.78 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 6.00 SO/BB while converting 9 of 10 save opportunities.  There is no doubt that Neftali is in the majors to stay.  Now the question on the table for Texas is whether to let him evolve into a shutdown closer or roll the dice and see if he can become a frontline starter.

Toronto Blue Jays

LHP-Zach Stewart (23) joined the Blue Jays organization last summer when Toronto sent Scott Rolen to Cincinnati.  The Reds 2008, 3rd round selection started his professional career in the bullpen but in 2009, 14 of his 34 appearances came as a starter.  After reaching Triple-A as a reliever at the end of last season he was once again cast as a starter, this time in Double-A with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.  In 5 starts and 23.1 innings he currently has a 6.94 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, and 1.45 SO/BB.  Stewart has a chance to become a frontline starter, though I envision more of a solid set-up man down the road.

Washington Nationals

RHP-Stephen Strasburg (21) dominated Double-A competition for 5 starts before being promoted to Triple-A.  He’s only made one start since being bumped up, but he made a statement throwing 6.0 innings of 1 hit, shutout baseball.  He is just six starts into his professional career, but with a 1.29 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 7 BB, and 33 SO in 28.0 innings, he already looks like he belongs in the majors.  Here’s hoping he can stay healthy during his career so baseball fans everywhere get a chance to see what this ultra-special talent is capable of.

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Tags: Aaron Hicks Alcides Escobar Brian Matusz Buster Posey Carlos Santana Chris Carter Dee Gordon Desmond Jennings Domonic Brown Donavan Tate Dustin Ackley Hank Conger Jacob Turner Jared Mitchell Jarrod Parker Jason Castro Jason Heyward Jenrry Mejia Jesus Montero Mike Montgomery Mike Stanton Neftali Feliz Pedro Alvarez Ryan Westmoreland Shelby Miller Starlin Castro Stephen Strasburg Todd Frazier Tyler Matzek Zach Stewart

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