This Week in Prospects (5/27/10)–Andrew Cashner, Mike Moustakas, Phillippe Aumont, and More!

Welcome to the May 27, 2010 issue of This Week in Prospects!

As always, I hope you enjoy my analysis and welcome any questions on these or other players.

Hot Shots

Mike Minor, LHP, Braves (AA)—I was right with everyone when they criticized Minor’s selection as the seventh overall pick last year. After all, he’s a soft-tossing lefty who looked to be a back-of-the-rotation guy.

I stand corrected.

Minor’s statistical profile looks more like a wild power pitcher than any sort of soft-tosser. He’s struck out a whopping 72 batters, the most in the minor leagues, in just 49 2/3 innings. He’s walked 24, which is below-average but acceptable given the strikeouts.

Minor, 22, has a 3.44 ERA in Double-A in his first full pro season, which is certainly way ahead of most of his peers.

Minor’s arsenal includes an 88-92 mph fastball and plus slider. He also has a changeup and a curveball. I’m not sure if his stuff has simply radically improved this year, or what exactly is drawing so many empty swings, but I think Minor’s upside, thought to be around a #4 starter when he was drafted, is going up. This could be a similar situation to that of Blue Jays lefty Ricky Romero, thought to be a huge overdraft at #6 overall but who has become a solid #2 or #3 guy.

Andrew Cashner, RHP, Cubs (AAA)—Cashner posted a 2.75 ERA in six Double-A starts, and has cut that to just 0.95 in three Triple-A starts. He’s struck out 56 batters in 55 innings across the two levels.

The righty throws a mid-90’s fastball and a plus slider, so he’s certainly got plenty of stuff. He is already 23, so he’s not that young for a prospect, but Cashner looks to be a pitcher who can pitch in the front half of a major league rotation. The Cubs haven’t developed a frontline starter since Carlos Zambrano around a decade ago, and Cashner can finally break that dry spell.

Mike Moustakas, 3B, Royals (AA)—The second overall pick in the 2007 draft had a terrible year in High-A last season (.250/.297/.421) that dropped his stock considerably.

It is now back up.

Moustakas is possibly the best hitter in the minors this year as a 21-year-old Double-A guy, hitting .390/.476/.797 with 12 homers already.

His K/BB ratio, 90/32 last year, is up to 18/17 this year.

Royals fans have reason to be wary of a “top prospect” lefty-hitting Double-A third baseman due to another former #2 overall pick…but Moustakas certainly looks like a player who can be a huge bat in the majors within a year.

Slumping Stars

Phillippe Aumont, RHP, Phillies (AA)—Aumont’s command (32/31 K/BB ratio in 40 1/3 IP) has been very poor this year, with some truly dreadful moments like a 13-walk-in-5-IP stretch across two starts in early May.

Aumont’s heavy fastball helps him keep the ball in the yard—he only has allowed one homer—but he’s got a 6.25 ERA thanks to the terrible command. His mechanics are inconsistent, and his fastball moves so much that it’s tough for him to know where it’s going to end up.

Aumont still has the mid-90’s moving heater and a big curveball. He’s also just 21. There are plenty of reasons to stay optimistic.

Still, there’s no question that he’s going to need quite a bit of time before he’s a major league pitcher. With his struggles as a starter, the calls for Aumont to move to relief (where he pitched in 2009), will only get louder, as well.

Chase D’Arnaud, SS, Pirates (AA)—After hitting .295/.402/.481 in High-A last year, D’Arnaud was viewed as a player who could develop into a solid all-around shortstop.

But the transition from A-ball to Double-A is known as the most difficult transition in the minors for a reason, and D’Arnaud has fallen victim to that jump this year, batting just .222/.309/.316 in his Double-A debut.

At 23, D’Arnaud doesn’t have the luxury of having a couple years to work through his issues, a la Aumont, and still retain top prospect status. He’s shown no power (no homers), but at least, he’s 8-for-9 in steals and has a decent 29/19 K/BB ratio.

If he doesn’t show much power this year, D’Arnaud is probably bound for utility work in the majors rather than a starting gig.

Jefry Marte, 3B, Mets (Low-A)—Marte hit .325/.398/.532 in Rookie ball in 2008, which made him a major prospect.

However, he slumped to a terrible .233/.279/.338 in Low-A last year. He was just 18, so that wasn’t too big of a deal.

But now, in his second try at Low-A, Marte hasn’t improved, hitting just .209/.304/.310. His K/BB ratio has improved (26/14 after 117/25 last year), but he’s seen no increase in power, and he’s not viewed as much of a defender at third base.

Marte turns 19 next month, so he’s still ahead of the age curve, but he’s also a Low-A repeater with a .614 OPS. Until he produces at the plate, he simply can’t be considered more than a sleeper.

Sleeper Alert!

Brian Jeroloman, C, Blue Jays (AA)—Catchers can develop late, and power can develop late.

Jeroloman is a 25-year-old spending his third year in Double-A. He’s never hit more than six homers in a season.

The lefty hitter had one skill entering 2010: he walked a lot.

In 2007, he had a ridiculous 57/85 K/BB ratio. It was 64/58 in 2008 as well, before slumping to 120/62 in 2009.

His 2009 season, as a whole, was terrible, as he batted just .217/.330/.316.

Well, now, Jeroloman still has struck out more times (39) than games played (34), but his walk rate is back up (27 walks), and he’s finally showing power.

Jeroloman is batting .333/.474/.552 with five homers already. He averaged five homers per season the last three years.

Jeroloman has the look of a guy who can catch against RHPs, which would mean he can handle 100-120 games a year as a starter. John Baker is a decent comparison.

Cody Decker, 1B, Padres (High-A)—Decker was a 22nd-round draft pick last season as a college senior and spent last year as a 22-year-old in Rookie ball.

Nobody would’ve noticed him if he hadn’t bashed the living daylight out of the ball there, hitting .354/.421/.717 with 15 homers in just 52 games.

The Padres, realizing Decker was too good for the low minors, sent him all the way up to High-A Lake Elsinore at age 23 this year. He hasn’t slowed down, batting .303/.349/.577 with 10 homers.

Decker is a 23-year-old High-A first baseman, so he does have to rake to be noticed. The standards of hitting at his age and position are very high. He also has some plate discipline issues (44/12 K/BB ratio).

Still, the power is very real, and Decker’s hit for average thus far. He could be a solid platoon guy in the majors, and until his numbers decrease, it’s tough to rule out Decker’s potential as a starter.

Dan Remenowsky, RHP, White Sox (High-A)—A former indie leaguer, Remenowsky burst onto the scene last year by striking out 109 batters in just 63 1/3 Low-A innings. Sure, he was 23, and he’s a soft-tossing reliever, but you can’t ignore that.

This year, the 24-year-old has a 37/7 K/BB ratio in 26 2/3 High-A innings. He’s got a high-80’s heater and a plus splitter, and his deceptive delivery makes both play up.

Hey, this is essentially the Trevor Hoffman skill set, and that worked pretty well for Hoffman (before this year, anyway).

The Quadruple-A Special

Paul McAnulty, 1B, Angels (AA)—A Double-A player as the Quadruple-A Special? Huh?

McAnulty, of course, is a former big leaguer who has spent plenty of time in AAA as well, and has been the second-best hitter in the Texas League this year (behind Moustakas).

He’s hitting .343/.429/.642. He batted .343/.440/.646 in Triple-A in 2008, so he certainly has proved himself there.

McAnulty can play all four corners, and he sure can hit. He would make a decent platoon option for a team like the White Sox, who are running Mark Kotsay out there most days.

It’s worth noting that most successful Triple-A players tend to struggle when sent down to Double-A, probably because they’re discouraged at the demotion. McAnulty’s success there speaks to his resolve and mental toughness.

Topics: Andrew Cashner, Brian Jeroloman, Chase D'Arnaud, Cody Decker, Dan Remenowsky, Jefry Marte, Mike Minor, Mike Moustakas, Paul McAnulty, Phillippe Aumont

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