Welcome to the first June installment of This Week in Prospects!
As always, feel free to ask questions about any prospects covered here (or any others!)
Drew Cumberland, SS, Padres (High-A)—A 21-year-old shortstop with an OPS over 1.000? That’ll get someone noticed.
Cumberland hit .357/.410/.589 in April, and actually topped that with a .381/.421/.584 line in May.
There’s, of course, a Cal League caveat, but Cumberland batted a solid .293/.386/.410 in a pitcher’s league last year at age 20.
Cumberland also offers good speed, as he’s stolen 16 bases in 22 attempts.
He’s not a defensive savant, but Cumberland should be able to man short in the majors, and would be a plus defender at second base, where he also has some experience.
When he jumps to Double-A, which should be soon, Cumberland will be tested as he moves to less of a hitter-friendly environment. If he keeps raking there, he’s got a shot at being a perennial All-Star.
Grant Green, SS, Athletics (High-A)—Green isn’t making the huge splash that Cumberland is, but Oakland’s 2009 first-rounder is at a solid .306/.354/.410 thus far.
That sort of performance, while good, doesn’t typically get a guy onto Hot Shots, but it’s Green’s recent performance that really stands out.
Green hit .317/.380/.417 in May, .442/.489/.605 in his last 10 games, and is 15-for-23 over his last five games, which is a nice little .652/.667/.913 line. He has a five-game multi-hit game streak, and an eight-game hit streak overall.
Green is a decent defensive shortstop as well, and his recent surge propels him from something of a disappointment to a player who is right on track.
Randall Delgado, RHP, Braves (High-A)—A hard thrower with two plus offspeed offerings, Delgado also has surprising command for a 20-year-old foreign power pitcher, as he’s walked just 12 batters in 65 1/3 innings this year.
With his 72 Ks, he’s got a 6/1 K/BB ratio, which is stellar.
Delgado pitches in the low 90’s with good fastball movement, and his changeup grades out as a major league out pitch. His curveball comes and goes, but is also a plus pitch when it’s on.
Delgado looks like a potential ace for the Braves, along with Tommy Hanson and Julio Teheran. More likely, he becomes a very good #2 or #3, but he’ll be a very good big leaguer.
Jordan Danks, OF, White Sox (AAA)—Many White Sox fans view Danks as part of the solution to the team’s struggling offense, which has often seen Mark Kotsay, of all people, hit fifth.
Danks, however, doesn’t look to be much of a solution just yet.
He’s batting .230/.307/.356 and has struck out 66 times in just 49 games, which is second in the International League.
At 23, Danks isn’t at the age where he has several years to languish and still retain top prospect status. It’s worth noting he only hit .243/.337/.356 in Double-A last year, so it wasn’t like he mastered that level either.
At this point, it’s looking highly unlikely that Danks will be ready for the major leagues at any point this season, and he’s going to need to show more against lefties (he’s currently batting .146 off them) if he wants to be more than a platoon guy or fourth outfielder long-term.
Gorkys Hernandez, OF, Pirates (AA)—When the Pirates acquired Hernandez from Atlanta in the middle of last year, he was hitting .316/.361/.387 in Double-A. He’s now hitting .230/.297/.257 at the same level a year later.
Hernandez is just 22, so he’s not that old, and there’s a possibility he’s just frustrated that he’s been at the same level for over a year. His strikeout rate (45 in 47 games) doesn’t bode well for a player with no home runs. He is 9-for-9 in steals, at least, so that’s one plus, and he is a solid defender in the outfield.
Thankfully, the Pirates have Andrew McCutchen in center field long-term, so Hernandez’s development isn’t crucial. At this point, he projects as a fourth outfielder/pinch-runner type.
Ross Seaton, Astros (High-A)—It’s unfair to pick on a guy who pitches in Lancaster for his 5.37 ERA, but Seaton just doesn’t strike guys out. He’s K’ed just 36 in 58 innings this year, and just 88 in 136 2/3 last year.
If you’re only getting 5 or 6 K/9 in the low minors, how are you going to get anyone to swing and miss in the majors?
Seaton has some stuff—a low-90’s heater and solid slider—but the only reason he gets hyped is that the Astros’ system is so weak. He can get grounders, but isn’t the Chien-Ming Wang-type of guy who can live on grounders alone.
Right now, Seaton projects as a filler fifth starter, a la Shane Loux. He’ll probably need to move to relief to have any sort of big league impact, and even then, he’s not a lock to make much of a positive contribution.
Charles Furbush, LHP, Tigers (High-A)—Who the hell is this guy?
Furbush, a 24-year-old lefty out of LSU, struck out 93 batters in 111 1/3 innings last year in High-A. Upon repeating the level, he’s already struck out 90 in just 62 innings.
Furbush has struck out at least nine batters in each of his last five starts.
Furbush is a big lefty with average velocity. He sits in the high 80’s and can get his fastball into the 92-94 range, although he has trouble with his command at those speeds.
His changeup and curveball both rate somewhere between average and plus, so he’s got three quality pitches but no monster.
Obviously, he’s doing something very, very right to K 90 in 62 innings while walking just 11, and Furbush is only getting better as the year goes on. It’s time to move him to Double-A and see what he’s got against advanced hitters.
Terry Doyle, RHP, White Sox (High-A)—Like Furbush, Doyle is a 24-year-old pitcher in A-ball. He even had to start 2010 in Low-A.
Doyle’s been dominant everywhere he’s pitched. He’s posted sub-2.00 FIP marks at every level, and has a career 171/37 K/BB ratio in three minor league seasons.
He made seven starts in Low-A this year, and posted a 0.96 ERA. He’s met with worse results (4.00 ERA) in three High-A starts, but that’s too small a sample to worry about.
Doyle isn’t the hardest thrower in the world, but he has a nice curve and workable changeup, and he has exquisite command. Like Furbush, his numbers make him worth watching, because he’s obviously making lots of people look silly.
Evan Chambers, OF, Pirates (Low-A)—It’s always very important for speed-oriented players to understand the value of a walk. A player who hits .250/.350/.350 is more valuable than one who hits .280/.310/.350, after all. Chambers gets it.
The 21-year-old speedster is batting .250/.403/.357 in Low-A, walking 39 times in 49 games.
He needs to cut down on his K’s (48), but Chambers has good speed (12 steals), and even a little power (three homers), so he has a chance to be a very good all-around player if everything breaks right. He looks like he could be a poor man’s Andrew McCutchen for the Pirates.
The Quadruple-A Special
Andy Van Hekken, LHP, Astros—Andy Van Hekken was among the minor league leaders in wins back when I actually thought pitcher wins were a notable stat—in 2000 and 2001.
Van Hekken pitched for the Tigers in 2002. He threw 30 innings and posted a 3.00 ERA, but struck out a grand total of five batters in 30 innings.
He hasn’t seen the majors since.
Van Hekken struggled in AAA in 2003 and 2004, spent some time in the Braves and Reds organizations in 2005, went to the Royals’ AAA team in 2006, and then began a time of tooling around obscure non-affiliated leagues.
Van Hekken spent all of 2007 and parts of 2006 and 2008 with the Somerset Patriots of the independent Atlantic League, and made five starts in the Mexican League in 2008 as well.
The Astros, always desperate to help out their minor league system (remember, Seaton qualifies as hot stuff over there), picked up the then-28-year-old in 2008 and watched him string together 11 pretty solid starts in Double-A. They re-signed him for last season, and he pitched okay in a swing role at both Double-A and Triple-A.
Van Hekken finally got to start 2010 at Triple-A, and he’s shockingly become one of the PCL’s better pitchers. The 30-year-old lefty has a 3.97 ERA and 48/17 K/BB ratio in 59 innings, for a solid 3.72 FIP.
Van Hekken throws just in the mid-80’s, but his slow curve and changeup are both very effective pitches, so perhaps he can be a poor man’s Dallas Braden, or at least a lefty long reliever in the majors.
It would be really interesting to see him make it back for the first time since 2002—and it looks like he actually deserves it, particularly in a system this barren.