Welcome to the June 15, 2010 edition of This Week in Prospects! This week, we’ll look at one of the most promising catching prospects in baseball, a young arm that Brewers fans should take note of, some interesting short-season pitchers, and several other intriguing prospects from around the minors.
This week’s profiles follow after the jump.
Wil Myers, C, Royals (High-A)—This 19-year-old catcher hit .289/.408/.500 in Low-A, which is more than enough to get noticed, but he’s taken his game to a whole new level in High-A since being promoted at the start of July.
Myers is 18-for-43 at the new level, hitting .419/.479/.512.
All told, he’s hit .309/.418/.502 across the two levels, exhibiting a high-average bat, good doubles power and emerging HR power, and an ability to control the strike zone.
Oh, and he’s played in two very pitcher-friendly leagues, so when he hits the more neutral Double-A Texas League, his power numbers may increase.
All the offensive production from a 19-year-old catcher kind of sounds too good to be true, so the question becomes whether this is a Jesus Montero situation or if Myers can actually catch in the majors.
Well, his arm is solid, and he erased 34% of Low-A runners this year. Myers is a tall catcher, and those often need to move out at some point, but he’s athletic enough to handle the outfield with aplomb, a la Jayson Werth, rather than being moored to 1B/DH like Montero or Jeff Clement. Myers has 10 steals this year.
Myers is yet another gem in a Kansas City farm system that looks poised to (gulp) make the Royals a contender in a few years.
Nick Franklin, SS, Mariners (Low-A)—Another 19-year-old up-the-middle player showing excellent offensive potential, the switch-hitting Franklin has blasted 15 homers in Low-A this year.
The .285/.342/.515 hitter is especially interesting because he was viewed as more of a defense-and-contact type of player when he was drafted 27th overall last year. He should stay at shortstop long-term, and now looks like a guy who might be able to provide some serious power for his position. 15 homers in 3 ½ months from a 19-year-old generally isn’t a complete fluke, particularly in the Midwest League, where early-season cold weather depresses offense (Not for Franklin, who slugged .624 in April).
The 66/24 K/BB needs work, but Franklin looks to be one of the top shortstop prospects in the minors entering 2011. He could put up some silly numbers if promoted to High-A High Desert and their pinball machine of a ballpark.
Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Brewers (Low-A)—The 32nd overall pick in 2008, the 20-year-old righthander Odorizzi has been one of the most dominant pitchers in the Midwest League this year in his first shot at full-season ball.
The Brewers brought him along slowly in 2008-09, keeping him in Rookie ball despite good success.
Finally unleashed for a full campaign this year, Odorizzi’s put up a 2.86 ERA while striking out 96 batters and walking just 26 in 78 1/3 innings. He’s allowed just one homer all year as well.
Odorizzi has some work to do against lefties—while they haven’t hit him hard this year, he shies away from throwing strikes to them, and has a 36/18 K/BB ratio against them, compared to 60/8 against righties.
Odorizzi will need to improve his changeup to give him an out pitch to lefties. He throws a good low-90’s moving fastball and a good curveball already, and his plus command makes both pitches play up.
Odorizzi and Kyle Heckathorn give the Brewers two arms in Low-A with front-of-the-rotation potential. With others such as Wily Peralta and Evan Anundsen, a fearsome Milwaukee rotation could eventually materialize.
Scott Moviel, RHP, Mets (High-A)—It’s hard to not get excited about a 6’11” righthander, but it’s time to admit that Moviel simply hasn’t produced.
The 77th overall pick in 2007, Moviel posted solid but unspectacular numbers in 2007, 2008, and 2009. The Mets held the 22-year-old back in High-A this year despite his posting a 3.92 ERA there last season, and he’s fallen apart upon repeating the level.
Moviel has a 6.10 ERA and 49/38 K/BB, and he’s in a pitcher-friendly environment.
Moved to relief after 13 ineffective starts, Moviel’s problems continued, as he’s walked six and struck out just three in seven innings in the new role. This isn’t going to be an Andrew Bailey situation where the role change turns the light bulb on and the guy speeds to the majors.
It’s tough to write a 22-year-old guy with Moviel’s size and stuff—a 90-94 mph fastball, good slider, solid curveball, and developing changeup—off completely, but he doesn’t miss many bats despite all he has going for him, and while he’s okay in other areas, he doesn’t really have any signature skills that suggest a big league career.
Maybe he figures it out all of a sudden like Andrew Brackman seems to have, but Moviel is the sort of prospect that simply needs to produce before he deserves much more attention.
Tyler Robertson, LHP, Twins (AA)—Robertson’s had the same sort of issues as Moviel—he can’t get batters to swing and miss, and his average control and average groundball rate don’t offset that problem.
A strikeout pitcher in the low minors, Robertson’s seen his K/9 rate dip dramatically from 2007-2010, going from 10.8 to 7.9 to 6.5 to 5.7.
The lefthander has a 49/36 K/BB in 81 1/3 innings, and 10 batters have homered off him. He has a 5.73 ERA in 16 starts.
He can strike out lefties at a decent clip (25 in 26 2/3 IP), but has allowed seven homers to them. He’s allowed just three longballs to righties, but has just a 24/24 K/BB in 55 innings to them. Robertson tries to overpower lefties up in the zone, while he works as more of a groundball guy to righties, and both approaches seem to have too many drawbacks for him to succeed.
The struggles against lefties also make a move to the bullpen something of an unattractive option.
Luckily for Robertson, he’s a 22-year-old in Double-A, so if he can rebound in 2011, he still could be a prospect and have a good career.
Declining velocity is an issue, however, as he’s down to the high 80’s after touching 94 mph in the past. That leaves his curveball as his only real weapon, as his changeup is poor and his slider is fringy. He either must regain his velocity or find a second plus offspeed pitch, or else he’s probably doomed to a Heath Phillips-esque career (hopefully without the weight problems).
Clay Fuller, OF, Angels (High-A)—Thought of as a potential replacement for Torii Hunter down the line for the Angels, Fuller couldn’t even crack a .700 OPS in the Cal League last year, and was the worst hitter in the Texas League in 2010’s first three months, hitting an atrocious .168/.243/.240.
The Angels ultimately had no choice but to send him back to High-A, and to his credit, Fuller’s hit well there (.353/.457/.574). Still, he’s now a 23-year-old who hasn’t been able to hit much unless he’s repeating a level.
The fourth-rounder from the 2006 draft has never homered 10 times in a season, has only hit .270 or better once (repeating the AZL in 2007), and strikes out too much given his lack of power. Even his basestealing, once his big forte, has suffered this year, as he’s just 11-for-17 on the bases.
At this point, Fuller will be lucky to have Freddy Guzman’s career as a pinch-runner/defensive replacement who bounced around the majors for a little while.
Tom Shirley, LHP, Astros (Short-season-A)—Shirley was the Astros’ ninth-round pick out of Xavier this season, and he’s immediately made a name for himself by putting together four great starts in the New York-Penn League, striking out a whopping 24 batters in 14 innings and allowing just one run (which was unearned).
You might think that Shirley is just an advanced college lefty dominating inferior competition, but in fact, he’s more of a big, raw hard thrower than you’d expect from a 21-year-old college draftee.
He’s got a big, durable build and stands 6’5”, pitching off a fastball that can reach the mid-90’s. He pounds the bottom of the zone with the pitch, ensuring that when a hitter does manage to put it in play, it’s almost always a grounder—he has a 56% groundball rate, and almost half of the hits in the air off him have been harmless infield popups.
Shirley has walked eight batters in 14 innings and his secondary stuff needs work, but he’s got two things going for him: a) he’s already dominating and b) he has room to improve, suggesting that he isn’t already maximizing his talents in the low minors likE Robertson did. You can’t start your pro career much better than this.
Argenis Paez, RHP, Athletics (Rookie)—Paez’s sinker is a tremendous pitch. He pounds the bottom of the zone with it, throwing tons of strikes (5 BB in 24 2/3 IP) and getting tons of grounders (64% GB rate; 5.33 GO/FO ratio). He’s allowed just two homers in 128 career innings.
The 19-year-old Venezuelan already works the sinker into the low 90’s, and he’s got a projectable frame that suggests he could touch 95-96 in the future.
Paez isn’t just a one-trick pony a la Scott Munter, though—he’s got a curveball and a changeup that are already more than just show pitches, which is great at his age. His strikeout numbers aren’t off the charts by any means, but with his groundball ability, they don’t need to be.
Paez is a player to watch in the A’s system. He has a Chien-Ming Wang-esque ceiling.
Doug Deeds, OF, Diamondbacks (AAA)—I’ve spent most of this TWiP installment looking at young players, so I guess I’m counteracting that by profiling the 29-year-old Deeds, who is positively antediluvian for a prospect.
A ninth-round pick of Minnesota in 2002, Deeds has been kicking around Double-A and Triple-A since 2005. He’s a career .303/.381/.492 Double-A hitter in 448 games and has hit .271/.345/.441 in 217 career games in Triple-A. He’s never appeared in the majors.
Deeds has finally figured out Triple-A this year, hitting .302/.397/.489, which matches up neatly with his Double-A career line.
Aside from his quality doubles-oriented lefty bat, Deeds offers solid defense and versatility in the Nick Swisher mold—he’s a solid corner outfielder and first baseman who can spot in center field occasionally without killing you. He can even steal the occasional base.
Deeds’ 30 doubles are the most in Triple-A, and he’s tied for second in the minors in that category, one behind J.D. Martinez of the Astros’ Low-A team. He could at least be a solid bench bat in the majors, and could even function as a platoon starter or super-utility 1B/OF.
The Quadruple-A Special
Dan Johnson, 1B, Rays—Johnson differs from many Quad-A players in that he’s had an extended chance to prove himself in the majors. He hit .248/.343/.420 from 2005-2008 in 328 games, so he’s essentially had two full seasons of playing time.
Johnson showed himself to be an adequate if underwhelming first baseman, and it’s worth noting that he didn’t hit very well outside of a .275/.355/.451 rookie showing in 2005.
Still, you have to wonder if a 2009 journey to Japan invigorated Johnson’s bat, because he’s ripping the International League to shreds this year.
The 30-year-old has hit .298/.400/.606 with 24 homers, showing off an improved power stroke. He’s always been a guy who controls the strike zone and doesn’t strike out too much (61/50 K/BB this year, 181/165 in his big league career), so power has always been the big hurdle for Johnson.
The big reason for his power increase has been an increase in flyballs, as Johnson rarely ever hits the ball on the ground anymore. This has allowed him to bring his power up to standard for corner bats, and he’s managed to retain his contact abilities and plate judgment in the process.
Johnson’s seen some time at third base and left field this year and hasn’t embarrassed himself. Perhaps utilty work can break him into the majors again. An NL team looking for a versatile bench bat to put them over the top (say, the Padres), would be wise to look into acquiring him.