Welcome to the July 29, 2010 edition of This Week in Prospects! Who knows, by the time you read this, one of this week’s ten prospects may already have been dealt!
This week, we’ve got three Reds prospects: one who is having a phenomenal year and two who are disappointing. We’ll also look at a pitcher who may be the next Jonathan Broxton, the player who may one day take over for Ryan Howard (if he isn’t traded first!), and much more.
As always, this week’s ten profiles are right after the jump!
Manny Banuelos, LHP, Yankees (High-A)—Banuelos had a huge year in full-season ball at age 18 in 2009, so he was well ahead of his teenage peers entering the year. However, an appendectomy prevented his season from getting started until June.
If anyone could afford a two-month delay, though, it’s Banuelos, who picked up right where he left off. The small lefthander has struck out 36 batters in 26 1/3 innings of High-A pitching, posting a 2.39 ERA, walking just nine, and allowing just one home run.
He may stand just 5’11”, but Banuelos pitches in the low 90’s with pinpoint command, backing up his heater with a plus changeup and an average curveball that could become plus as well. He’s an intelligent pitcher who excels at mixing his pitches and fooling batters from both sides of the plate.
Banuelos is on track to become a very good major league starter. Even with the appendectomy knocking him out for half of 2010, he’s on a very accelerated timetable to the Bronx.
Jose Ceda, RHP, Marlins (AA)—Ceda was acquired from the Cubs for Kevin Gregg prior to the ’09 season and was tabbed as Florida’s closer of the future. He put up some silly numbers in the low minors, like allowing just 14 hits in 46 1/3 innings in Low-A in 2007.
Ceda got sidetracked by arm problems as soon as he joined his new organization in 2009, however. He would miss the entire year and, like Banuelos, the opening part of 2010.
The 23-year-old is finally back, though, and he’s still throwing triple-digit bullets and wipeout sliders. He’s allowed just nine hits and two runs in 18 Double-A innings, striking out 28 batters.
Ceda, who is built like Jonathan Broxton and has similar stuff, just needs to throw strikes. He’s walked just eight batters in 18 innings this year, which is pretty good for a pitcher with a history of control problems who missed over a year. As long as he can keep his walks to about one every two innings, Ceda should be an intimidating closer for Florida as soon as April 2011.
Donnie Joseph, LHP, Reds (High-A)—While we’re on the subject of future closers, let’s talk about Joseph, who’s right there with Braves lefty Tim Collins as the most dominant lefty reliever in the minors.
Cincinnati’s 3rd-rounder in the 2009 draft has put up numbers that just about anyone would envy across the two A-ball levels. In 48 2/3 innings, he’s allowed just 25 hits, 10 runs (8 earned), and just two homers, while walking 20 and striking out a whopping 85.
Joseph’s nailed down 17 saves on the year and projects to be a rare lefthanded closer in the majors. He throws a fastball in the low 90’s that can get up to 95-96 on occasion, and he throws a wipeout slider as well. Not quite Billy Wagner-level stuff, I suppose, but better than that of Mike Gonzalez or George Sherrill.
Joseph profiles as a Gonzalez type with better control and, hopefully, fewer injuries.
That problem is now far on the backburner, though, as Alonso has failed to distinguish himself in Triple-A and clearly isn’t ready to play an offensively challenging position in the majors.
Granted, a .277/.324/.417 line isn’t exactly terrible, but it shows a lack of secondary skills (walks and power) that is very troubling from a first baseman. Alonso has just 19 walks and seven homers in 69 games. The walks have dropped off considerably since his promotion from Double-A, where he walked 19 times in just 31 games, and the power wasn’t there even in Double-A, where he slugged just .406.
At 23, Alonso isn’t the sort of guy who’s all that young for his level, so to be a future MLB starter, he has to produce more than this, particularly in the power department. Low-power first basemen don’t survive very long, and while left field might be an option for him, defensively-challenged low-power left fielders aren’t exactly treasured commodities themselves.
Right now, Alonso profiles more as a Doug Mientkiewicz type with a worse glove. I thought he was an overdraft when he was picked seventh overall in 2008 (ahead of Justin Smoak, for one), and Alonso has done little to change my opinion.
Juan Duran, OF, Reds (Rookie)—Not to pile on Cincinnati fans this week (hey, at least Joseph is good news), but Duran, a highly-acclaimed international signee in 2008, continues to have huge trouble making contact in the low minors.
The 6’7” Dominican behemoth hit just .177 in the GCL last year. He’s doing slightly better in the higher-level Pioneer league, hitting .211/.289/.321, but Duran has whiffed 39 times in 28 games and continues to show remarkably little power for a player with his size and leverage.
Unlike Alonso, Duran is young for his level, turning 19 in a month, so he has time to figure out his swing, recognize breaking balls, and make other adjustments. But we’re now on year three of his career (he played in the Dominican Summer League in 2008), and he has yet to hit .220 or slug .325 in a season.
Tim Alderson, RHP, Pirates (High-A)—Alderson seems to lose velocity every year—he topped out at 97 in high school, but now throws more in the 87-91 range. He was able to succeed in 2008 and 2009 anyway, thanks to pristine command, but that command hasn’t been the same since he was traded from San Francisco to Pittsburgh at the deadline last year.
He posted a 5.30 ERA in 17 Double-A starts this season, striking out just 57 batters in 86 2/3 innings and allowing ten homers. That earned the 21-year-old righty a trip back to High-A for the first time in a year and a half, and he’s had two disastrous starts there: 5 2/3 IP, 9 H, 14 R, 13 ER, 3 HR, 7 BB, 3 K.
Remarkably, he’s still pretty young despite spending almost two years in Double-A already, so there’s time for Alderson to adjust. He still throws a good curveball and pounds the strike zone (with the exception of his two High-A starts, anyway).
Alderson now profiles as a back-of-the-rotation starter even if he gets himself back together, far from the 6’7” flamethrowing behemoth with great command he was supposed to be.
Jonathan Garcia, OF, Dodgers (Rookie)—An athletic 18-year-old outfielder with surprising polish, Garcia is the most advanced young hitter in the Pioneer League, hitting .322/.386/.513. It’s no fluke: he hit .304/.362/.500 in the AZL last year as a 17-year-old after being drafted in the eighth round out of a Puerto Rican high school.
Garcia has a smooth right-handed swing that gives him plenty of power potential beyond what he already has, and he’s an intelligent hitter who is in the process of tightening up his strike zone. He’s also a plus defender in either center or right field with outstanding natural instincts.
He’s a long way from the majors, but Garcia has five-tool potential and is a player to keep an eye on.
Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Phillies (Low-A)—Singleton is hitting .319/.425/.536 in Low-A.
You might not be impressed by that, given that he’s a first baseman, and there always are a few older college first base types who put up silly numbers like that at the lower levels.
What separates Singleton from the pack is that he’s anything but an older college type. In fact, he doesn’t turn 19 until November, so he’s one of the youngest players in full-season ball.
Like Garcia, Singleton was an eighth-round pick last year (ten picks after Garcia). He was selected out of a California high school and proceeded to hit .290/.395/.440 in Rookie ball. What really stuck out statistically was his control of the strike zone—18 walks and just 13 strikeouts in 31 games.
This year, the aforementioned .319/.425/.536 line has represented the lefty swinger kicking it up a notch. With a 45/44 K/BB in 69 games, he still doesn’t strike out much for a power hitter while walking far more than most 18-year-olds.
Of course, we are talking about a Philadelphia first baseman, and with Ryan Howard signed to a ridiculous contract through 2016, Singleton will need another position or another organization to realize much of a major league career (although, shockingly, he’ll only be 25 at the start of 2017, the first post-Howard year).
Singleton is a better defender than most first basemen, although that’s largely more based on his hands than his speed. If he keeps hitting like this through Double-A, look for him to give left field a try or be prime trade bait.
Deryk Hooker, RHP, Cardinals (High-A)—After showing tremendous promise in 2008 as a 19-year-old, Hooker lost much of last year to a drug suspension. Thankfully, he got the help he needed, handled himself with class, and by all accounts, this isn’t a Jeremy Jeffress or Jeff Allison situation where that could significantly affect his career.
A seventh-rounder in 2007 with a big frame and bigger curveball, Hooker spent all of last year in short-season ball, but finally got another crack at the Midwest League this year and dominated, posting a 2.83 ERA and 88/22 K/BB in 70 innings. He’s still young, having turned 21 five weeks ago.
Hooker was promoted to High-A Palm Beach earlier this month, and threw 4 2/3 quality innings in his first start on July 23. He features a low-90’s fastball, the plus curve, and a well-developed changeup. Hooker could be a solid mid-rotation starter in a couple of years; for now, he’d like to show enough in High-A the rest of the way to open 2011 as a 21-year-old in Double-A.
The Quadruple-A Special
Wes Timmons, INF, Braves—Timmons’ plate discipline has stood out for years, as he has a whopping 262/416 K/BB in 883 minor league games, including a 138/218 mark in his Triple-A career. The fact that a hitter with such little power (he averages just four homers per year in his minor league career) can find his way on base so often is a testament to Timmons’ contact abilities and plate discipline.
The 30-year-old is having a stereotypical .293/.396/.396 season with Triple-A Gwinnett this year, walking 46 times and striking out just 29 while swiping 18 bases and playing solid defense. He has experience all over the infield, and fits best as a utilityman with OBP skills. The Braves have plenty of utility types, so they don’t really need him—a smart team would get Timmons as a trade throw-in.