The Second Opening Day

The minor league season kicked off on Thursday, and I was in catch up mode this morning. I took my eyes away for the Jimmy Rollins watch Thursday afternoon, ended up in a draft later, and then got caught up watching the UFC on Spike TV. My fascination with the UFC began in earnest when I lost more money than I’ll ever admit to my wife one evening in a Nevada sports lounge. The UFC, alcohol, and money in your pocket are not a good combination when you’re vacationing on the strip.

Everyone will be regurgitating the box lines for all the top guys this morning, and there were many with a mitt-full of opening day starts from the best pitching prospects per league. I’ll let them pontificate for the time being and instead note some interesting things for this morning’s box score watch.

Triple-A International League

Durham            AB R  H BI
B Upton SS        5  1  2  0 2B SB
D Young RF        5  0  2  1
E Dukes LF        4  1  2  0 SB

B.J. Upton is hitting second, Delmon Young third, and Elijah Dukes has moved to left field and hitting cleanup. That’s a team isn’t it? I mentioned Dukes might have trouble breaking into the lineup with Carl Crawford, Jonny Gomes, Rocco Baldelli, and Joey Gathright already with the big club. Something has to break this year if Dukes makes the dent I think he’s capable of. I expect one or two will have to be traded just to get Young into the lineup regularly for 2007. And the team does have needs.

Pitching Line Of Note

Rochester (Twins)                  IP   H   R  ER  BB  SO  HR
B Bonser (W,1-0)                     6   2   0   0   2   8   0

A terrific start to the 2006 season for the king of K. Boof has never exhibited a great deal of consistency, but the former Giants first rounder is only 24, and could find himself back in a picture with a solid season. The Twins have some safer bets in the system, and the picture referred to is probably with another squad. I’m watching with interest as a prospect guy obsessed with the strikeout-to-inning ratio, as this is an important year for him. Another up and down season will probably make him a never-was.

Oddity

TOLEDO                             IP   H   R  ER  BB  SO  HR

W Ledezma (L,0-1)          4 2-3   3   1   1   2   9   0

Nine strikeouts in four and two-third innings bears a mention. I thought Ledezma might show something in 2005 but he was far too erratic. Now 25, it’s a make or break year. Often it takes left-handers longer to gain the modicum of control necessary to succeed at the majors, but I admit scepticism in his case.

Triple-A Pacific Coast League

SALT LAKE(Angels)AB  R  H BI
E Aybar SS             5  0  3  3 3B CS 3 errors
H Kendrick 2B        5  0  2  1 2B SB
D McPherson 3B     5  1  1  0 2B
K Morales 1B         5  0  0  0
M Napoli C            5  2  4  0 2b

Another top-flight hitting team this season with the first five potentially minor league All-Stars. Mike Napoli at catcher is worth noting, although I’ve always maintained he isn’t the type that could do it full-time at the major league level ala Jeff Mathis. I do think he’ll hit for a better average than his minor league stats have shown thus far, and the power potential is legitimate.

Tacoma (Seattle)
Mike Morse is batting cleanup for Tacoma and playing first base. I told anyone who would listen that he wasn’t a shortstop and doesn’t project as a major league bat at either the corner outfield spots or first base.

Round Rock (Houston)

Luke Scott went 1-for-3 with a home run and a pair of walks. He’ll likely be called up again at some point, but at age 27 is quickly becoming a Triple-A plus player, proving he has power but not quite the eye necessary against major league pitching. Close enough it bears monitoring however.

Colorado Springs (Rockies)

Jeff Baker went 1-for-3 as the cleanup hitter on Thursday. He continues to play right field, a switch that will likely get him to the majors this season. He is a legitimate power hitter and should be able to take advantage of the opportunity and Coors Field when it arises. Definitely an interesting prospect whose season should be carefully scrutinized.

Las Vegas (Dodgers)
Wily Aybar is playing third, Delwyn Young is playing left field (no longer a second base prospect as expected), Andre Ethier is playing in right, and Angel Guzman played first base.

I wouldn’t read too much into the first base move as James Loney is currently up with the team. Guzman grew out of the shortstop position and can play third too, but will likely be moved back to the outfield when Nomar Garciaparra is healthy (when is that again?), and Loney is returned to the minors.

Pitching Line Of Note
ROUND ROCK                         IP     H   R  ER  BB  SO  HR
J Hirsh                               4 1-3    2   3   1   3   5   0

The overall consensus is that Jason Hirsh is the coming attraction and the best Astros pitcher in the organization. I’m not convinced and feel he’ll fall short of lofty expectations. He has improved tremendously and a continuation at the same pace will make this assessment moot, but mechanical issues over ride just one good season at present.

Oddity
TACOMA                              IP   H   R  ER  BB  SO  HR
C Nageotte (W,1-0)                 5   0   0   0   2   4   0

A five inning no-hitter. The oddity is Nageotte himself. His career is earmarked with tremendous stretches of lines like this one, and also with sudden thumps where he loses control of the strike zone and gets pummelled only to return back to form. It’s frustrating and difficult to assess. Now at age 25, he profiles as neither a starter nor a reliever given an enigmatic status that can’t be depended upon. He’ll need a year showing command and the ability to get through the tough days before he’s a legitimate anything.

Double-A and the lower minor pitching lines later in the day.

Dan Quon
 

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