Minor Musings April 9

Rareity, even in the minors – Both starting pitchers in the Triple-A International League matchup between Indianapolis (Pirates) and Pawtucket (Red Sox) were posting perfect games when they were removed. Niero Rodriguez threw six innings with seven strikeouts while Matt Ginter went five striking out four. Unfortunately neither are prospects, Rodriguez is now 33 and Ginter  –a non-roster invitee this year — was a first-rounder in 1999, drafted by the White Sox 22nd overall out of Mississippi State, but is now 28 and on his fourth team. Still, I thought the accomplishment worth noting.

Pacific Coast League

Angel Guzman – He pitched five shutout innings for Triple-A Iowa allowing a pair of hits and a single walk while striking out six.

My thoughts on Guzman have been documented in this blog. He’s a pitcher I’ve liked for a long time believing his minor league interior stats will improve in the majors. He just needs to show some health for an extended period, easier said than done with many a pitching prospect. If he can repeat these types of outings in the hitting friendly PCL, he could get called up at some point this year, and succeed where Jerome Williams is currently failing. I really don’t see Williams, Glendon Rusch, or Sean Marshall holding him back if the 24-year-old gets on a roll and forces the issue.

Felix Pie – Pie went 3-for-4 on Sunday for the second consecutive game with a pair of triples, four RBI, and his third stolen base of the young season.

It’s a fast start to his Triple-A debut as an underage 21-year-old and he’s only struck out twice thus far. He may not be the best outfield prospect in the minors but he’s close, and easily the most exciting. Prospect lists prepared by those that are in love with the walk-to-k rte have him ranked lower for his lack of plate discipline.  I personally prefer him to Lastings Milledge and think he may be the closest thing to Carl Crawford in the minors at present.  I expect his real power potential will not be revealed until he’s closer to peak physicality age and he should be major league veteran before that occurs.

Justin Huber – Huber hit his first home run of the year going 3-for-4 for Triple-A Omaha (Royals) with two RBI.
I like Huber as an Australian who was originally quite raw, but am not as high on him as some. I think he’ll become a decent major league first baseman, but not a great one. I don’t think he’s a top-50 prospect, and in fact would rate him as the third best position player in the Royals’ system behind Alex Gordon and Billy Butler. A poor man’s Mike Sweeney — also a converted catcher – who doesn’t profile for the same high batting average.

Billy Traber – Traber, now with New Orleans (Nationals) started the season strong on Sunday with six shutout innings on four hits and a walk while striking out nine.

His low- end prospect status was derailed by Tommy John surgery, promoted to the majors too soon by the Indians back in 2003. Now 26, he has another chance at a career, but there’s little margin for error. He’s not a great prospect projecting as a control type who could be a number three at the prognostication pinnacle.

Wily Aybar – Aybar hit two home runs for Triple-A Las Vegas on Sunday with three runs scored and five RBI. He’s now 7-for-16 with 10 RBI and three walks without a strikeout.

He’s played at both second and third base. He’s one of those guys I’ve tracked for a long time for being a rare combination, a Dominican tools prospect who doesn’t strike out a great deal, actually posting an 11/18 strikeout-to-walk ratio last year in 26 major league appearances.
He’s being pigeonholed as a utility man, but he’s still just 23 and if he showed more pop that could change. He’s certainly not the most prolific prospect on a team that features Joel Guzman and Andre Ethier currently and James Loney up at present but likely to return. Still, Jeff Kent is not getting any younger and I think he might have a chance as a second baseman with a big power spike in the minors, something that’s not unheard of at his age and talent package.

Adam Jones – Jones went 0-for-4 on Sunday for Triple-A Tacoma (Mariners) with two strikeouts. He’s begun the season 2-for-11 both extra-base hits with a double and a triple.

First off, he’s a 20-year-old at Triple-A and offensive struggles initially are to be expected. I’m not quite as high on Jones as many thinking he’ll probably be a better defensive centerfielder than a hitter. He’s got raw power but has trouble with pitch recognition and is a pure fastball hitter. The Mike Cameron comparison is apt, although Cameron had better speed and more potential for stolen bases at the age, but Jones has advanced quicker. He’s still potentially a shortstop but the Mariners have a couple in the system, and Jones should become a superior defender in center over time.

Jack Cust – Why mention Jack Cust? No reason except he began the season with home runs in consecutive games and went 2-for-3 on Sunday with three runs scored and a pair of walks. He’s now gone 5-for-15 with a 1/3 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Honestly, it’s just morbid curiosity. He had such potential as a hitter earlier in the decade I wonder if it’s possible to right the ship. And given the lack of power in the Padres outfield and corners, I’m wondering if he or Jon Knott will get a glimpse this year. I suppose much depends on the shoulder of Ryan Klesko, but I’m not giving him much of a shot for returning. Is Termell Sledge a better option than these two? I don’t know. I’m not a huge Sledge fan either.

Lower minors later in the day…
Dan Quon

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