As mentioned, prospect lists and media coverage in general are not great prognosticators for the future. Any long stumble will have a touted player on the outs. There is some legitimacy to that, who among us could envision Vlad Guerrero struggling with minor league pitchers. But it does happen for a few, sometimes it’s an indicator they are mere mortals, on rare occasions it’s a fluke. There are a host of factors in play, both in physical and emotional growth, and it’s important to keep those in mind and pay attention.
Below are a few for Thursday that are off to a hot start, hoping to reclaim their former monikers as legitimate prospects.
David Aardsma RP Cubs
Aardsma looked solid on Wednesday night pitching the ninth and yielding his second hit of the season striking out a pair for Triple-A Iowa. He’s now appeared in four games and five innings without allowing a run on two hits and an 8/0 strikout-to-walk ratio.
Quon On Aardsma April 2004 – “The 22-year-old was the closer for Rice before the Giants made him a first-round draft pick in 2003. He has a big league fastball that can touch 98 mph with late movement. He compliments it nicely with a knuckle-curve and his stuff is closer-made. An off-delivery probably puts too much strain on the elbow for a conversion to the rotation and he’s set to be the closer in waiting at some point.”
I’ve written frequently on closers in waiting. They don’t come directly from the minor league ranks often, excepting first and second round college closers. In Aardsma we have a first round closer, who hasn’t realized what the Giants originally drafted him for, the same draft class that featured Ryan Wagner and Chad Cordero preceding him.
The Giants brought him up too quickly and he never seemed to rebound, He struggled with his mechanics in Triple-A prompting the organization to start him down at Double-A in order to develop his secondary pitches. The mechanical issues saw his velocity drop to the low 90s and his slider flattened out. The trade to the Cubs seemed to send the signal that his problems were not repairable.
New year – In spring training he was clocked in the high 90s again, posting a 13/2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in nine and a third innings. Combining the spring with the Pacific Coast League numbers he’s allowed three runs in 17.1 innings with a dynamic 21/2 K/BB ratio. From a long-term baseball perspective, the acquisition of Aardsma and Jerome Williams for LaTroy Hawkins in 2005 could come back to bite the Giants.
Don’t be surprised to see Aardsma get another chance this season, the Cubs bullpen is sure to be in need at some point. And if the mechanical issues are behind him, expect Aardsma to re-enter closer conversations in the near future.
Dustin Moseley SP Angels
Moseley pitched six shutout innings on Wednesday for Triple-A Salt Lake allowing three hits while striking out seven. He’s now 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA and an 11/2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 11 innings.
The 24-year-old first round pick of the Reds in 2000 was acquired by the Angels for Ramon Ortiz, then promptly became Ortiz –the Triple-A version falling in every pitching category, a shell of his strong 2003 campaign between Double-A and Triple-A.
But like Aardsma he had a strong spring training pitching eight and third innings and allowing only two unearned runs on five singles and a 5/3 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He’s a guy I’ve likened to A’s Joe Blanton, a power pitcher who doesn’t have great stuff, but can get it into the low 90s and be a capable no.2 or 3 inning-eater, if he can get his mechanics in order and control the fastball at both sides of the plate.
He didn’t accomplish that in 2005, but it’s a new year and no one believes the Angels’ staff is immune to the injury bug. He may get a shot, and he’s only 24, although he’ll need a big Triple-A half-season at least before we start talking about it in earnestness.
Franklyn Gutierrez OF Indians
Gutierrez went 2-for-3 on Thursday with a double and home run for Triple-A Buffalo. He’s now hitting .357 with a pair of home runs and three doubles through the first seven games.
He’s fallen off the radar with so many of his teammates and fellow outfielders being brought to the majors and excelling. He regressed in the power department and not hitting for a high enough average to counteract his improved discipline. The trade that sent him to the Indians for Milton Bradley hasn’t worked out to date, but he’s still just 23 and the power potential hasn’t departed.
He’s playing centerfield and leading off at present but he isn’t going to replace Grady Sizemore in either spots.
This season is huge for him as potential needs to be realized statistically, and he’s no longer young for the level. Watch for improved numbers for a sustained period. It wouldn’t be a surprise if it comes to fruition, historically this is the right time for prospects of his caliber to emerge, and the development stages leading to it are in evidence.