Leader Board Notes – Triple-A International League

Ryan Garko C/1B Indians – Garko drove in five runs on Monday and now leads the league in RBI with 14 through 11 games. He’s posted a .419/.490/.581 performance thus far, continuing his success as a minor league hitter since being drafted in the third round of 2003 out of Stanford.

I’m sure most of you know who he is by now. While upper draft picks like Michael Aubrey have fallen back Garko continues to impress with a .900 OPS through four levels coming into this year. He’s not considered a great receiver, and was blocked at the position so the organization has converted him to first base.

As a hitter he’s the most likely inside the organization to assume the position full-time next season with Ben Broussard moving on. As a converted catcher the inevitable comparisons to Chris Shelton and Mike Sweeney will be made.  Shelton was a more powerful hitter in the minors, but had moved from behind the plate earlier and often the less taxing role defensively leads to more production. The Sweeney comparison is probably closer to Garko’s ceiling as a major league hitter, a 25-30 home run guy with a .300 batting average in a few years. I don’t have anything negative about his defense around the bag thus far and he should be fine. His long-term prognosis is good, with a notation that he’s not likely to produce the huge power that some at the position possess but far greater that just gap power.

Josh Fields 3B White Sox – Fields is tied for second in the league with 16 strikeouts. But has managed a .319/.353/.489 performance with a pair of home runs thus far.

The first round selection in 2004  — former Oklahoma State quarterback — was chosen on athleticism and raw potential and struggles with the strike zone were both expected and realized. His defense is also questionable although he has made strides in this department. His power potential has just begun to take hold statistically but is real and shouldn’t be discounted.
I don’t have a great feeling about Fields. Often I bite on former football players, there’s something in their makeup that bodes well, and had Jeff Francoeur higher on my prospect list at the beginning of 2005 than anyone else, in part because of the intangible qualities. But in the case of Fields I have this nagging Joe Borchard image in the back of my mind. If we were to see evidence in the form of a .300 batting average for an extended period I might be able to ignore the plate discipline issue, looking for improvement more than stathead approval. Borchard never made the transition from potential to results, and struggled mightily for a few years in the organization at Triple-A. For now I’m remaining on the fence with the possibility he’ll need to move to the outfield or first base. Signs of legitimate improvement at the plate, the batting average, or in the field will have me singing a different tune in a hurry, as Joe Crede has been one of the worst third baseman in theses departments for a couple of seasons now, and the club is likely ready to move on.

Carlos Ruiz C Phillies – Ruiz currently leads the league in home runs with four. He’s posted a .368/.405/.763 performance thus far with nine RBI in 11 games.

He’s 26, not too old for a catching prospect, but not a sign of future stardom either. He’s also not likely the catcher of the future with Jason Jaramillo at Double-A currently holding that moniker, but Ruiz is ready for 2007, the year Mike Lieberthal probably moves on. Like Lieberthal, Ruiz has a long history of injury problems including concussions. The early power spike might be an aberration. He is a sold contact hitter, but has never shown more than his projected gap power. But if he keeps hitting there is a chance he’ll see time in the majors this season, and catchers are the toughest to project offensively. Often their plate abilities arrive late with so much emphasis placed on receiving through the early development phases. At worst, he projects as a major league backup, with the possibility of a Johnny Estrada-like career still viable at this point.

Jeremy Sowers SP –Indians  – Sowers  — mentioned in this blog last week — leads the league with 19 and a third innings pitched and holds a 2-0 record in three starts, complete with a 0.47 ERA. As mentioned, he’s not the first call up — behind Fausto Carmona — and needs time in the minors, but there’s a lot to get excited about for 2007 and beyond.

Boof Bonser SP Twins – Bonser has also been covered, but gets a notation here for posting a league-high 19 strikeouts in 18 innings, a period in which he’s gone 2-1 with a 1.00 ERA allowing six walks and eight hits, one a home run.

The Twins have issues with their pitching prospects at the major league level, and as mentioned, Boof needs an extended period of this kind of success to re-enter any conversation about him as a prospect again. The early K results are not surprising, his control and consistency is the issue.

Tom Gorzelanny SP Pirates – Gorzelanny also has 19 strikeouts but in few innings at 14, not as efficient as Bonser with a 1-1 record off of a 2.57 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP.

The 23-year-old southpaw has had the normal control issues that plague many young power left-handers, and could use more time refining his secondary pitches. But the Pirates rotation is really struggling and Ian Snell probably should be moved into the bullpen, a role he’s best suited for in my opinion. I suspect Gorzelanny will be in the Bucs rotation before the All-star break, possibly by May. But I don’t think he’ll have great success, needing to show better command and without a plus-third pitch at the moment. The Pirates are so desperate they may ignore the development issues, hoping to replicate Zach Duke in 2005, but they’re likely to get burned. He’s likely to improve the current situation, but it isn’t something I’d recommend for my top-pitching prospect.

Dan Quon   

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One comment

  1. klig@goowy.com

    Your analysis of Ruiz is interesting. He’s risen through the ranks and had to prove himself each step of the way. It was only 2 years ago that the Phillies finally realized they had something and stopped putting Russ Jacobsen ahead of him. He’s done nothing but produce since then and is ready for a major league job. I know this because i’m his agent. let’s see if he gets the nod.

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