Minor Musings April 22

J.R. House (Astros) is leading the Double-A Texas League with a .413 batting average through 15 games. He has 11 RBI and has posted an 8/2 strikeout-to walk ratio, also made his fourth error behind the plate on Friday.

No one should be surprised the 26-year-old is hitting Double-A; the issue has always been health and receiving. I find him interesting in as much as he’s probably a better receiver and a superior hitter to current Astros’ backup Eric Munson. If House were to maintain his health and get some time in it wouldn’t be a reach to see the organization cut bait with Munson and purchase House’s contract. There isn’t really any other high-minor catcher in the system that could assume the role.

Adam Lind (Blue Jays) currently leads the Double-A Eastern League with five home runs, posting a .340/.386/.642 performance through 14 games.

I like Lind as the Jays best hitting prospect, a future 1B/LF/DH for his ability at the plate, while speed, range and overall defense are never going to be an asset. He’s not going to woo the tools lovers, but I think he becomes a solid major league hitter in a couple of years.

Matt Moses (Twins) has had a good start to the season posting a .364/.420/.659 performance with an 8/5 strikeout-to-walk ratio through the 13 Double-A Eastern League games with New Britain.

He was the 21st overall pick in 2003 and he’s not received the same hype as many despite being, in my opinion, one of the better bats from that year’s high school draft class. The older college draft picks have garnered most of the attention in recent years. They zip through the lower levels, as they should, while the teenagers have to deal with a host of issues, baseball development, physical maturation, and the usual social adjustments like leaving home for the first time etc. There is often a stutter period and the age at level is key in assessing their development. At age 21, a solid prospect should be at Double-A and we should see the beginnings of power and discipline for power hitters. Last season Moses was promoted to Double-A for 42 games but faltered a bit as a 20-year-old, although his defense improved dramatically over the course of the year.

Of note is the current crop of college players in 2006. In my opinion it’s the weakest class this decade, with only 2000 as its rival. There are many with more knowledge on this subject than myself and I’d defer to the likes of Boyd Nation and Will Kimmey on the issue of college baseball, with my concerns circling around the organizations, drafting trends and availability of talent.  There is top talent for the first round but the depth drops dramatically meaning there’s likely going to be a focus on the less measurable high school class this season. This would infer there are real opportunities for some players to reclaim their prospect status with a solid season, as I expect 2007 to feature more teenagers in the low minors.

Moses is in the right place at the right time. This season should have him hitting with more power and beginning to grasp the nuances of taking a pitch. I’m encouraged by the improved K/BB rate but it’s far too small a sample to get overly excited. I tend to think the coined Double-A litmus test is best suited for the high school draftee’s development, and age 21 is the correct age for the assessment. At some point this year, we should be able to look at his progress and give a more accurate prognostication of his future. As said, it’s exceedingly difficult to get a measurable read until this time. So Moses remains a key prospect for the Twins, an organization that has had some success developing position players out of high school, but don’t at present have an upper tier third base prospect.
Dan Quon

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