Not really having anything specific to address this morning, I thought I’d just take a tour and discuss what strikes the dim-light.
Triple-A International League
Hayden Penn (Orioles) – Penn made his Ottawa debut on Tuesday pitching five scoreless innings on four hits and a walk while striking out five. He was initially held back in extended spring training to gain his arm strength after being under-utilized in regular action this spring.
The scouting reports state he can command three pitches but his curve is the weakest of the three with a fastball in the low 90s as the working speed with the ability to add 4-5 mph on occasion, as well as a plus changeup. His time with the Orioles last season from my vantage point is that he was able to throw strikes but the command was less than advertised. He routinely caught more of the plate than he should have and paid for it. He doesn’t get wild for sure, but the fastball seemed a little flat and he’ll need to either find a bit more movement or hit his spots more precisely.
He’s the best upper pitching prospect with the team at present and should see the majors this summer. A solid pitching prospect, not a great one, maybe with less upside than current Orioles Erik Bedard and Daniel Cabrera.
B.J. Upton (Devil Rays) went 0-for-3; a pair of walks, two strikeouts, and made his ninth error of the year. He’s posted a .297/ .395/.459 performance thus far tied for the league lead in stolen bases with Delmon Young with 12.
Delmon Young has 12 stolen bases in 13 attempts already? Wow, he’s weighing in at around 205-210 these days. I can’t imagine that can sustain as he ages, but it’s a testament to his athletic ability as well as the Devil Rays overall philosophy to run whenever possible.
Upton made 53 errors last year in 140 minor league games and is on pace to eclipse that through the first 20 games this season. Defense is still the issue for the 21-year-old, sad in a way given his offense has been big-league ready since 2004. Yes, even though he had 45 major league games as a 19-year-old, he’s still a prospect, and a project defensively.
Chris Denorfia (Reds) went 2-for-3 on Tuesday with a pair of walks, a double and his second home run of the year. He’s had four stolen bases this season posting a 5/8 strikeout-to walk ratio for an overall .958 OPS through 16 games.
He’s lower on the scouting end of prospecting for a lack of tools, scoring higher in stathead land for the ability to do the right things at the plate. If he continues this pace it’ll be the third consecutive year of hitting the benchmark .500 slugging, and at age 25 deserves an extended audition. The comparison made by the Reds is to Brady Clark. I might include Indians’ Jason Michaels in that mix too, if I thought Michaels had the same upside with a little more pop. Denorfia profiles as a number two hitter, something the Reds don’t have at the moment with Felipe Lopez assuming the role but a different type of hitter who strikes out too much to be a perfect solution. The Triple-A outfielder’s career prognostication isn’t overly exciting but at worst I think he sets up as a good fourth outfielder, maybe a regular ala Frank Catalanatto, Clark and Michaels. And as a centerfielder he should get a look with Ken Griffey always a close play at first away from another lower body injury, and Adam Dunn just too large to play left field correctly.
Triple-A Pacific Coast League
Bobby Livingston (Mariners) got called up after a good start in Triple-A on 2006 and was immediately torched in his relief debut on Tuesday showing neither control nor the reported improved fastball.
I’ve received my share of grief over an intentional undervalue of the now 23-year-old. A few years back someone referred to him as a power pitcher in a magazine and I laughed spewing coffee all over myself in the process, he throws in the mid-80s after all. I’ve fielded a few attacks for not adding him to my top-100 list, maybe based on that erroneous publication, and even today I don’t consider him a top-10 prospect in the Mariners system as a control southpaw who hasn’t a whole lot of dominance in the minors, whose WHIP routinely rises above 1.1 because of it. And his Triple-A time last year bore out my belief as he got hit hard yielding more hits than innings pitched for a 4.88 ERA in 10 starts.
Truth is I like Mets Brian Bannister as a control pitcher more than Livingston, although there are reports afoot that claim Livingston was clocked in the low 90s this spring. I’ve not seen it, and prefer Bannister for the higher mental makeup and ability to escape from the trouble these types get themselves in early in their careers.
Dan Meyer (A-s) – Speaking of fastball velocity, Meyer got racked up again on Tuesday allowing three runs in five innings on eight hits and a walk while striking out a pair. His ERA now sits at 5.12 (lucky in that he has three unearned runs in four starts) and the fact he’s allowed a ******** 26 hits in 19 and a third innings while positing a weak nine strikeouts.
Shoulder problems in 2005 may be the cause as his fastball velocity is being reported in the mid 80s. A couple of years ago I was forced to add him to my top-100 list for political reasons, my editor insisted based on the post-trade hype I suppose. Being a free agent blogger now allows me to vent on occasion. I’ve always remembered that for the annoyance factor. I thought his prospect rise was hype more than substance, and felt the name I wanted to include, Kyle Davies, was unfairly bumped because of it. It’s hard enough facing the critics for your own mistakes without fronting somebody else’s. Not that the injury was 100 percent predicted, nor is it a case of blatant ignorance I don’t really blame my editor, certainly not Mr. Meyer (it’s probably not his fault he’s hurt), I’m just blabbering because I can. The general rule of thumb for baseball news organizations should be never mess with the prospect guys, as the condition of the work requires a long memory. And they will use it against you eventually.
There are 90 minor league players with the last name “Rodriguez” currently listed in the MiLB database. My favorite is Yonderman, the 18-year-old shortstop in the Phillies organization who had one extra-base hit in Rookie Ball on his way to a .566 OPS in 57 games. Not a prospect, at least not yet, I just think the name is cool.
Double-A Southern League
The Marlins are the only team that routinely promote their pitching prospects from Double-A although that might have changed with the new and, ahem, improved (?) organizational philosophy. There are a couple at Triple-A and I’m still fond of current pen-guy Ricky Nolasco but we’ll give a look to Jonathan Mayo’s favorite Anibal Sanchez . Do you think the broadcasters will call him “Annabelle” when he hits the majors? At 6-foot 180 pounds he’s not going to scare that off the way former Marlin and 12-finger wonder Antonio Alfonseca would have.
Sanchez has had a good start to the year with a strikeout per inning and seven walks in four starts. He’s 1-2 with a 2.38 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP.
A mid 90s heater and a plus changeup to compliment are a great beginning, although the mandate in 2006 was to refine the secondary pitches, most notably a curveball that wasn’t yet a strike pitch. I personally believe he’s far from ready and the club can look higher up for a pitching prospect when the need arises, most notably Nolasco and Yusmiero Petit in Triple A with Scott Olsen already in the rotation. Between Petit, Olsen and Sanchez I like the 22-year-old Southern Leaguer to emerge as the dominant presence, with Nolasco being less in stuff, more about comman
d, and Reynel Pinto probably becoming a wild thing southpaw type from the bullpen.
And while we’re on the Marlins I’ll stick by my preseason belief liking Triple-A Jason Stokes for the first base job by the end of the year more than current first sacker Mike Jacobs. Stokes is currently hitting .302/.392/.508 with Albuquerque albeit with a 25/10 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The current PCL Player OF The Week missed both of this week’s games causing me to wonder considering his long issue with health, most notably the wrist and hand. I don’t think Jacobs profiles high enough with the bat for regular first base duties although obviously Joe Girardi disagrees. Jacobs score high for intangibles but ultimately it will come down to the fact the Marlins at present don’t have enough power/production in their lineup and Stokes is perfect as a fifth spot type.
Off to check out my boy Angel Guzman’s inaugural start against said Marlins. We’ll see if I’m the fool for believing in this one above everybody else.