Carlos Santana’s a little more famous than he was a year ago.
Now he’s finding out that pitchers approach a top prospect differently than they do a guy who struggled to hit .223/.318/.370 the previous season in low Class A. Through 18 games, Santana’s batting average is .244, though his .387 OBP and .569 slugging average are still well above league average in the Double-A Eastern League. Yesterday was arguably Santana’s best game of the season, as he went 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles and two walks. He also threw out the only runner attempting to steal against him, making him 7-for-15 in that department this year.
"Now he’s in the four-hole for us, he’s all over Baseball America," said Indians farm director Ross Atkins. "Every time you pull up a web site, his picture’s on it. I think that guys know who he is. He’s the only guy hitting in that lineup, so they’re pitching around him a little bit, but he’s taking advantage of it. When he hits a mistake, he drives it and I think you’ll see his batting average creep up, as it already has."
Santana’s beginning to prove that the power he showed last year was no Cal League fluke. He already has five home runs–no small feat in April in the EL–and has shown the approach of a hitter who is disciplined yet aggressive within the strike zone, with 14 walks (two intentional) and 11 strikeouts.
"He’s hitting the ball hard and he’s getting pitched around a bit because the rest of that lineup isn’t really hitting," Atkins said, "but they’re getting on base, and when he gets mistakes he’s driving them. They’re just not leaving a lot of mistakes out over the plate for him. He’s better than his line says. He’s been really impressive offensively. He’s just right in stride with where he was a year ago."
And The Only Cure Is More Cowgill!
Collin Cowgill is looking like a pretty nifty fifth-round pick right now for for the Diamondbacks. Drafted out of Kentucky last year, Cowgill has been one of the best hitters in the high Class A California League so far, with a .311/.422/.622 batting line through 20 games.
Cowgill strung together four consecutive multi-hit games from April 22 to April 25, and he’s flashing some power with four home runs, four doubles and three triples. He’s not particularly big–he’s 5-foot-9, 195 pounds–but the 22-year-old has the ability to leverage the ball with his entire body.
"He’s a strong kid and he’s got good hands–strong hands–but I think it comes from his lower half," said Visalia manager Mike Bell. "He uses his legs real well. He doesn’t get cheated up there. He takes a good swing, his body works well and he’s able to drive some balls."
There are some obvious causes to temper the enthusiasm–it’s only April, it’s the California League, and he’ll already turn 23 next month–but he is a patient hitter who has already drawn 12 walks.
"He’s not up there just hacking," Bell said. "He’s got an idea when he goes to the plate. He’s got a plan and, probably more importantly than having a plan, is he’s confident enough to stick with that plan."
Auspicious Debut For Martin
With the 15th overall selection in last year’s draft, the Dodgers made righthander Ethan Martin the first high school pitching prospect to go off the board. He didn’t make his debut last year after tearing the meniscus in his right knee during a fielding drill, but the early results of his professional debut this year for low Class A Great Lakes are promising. Armed with a low-90s fastball that has crept into the mid-90s, Martin allowed two runs in five innings on Tuesday, striking out seven and walking one. On the season, Martin has a 1.35 ERA in 20 innings through four starts, with 26 strikeouts and seven walks.
"With him being such a young guy and being a first-round pick, we’re just trying to take it easy with him," Great Lakes manager Juan Bustabad said. "He’s got a pitch count up to 90 pitches. We try to keep it up to 75-90, and hopefully he can give us five, six innings. He’s got a plus fastball, a good breaking ball and a changeup. He’s been impressive so far."
Time To Move Up?
There isn’t much more for Christian Friedrich to prove with low Class A Asheville. Friedrich, who fell to the Rockies at 25th overall in the draft last year, has a low-90s fastball and 12-to-6 curveball that is too much for South Atlantic League hitters to handle. Through three starts, the 21-year-old lefthander has an ERA of 0.53 in 17 innings with four walks and 25 strikeouts. Friedrich starts again tonight in Asheville against Charleston, which sends righthander Andrew Brackman (Yankees) to the mound.
Skills To Revere
What do the Mets’ Angel Calero and Brant Rustich, the Marlins Elih Villanueva and the Rays’ Justin Garcia all have in common? They are the only four pitchers who have been able to strike out high Class A Fort Myers center fielder Ben Revere (Twins) this season. In 88 plate appearances, Revere has struck out just four times (three swinging, one looking). That extreme contact-oriented style has led to a .312/.398/.377 batting line, with Revere also showing some patience (10 walks) and plus-plus speed with 11 steals in 15 attempts. The lefty-hitting Revere turns 21 on Sunday.
Have Bat, Will Slug
After outfielder Andrew Lambo tore through the low Class A Midwest League last year in his full-season debut with a .288/.346/.462 line in 123 games, the Dodgers skipped him over high Class A and rushed him to the Double-A Southern League in August for eight more games. It was an aggressive move, but Lambo went to the Arizona Fall League after the season and hit .313/.356/.433 in 17 games.
Now Lambo, 20, is back in the Southern League and is already one of the circuit’s best hitters. The 6-foot-3, lefty-swinging Lambo is off to a .321/.371/.556 start for Chattanooga through 20 games, including a 3-for-4 showing yesterday with a home run, a double and a walk at home against Huntsville.
Concerns about Lambo’s makeup–he was suspended for missing classes as a high school freshman and was caught smoking marijuana as a sophomore–dropped him from a potential supplemental first-rounder down to the fourth round, where he signed for slot money. Lambo’s beginning to look like another data point that doing silly things when you’re a high school sophomore–or at least getting caught doing dumb things–is not a proven predictor of future success in professional baseball.
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