The low Class A Hickory Crawdads have a pitching staff featuring plenty of international talent, including the Venezuelan trio of lefthander Martin Perez and righties Wilmer Font and Wilfredo Boscan. While that group offers plenty to get excited about, another, much less heralded pitcher on the Crawdads’ staff has one of its best.
"The biggest surprise for us has been Yoon-He Nam, the Korean kid," Hickory pitching coach Brad Holman said.
The Rangers signed the lefthander Nam as an 18-year-old out of Korea in 2006. After two years in short-season leagues, the now 21-year-old Nam is getting his first look at full-season ball and has shown he’s up to the task. Nam has worked primarily out of the Hickory bullpen, making 19 appearances and four starts, yet he’s piled up a 7-1, 1.73 record and has won his last six decisions going back to April 29.
For nearly two months, High Desert’s Maverick Stadium laid low, acting at times like it was just a regular ballpark. But this weekend, it attacked, reminding everyone that baseball in High Desert is unlike baseball anywhere else.
As the weather has warmed up, the ball has started flying out of the ballpark as expected in High Desert. Never was that more true than on Sunday when Lake Elsinore cruised to a 33-18 win. The game saw 51 runs, 57 hits, six errors, 18 doubles, three triples, 14 walks, four wild pitches and 10 home runs. There were no stolen bases despite the abundance of base runners, but when the next home run is just a pitch away, why would anyone risk getting thrown out?
Unlike the California League’s other extreme hitters park in Lancaster, the ball flies out in High Desert more because of temperature than wind. It was a balmy 100 degrees when the game began on Sunday, which meant the ball was jumping even if the wind was only blowing at 7 mph. Every member of the Lake Elsinore lineup had at least two hits, and six different Storm hitters had four hits or more. It wasn’t much different for High Desert hitters, every member of the starting lineup except for Joe Dunigan had two or more hits–Dunnigan went 0-for-5, which on this day had to feel like an 0-for-100 streak.
Along the way High Desert center fielder Jamie McOwen set the California League record for longest hitting streak when his single extended his streak to 36 games. McOwen, a 2007 sixth-round pick out of Florida International, is hitting much better in his second tour of the California League–his .335/.393/.455 numbers are dramatically better than last year’s .263/.324/.392–although much of that damage is coming in the friendly environment of High Desert, as he’s hitting .297/.365/.406 on the road.
The biggest victim on Sunday was High Desert’s Nathan Adcock. The righthander ranked in the top 10 in the league in ERA heading into the game, but after giving up eight runs in only 2/3 of an inning, Adcock saw his ERA jump by nearly a run to 4.54. Adcock has a 3.74 ERA in road games, but now has a 5.93 ERA in six starts at home. Eight of the 20 earned runs he’s given up at home came on Sunday. That’s pretty typical for the High Desert staff–they have a 4.01 ERA on the road, but their home ERA is an ugly 6.26.
Mariners Double-A center fielder Greg Halman combines prodigious raw power with an undisciplined batting approach that has resulted in both frequent home runs and strikeouts as he has climbed the ladder. Last season, he slugged 29 homers and whiffed 142 times in 128 games. The year before, it was 20 and 162 in just 114 games.
Through 58 games with West Tenn this season, Halman has balanced 14 home runs with 108 strikeouts, giving him a homer-to-whiff ratio that would make Rob Deer proud. The 21-year-old native of the Netherlands—Halman, not Deer—leads the minors with those 108 whiffs, despite recently missing nearly two weeks with a heel injury that sent him to the disabled list.
At the pace he's going, Halman will strike out 230 times over the course of 500 at-bats. This revelation led us to wonder: What, exactly, is the record for strikeouts by a Southern League batter? And how close would 230 whiffs be to the minor league record? [...] Continue Reading »
Phillies top prospect Dominic Brown was enjoying his finest pro season before being sidelined with a fractured finger on his right hand.
Brown, 21, was batting .299/.379/.540 with nine home runs (matching his total from last season) through 51 games for high Class A Clearwater when he took a pitch off of his right hand on June 8. The injury has forced him out of the lineup and out of last weekend’s Florida State League all-star game.
“I am going to the doctors again to check up and he’ll let me know when I can come back. It will probably be another week," Brown said. "I hope another week because the rehab process is getting better and it (the finger) is getting stronger (and) I’m drinking a lot of milk.” [...] Continue Reading »
Short-season leagues began play this week just as many full-season leagues embarked on their second-half schedules. And with many teams having played 70 or more of their 140 games, the time is right to rank the best and worst minor league clubs at midseason. Records include results through games of Wednesday, June 24.
|TOP 10 MINOR LEAGUE TEAMS|
|1||Akron||47||23||.671||Eastern||AA||Indians||3.19 team ERA tops in EL|
|2||Birmingham||48||24||.667||Southern||AA||White Sox||Lead SL in runs, ERA|
|3||Lynchburg||45||24||.652||Carolina||HiA||Pirates||23-9 at home|
|4||Fort Wayne||45||25||.643||Midwest||LoA||Padres||Lead MWL in runs|
|5||Sacramento||46||26||.639||Pacific Coast||AAA||Athletics||28-14 at home, best ERA|
|6||Brevard County||40||24||.625||Florida State||HiA||Brewers||25-10 on road; best ERA|
|7||Fort Myers||43||26||.623||Florida State||HiA||Twins||24-9 at home|
|8||Lakewood||42||26||.618||South Atlantic||LoA||Phillies||13-6 in June|
|9||High Desert||43||27||.614||California||HiA||Mariners||1st in runs, last in allowed|
|West Michigan||43||27||.614||Midwest||LoA||Tigers||No standout attribute|
No organization placed multiple affiliates in the top 10, but four of them—the Pirates, Athletics, Twins, Mariners—did place (at least) one "evil twin" affiliate among the worst minor league clubs. A pair of Double-A teams have played the best baseball to this point, but the high Class A level had the most representatives: four. Throw in three low Class A clubs and a full seven of the 10 highest achieving clubs come from the low minors, where the talent level from team to team varies much more wildly.
• Akron has hovered near the top of this ranking all season on the strength of a roster that includes many of the Indians’ brightest prospects. Catcher Carlos Santana, left fielder Nick Weglarz, first baseman Beau Mills, shortstop Carlos Rivero and righthander Hector Rondon all rank among the organization’s top 13 prospects. [...] Continue Reading »
Not much action has taken place for the top bonus recipients from last year’s international signing period, but we at least know where some of last year’s top Latin American prospects will be playing in their first professional seasons.
Here’s a look at where the players who signed the top 10 bonuses since July 2, 2008, are currently stationed:
1. Michael Ynoa, rhp, Athletics ($4.25 million): Ynoa’s much-anticipated debut will have to wait a little bit longer, as Ynoa came down with an elbow problem that will delay his first professional pitch. When he does return to health, Ynoa will pitch in the Rookie-level Arizona League.
2. Rafael Rodriguez, of, Giants ($2.55 million): Rodriguez begins his career in the AZL, where he’s off to a 1-for-9 start. Scouts still consider Rodriguez to be relatively raw, but his size (6-foot-5, 198 pounds) and tools—in particular his raw power—stand out.
The Futures Game, scheduled for July 12 at St. Louis’ Busch Stadium, is taking shape.
The Futures Game rosters are what most people want to know, and those get announced Thursday. Wednesday afternoon, MLB announced that Ozzie Smith and Jose Oquendo will manage the Futures Game teams, with Smith managing the U.S. squad and Oquendo piloting the World team.
Coaching staffs also were announced. For the U.S., the coaches will be: Derek Botelho (pitching coach, Triple-A Gwinnett, Braves); Tony DeFrancesco (manager, Triple-A Sacramento, A’s); Tony Franklin (manager, Double-A Trenton, Yankees); Terry Kennedy (manager, Double-A San Antonio, Padres); Torey Lovullo (manager, Triple-A Columbus, Indians); and Bob Miscik (manager, Double-A Huntsville, Brewers).
For the World team, the coaches will be: Bobby Cuellar (pitching coach, Triple-A Rochester, Twins); Ever Magallanes (manager, Double-A Birmingham, White Sox); Charlie Montoyo (manager, Triple-A Durham, Rays); Mako Oliveras (manager, Double-A Corpus Christi, Astros); Edwin Rodriguez (manager, Triple-A New Orleans, Nationals).
Aaron Hicks remembers watching a Twins game the day before his high school graduation. He remembers sitting along the field, soaking in the big stage a few days after being selected in the first round of the 2008 draft.
Hicks knew this was where he wanted to be. He was going to do everything in his power to get there, and as quickly as possible.
“It’s definitely my dream to be there,” Hicks said. “I’m pretty sure it’s everybody’s dream.”
Being at the Metrodome might be Hicks’ most memorable baseball moment growing up. But looking into a crystal ball seven years ago, not even he could have predicted his dream. At the time, Hicks hadn’t even played organized baseball. Instead, he was concentrating on a different game with a different stick—golf. [...] Continue Reading »
This time: June 14-20
Previous installment: June 7-13
Check out the Transactions Glossary for the key to deciphering the various inactive lists presented here.
Numbers in parentheses indicate draft rounds. Visit our Draft Database for school and signing information. Subscribers can view scouting reports for many top picks as well as search for players by last name or state.
Contributing: BA summer intern Powell Latimer was invaluable in helping track down schools for college seniors signed as nondrafted free agents
Draft picks signed: RHP Brian Budrow (28), RHP Keith Cantwell (31), RHP Brad Gemberling (24), RHP Bradin Hagens (6), RHP Jake Hale (27), RHP Will Harvil (32), RHP Chris Odegaard (23), RHP Brad Wilson (33), RHP Andrew Wolcott (17), RHP Adam Worthington (20), LHP Ryan Robowski (16), LHP Dan Taylor (21), C Zach Varnell (44), 1B Matt Davidson (1s), 1B Paul Goldschmidt (8), 1B Ryan Wheeler (5), SS Evan Button (22), SS Brent Greer (14), SS Randy Hamrick (19), SS Dan Kaczrowski (26), OF Marc Krauss (2), OF Tim Sherlock (40)
Released: LHP Joseph Gautier, LHP Clint Goocher
Optioned to Triple-A: 1B Josh Whitesell
Placed on 7-day DL: RHP Jarrod Parker, LHP Jon Coutlangus, SS Justin Parker, OF Collin Cowgill
Reinstated from DL: LHP Clint Goocher
Activated player signed for 2009: OF Alan Santiago
Signed: LHP John Halama (Southern Maryland (Atlantic))
Draft picks signed: RHP Thomas Berryhill (5), RHP Tyrelle Harris (19), RHP Jamie Hayes (48), RHP Lucas LaPoint (23), RHP Andrew Wilson (36), LHP Matt Crim (21), C Jace Whitmer (17), 1B Riaan Spanjer-Furstenburg (16), 1B Derek Wiley (31), 3B Jordan Kreke (13), SS Matt Weaver (9), OF Cory Harrilchak (14), OF Kyle Rose (8)
Placed on restricted list: RHP Rafael Cruz
Optioned to Triple-A: 1B Barbaro Canizares
Placed on 7-day DL: RHP Yeliar Castro, RHP Jaye Chapman, LHP Lee Hyde, 1B Geraldo Rodriguez
Spanjer-Furstenburg may become a fixture in future World Baseball Classics; he attended Florida Atlantic and then Division II Nova Southeastern (Fla.) but was born in South Africa. He was on that country’s provisional roster for the ’09 WBC. He also has played some catcher in the past. [...] Continue Reading »
Durham welcomed Pawtucket to town for a four-game set beginning last Friday, with both second-place clubs looking to make up ground on their respective International League division leaders. Just as significatnly, the Rays’ and the Red Sox’ top affiliates combined to send to the mound three of the most promising young righthanders at the Triple-A level.
Friday, June 19
Pawtucket 8, Durham 6
Wade Davis: 7 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 9 SO, 1 HR
Davis had thrown 109 pitches through 6 2/3 dominant innings. With Joe Bateman warming up in the bullpen, Davis knew that Pawtucket DH Jeff Bailey was the last batter he would face. So Davis threw his fastest pitch of the night, a 95 mph heater that hit the inside corner and struck out Bailey. It was one of nine strikeouts on the night for Davis, who left with a 6-3 lead but earned a no-decision in the 8-6 loss. Davis lowered his ERA to an even 3.00 for the effort.
Davis pounded the zone with a heavy fastball throughout the night, consistently sitting between 91-93 mph. In the fifth inning, it looked like Davis took a little something off and solely worked on location, hitting 89 throughout the five-pitch inning. He also showed an almost unhittable 11-to-5 curveball at 82-84 and a straight changeup at 79-81. [...] Continue Reading »
If you’re looking for the minors’ best one-two punch of starting pitchers this year, you’d probably be surprised to find them in Zebulon, N.C. In Travis Wood and Zach Stewart, the Carolina Mudcats have two starters in the top 10 in ERA in the minors. Wood leads all minor leaguers with a 1.36 ERA.
It’s hard to imagine a more unlikely devastating duo. A year ago, Wood had the worst ERA (7.09) of any pitcher in the Southern League with 75 or more innings. Stewart was closing out games in high Class A Sarasota, seemingly on a fast track to a spot in the Reds’ bullpen. Together, they’ve been the best one-two combo in the Southern League—if not all the minors.
Promoted 1B Brandon Snyder (1st round, 2005) to Triple-A Norfolk after he batted .343/.421/.597 with 10 home runs in 201 at-bats for Double-A Bowie. The 22-year-old led the Eastern League in slugging at the time of his promotion. Drafted by Baltimore as a catcher with the 13th overall pick, Snyder’s days behind the plate were cut short by a shoulder injury. But for the second consecutive season, he’s proving his bat may be advanced enough to allow him to hold down a corner.
Promoted RHP Dan Hudson (5th, 2008) to Double-A Birmingham, the third rung of ladder the Old Dominion product has reached this season. Two other members of Chicago’s robust ’08 draft class already have reached Double-A: Gordon Beckham and Jordan Danks. Hudson ranks seventh in the minors with 87 strikeouts after dealing nine of them in his eight-inning Barons debut.
Assigned RHP Jake Odorizzi (1st supp., 2008) to Rookie-level Helena, where he’ll try to build on his strong debut in the Arizona League. The upper Midwest’s top amateur prospect last year and the draft’s 32nd overall selection, Odorizzi struck out 19 AZL batters in 21 innings, but showed his inexperience with nine walks and two home runs allowed. [...] Continue Reading »
Two days after placing first baseman Yonder Alonso on the disabled list, the Reds’ Double-A affiliate, the Carolina Mudcats, have lost another big bat, as third baseman Juan Francisco was disabled with a strained right hamstring. The move to the seven-day Southern League DL is retroactive to Saturday, the 20th, so he’ll miss the coming week. Francisco was hitting .261/.291/.471, with a rough 11-63 walk-strikeout ratio and 13 home runs in 67 games (276 at-bats). The 13 home runs ties Francisco with Mudcats teammate Chris Heisey for second in the SL behind Ryne Hughes, recently promoted from Montgomery to Triple-A Durham.
Yonder Alonso was placed on the seven-day disabled list at Double-A Carolina with a broken hamate bone in his right hand. Alonso injured his hand swinging on a 3-0 fastball in the second game of a doubleheader Thursday. According to a press release, the Reds—who drafted Alonso seventh overall last year out of Miami—plan to further assess Alonso in the coming days to determine his rehabilitation schedule.
The first baseman hit .302/.378/.503 with seven home runs and 37 RBIs. In his time with the Mudcats, he’s hitting .246/.309/.377 with one home run.
Baseball America has learned the Padres have promoted their No. 1 prospect, first baseman/left fielder Kyle Blanks, to the big leagues. A corresponding move regarding the 40-man roster was not yet announced.
Blanks, 22, was hitting .283/.393/.485 at Triple-A Portland in the Pacific Coast League, with 12 home runs, nine doubles and 38 RBIs. The 6-foot-6, 285-pounder has shifted in part to left field this season, playing parts of 15 games in left while still primarily playing first base.
Rockies lefthander Christian Friedrich, who was recently promoted to high Class A Modesto, has not pitched since June 10. Rockies farm director Marc Gustafson said Friedrich has been sidelined with irritation in the back of his left triceps—something that occurred during a bullpen session after his last start.
"We’re going day-to-day and we’re probably being a little conservative, but obviously we need to be," Gustafson said. "We’ll give him the time he needs to make sure he’s pain-free and has a full bullpen session before he throws again."
On the season, Friedrich is 4-3, 2.34 with 86 strikeouts and 20 walks over 65 innings.
Carolina League hitters spent two months unable to figure out Orioles lefty Brian Matusz. The Double-A Reading lineup didn’t have much luck either.
Matusz, 22, made his Double-A debut yesterday for Bowie and allowed just one run (it was unearned) in six innings, striking out 10 with one walk and three hits allowed. Matusz sat with his fastball in the low-90s, keeping hitters off balance by mixing his location and his pitches with a curveball, slider and changeup. It was the fourth consecutive start for Matusz without allowing an earned run, as he didn’t allow a run in his final three starts with high Class A Frederick.
The Eastern League already had Giants lefthander Madison Bumgarner. Now with Matusz also in the circuit, the EL boasts the two best lefthanded pitching prospects in baseball.
Four sources confirmed that Guillermo Pimentel, one of the top 16-year-old prospects available for the July 2 international signing period, has been working out extensively at the Mariners academy in the Dominican Republic.
Texas had been widely linked to Pimentel a month ago, with nearly every source contacted saying at the time that Pimentel would sign for around $2 million with the Rangers. Now Pimentel’s destination is less clear, as the Yankees have also shown interest and the Mariners have been rumored for several months to have strong interest in the lefthanded-hitting oufielder.
Scouts say Pimentel, who is 6-foot-2, has a short swing, plus power and a good approach at the plate.
One year ago, Alcides Escobar and Angel Salome were part of a prospect-laden lineup at Double-A Huntsville, a lineup that also included Matt LaPorta and Mat Gamel and was easily the most prolific offense in the Southern League. These days, Gamel is in the majors and LaPorta is in the Indians’ organization after being the centerpiece of the package for C.C. Sabathia, while Escobar and Salome have been trying to find their way with Triple-A Nashville.
Escobar has been answering doubts about his hitting for three years now, beginning with when he hit .325 in 63 games for high Class A Brevard County and earned a promotion to Double-A as a 20-year-old in 2007. He returned to Hunstville last year and was even better, leading the Southern League in hits (179) and finishing third in the batting race with a .328/.363/.434 line in 546 at-bats.
However, the jump to Triple-A didn’t go quite as smoothly for Escobar, a shortstop signed out of Venezuela for $33,000 in 2003. He hit .276 in April, but his average has been climbing ever since. He batted .306 in May and is hitting a scorching .340 so far in 53 June at-bats, bringing his line for the year to .303/.342/.432.
Well-traveled reliever Rafael Cruz’s journey comes to an end—for the next 50 games, at least—after the Braves righthander received a suspension yesterday for testing positive for metabolites of Stanozolol, a performance-enhancing substance.
The 32-year-old native of Santiago, Dominican Republic, had yet to surrender an earned run in eight relief outings with Triple-A Gwinnett. On the season, spent mostly at Double-A Mississippi, Cruz has appeared in 30 games, striking out 25, walking 10 and allowing three home runs in 31 1/3 innings. His record stands at 1-3, 3.45. [...] Continue Reading »
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