While Rockies righthanders Jhouyls Chacin and Esmil Rogers didn’t quite make our Midseason Top 25 Prospects list, they both were close, ranking in the 26-50 range. One American League pro scout said that they’re the two best arms in the Double-A Texas League this year. Rogers has since been promoted to Triple-A and is closing the gap between he and Chacin.
On the year, Chacin is 7-6, 3.43 with 80 strikeouts and 32 walks over 94 innings. On July 12, the 21-year-old pitched a no-hit inning at the Futures Game, featuring two strikeouts.
"He is a younger guy who really has a good idea of how to pitch," said Tulsa pitching coach Bryan Harvey, who has worked with both Chacin and Rogers this year. "He can command three pitches very well. He’s really ahead of his time. He knows how to change speeds, how to go in and out. He can use the fastball and changeup in any count. When you’re a guy like that, you’re going to go through the lower levels really quick and he’s even carried that into this level."
Harvey said Chacin’s fastball and changeup are both above-average offerings and his curveball shows flashes of being an above-average pitch, as well. This year, more so than last year, Chacin has really been focusing on his two-seam fastball. He’s still learning how to locate the pitch, which has caused him to walk more batters and pitch in more hitter’s counts. Harvey said Chacin still needs to trust the pitch, but right now he’s still throwing it for the outside corner versus lefthanded batters and oftentimes it’s breaking away for a ball.
This year, Chacin, who signed out of Venezuela in 2004, has four quality starts that resulted in losses or no decisions. Harvey said the tough breaks have affected Chacin, maybe more than they should.
"When you come off of a big year when you win 18 games betwen two levels and then go to big leagueg camp, you put a lot of pressure on yourself," Harvey said. "But for me, winning games in Double-A isn’t as important as getting him consistent, so he can pitch at the big league level. He puts a little added pressure on himself and thinks he needs to win games to look good, but that’s not the case for me. Everyone wants to win, but winning at the Double-A level is not the most important thing."
Rogers, 23, didn’t have to deal with as many tough breaks—he went 8-2 before being promoted earlier this month. On the year, he is 9-2, 2.60 with 88 strikeouts and 19 walks over 100 innings pitched between Tulsa and Colorado Springs.
Being that it’s just his fourth full season as a pitcher, Rogers has shot up the organizational ladder. He signed with the Rockies out of the Dominican Republic as a shortstop in 2003. Harvey had him when they were both in low Class A Asheville two years ago and noted that Rogers came a long way in a short amount of time. Harvey credited increased confidence for the progression and, this year, it was increased confidence in his changeup that was the biggest step forward for Rogers.
"He’s always had the big fastball," Harvey said. "He’s anywhere from 90-96 (mph) and he’ll sit 93-94 most of the night."
Harvey said something must have just clicked for Rogers with regard to his changeup. Harvey was having him throw it a lot during between-start throwing sessions and, all of a sudden, Rogers went out and started using it as a weapon. Harvey said Rogers threw about 15 changeups during his last start for Tulsa—a huge increase over the two or three he would throw in a game up to that point.
"He’s come a long way pretty quick," Harvey said. "It’s unusual to see that, that fast. His curveball in Asheville two years ago, he threw it slow and he wasn’t very aggressive with it. But, over the last two years, he’s gotten more aggressive with it and that helps too. He’s gotten it up into the low 80s, adding about 6 to 7 miles per hour."
An interesting thing about looking at the two pitchers side-by-side is that Chacin, who is a groundball pitcher, has given up 10 home runs this season. Rogers, on the other hand, is a flyball pitcher, but has given up just three long balls.
"The thing about the Texas League is that there are some small parks through here, and, with our park, the wind is usually blowing out—so pop-ups become home runs," Harvey said. "But it’s not going to get any easier because they’ll be going to Colorado Springs then Denver, so they need to learn how to pitch in places like this."
Holt Getting The Hang Of Double-A
Mets righthander Brad Holt weathered a rough introduction to the Double-A Eastern League, giving up 12 runs in his first 10 innings for Binghmaton. Worse, an ankle injury knocked the 22-year-old out after one-third of an inning in start No. 2. The Mets proceeded cautiously with their prized righthander, the 33rd overall pick in the 2008 draft, giving him extra rest between starts.
The move appears to have paid off as Holt has turned in successive dominating outings on the road against Portland and New Britain, the latter coming yesterday in the EL’s final game before the all-star break. In seven shutout innings agains the Rock Cats, the 6-foot-4 Holt struck out seven batters while walking one and allowing just four hits. His tally for his past two starts: 12 innings, seven hits (no home runs), 17 strikeouts and two walks.
A dominating fastball pitcher, Holt has shown improved quality and (especially) consistency of his curveball and changeup. Scouts are almost uniformly effusive in their praise for Holt, who finished the first half at 5-4, 3.99 in 14 starts, nine of them for high Class A St. Lucie. He has compiled 80 strikeouts, 22 walks and seven home runs allowed in 65 1/3 innings.
• The news was not as positive for 22-year-old Reese Havens, a Mets’ first-round pick in 2008, the same draft as Holt. Nagging injuries had sent the St. Lucie shortstop to the disabled list at the end of June, but since returning he has played in only one game. The chief culprit had been a quad injury, but more distressingly, it marks the second straight injury-plagued campaign for Havens. He didn’t play the field in his pro debut last year with short-season Brooklyn, spending all his time at DH.
Seven Up, Seven Down
It’s Tuesday, so that means it’s time to present the top seven and bottom seven full-season minor league clubs through games of Monday, July 13. That date conveniently serves as the half-way point for four of the five Double-A and Triple-A leagues. Seemingly just to be contrary, the Texas League features a full slate of games today.
The caret (^) indicates a team that did not appear in our last ranking.
|TOP 7 MINOR LEAGUE TEAMS|
|4||Brevard County||50||30||.625||Florida State||HiA||Brewers||W1||6-4|
Dropped Out: High Desert, .584; Lynchburg, .593.
|BOTTOM 7 MINOR LEAGUE TEAMS|
Dropped Out: Kinston, .407; Lancaster, .404; South Bend, .407; Stockton, .393.
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