First base prospects have little margin for error.
Many of the best major league first basemen—Mark Teixeira, Miguel Cabrera, Kevin Youkilis, Jim Thome and Carlos Delgado, among others—began their careers at other positions.
There are exceptions, like Prince Fielder, but minor league first basemen usually have to have pretty special ability at the plate to become major league regulars, as first former top 100 prospects Jason Hart, Eric Munson and Calvin Pickering and others have found out.
High Class A Salem’s Anthony Rizzo is already at first base, but his skill set at the plate and in the field makes the Red Sox prospect more well-rounded than most minor league first basemen.
The lefthanded Rizzo, who turned 20 last month, reached base twice on a pair of line-drive singles to left field yesterday at Winston-Salem.
"The barrel of his bat is in the zone for a long time," Salem manager Chad Epperson said. "That’s special for a kid his age. So many guys that age are just flying open, flying open. He’s not—it’s in the zone for a while. He’s very mature for his age, on and off the field."
Rizzo hit .295/.365/.494 for low Class A Greenville with 25 walks, 60 strikeouts and nine home runs in 274 plate appearances. He earned a promotion in late June to high Class A Salem, where he has hit .296/.374/.397 in 206 PAs. His power hasn’t manifested itself in game situations much yet, but at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, Rizzo shows the strength to hit for power to all fields in batting practice and the projection to add more power later in his career.
South Atlantic League managers voted Rizzo the best defensive first baseman in the league and he’s earned praise around the Carolina League for his glovework as well. While he’s a below-average runner, he moves well around the bag at first base.
"He’s the best I’ve seen," Epperson said. "By far the best I’ve ever seen. He has a tremendous feel not only for the glove but the footwork and being in spots–it’s off the charts. He’s going to be a future gold glover for many years. He puts just as much work into his glove as he does with the bat. He just makes everything look easy. A tick above-average play is a routine play for him."
• Braves 18-year-old righthander Julio Teheran hasn’t pitched much since signing out of Colombia in 2007, but his outings have been tantalizing at times. Yesterday Teheran threw seven no-hit innings for low Class A Rome against Charleston, striking out seven and walking one. Teheran teamed with righthander Angelo Paulino for nine no-hit innings, but Braves’ offense went quiet as the RiverDogs tacked on four runs in the 13th inning for the 4-0 victory.
• The Braves promoted Cody Johnson to Double-A Mississippi, where he went 0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout in his first game on Tuesday. Aside from Marlins right fielder Mike Stanton, Johnson has more raw power than anyone in the minor leagues who can’t legally drink yet. But Johnson’s raw power is by far his best tool, as while his 32 home runs are tied for second in the minor leagues, his contact issues are among the worst in the minors. Johnson has struck out at an astonishing rate—35 percent of his plate appearances—leading to 172 strikeouts, which ranks only behind Dodgers outfielder Kyle Russell (173) and Mariners center fielder Greg Halman (183) in the minors. All three have outstanding raw power, but it’s hard to see any of them becoming successful hitters at the major league level given their struggles to make contact against A-ball and Double-A pitching.
• The Orioles farm system is thin on international prospects, but some scouts who have seen shortstop Pedro Florimon have come away intrigued. Florimon, who made his Double-A Bowie debut on Tuesday after spending the majority of the year with high Class A Frederick, is a good fielder who draws praise for his actions and arm strength. Florimon, a 22-year-old switch-hitting shortstop from the Dominican Republic, has also shown some promise with the bat by hitting .264/.333/.422 in 117 games, though with a high strikeout rate (22 percent of his PAs) for a player with moderate pop.
• Like the Orioles, the Marlins have not emphasized homegrown Latin American prospects. Coming into the season, the Marlins’ top 30 prospects entering the season didn’t have one international player signed and developed by the organization. Yet the Marlins do have a pair of intriguing pitchers from the Dominican Republic working out of the bullpen for low Class A Greensboro, although they’re a little old for the South Atlantic League. Righthander Ramon Benjamin, 22, has shown a 94-95 mph fastball and a swing-and-miss slider, posting a 3.32 ERA and a 44-17 K-BB mark in 38 innings between Greensboro and short-season Jamestown.
At 6-foot-4, righthander Arquimedes Caminero is a couple of inches taller than Benjamin, but he also reaches the mid-90s with his fastball, sitting 93-96 mph. Caminero has made two appearances for high Class A Jupiter, but most of his action has come with Jamestown and Greensboro. Between the three levels, Caminero has 56 strikeouts (13.2 per nine) in 38 1/3 innings, but the 22-year-old has also walked 25 (5.9 per nine).
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