We've changed up our daily prospect coverage ever so slightly to give readers more of what they want, while also providing value to subscribers.
The Daily Dish will continue as a free read, highlighting top performers and touching on other news from around the minors. In conjunction with the Baseball America Prospect Report, this will catch you up with what happened in the minors the day before.
If you've enjoyed the feature-length player development stories we had been running in Daily Dish this April (and all of last season), well those aren't going away. They are, however, moving to subscriber-only territory. You can find them in the Prospect Bulletin category. We also plan to sprinkle in the intermittent Prospect Q&A and Scout's View.
We suggest you peruse the Top Stories rail on the right side of the Prospects index page for a sampling of recent prospect-related headlines, including the aforementioned Bulletins and also Prospect Hot Sheet and Ask BA.
De La Cruisin'
You don't see too many pitching prospects in the lower minors pitch in to the ninth inning, especially ones who missed nearly the entire season the year prior due to injury. Indians lefty Kelvin de la Cruz was so efficient that it didn't matter, as he threw eight shutout innings for high Class A Kinston before giving up a two-run homer to Lynchburg right fielder Justin Reed (Reds). The home run tied the game and Lynchburg went on to win 3-2, but de la Cruz was brilliant, allowing two runs (one earned) in 8 1/3 innings with eight strikeouts and no walks. De la Cruz didn't overpower hitters with his velocity, but he mixed three pitches effectively, kept hitters off balance with his changeup, pitched down in the zone and kept the ball on the ground, a good recipe for quick innings.
Sure, It's Lancaster, But . . .
It can be a trap to make too much of a player's splits, even for an entire season's worth of performance. But for raw teenagers playing pro ball for the first time in a full-season league, there can be an adjustment period as they get used to playing every day and receive professional-level instruction on a daily basis for the first time in their lives. Astros center fielder Jay Austin's second-half last year with low Class A Lexington—he hit .245/.296/.308 in 228 plate appearances in the first half, .291/.346/.418 in 207 PAs in the second half—might have been a sign of a breakout waiting to happen. Yesterday Austin, 19, was a double short of a cycle, going 3-for-5 with a home run, a triple and a single for high Class A Lancaster, raising his season numbers to .281/.360/.483 in 23 games. There's an asterisk that has to go next to any hitter playing in the Lancaster launching pad, but it looks to be true improvement for Austin, who is showing better control of the strike zone, making solid contact and showing basestealing efficiency with 10 steals in 11 attempts.
Wheelin' And Dealin'
Zack Wheeler's pro debut couldn't have gone much worse. The Giants righthander showed a plus fastball, but his control was so erratic that he couldn't make it out of the first inning for low Class A Augusta. Wheeler, the sixth overall pick last year, pitched the best game of his brief career yesterday against Greenville, throwing five shutout innings with nine strikeouts, two hits, one walk and one hit by pitch. Wheeler's control has been erratic, but he has struck out a batter per inning and is getting grounders by the bushel with a 4.8-to-1 groundout-to-fly out ratio. If Wheeler can learn to throw more strikes, he has the stuff to be an above-average starter in the big leagues.
Salem Lineup Explodes
The Red Sox opened the season with a loaded Double-A lineup, but their high Class A offense in Salem hasn't been too shabby either, leading the Carolina League in home runs and ranking second in runs scored and OPS. Just about everything was clicking for Salem yesterday, with the team getting home runs from third baseman Will Middlebrooks, first baseman Anthony Rizzo and second baseman Oscar Tejeda, while DH Tim Federowicz chipped in with three hits as well. The big story here though is Middlebrooks, who is now up to .366/.453/.585 in 22 games. Middlebrooks signed for nearly $1 million as a fifth-round pick out of high school in 2007, but he's always been more about potential than performance. That might be starting to change.
Business As Usual
Phillies right fielder Domonic Brown hasn't made an appearance on the Prospect Hot Sheet yet this year, which is unusual for a top prospect who's hitting .358/.416/.701 in 20 games in Double-A Reading. Part of that is because Brown hasn't had one monster week yet; that is, until this week, when Brown has connected for three home runs, including one last night against Red Sox righthander Casey Kelly, who left a fastball up in the zone for Brown to crush over the left-center field fence. Brown, 22, also added a double to finish the game 2-for-4.
Teheran Or Vizcaino?
There's no question that Julio Teheran is one of the best pitching prospects in the game, but with righthander Arodys Vizcaino also pitching in the low Class A Rome rotation, you can make an argument that Teheran isn't even the best pitcher on his own team. I lean towards Vizcaino (BA subscribers can read why here), but in a few years they both could be anchors at the top of Atlanta's rotation. For now, Teheran will settle for toying with Sally League hitters the way he did yesterday, tossing seven shutout innings with 10 strikeouts, no walks and four hits allowed. You might need a microscope to see Teheran's 0.81 ERA, while his 40-9 K-BB mark in 33 1/3 innings shows how dominant he has been.
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