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. It's your one-stop shop.
Owens Rolls Through Richmond
Pirates lefty Rudy Owens was one of the breakout stories of 2009. A draft-and-follow pick from the 2006 draft, Owens came out of nowhere to go 11-2, 2.10 between two Class A levels and managers voted him the best pitching prospect in the low Class A South Atlantic League. Still, Owens is a pitchability lefthander without an overpowering fastball. Seeing if he could successfully make the jump to Double-A Altoona was expected to be a major test for him. Not so far.
Owens has gotten better with each start and sports an impressive 3-0, 2.83 mark through 28 2/3 innings. He'd allowed just three runs over his last two starts heading into last night's outing in Richmond, but Owens was masterful against the Flying Squirrels. He threw six hitless innings before being pulled with his pitch count at 98. His 11 strikeouts were a career-high and vaulted him to the EL lead with 28 on the year.
"Tonight is one of those nights when you just have to tip your cap to him," Squirrels outfielder Thomas Neal told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "He was able to spot up really well on the outside corner. He kept us honest by throwing the fastball in and keeping us from getting to the (strikes on the outside corner). And his changeup he was throwing for strikes."
The lone blemish on Owens' evening? Handing out a five-pitch walk to the opposing pitcher with two outs in the sixth.
"The main thing for that is just treating him as a normal hitter," Owens told the Times-Dispatch. "I definitely changed my thought process when the pitcher came up."
Going For Another Rough Ride
As a follow up to today's Prospect Bulletin profiling Martin Perez and Tanner Scheppers, we got Double-A Frisco pitching coach Jeff Andrews' thoughts on three other prospects on the RoughRiders' staff: lefthander Kasey Kiker and righties Blake Beavan and Alexi Ogando.
• Kiker has battled severe control problems so far. The 22-year-old lefthander is winless in five starts and has a 6.46 ERA through 23 2/3 innings. His numbers aren't all bad, as he's fanned 26 hitters, leads the Texas League in K/9 with 9.89 and given up 18 hits, just three of which went for extra bases. However, he's walked 22 hitters and beaned five more. Both of those numbers also lead the TL. His control was at its worst in his last start on Sunday, as Kiker walked seven over 3 2/3 innings against Corpus Christi, leading him to give up four runs despite allowing only one hit.
"He's just got to throw more strikes," Andrews said. "That's the bottom line. That's what it all comes down to. He's been good-bad-good-bad-good-bad. He has to command his fastball better, it's as simple as that."
• Like Kiker, Beavan has alternated good starts with poor ones, leading to a 3-2, 3.93 record after 34 1/3 innings. Beavan, 21, still hasn't been overpowering hitters like he could before Texas made him the 17th overall pick of the 2007 draft, but he's shown he can pound the strike zone enough to get by, posting a 24-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
"(Beavan's) been good," Andrews said. "He's another one that's been hit-and-miss. He'll pitch very well and then he hits a bump and then the next start is good and then he kinda hits a bump. It's not like these guys have been awful. It's just you'd like to see a lot more consistency out of Kiker and a little bit more consistency from Beavan."
• Ogando might be the most interesting of the bunch. The 26-year-old Dominican finally made it to the United States this year after being unable to get a visa due to being caught up in a marriage scandal six years ago. The righthander sat in the low 90s and could ramp his fastball up to 97 mph in the spring, and has gotten off to a 0-0, 1.42 start through 12 2/3 innings at Frisco.
"He's been starting with a limited pitch count," Andrews said. "He's gotten off to a good start. He's shown a plus fastball, and he's shown the ability to spin it and throw his slider for a strike and then take it out of the zone when he needs to. He's been very good."
Turner Coming Back
Righthander Jacob Turner, the top prospect in the Tigers organization, is coming off the disabled list and will return to the mound for low Class A West Michigan tonight at Great Lakes. Turner, who was the ninth overall pick in last year's draft, made two starts for the Whitecaps before going on the DL with right forearm stiffness. He looked impressive in the early going, allowing only one run on seven hits over nine innings, while striking out 11 and walking none. Turner last pitched on April 15, when he came out after four innings against Bowling Green.
Willems Not Coming Back
Righthander Colton Willems, the Nationals' first-round pick in the 2006 draft, has decided to retire. Willems was the 22nd overall pick in 2006 but never showed the same overpowering stuff in pro ball that made him a first-round pick worth a $1.425 million bonus coming out of high school.
Willems never made it out of Class A and was sent back to low Class A Hagerstown to open the 2010 season and begin working out of the bullpen. He had a 9-16, 3.68 career record in 208 innings coming into the year, and was 0-1, 9.49 in 12 innings of relief this season. After allowing two runs in 1 1/3 innings Friday night, he told Nationals officials on Saturday that he was retiring and then drove home to Florida. (He was drafted out of Carroll High in Fort Pierce, Fla.) The Nationals placed him on the restricted list in case he decides to return.
"He feels like it's the right move in his life," Nationals farm director Doug Harris told Ben Goessling of MASNSports.com. "We try to present everything so kids can look 10, 15, 20 years down the road and have no regrets. You can't put a gun to somebody's head. We wish him the best, and we're here for him. He's a good kid, a really good kid."
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