Alexi Amarista earned a promotion to the major leagues this week, but the Angels' best middle infield prospect is still at least a couple of years away from making an impact.
That prospect would be Jean Segura, the 21-year-old high Class A Inland Empire shortstop who went 3-for-6 with a pair of home runs yesterday, his first two of the year. Playing at High Desert with the wind blowing out certainly helps, but Segura's bat speed and ability to hit are real. Hitting .364/.417/.545 through 84 plate appearances, Segura has also made a solid transition from second base to shortstop, where he's made only one error in 17 games.
• The No. 2 overall pick in last year's draft, Pirates righthander Jameson Taillon made his abbreviated pro debut yesterday for low Class A West Virginia, though inclement weather ended the night after two innings. Taillon, 19, consistently hit the mid-90s with his fastball and finished with three hits, two walks and one run allowed with no strikeouts. Taillon's debut included a matchup against Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper, who walked in his only plate appearance.
• Speaking of Harper, he now has three home runs in his last four official games and is hitting .286/.394/.554 with 10 walks and 16 strikeouts in 66 trips to the plate. He was also involved in a bench-clearing skirmish against West Virginia, which was captured on video.
• After the Nationals selected Harper first overall last year, the Pirates had the difficult decision of whether to draft Taillon or high school shortstop Manny Machado with the second overall pick. Whoever the Pirates didn't take would go to the Orioles, who have to be pleased with the start Machado is off to with low Class A Delmarva. Machado, 18, is hitting .314/.410/.571 in 18 games, including yesterday's 2-for-4 effort in which he doubled and hit his third home run of the year. It was Machado's third straight multi-hit game and his eighth of the year. He's shown remarkable feel for the barrel at the plate, striking out just nine times in 83 plate appearances and drawing 11 walks, including three intentional passes.
• Mike Trout—perhaps you've heard of him? The Angels' 19-year-old phenom went 3-for-6 with two doubles and a triple in a doubleheader yesterday for Double-A Arkansas, raising his stats to .305/.379/.627 in 16 games. Just as a reminder of how young Trout is, the second high school outfielder taken in last year's draft—Tampa Bay's Josh Sale—is actually four weeks older than Trout.
• When the Blue Jays signed Cuban defector Adeiny Hechavarria, scouts knew he'd immediately become one of the best defensive shortstops in the minors. The question many of them had was whether he would hit. For the most part, he hasn't. Through 17 games, the 22-year-old is hitting .261/.282/.348 for Double-A New Hampshire after struggling at the plate a year ago. Yesterday Hechavarria showed signs of life with the bat with his best performance at the plate this year, going 3-for-4 with a double, a triple, a walk and a stolen base, his third of the year in four attempts.
• Lefthanders Tyler Matzek and Christian Friedrich came into the year as Colorado's top two pitching prospects, but the former first-round picks have taken their lumps again this season. While Matzek is having trouble finding the plate (18 walks and 14 runs in 12 1/3 innings) in the high Class A California League, Friedrich has been battered around for Double-A Tulsa. Friedrich, 23, gave up seven runs for the second time this year, leaving after four innings, a pair of walks, a hit batsman and a wild pitch. The start jumped Friedrich's ERA to 7.65 in 20 innings through his first four starts. The good news is that Tulsa righthander Juan Nicasio, 24, has been sensational, posting a 30-3 K-BB mark in 22 innings with a 2.45 ERA while running his fastball up to the high-90s.
• Oswaldo Arcia captured MVP honors in the Rookie-level Appalachian League last year, so it's no surprise that the Twins' 6-foot, 210-pound Venezuelan slugger is plowing through the low Class A Midwest League this year. After going 4-for-4 with two home runs on Tuesday, Arcia came back yesterday and hit another home run, finishing his day 2-for-4 with a walk. Arcia, 19, hasn't played the outfield yet as he nurses a tender elbow as Beloit's DH, but he's still hitting .362/.441/.707 in 17 games.
• A pair of lefthanders have been racking up strikeouts in bunches. Giants Double-A lefthander Eric Surkamp had his second 10-strikeout performance in four starts this year as he pitched seven shutout innings with two walks and six hits allowed. Surkamp, 23, lowered his ERA to 2.21 in 20 1/3 innings and ranks fourth in the minors with 31 strikeouts. That's one strikeout behind the minor league lead, a three-way tie between high Class A righthander Shelby Miller (Cardinals), low Class A lefty Edwar Cabrera (Rockies) and Triple-A lefty Charlie Furbush (Tigers). Furbush, 25, struck out 11 in a seven-inning complete game yesterday in which he allowed two runs, one walk and seven hits. It was the second straight seven-inning complete game for Furbush, who in his previous outing threw a one-hit shutout with no walks and nine strikeouts against Indianapolis.
• The Rangers' low Class A Hickory affiliate is an intriguing collection of young Latin American talent, most notably shortstop Jurickson Profar. The hitter off to the best start, though, is Mexican third baseman Christian Villanueva, who went 3-for-4 with a walk and stole two bases yesterday. Villanueva, 19, is hitting .328/.403/.525 in 18 games, earning praise for his quick swing and line-drive approach.
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