Brad Eldred isn't a prospect. He lost his prospect status in his 55-game stint with the Pirates in 2005. That was his only real shot at a big league job, as he's gotten only 30 more big league games in following seven seasons. And as a 31-year-old, he's been tagged with the 4-A hitter moniker for years.
But none of that obscures the fact that Eldred is having of the best months anyone has seen in quite a while.
Playing for Detroit's Triple-A Toledo club, Eldred hit three more home runs on Tuesday night to lead the Mud Hens to a 12-8 win over Columbus. Eldred now has a pro ball leading 12 home runs (in only 19 games) and has raised his batting average to .390. With 239 career minor league home runs, Eldred has now lept past Val Pascucci into fifth place on the minor league active career leaderboard.
As great as Eldred's start is, he can't be comped to Bryan LaHair as a late-bloomer just yet. LaHair posted .300+ batting averages and on-base percentages of .385 and .405 in his final two minor league seasons before his second chance in Chicago. Eldred, who has 268/.334/.543 career minor league averages, has generally hit for power, but his struggles to hit for average and get on base have always kept him from having a regualr big league job.
With the big league club losing for a 12th straight game, understandably Royals' fans are either in the midst of deep depression or have reverted to general apathy. But as has been the Royals' rallying cry for several years, there was good news on the farm.
The best news came for high Class A Wilmington, where righthander Yordano Ventura struck out a career-high 10 batters in 4 2/3 innings as the Blue Rocks beat Salem 4-3. According to Wilmington play-by-play announcer John Sadak, Ventura was getting ahead with his fastball, which was clocked as high as 99 mph by scouts tonight, and also had a dominating curveball.
Ventura can touch 100 mph when he wants to, but he tends to get into trouble when he tries to throw to the radar gun. On nights like Tuesday when he focuses on staying in control and throwing at less than max effort, his stuff is still good enough to handcuff hitters. [...] Continue Reading »
Will Middlebrooks did not hit a home run on Tuesday. Middlebrooks, playing for Triple-A Pawtucket, has been hot enough that qualifies as news. But after homering in five of his previous six games, the Red Sox third base prospect settled for a triple in a 1-for-2 night that also included two walks and his third stolen base (in three tries).
Middlebrooks entered the night fifth in the minors in slugging percentage (.757). It's all the more impressive when you consider that at age 23, he's one of the younger players in the International League (where the median age is 26). He's been mashing lefthanders and righthanders equally well, with an OPS above 1.000 against both lefties and righties.
Middlebrooks still has only 131 games above Class A, so there's no need to rush the one-time elite punter, but for a Red Sox team that has received plenty of bad news at the big league level, Middlebrooks has been a shot of good news.
So how old is the average minor leaguer? You often see us refer to a player as young for his league or old for the circuit. But to be more precise, here is a look at the median age of every full season minor league. We used median instead of average to better reflect what is the true midpoint of the league's players, as a few 35 year-olds could start to skew an average age.
The rosters were as of the first week of the season. And the median age of a league logically can be expected to skew older than the average significant prospect in a league as role players and other less-heralded prospects are more likely to be repeating a league or otherwise pushed slowly up the ladder.
|Low Class A|
|League||Median DOB||Median Age|
|High Class A|
|League||Median DOB||Median Age|
|League||Median DOB||Median Age|
|League||Median DOB||Median Age|
You’ll be hard pressed to find many hitters in the minors hotter than Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks. The 23-year-old hit his eighth home run of the year for Triple-A Pawtucket on Monday, moving him into a tie for the second in the minors in homers.
Middlebrooks cracked 20 homers last year between Double-A and Triple-A, and he held his own in big league spring training this year, batting .300 (6-for-20) in 10 games while impressing with his power to all fields. Middlebrooks has kept that good feeling going in the regular season, now hitting .371/.413/.757 through 70 at-bats for the PawSox.
Middlebrooks has been known as a streaky hitter, though he was productive more consistently last year, and 2012 so far has been one continuous hot streak. Middlebrooks has gone hitless just four times in 18 games, while he’s homered seven times in his last 10 games. Included in that stretch was a streak of four consecutive games with a homer from April 18-21. He also can hit balls out in any direction, and true to form, the righthanded swinger has hit four of his eight homers to center or right field.
Jedd Gyorko had a fairly quiet night at the plate on Monday for Double-A San Antonio, going 1-for-4 with a double, but the bigger news was when he took the field at a new position, second base. It was his second straight day at second base after getting a few innings there on Sunday.
Gyorko, 23, played second base and shortstop during his college career at West Virginia, but his frame and below-average speed made third base seem like a more natural fit, and the Padres promptly moved him to the hot corner after picking him in the second round in 2010. Before Sunday, Gyorko had made only one appearance at second base as a pro, starting a game there for low Class A Fort Wayne in July 2010.
The Padres don’t lack for quality young third basemen, with Chase Headley in the majors and James Darnell in Triple-A, in addition to Gyorko at Double-A. Second base would present Gyorko a clearer path to the majors, if he can handle it. Of course, he still has to get his bat going as well, since his .238/.351/.365 line after 63 at-bats isn’t beating down the door to San Diego. Still, there’s little doubt about his potential as a line-drive, high-average hitter, but the position change adds a different wrinkle.
It’s been all or nothing for Jake Odorizzi so far this young season, but he was on the right side of that equation on Monday. The Royals righthander bounced back from a couple rough outings to post seven shutout innings for Double-A Northwest Arkansas.
Odorizzi tossed five shutout innings against Corpus Christi in his season debut on April 6, but the wheels came off in his next two starts. Odorizzi didn’t make it out of the first inning in his April 12 start, walking three and giving up four runs. Five days later, he managed to last five innings against San Antonio but allowed five runs (four earned) on six hits and two walks. Odorizzi got himself in trouble at times last season after he was promoted to Double-A when was guilty of trying to be too precise with his command, and through his first 10 2/3 innings of this year, he’d issued five walks and thrown three wild pitches to go with a 6.75 ERA.
The 22-year-old was back on form against Springfield on Monday though. Odorizzi limited the Cardinals to four hits while striking out 11, a record for the Northwest Arkansas franchise which began playing in 2008. The 11 whiffs were also Odorizzi’s highest mark in a Double-A start, easily beating his previous best of seven set twice last year, when he made 12 Texas League outings. Odorizzi retired nine straight at one point from the fourth through the sixth, while another encouraging note was that he didn’t issue his first (and only) walk of the night until the seventh inning. He was taken out after throwing 96 pitches, and his ERA improved to 4.08 after 17 2/3 innings.
We turn our attention now to the top offensive performers from weekend series, April 20-22, this time counting down the top performances in terms of the Bill James runs created metric (the convoluted ’02 version).
|TOP 10 RUNS CREATED BY PROSPECTS IN THE MINORS • APRIL 20-22
|Christian Yelich*||FLA||Jupiter||Florida State||HiA||12||7||1||1||2||1||2||0||6.4|
|Ronald Torreyes||CHC||Daytona||Florida State||HiA||10||6||2||2||0||3||0||0||6.4|
|Conor Gillaspie*||SF||Fresno||Pacific Coast||AAA||14||9||1||0||1||1||1||0||6.3|
|Alex Castellanos||LAD||Albuquerque||Pacific Coast||AAA||11||6||0||0||2||4||2||0||6.2|
|Danny Muno#||NYM||St. Lucie||Florida State||HiA||13||8||3||0||1||0||2||0||5.6|
|Eugenio Suarez#||DET||W. Michigan||Midwest||LoA||12||7||2||0||1||2||3||1||5.5|
|Mike Trout||LAA||Salt Lake||Pacific Coast||AAA||10||5||2||1||0||3||1||2||5.1|
|Chris Carter||OAK||Sacramento||Pacific Coast||AAA||12||5||0||0||3||1||2||0||4.8|
|Matt Skole*||WAS||Hagerstown||South Atlantic||LoA||4||4||2||0||1||1||0||0||4.4|
|*Bats lefthanded. #Switch-hitter.
Chart considers only players who appear in 2012 BA Prospect Handbook
Chris Carter hit all three of his home runs in a game yesterday (game log), while Christian Yelich has been on fire since returning from the disabled list, batting 12-for-24 with a pair of homers . . . Now playing second base instead of right field, Alex Castellanos could surface in Los Angeles if he can keep up the torrid pace . . . Few players have been more productive than reigning Minor League Player of the Year Mike Trout, but he left Sunday's game after being hit by a pitch. [...] Continue Reading »
Bill James' game score calculation rewards pitchers who work deep into games without allowing many runs or hits while providing extra credit for dominance (strikeouts) and control (few walks). It may not be perfect, but tallying game scores for a number of pitchers can winnow a crowded field in a hurry. Presented here are the top 10 game scores from weekend series, April 20-22, by pitchers who appear in the 2012 Baseball America Prospect Handbook.
|TOP 10 GAME SCORES BY PROSPECTS IN THE MINORS • APRIL 20-22
|Brett Oberholtzer*||HOU||Corpus Christi||Texas||AA||7||3||0||0||8||0||79|
|Chris Reed*||LAD||R. Cucamonga||California||HiA||7||4||0||0||8||0||77|
|Luke Jackson||TEX||Hickory||South Atlantic||LoA||6||2||0||0||7||1||74|
|Neil Ramirez||TEX||Round Rock||Pacific Coast||AAA||6||3||0||0||6||1||71|
|*Lefthander. Chart considers only pitchers who appear in 2012 BA Prospect Handbook
It's always good to see California League pitchers make the list, and this time we have three representatives, including a pair of Reds prospects with Bakersfield. Lefty Tony Cingrani, last year's third-rounder from Rice, has been so effective that he leads the Cal League in ERA (0.53), WHIP (0.71) and opponent average (.140). He was similarly effective in last year's Pioneer League . . . With his seven strikeouts, Rangers righty Luke Jackson now has 29 on the season, and he pulled to within one of the minor league lead (Athletics righty A.J. Griffin) . . . With 28 whiffs, D-back righty Trevor Bauer is just two off the minor league lead. He's allowed only one earned run this season and leads the field with four wins . . . Astros lefty Brett Oberholtzer righted the ship after allowing 11 runs in his first two starts for Double-A Corpus Christi. [...] Continue Reading »
UPDATE: This story has been updated to reflect the fact that Trout's injury was to his elbow, not his wrist.
Angels outfielder Mike Trout has quickly put an illness-plagued spring training behind him with an excellent start to the 2012 regular season, but now he's facing another problem. Trout left Sunday's game after being hit by a pitch on his left elbow.
Trout had already tripled earlier in the game, raising his averages to .400/.463/.600. He has six steals in seven attempts. Trout remained in the game after the plunking, but was later removed. Trout later Tweeted that he's OK and expects to be in the lineup on Monday.
Before the injury, Trout was doing everything he could to top his 2011 season, which was good enough to earn the Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year award. Trout had reached base safely in all 18 games this year and had picked up at least one hit in 17 of his 18 games played.
It's hard to get too excited about a minor league reliever, especially early in the season.
Relief prospects like Dodgers righthander Shawn Tolleson tend to march through the minor leagues without too much fanfare, but Tolleson has quietly continued to add to one of the most impressive performance records of anyone in the minors. Tolleson, 24, struck out five of the seven hitters he faced today for Double-A Chattanooga, including four swinging strikeouts. On the year, Tolleson has thrown 6 1/3 scoreless innings with three hits allowed. He hasn't walked anyone and he's struck out 13 of the 22 hitters he's faced.
The gaudy numbers are nothing new for Tolleson, who lowered his career ERA to 0.95 in 104 1/3 innings with 157 strikeouts (13.5 K/9) and 23 walks (2.0 BB/9). Tolleson comes at hitters with a deceptive delivery that makes it tough for hitters pick up his lively fastball, which parks in the low-90s and reaches a little higher, and he mixes in an effective cutter and slider to attack hitters.
Tolleson throws strikes, misses plenty of bats and has experience closing games at the minor league level. If the Dodgers need bullpen help this year, Tolleson could be a very valuable addition in Los Angeles.
Nationals uber-prospect Bryce Harper hit his first Triple-A home run in the first game of a doubleheader Sunday, depositing the ball well beyond the right-field wall at Syracuse's Alliance Bank Stadium, more than 350 feet from home plate. Buffalo righty (and Mets prospect) Jeurys Famila surrendered the blast on a 3-2 fastball he left down and in to the lefty-hitting Harper.
For your viewing pleasure: Minor League Baseball has the video clip of Harper's blast. He's gone 15-for-64 (.234) with six extra-base hits on the young season after going 2-for-5 for Syracuse during Sunday's doubleheader.
Marlins top prospect Christian Yelich missed the end of spring training with an elbow injury and returned to action only a week ago Sunday, but if he's not feeling locked in at the plate, it's not apparent from his early performance for high Class A Jupiter.
The 20-year-old Yelich, Miami's top pick in 2010, went 3-for-5 with a homer and three RBIs versus Brevard County on Sunday, raising his seasonal average to a cool .500 (12-for-24) and his slugging to an even 1.000. The lefthanded batter has seen ball four more often (seven walks) than strike three (five whiffs), while making the full-time shift from left field to center.
While not a burner, the 6-foot-4, 190-pound Yelich runs well for his size and knows how and when to steal a base. If he can handle center field every day, then based on his potential with the bat he becomes one of the more interesting prospect below the Double-A level.
Alex Castellanos changed organizations last July as the player the Cardinals traded to the Dodgers for Rafael Furcal. This season Castellanos has changed positions, shifting from right field to second base, but the 25-year-old also may be changing perceptions with his fast start for Triple-A Albuquerque.
After going 3-for-4 and belting two home runs in Oklahoma City on Saturday and going 3-for-5 on Sunday, the righty-hitting Castellanos raised his season batting line to .371/.488/.757 with four homers, seven doubles and three triples through 70 at-bats. In 10 games away from Isotopes Park he had collected nine extra-base hits. Because of the favorable hitting conditions they enjoy, remember to always check home/road splits for Albuquerque players, splits that are now available free at BaseballAmerica.com.
Drafted by St. Louis as a second and third baseman, Castellanos played those positions up through 2009, after which the Cardinals shifted him to the outfield. Los Angeles has shifted him back to the infield, where he has started 14 of 16 games at second base so far this season.
The Dodgers added Castellanos to the 40-man roster in the offseason, so that versatility could come in handy. Castellanos (Belmont Abbey) and Isotopes teammate Jerry Sands (Catawba) both hail from North Carolina-based Division II colleges.
While the Red Sox are in last place in the American League East, their top prospect is on fire in Triple-A Pawtucket.
Third baseman Will Middlebrooks homered for the fourth straight game today, taking Durham (Rays) lefthander Alex Torres deep over the right-field fence for his seventh home run in 16 games. The 23-year-old righthanded hitter is now batting .379/.406/.742 through 69 plate appearance with more extra-base hits (10) than strikeouts (nine) and is tied for second in the minors in home runs.
While Middlebrooks will probably never draw a lot of walks, he's made tremendous improvement in his hitting approach since signing with the Red Sox in 2007. He spent the first year of his career struggling in short-season Lowell in 2008, when he couldn't get his OBP above .300 and had a hard time tapping into his plus raw power early in his career in the lower minors.
The breakout year came last year, when Middlebrooks hit 23 home runs and a cumulative .302/.345/.520, with most of his damage coming at Double-A Portland before a late promotion to Triple-A. Middlebrooks has plus power to the middle of the field and showed last year that he could routinely drive the ball out of the park to the opposite field. Now he's starting to show he can turn on the ball and hit balls out to any part of the park in games; two of his home runs have gone to left field, one to left-center, two to center field, one to right-center and today's flew over the wall in right field. Scouts have said he's showing that he can turn on good fastballs inside and go the other way when he's pitched on the outer half.
With Kevin Youkilis off to a sluggish start in Boston, is it time to bring Middlebrooks up? That's probably premature. Yes, Youkilis is 33, and while his offensive production dipped last year, he still showed he could get on base at a high clip with solid-average power and has been a 4-6 win player each of the last four years. Middlebrooks is off to a terrific start and plays excellent defense, but he has just 32 games of Triple-A experience, about half of which didn't go so well when he got there last year. At some point this year, Middlebrooks may force the issue. For now he's probably staying put in Pawtucket, but he's not far away.
Update (6:01 p.m. ET): According to several Red Sox reporters, Youkilis just left today's game with a bruised left quad. Obviously his health and availability will have a significant impact on Middlebrooks' timetable, so it's possible his ETA to Boston just got expedited.
Righthander Angel Guzman signed with the Dodgers as a minor league free agent in December, but the long-time Cub has yet to take the field for his new organization. Now that debut date has been pushed back by 50 games following Guzman's suspension.
The 29-year-old violated baseball's drug prevention and treatment program, twice testing positive for a so-called drug of abuse.
Guzman ranked as the Cubs' No. 1 prospect following the 2003 season, and he reached Chicago every season from 2006 through ’09, logging 157 innings and posting a 4.82 ERA and 1.43 WHIP to go with 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings. He pitched sporadically during the past two seasons while dealing with injuries.
The Blue Jays plan to promote righthander Drew Hutchison from Double-A New Hampshire to Toronto to make his major league debut on Saturday against the Royals, according to a report on Twitter from Sportsnet's Barry Davis.
Hutchison, 21, has moved quickly since the Blue Jays signed him for a $400,000 bonus out of high school when he slid to the 15th round in the 2009 draft. At this time last year, Hutchison was pitching in low Class A Lansing, but he rose through three levels and finished in Double-A, which is where he had returned to open 2012.
The Blue Jays' No. 9 prospect, Hutchison has moved quickly because he throws strikes and commands his fastball to both sides of the plate. In terms of velocity, his fastball is an average pitch, but it's lively and he can sink it to get ground balls and keep the ball in the yard. His changeup is his best secondary pitch, but he mixes in a slider as well, though it gets mixed reviews from scouts. Even though he throws across his body, it hasn't hampered his command, and because he hides the ball well with his arm stroke, it's tough for hitters to pick up the ball out of his hand, though there is some question among scouts about whether the deception that works against Double-A batters will fly against big league hitters.
Is Hutchison ready now? In a perfect-world scenario, he might stick around the minors a bit longer, since he has barely more than 30 innings of experience at Double-A, though he's performed extremely well in those six starts and is already quite polished for his age. Hutchison is good enough to fit as a back-end starter, the role he's being asked to fill in for now, with perhaps enough upside for a bit more down the road. He won't dazzle anyone with his fastball like his new rotation mate Henderson Alvarez, but like Alvarez, you can expect Hutchison to throw strikes, get grounders and keep his team in the game.
The commissioner's office announced a pair of 50-game suspensions today in which both minor league players tested positive for performance-enhancing substances.
Marlins first baseman Jaime Ortiz, who has gone 6-for-32 (.188) with a home run for Double-A Jacksonville this season, tested positive for metabolites of Stanozolol. Miami selected him from the Dodgers system in last winter's minor league Rule 5 draft.
Cardinals righthander Jose Pasen tested positive for metabolites of Nandrolone. He finished last season in the Rookie-level Appalachian League and opened this year in extended spring training. He's a converted right fielder whose mound experience consists of four seasons in short-season ball, though unlike many converts he works as a starting pitcher (3.38 ERA, 1.24 WHIP in 232 innings).
Albert Campos was a pitcher on the rise for the Rockies after the 2010 season. Now he is no longer with the organization.
The Rockies released Campos on Monday, a surprising move for a 21-year-old Venezuelan righthander who had ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the Rookie-level Pioneer League in 2010 and was the Rockies' No. 13 prospect entering the 2011 season, though he dropped out of their Top 30 this year.
Multiple Rockies officials declined to comment on Campos' release. However, Campos had not reported to spring training in Arizona and was still in Venezuela at the time of his release. According to a source familiar with Campos, he was involved in a physical incident off the field. The details of what transpired aren't clear, though Campos' behavior has been an issue in the past. The release is not believed to have anything to do with issues over Campos' age or identity.
Campos, who is 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, originally signed with the Rockies as a 16-year-old when the 2007 international signing period opened on July 2. He spent the 2008 and 2009 seasons pitching in the Dominican Summer League, then made his U.S. debut in 2010 in the Pioneer League, where he had a 2.05 ERA in 88 innings with 68 strikeouts and 17 walks.
Campos pitched last year in low Class A Asheville, but he didn't pitch after July 3 for undisclosed reasons. He finished with a 5.19 ERA, 64 strikeouts and 19 walks in 86 2/3 innings.
This time: April 10-16
Released: RHP Miles Reagan, RHP Daniel Stange, RHP Casey Upperman
Optioned to Triple-A: OF David Winfree
Placed on 7-day DL: 2B David Nick
Reinstated from DL: C Ryan Budde
A seventh-round pick from UC Riverside in ’06, Daniel Stange ranked as the Diamondbacks' No. 12 prospect in ’09 and reached Arizona for four games the following season. He's pitched almost exclusively for Triple-A Reno since ’10, but the results have been shaky (1.92 WHIP in 63 innings) as he made just 47 appearances. The 26-year-old Stange worked to 19 batters this season with the Aces, allowing 14 to reach base while striking out two others.
Released: 3B Kirk Walker
Optioned to Triple-A: OF Jose Constanza
Placed on 7-day DL: RHP Jarett Miller, RHP Greg Ross, OF Todd Cunningham, OF Will Skinner
Reinstated from DL: OF L.V. Ware [...] Continue Reading »
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