The White Sox brought in righthander Simon Castro over the offseason, hoping he could rediscover the form that once made him one of the Padres’ top prospects. Castro has had his ups and downs this spring with Double-A Birmingham, but he was outstanding on Monday, working eight innings and allowing one run, which was unearned, on three hits, striking out five and walking none. Castro collected his fourth win of the year to improve to 4-2, 3.74 in 65 innings.
Castro came to the White Sox in the deal that sent Carlos Quentin to San Diego. The 24-year-old had struggled in Triple-A in 2011, going 2-2, 10.17 for Tucson before going down with a lat injury and then being demoted to Double-A in June. Castro struggled with repeating his mechanics and battled extreme wildness, walking 18 hitters in 26 innings before his demotion. He found the strike zone more consistently in Double-A last year, walking 16 in 89 innings.
It’s been an inconsistent spring so far for Castro. In his two starts prior to Monday’s outing, he gave up nine earned runs in 12 innings. He’s had five quality starts out of 10 outings this year, but he’s been touched up for at least five runs in each of his other starts. And while he’s dominated righthanded hitters, he’s struggled to get lefties out, giving up a .323/.351/.480 line against them, which can be traced to his lack of a refined changeup compared to his more impressive fastball and slider.
It might be easy to forget about Diamondbacks third base prospect Ryan Wheeler with Matt Davidson putting up loud numbers a level below him, but Wheeler has impressed in his own right for Triple-A Reno.
Wheeler went 3-for-5 with a homer and a double, along with stealing his first base of the year, for Reno against Sacramento on Monday. The 23-year-old improved his slash line to .324/.370/.542 through 179 at-bats. He also drove in three runs on the night, giving him 45 in 48 games on the year, ranking him third in the league in RBIs. He started the season strong in April and has gotten even hotter in May, putting up a .333/.400/.548 line in 84 at-bats.
While Wheeler has the hitting acumen and average power to carry him to the majors, the lefty-swinger will have to improve his production against lefthanded pitchers. He hit just two of his 16 homers last year against southpaws, hitting .276/.310/.373 against them compared to .301/.375/.500 against righties, and his platoon split has gotten even more pronounced this year. Wheeler’s homer yesterday was his seventh of the year, all of which have been off righthanders, against whom he’s hitting a robust .346/.384/.610. Meanwhile, Triple-A lefthanders have neutralized him to the tune of a .256/.327/.326 line against them this spring.
Here we present official minor league transactions, conveyed to us by Major League Baseball, for the period May 15-23. We will have no transactions update next week, but we'll return the week of June 4 with a jumbo edition.
Players listed with an asterisk (*) signed a minor league contract with the organization after being removed from the 40-man roster and clearing waivers.
Signed: RHP Gaby Hernandez (Joliet (Frontier))
Released: OF Chris Valencia
Recalled: C Konrad Schmidt, 3B Josh Bell
Removed from 40-man: OF David Winfree (outrighted to Triple-A)
Optioned to Triple-A: LHP Pat Corbin, OF A.J. Pollock
Option transferred: RHP Trevor Bauer (Double-A to Triple-A)
Placed on 7-day DL: RHP Chase Anderson, RHP Anthony Meo, LHP Jason Lane, OF Tyler Graham
Reinstated from DL: LHP Jason Lane, C Mark Reed
Gaby Hernandez spent time with Triple-A Reno last season.
Signed: LHP Ian Thomas (York (Atlantic)), 2B Sergio Miranda (released by Brewers), SS Lance Zawadzki (released by Dodgers), OF Abner Abreu (released by Cubs)
Released: OF Sam Munson
Traded: 2B Drew Sutton to Pirates for cash considerations
Placed on 7-day DL: RHP Jason Rice, C Evan Gattis
Reinstated from DL: RHP Buddy Carlyle, LHP Chris Jones, C Christian Bethancourt [...] Continue Reading »
Anthony Rizzo sure loves the Pacific Coast League.
The Cubs' Triple-A Iowa first baseman hit his 16th home run of the year yesterday, ranking him second in the minors and only one home run behind minor league leader Brad Eldred, a 31-year-old with the Tigers in Triple-A.
Rizzo, who is hitting .355/.420/.710 in 44 games, ranks third in the minors in OPS. Between this season and his stint with Tucson last year when he was with the Padres, Rizzo now has 42 home runs in 137 games in the PCL. At some point, he should get another crack at a big league job, but with Bryan LaHair hitting like an all-star, Rizzo may have to wait a while to get that chance, even if it's looking like he's ready right now.
Scouts with Mariners coverage come away buzzing every time they go in to see Double-A Jackson, where the Mariners have a troika of premium arms with righthander Taijuan Walker and lefties Danny Hultzen and James Paxton.
The three pitchers have all been brilliant, with Walker sporting a 2.06 ERA and Paxton striking out 51 batters in 43 2/3 innings. In terms of performance, Hultzen has outshined them all, and he took another step forward last night with a career-high 12 strikeouts in six innings with one run, five hits and one walk allowed. Hultzen, 22, lowered his ERA to 1.78 and, while he has had some struggles with his control at times, he's walked just two of the 47 batters he's faced in his last two starts.
Hultzen's ERA and strikeouts both rank second in the Southern League to Diamondbacks righthander Trevor Bauer (1.68 ERA, 60 strikeouts in the SL), who has already been promoted to Triple-A Reno. Given the level of dominance Hultzen has shown, we'll probably see him joining Bauer in the Pacific Coast League in the very near future.
Two of the top arms from the Dominican Republic are still waiting for their signed contracts to receive the approval of Major League Baseball, according to international sources.
Dominican righthander Andres Serrano, who signed with the Cardinals for $750,000 last year in October, still hasn't cleared his complete background check with the league. Serrano, who turns 18 on Tuesday, received the top bonus for a Dominican pitcher in 2011 thanks to his projectable 6-foot-3, 190-pound frame, 90-95 mph fastball and a curveball that flashes plus.
Simon Mercedes, a Dominican righthander who signed with the Red Sox for $800,000 in March, also still has a pending contract. Mercedes, 20, is 6-foot-4, 220 pounds with a 92-96 mph fastball and an average to above-average breaking ball. Mercedes had previously agreed to a $400,000 deal with the Giants in 2011, but that deal fell through after MLB investigated his background and declared him ineligible to sign for one year.
Players with pending contracts are no longer allowed to play in the Dominican Summer League, which opens on June 3.
Derek Dietrich needed some time to get his bat going last year but still turned in a 22-homer season in low Class A. The Rays prospect hit 15 of those homers in the second half, and his 2012 season may be following a similar track after the 22-year-old made the move up to the pitcher-friendly Florida State League.
A lefty hitting shortstop with power, Dietrich went homerless in April with high Class A Charlotte before hitting his first long ball on May 1. He’s hit three more since then, his last coming Monday as part of a 3-for-5 night against Brevard County. He also mixed a pair of doubles and drove in five runs. He improved his line for the year to .273/.362/.487 in 154 at-bats. Since his below-average speed and range make his chances of sticking at shortstop slim over the long haul, he’ll need to keep producing with the bat.
The Rangers are going to need some patience with righthander Luke Jackson, but his upside makes it worthwhile. The 20-year-old with low Class A Hickory pulled out of a four-start slump with 6 2/3 dominant innings on Monday, striking out nine and allowing only one run on one hit (a solo homer).
Jackson, a supplemental first-round pick in 2010 from a Florida high school, started the season hot, going 2-0, 1.31 through his first four starts, but then his control deserted him. Jackson didn’t begin focusing on pitching until he got to high school, and the resulting rawness had led to trouble repeating his delivery. He lost four straight starts from April 27 to May 16, during which he walked 15 in 15 2/3 innings and gave up 26 hits. He reversed that trend on Monday, making his longest outing of the year and matching his season-high for strikeouts and improving to 3-4, 5.44 in 43 innings.
BA subscribers can read more on Jackson in this recent Rangers organization report from correspondent Jeff Wilson.
Ethan Martin continued his run as one of the season’s biggest turnaround stories with another strong outing for Double-A Chattanooga on Monday. The Dodgers righthander dropped his ERA to 2.96 with five scoreless innings against Huntsville, allowing just two hits.
That Martin possesses swing-and-miss stuff hasn’t been the question, as his 9.40 strikeouts per nine rate attests. But the last two years in the high Class A California League were tough on Martin. He struggled with repeating his mechanics and his command faltered, resulting in too many walks and hittable pitches. He posted a 6.68 ERA over two years in high Class A before the Dodgers rescued him from the Cal League with a promotion to Chattanooga and move to the bullpen last June.
This season has been a different story for the 22-year-old, the Dodgers‘ 2008 first-round pick. The move to the bullpen last year was just temporary, and he’s gotten off to a 5-0, 2.96 start for the Lookouts. He reeled off a stretch of five straight quality starts from April 16-May 10. In 31 Cal League starts over the last two years, he made just eight quality starts out of 31, and only once did he make two consecutively.
In a Diamondbacks system brimming with blue-chip pitching prospects, lefthander Andrew Chafin may be the forgotten man at times, but he earned a turn in the spotlight on Monday. The 21-year-old struck out 12 hitters over seven innings for high Class A Visalia, giving up two runs on eight hits to improve his ERA to 3.20.
Chafin didn’t figure in the decision but has yet to suffer a defeat in this, his first full season as a pro, having started the year 3-0 in nine starts. Monday’s performance against Bakersfield marked the second time he’s struck out 12 in a game this year, having also accomplished the feat on April 28, though he’s been a bit all-or-nothing lately when it comes to whiffs. His strikeout totals from his last five starts (each of which saw him go at least five innings) read: 12-1-7-1-12. His dozen on Monday moved him into the California League lead with 66 in 50 2/3 innings. He also completely reversed course from his last start on May 16, when he not only had just one strikeout but handed out seven walks. He didn’t walk anyone on Monday.
The real Chafin likely lies in between the one that strikes out 12 in a game and one that strikes out only one. A supplemental first-round pick last year from Kent State, Chafin’s delivery makes scouts think a move to the bullpen is in his future. But his arsenal, led by a low 90s fastball from the left side, is deep enough from him to last as a starter and his results have been solid so far after going to the unforgiving environs of the Cal League with just one pro appearance under his belt.
Presented here are the top 10 runs created tallies for position players from weekend series, May 18-20. Players must appear in the 2012 Baseball America Prospect Handbook.
|TOP 10 RUNS CREATED BY PROSPECTS IN THE MINORS • MAY 18-20
|Adam Duvall||SF||San Jose||California||HiA||14||8||1||0||2||0||0||1||6.3|
|Travis d'Arnaud||TOR||Las Vegas||Pac Coast||AAA||11||6||1||0||3||1||1||0||5.6|
|Matt Adams*||STL||Memphis||Pac Coast||AAA||7||5||2||0||2||0||0||0||5.1|
|*Bats lefthanded. #Switch-hitter.
Chart considers only players who appear in 2012 BA Prospect Handbook
• With Lance Berkman and Allen Craig on the disabled list, the Cardinals looked to Triple-A Memphis first baseman Matt Adams to fill the void. The 23-year-old had mashed nine homers and slugged .603 in 37 games for the Redbirds, one year after winning Double-A Texas League MVP honors and setting a Springfield franchise record with 32 home runs. To give you an idea of how far Adams has come as a pro, consider the fact that he was a 23rd-round pick from Division II Slippery Rock (Pa.) in 2009 who spent all of the ’10 season in low Class A. He went 2-for-4 during his big league debut Sunday night. [...] Continue Reading »
Presented here are the top 10 pitcher game scores from weekend series, May 18-20, by pitchers who appear in the 2012 Baseball America Prospect Handbook.
|TOP 10 GAME SCORES BY PROSPECTS IN THE MINORS • MAY 18-20
|Trevor Bauer||ARI||Reno||Pac Coast||AAA||8||4||1||1||11||1||80|
|Tyler Anderson*||COL||Asheville||S Atlantic||LoA||7||2||2||1||6||1||72|
|Donn Roach||SD||Lake Elsinore||California||HiA||7||2||2||0||4||2||71|
|Jimmy Nelson||MIL||Brevard Cty||Fla State||HiA||9||6||2||2||5||1||71|
|*Lefthander. Chart considers only pitchers who appear in 2012 BA Prospect Handbook
• By Minor League Baseball's accounting, Padres righty Donn Roach leads all pitchers with a 5.1 groundout-to-airout ratio. (If his name sounds familiar it's because he was the pitcher acquired by San Diego when they dealt Ernesto Frieri to the Angels.) The 22-year-old has been nothing short of sensational in the high Class A California League this season, going 7-0, 1.69 with a 0.90 WHIP and 47-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio for Lake Elsinore. If not for Bakersfield lefty Tony Cingrani, then Roach would lead the Cal League in both ERA and WHIP. [...] Continue Reading »
It was only natural that Pirates shortstop Alen Hanson would cool off after his blistering April, when the 19-year-old ranked second in the entire minors with a .410 average for low Class A West Virginia. Hanson’s hitting a more modest .263/.317/.474 so far in May, but he’s already put himself solidly on the prospect radar.
A night after taking home a golden sombrero, going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts on Tuesday, Hansen righted the ship by going 3-for-5 with a double and a homer, his sixth of the campaign. Hanson raised his slash line back up to .358/.397/.617. He ranks second in the South Atlantic League in average and slugging and leads the circuit in hits (58) and doubles (16).
The blight on Hanson’s spring has been his defense, as he’s made 17 errors in 32 games, easily the most of any SAL shortstop. He made four errors on Wednesday, all of them fielding errors. Hanson’s throwing arm is expected to be the biggest obstacle to him staying at shortstop, but just three of his 17 errors have been of the throwing variety. His errors have also tended to come in bunches. Wednesday was his fifth multi-error game, and he committed seven in his first 11 games at shortstop in April.
Reading down the names in low Class A Charleston’s lineup, you see a who’s who of many of the Yankees’ top offensive prospects. Start at the top with center fielder Mason Williams, and follow him with shortstop Cito Culver, third baseman Dante Bichette Jr., first baseman Tyler Austin and catcher Gary Sanchez—five players accounting for over $6.2 million in signing bonuses. That premium talent was firing on all cylinders Wednesday, as those five players combined for nine hits and the team pounded out 14 runs on 16 hits against Savannah.
Williams went 3-for-4, while Bichette and Culver, who’ve each had their struggles early in the season, both had two hits. Austin, the South Atlantic League’s home run leader, had only one knock but made it count, smacking a two-run homer in the first inning, his 12th long ball of the year. But Sanchez was the biggest star. The catcher, who was DHing on this night, collected a career-high six RBIs as part of a 2-for-5 night. Though Sanchez recently had a 10-game hitting streak snapped, he’s still hitting a robust .333/.380/.483 in 120 at-bats. He also homered on Wednesday, his second in his last five games after going the first month of the season without a long ball.
While Garin Cecchini’s younger brother Gavin, a likely first-round pick next month, has been getting more of the limelight lately, the elder Cecchini sibling has been rolling for low Class A Greenville in the Red Sox’s system. Cecchini went 2-for-5 and hit a walkoff two-run double with two outs in the bottom of the ninth for the Drive on Wednesday, capping off a 5-4 win against Asheville.
Cecchini has rebounded from a slow start, which was really just a bad first week, to be one of the South Atlantic League’s most productive hitters over the last month. The 21-year-old started the year 3-for-27 (.111) before a 3-for-5 outing on April 13, and he’s hit .349/.408/.495 in 109 at-bats since, posting the fifth highest average in the SAL over that span. The missing ingredient has been power, as he has only one homer and is slugging a modest .434 on the season, but there’s reason to hope he’ll hit more long balls in time as he gets stronger and learns to turn on balls more consistently.
His power hasn’t arrived yet, but Cecchini’s hit tool is advanced for his age. He’s been consistently productive when healthy, hitting .298/.398/.500 against older competition in the short-season New York-Penn League last year and .301/.367/.434 so far this year. Injuries have been an issue, as a torn ACL cost him his senior year of high school and contributed to his not being drafted until the fourth round, and a broken right wrist truncated his 2011 season. He hasn’t shown any ill effects though, going 14-for-16 stealing bases despite lacking above-average speed and cleaning up his defense at third base. He made 10 errors in 26 games there last year, having moved over from playing shortstop in high school, but he’s committed just four in 28 games at the hot corner this year.
Here we present official minor league transactions, conveyed to us by Major League Baseball, for the period May 8-14.
Players listed with an asterisk (*) signed a minor league contract with the organization after being removed from the 40-man roster and clearing waivers.
Signed: OF Tyler Graham (released by Giants)
Released: 1B Bobby Stone
Traded: LHP Mike Belfiore to Orioles as player to be named for 3B Josh Bell
Placed on 7-day DL: RHP Chris Jakubauskas
Reinstated from DL: RHP Jensen Lewis, RHP Kyle Winkler
The Giants designated Tyler Graham for assignment on May 1 then released him eight days later on May 9. The Diamondbacks assigned him to Triple-A Reno, and he's already familiar with the Pacific Coast League, having suited up for Fresno in each of the past our seasons. The 28-year-old Graham batted .297/.353/.376 with four homers and 100 steals in 925 plate appearances for the Grizzlies.
Signed: OF Felix Pie (Camden (Atlantic))
Released: RHP Joe Lucas, LHP Cole Rohrbough, OF Ruben Rijkhof
Placed on 7-day DL: RHP Erik Cordier, OF Jordan Parraz
Reinstated from DL: RHP Jarett Miller, LHP Luis Avilan
Cole Rohrbough peaked as the Braves' No. 6 prospect following the ’08 campaign, but his stock plummeted as he racked up disabled-list days (he totaled just 34 innings in the past three seasons). With low Class A Rome this season Rohrbough made eight relief appearances, during which he allowed six runs and 15 baserunners in 10 1/3 innings. [...] Continue Reading »
Jose Iglesias won't make the majors because of his bat. He's a glove wizard who only has to hit enough to justify keeping his plus-plus glove in the lineup. ut every now and then, Iglesias can have a big night. For the second time in 204 games as a pro, Iglesias homered on Tuesday night. It was part of a 3-for-5 night that raised his average to .262 with Triple-A Pawtucket. Iglesias is on quite the hot streak. He was hitting .185/.196/.258 on April 29, but since then, he's had eight multihit games in the past 12 games.
The play of Mike Aviles has been adequate enough that the spring training talk of whether Iglesias should be the Red Sox's starting shortstop has abated. That's probably the best thing that could happen for Iglesias, as he's getting the chance to work on his hitting in a much less pressured environment. The 22-year-old still has less than 1,000 at-bats since he arrived from Cuba, so while he's not ever going to be a batting champ, there is still reason to hope that he could prove to be a big league regular.
The Rangers are generally acknowledged to be the best team in the majors right now, even if they don't have the best record in baseball. Texas also ranked as Baseball America's No. 1 farm system heading into the season, and there is little that has happened in the early going to change that assessment.
No. 1 on the Rangers' prospect list coming into the season was shortstop Jurickson Profar. With the top four prospects on our Preseason Top 100 now in the majors, Profar, ranked No. 7 on the preseason Top 100, is in the conversation for the best prospect currently in the minors. Double-A Frisco's shortstop extended his hitting streak to 25 games with a 3-for-5 night against Midland. Profar also stole his sixth bag of the season in six tries.
While Profar was extending his hitting streak, Frisco starter Barrett Loux improved to 8-0 in eight starts this year. While wins are not the most useful stat to measure a pitcher's success, Loux's eight wins have been largely deserved. He hasn't allowed more than three runs in any start and currently has a 2.70 ERA. [...] Continue Reading »
When the Yankees drafted Dellin Betances back in 2006, the scouting report on the tall righthander explained that he combined sometimes plus stuff with a difficult to repeat delivery that meant he had poor control.
It's been seven years, but that scouting report is still pretty accurate. Betances can blow hitters away with his plus fastball, but he all too often is missing the strike zone. The strike zone has been jumping on Betances more and more in 2012. On Tuesday, Betances failed to throw strikes on 50 percent of his pitches for the fourth time in eight starts. It was also the fourth time in eight starts that Betances walked six batters. He needed 104 pitches (50 strikes) to go 3 2/3 innings, as he allowed three earned runs. All three runs came on Brad Eldred's 16th home run of the season.
Betances did strike out seven batters as well–so when he was able to put three strikes together, he was hard to hit.
The Yankees have been very patient with Betances over the past seven years, but there may be a point where the Yankees have to accept that Betances will never have even average command. The question then comes down to whether his command issues are better solved in the rotation or in the bullpen.
A year ago on May 15, Xavier Avery had batted .224/.278/.252 (33-for-147) with four doubles and an 8-to-43 walk-to-strikeout ratio for Double-A Bowie. This year he's in Baltimore after leveling out his walk-to-strikeout ratio (20-to-29) and belting 13 extra-base hits in the 33 Triple-A International League games. The lesson: Fortunes can change dramatically for prospects in one year.
The 22-year-old Avery started in left field last night for the Orioles and collected his first two career hits, a double and a triple, both off Yankees starter Ivan Nova. In concert with injuries to outfielders Nolan Reimold and Endy Chavez, Avery forced the Orioles' hand by raking in his final nine games for Triple-A Norfolk, batting 15-for-35 (.429) with three homers, four doubles and four strikeouts. His big league callup follows quickly on the heels of his first Prospect Hot Sheet appearances last Friday, which also happened with Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks about a week earlier.
With the caveat that the season still has a long way to go, Avery does appear to have made fundamental changes to his game. Compare his performance in Double-A last season with his early showing in Triple-A this year and note that he batted leadoff almost exclusively in both seasons. Notice the Arizona Fall League line placed between the two regular seasons, because one can almost see the light bulb clicking on for Avery, a talented athlete who nevertheless entered this season with a career batting line of .265/.324/.355 in nearly 1,950 plate appearances.
|Arizona Fall League
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