The Mariners knew what they were getting when they took shortstop Brad Miller in the second round out of Clemson last year. They knew he would hit and would be an excellent teammate, but that his defense was a little rough around the edges. So far, that assesment has been spot on.
Miller has been an offensive force this season for the High Desert Mavericks. Over his first 72 games (297 at-bats), Miller is hitting .326/.409/.525. He ranks first in the league in doubles (27), third in walks (43), eighth in batting average and fourth in on-base percentage.
He was named to the California League all-star game that took place June 19 in Winston-Salem, N.C., and his former Clemson teammate (and 2012 first-round pick by the Rays) Richie Shaffer watched him go 1-for-1 with a double and a walk (which he drew off of Dylan Bundy).
"I've felt good, I feel like I'm just learning about how to play everyday and how to be consistent," Miller said about the first half of his season. "It's already been 70 games and there's been some ups and downs. You're feeling good, feeling bad, but it's been fun. It's been a fun first year."
Miller's home hitting environment is one of the best in the minor leagues for hitters. But his dynamic offense isn't just the product of a cozy home ballpark. He's hitting .368/.446/.645 at home this season. His road numbers, while a big step down from those at home, are still solid at .282/.370/.403. [...] Continue Reading »
For Braves righthander J.R. Graham, 2012 has been a year of transition. Last year, when he was drafted in the fourth round out of Santa Clara, he pitched in 23 games for the Broncos, but only got five starts.
He got his feet wet in pro ball, ranking as the No. 8 prospect in the Appalachian League after he went 5-2, 1.72 with 52 strikeouts and 13 walks over 58 innings. He pitched in 13 games, starting eight of them.
This year, Graham was named to the Carolina League all-star team after going 8-1, 2.53 with 15 walks and 55 strikeouts over 82 innings in the first half of the year for Lynchburg. [...] Continue Reading »
When he makes contact Brett Jackson can do a whole lot of good things.
He has plenty of power, as evidenced by his 11 home runs, .492 slugging percentage and .239 isolated power. And he has plenty of speed, as evidenced by his 14 steals in 18 attempts and his nine triples. He plays a solid center field as well, which is why he's been one of the Cubs top prospects ever since they drafted him in the first round in 2009.
But there's a very good reason why Jackson is not yet playing in Chicago. It all comes down to contact. While Jackson can do a whole lot of good things when he puts the bat on the ball, he hasn't been hearing the crack of the bat nearly enough this year. [...] Continue Reading »
At the end of May, righthanders A.J. Cole (Athletics) and Neil Ramirez (Rangers) had two of the worst ERAs in the minors at 7.16 and 7.57, respectively. Their organizations since decided each needed to go down a level, and so far, both pitchers have responded the right way.
Cole was one of the centerpieces of the return the A’s got for sending Gio Gonzalez to the Nationals over the winter, but the 20-year-old had a miserable time in the high Class A California League. Cole made eight starts for Stockton in the Cal League and lost seven of them, going 0-7, 7.82 before being sent to low Class A Burlington in late May. At the time of his demotion, Cole’s ERA was the worst among qualifiying Cal League pitchers, and he’d allowed the most hits (60 in 38 innings) and the highest opponents’ average (.364).
Cole fared little better in his first start for Burlington, allowing eight runs (five earned) in five innings on May 24, but he’s gotten going in the right direction since. Excluding a rain-shortened start on June 3, Cole has completed five innings in all six of his other Midwest League outings, something he only did three times in the Cal League, and he hasn’t allowed more than two runs in any start since his rough May 24 outing. He was solid again Monday, limiting Cedar Rapids to one run on four hits over five innings, striking out three without a walk. He picked up the win to improve to 3-0, 3.06 as a Bee.
Yordano Ventura’s star continues to rise. The Royals righthander turned in one of his best outings of the year Monday for high Class A Wilmington, allowing two runs on four hits over seven innings against Potomac, while adding in seven strikeouts and two walks.
The 21-year-old Ventura has responded well to what was his worst outing of the year two starts ago, when he didn’t make it out of the second inning on June 7. He pitched five strong innings on June 13 and then matched his longest outing of the year Monday. Ventura gave up all four of the hits he allowed in the first three innings, including a two-run homer to Potomac’s Kevin Keyes in the second, but he allowed just one baserunner after the third, retiring 12 of the last 13 hitters he faced.
Ventura, who showed a 95-97 mph fastball and bumped 98 in last week’s California-Carolina League All-Star Game, dropped his ERA to 3.04 after 68 innings. He upped his strikeout total to 85, which ranks second in the league at the moment, but he figures to take over the top spot in short order since the current leader, Rangers righty Cody Buckel, has been promoted to Double-A. Ventura does lead all CL starters in strikeouts-per-nine (11.25) and ranks fourth in the league in opponents’ average (.220)
Even for baseball's best basestealer, it's been a pretty amazing week.
High Class A Bakersfield shortstop Billy Hamilton (Reds) stole three bases in Sunday afternoon's game against Rancho Cucamonga. The three steals gives him 90 this season, 39 more than anyone else in pro baseball. The three stolen bases came on the heels of a four-steal Saturday and one stolen base on Friday, giving him eight steals this weekend.
If you include his first game back from the Carolina-California League all-star game and the last game of the first half (where he stole five bases). Hamilton is having the most productive basestealing stretch of his career with 15 steals in five games. The best previous stretch of his career was a five-game segment where he stole 12 bases in late April this year. Hamilton had never stolen more than 10 bases in a five-game stretch before this season.
Hamilton's 33 steals this month are the most steals he's ever had in a month, topping the 29 he stole this April. Hamilton's three most productive basestealing months of his career have all occurred this year—he stole 28 bases in May. Before this year, he had never stolen more than 24 bases in a month (Rookie-level Billings, Aug. 2010).
Thanks to his recent burst, Hamilton has upped his stolen bases-per-game pace to 1.2. Even with the Futures Game meaning that he will miss a couple of scheduled games, the speedster is currently on pace to steal 166 bases. The pro record is 145 steals, set by Vince Coleman in 1983 in low Class A Macon.
Presented here are the top 10 runs created tallies for position players from weekend series, June 22-24. Players must appear in the 2012 Baseball America Prospect Handbook.
|TOP 10 RUNS CREATED BY PROSPECTS IN THE MINORS • JUNE 22-24
|Logan Schafer*||MIL||Nashville||Pac Coast||AAA||13||7||1||1||2||2||0||1||7.0|
|Yasmani Grandal#||SD||Tucson||Pac Coast||AAA||10||6||2||0||0||4||1||0||4.9|
|Brian Goodwin*||WAS||Hagerstown||S Atlantic||LoA||12||5||0||0||3||1||2||0||4.8|
|Brett Jackson*||CHC||Iowa||Pac Coast||AAA||12||4||0||0||3||3||6||1||4.8|
|Mason Williams*||NYY||Charleston||S Atlantic||LoA||14||6||1||1||2||0||3||0||4.8|
|Aaron Altherr||PHI||Lakewood||S Atlantic||LoA||12||7||1||0||1||0||4||0||4.6|
• Triple-A Nashville center fielder Logan Schafer's recent hot streak (he's batting .413/.439/.627 with five walks and five steals in 22 June games) could portend a callup to Milwaukee in the not-too-distant future. Milwaukee center fielders—Carlos Gomez, Nyjer Morgan and Norichika Aoki—have batted .236/.298/.344 this season.
• The legend of Billy Hamilton grows. The Reds shortstop prospect collected a hit and scored at least one run in all three weekend games for high Class A Bakersfield, but even more exciting for his development was the fact that he also drew seven walks and stole eight bases without begin caught. (This despite him coming out of Friday's game with an apparent shin injury on Friday.) Hamilton drew three walks on Saturday (and stole four bases) and again on Sunday (and stole three bases), giving him 46 walks on the season and (gulp) 90 stolen bases through 70 games. If he keeps up that rate—and if he plays in every game the rest of the way—then Hamilton will obliterate every known record with 180 stolen bases. Those may be big ifs, but the minor league record of 145 is well within reach. [...] Continue Reading »
Presented here are the top 10 pitcher game scores from weekend series, June 22-24, by pitchers who appear in the 2012 Baseball America Prospect Handbook.
|TOP 10 GAME SCORES BY PROSPECTS IN THE MINORS • JUNE 22-24
|Chris Dwyer*||KC||NW Arkansas||Texas||AA||7||2||0||0||7||0||80|
|Adalberto Mejia*||SF||Augusta||South Atlantic||LoA||6||0||0||0||5||2||75|
|Kyle Crick||SF||Augusta||South Atlantic||LoA||6||2||0||0||8||4||72|
|*Lefthander. Chart considers only pitchers who appear in 2012 BA Prospect Handbook
• Indians lefthander T.J. McFarland earned a promotion to Triple-A Columbus at the end of May after going 8-2, 2.69 in 10 starts for Double-A Akron. The 2007 fourth-rounder has continued on his back-of-the-rotation trajectory with the Clippers, piling up innings and groundballs, if not strikeouts. The 23-year-old McFarland lowered his Triple-A ERA to 4.22 after his four-hit shutout of Lehigh Valley on Sunday, during which he faced just three batters over the minimum. [...] Continue Reading »
Braves minor league righthander Aaron Northcraft kicked off a weekend of superb pitching performances in the minors by throwing a seven-inning no-hitter for high Class A Lynchburg on Friday. The 22-year-old became the first minor leaguer to complete his own no-hit bid this season, truncated to seven innings though it was. The full list of minor league no-hitters can be found at the bottom of this story.
A 10th-round pick out of high school in 2009, Northcraft struck out 10, walked two and hit a batter during his no-hitter versus Salem. He also logged a seven-inning complete game two starts ago, June 9, against Frederick, striking out six and walking two. His ERA in June stands at 1.04 through 26 innings.
Other pitching heroics over the weekend . . .
Phillies LHP Ethan Stewart (6 IP, 1 R, 3 H, 2 BB, 3 SO for low Class A Lakewood). The 2010 47th-rounder out of New Mexico JC has struggled with his control this season (5.2 walks per nine innings), but he's limited damage by allowing batters to hit just .194 against him, squelching many rallies. We identified him as an unheralded arm on the rise back in April. [...] Continue Reading »
Cubs third baseman Jeimer Candelario was born in New York. Had he stayed in the United States, there's a good chance he would have been a first-round pick earlier this month.
Instead, Candelario moved to the Dominican Republic and signed with the Cubs two years ago for $500,000, which is already looking like a potential bargain. After crushing the ball in the Dominican Summer League last year, Candelario, 18, has skipped the Rookie-level Arizona League and jumped to short-season Boise, where he hit his first home run of the year yesterday in a 2-for-4 evening, bringing him to .292/.320/.458 through his first six games.
Candelario is a switch-hitter with a mature approach to hitting and power from both sides of the plate. He has work to do to remain at third base, but the Cubs have a potential breakout prospect on their hands here.
Nick Castellanos had his best game yet since the Tigers promoted him to Double-A Erie, going 3-for-4 with a home run, a triple and a double yesterday.
Castellanos, a 20-year-old third baseman, hit .405/.461/.553 in 55 games for high Class A Lakeland before the promotion, though he's hit just .273/.267/.432 and hasn't drawn a walk yet in 11 games since his move to Double-A.
Give it time though, because there's not much to worry about here. The only player in the Eastern League younger than Castellanos is Orioles shortstop Manny Machado. Castellanos may still need another year or two on the farm, but he projects as a potential all-star third baseman in his prime.
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.—For the first two months of the season, Andrew Chafin pitched up to his status as the 43rd overall pick in last year’s draft.
At the end of May, the Diamondbacks lefthander ranked sixth in the high Class A California League with a 2.91 ERA after 59 innings for Visalia, and he had a 3-0 record to go with it. He punctuated May by striking out 11 over eight innings against San Jose on May 27, but then the wheels came off.
Little has gone right in Chafin’s four June outings, as he’s given up 25 earned runs in 15 1/3 innings, inflating his ERA to 5.35 in 74 innings of work.
“It’s definitely going to be a learning experience for me,” Chafin said. “My last few outings have been a little bit rough, but I try not to worry about that and just go out and try to continue having the success I had in the beginning part.”
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.—For all Billy Hamilton's speed or Xander Bogaerts' offensive potential, Astros center fielder George Springer probably had the most expansive tool set among players on either the California or Carolina league squads. The 22-year-old hits, he hits for power, he runs, he fields and he throws. Two of those tools took center stage during the all-star festivities.
As to his power, Springer launched four homers during the pre-game derby, and as to his speed, he stole second base after drawing a third-inning walk against Lynchburg righty J.R. Graham. Springer, who played the entire game in right field and went 0-for-3, also showed a feel for situational hitting by driving home Hamilton from third base—the Cal League's only run, it would turn out—with a first-inning groundball to the right side of the infield.
The 11th pick in last year's draft and highest-drafted Connecticut Husky ever, Springer knows that improvement to his feel for hitting will make the biggest difference to his profile. "I'm just working on making consistent hard contact and whatever happens happens," he said prior to the all-star game. "I just go out and play."
Good things happened for Springer during the first half, as he batted .303/.381/.559 with 14 homers and 14 stolen bases in 254 at-bats for Lancaster. He lists the JetHawks' Clear Channel Stadium, a renowned launching pad, as his favorite place to hit. "You understand the way the ball flies at home, but it's an advantage also just because it's home."
Springer has clubbed multiple homers in two different home games this season, belting three in a May 11 game versus Lake Elsinore and collecting two more in a June 14 contest against Inland Empire. "I really wasn’t trying to hit the home runs," he said of his three-homers game. "I remember one (homer) was a 2-2 changeup. I just saw it and stayed on it and wound up hitting it out to right-center. One was a backdoor slider that I ended up hitting out, and the other was a fastball. It was just one of those days where your swing feels good and you're hitting it hard."
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.—Three Lake Elsinore players earned starting nods for the California League in the all-star game: righthander Donn Roach, second baseman Cory Spangenberg and center fielder Rico Noel. Of the three, Roach experienced the most success in the first half, going 10-1, 1.94 in 14 starts—though one of those starts began in the second inning following a rehab stint by Huston Street. He leads the Cal League in wins and innings (88 1/3) and isn't far off the pace in WHIP (1.03) or opponent average (.231).
Roach, who worked as a reliever last year prior to shifting to the rotation this season, also leads the league (and ranks second in the minors) with a 3.77 groundout-to-airout ratio, as calculated by Minor League Baseball. "I go up there trying to get a groundball in three or less pitches—you know, pitch to contact," he said prior to the all-star game. "My sinker has been a great pitch for me this year. Opponents have been putting the ball in play a lot against me and my teammates are making the plays." In fact, the Lake Elsinore defense has converted roughly 68 percent of batted balls into outs this season, a rate that only Bakersfield has bettered by a significant margin. [...] Continue Reading »
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.—Angels center-field prospect Travis Witherspoon has enjoyed one of the more unheralded loud seasons in the California League this season, batting .319/.399/.470 with seven homers and 25 steals (in 32 attempts) for Inland Empire through 270 at-bats. That performance earned him the starting nod in left field for the Cal League all-stars, while Lake Elsinore's Rico Noel handled center. The 23-year-old Witherspoon played the entire game, went 1-for-4 and stole second base in the second inning after reaching on an infield single off the glove of Frederick third baseman Ty Kelly.
Witherspoon said his goals at the plate for this season are simple. "I'm trying to stay more consistent and use the whole field," he said prior to the all-star game.
The goal is to cut down on strikeouts and boost his average, to which end he has honed his batting eye this season. Witherspoon sports enhanced walk (10.8 percent of plate appearances) and strikeout (17 percent) rates through the first half. Those improvements could allow him to hit .300 for the first time since rookie ball two years ago. Playing in the Cal League won't hurt his pursuit. "The hitting environments compare a bit with (Rookie-level) Orem (where he played in 2009-10) because the ball just flies," he said, going on to note two other factors that favor offense. "The weather is so consistently good that it's good for the hitters. Plus, the short bus trips are nice." [...] Continue Reading »
Diamondbacks outfielder Alfredo Marte has been one of the breakout stars of the Southern League this year. He added to that resume on Tuesday. Marte was named the Southern League all-star game MVP as he went 2-for-2 with a double, an RBI and a run scored in the South Division's 6-2 win over the North at Tennessee's Smokies Park.
The win was the South's first in the all-star game in the past eight seasons.
Dodgers righthander Matt Magill was tagged for three of the South's six runs to take the loss. Mariners righthander Taijuan Walker also had a rough outing as he gave up a triple to David Nick as part of a two-hit, two-run inning of work. [...] Continue Reading »
See Also: Midwest League All-Star Game Box Score
There was little suspense at the Midwest League All-Star Game. The Eastern Division all-stars scored 13 runs in the first two innings and went on to rout the Western all-stars 18-2 at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva, Ill.
The East hit three home runs in its early outburst, starting with the second hitter of the game, South Bend second baseman Gerson Montilla (Diamondbacks), who hit a solo shot off West starter Drew Granier (Athletics). Two hitters later, Great Lakes first baseman O’Koyea Dickson (Dodgers) pulled a two-run blast that went deep beyond the left-field fence. The East scored five runs in the first and then tallied eight times in the second, highlighted by West Michigan outfielder Steven Moya’s (Tigers) bases-loaded triple and Bowling Green third baseman Tyler Goeddel’s (Rays) two-run homer.
Dickson went on to earn MVP honors after going 2-for-3 with the homer, two RBIs and two runs scored. He also singled in the second off Cedar Rapids righty Ty Kelley (Angels) and came in to score on Moya’s triple. A 12th-round pick from Division II Sonoma State (Calif.) last year, Dickson led the Rookie-level Pioneer League in slugging (.603) in his pro debut and picked up where he left off this spring. He didn’t join Great Lakes until early May but earned his all-star nod by hitting .331/.442/.564 in 133 at-bats in the first-half. [...] Continue Reading »
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.—Coming into Tuesday night's Carolina-California League All-Star Game, the California League squad was the one with the prospect cachet. From Cory Spangenberg to George Springer, Tyler Matzek to Rymer Liriano and Miles Head to Andrew Chafin, the Cal League club was filled with elite prospects.
But the Carolina League club got elite performances by some lesser-known prospects and plenty of good pitching on its way to an easy 9-1 win at Winston-Salem's BB&T Ballpark.
Salem first baseman Travis Shaw (Red Sox) was named the Carolina League's star of the game. Shaw went 1-for-2 with two runs scored and 2 RBIs thanks in large part to his massive two-run home run that landed high up on the walkway beyond the right-field fence. Bakersfield shortstop Billy Hamilton (Reds) was named the California League's Star of the game, which illustrates just how difficult the game was for the Cal League all-stars. Hamilton went 1-for-5, striking out in his final three at-bats. But he did lead off the top of the first with a bunt single, followed by steals of second and third before scoring on a ground out. That proved to be the California League's only run of the game. [...] Continue Reading »
Phillies righthander Jon Pettibone sported an unsightly 1-3, 4.78 record through his first six starts for Double-A Reading, but the 22-year-old has been dominant over the last six weeks.
Going back to his May 9 start in which he gave up one run over 8 2/3 innings, Pettibone has held opponents to two earned runs or less in seven of his last eight outings. His latest gem came Monday against Akron, whom he limited to two runs (one earned) on four hits over seven innings. He struck out a season-high eight and walked two. His ERA dropped to 3.43 in 87 innings, and it’s inflated by his lone difficult outing during his hot streak, when he gave up seven earned runs in six innings on May 31.
Pettibone’s plus changeup has made him devastating on lefthanded hitters, whom he’s holding to a .222/.294/.306 line in 108 at-bats this year. He’ll need to keep working on his slider to give him another weapon to use against righthanders, who are hitting .301 off him, to go along with his low 90s fastball. But Pettibone earns high marks for his feel for pitching, and he’s largely had Eastern League hitters’ numbers since his tough start. Though his 93 hits allowed in 87 innings on the year isn’t pretty, he’s held opponents to a .236 average since the start of May.
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