Some quick odds and ends from the weekend:
•The Rangers signed righthander Barret Loux, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2010 draft who had a $2 million deal with the Diamondbacks fall apart when he failed a postdraft physical. MLB made Loux a free agent Sept. 1, but it took nearly three months before Texas gave him $312,000. Many teams were concerned about Loux’s medical history before he failed the physical, and the consensus was he closer to a sandwich-round talent than the sixth-best player in the draft. Though Loux won’t make our soon-to-be-released Rangers Top 10 Prospects list, he’s a nice arm to add to the inventory and a bargain if he stays healthy.
•Mariners second baseman Dustin Ackley won Arizona Fall League MVP honors after batting .424/.581/.758. While AFL stats don’t mean a whole lot, that offensive dominance is exactly what Seattle thought it was buying with the No. 2 overall pick and a $7.5 million major league contract in 2009. His .267/.368/.407 pro debut may not have been exactly scintillating, but consider that he spent the year in Double-A and Triple-A while adjusting to playing second base for the first time.
•The Florida High School Athletic Association voted 11-4 to grant Alonso High (Tampa) righthander Jose Fernandez a fifth year of eligibility, provided he can document he missed the 2007-08 school year in Cuba after being caught trying to defect. Fernandez ranked No. 11 on our 2011 Top 100 High School Prospects list.
- In all your years of covering prospects, which one pitcher and one position player do you wish had never gotten injured so you could see their career play out?
The pitcher immediately came to mind. The Yankees made Brien Taylor the No. 1 overall pick in the 1991 draft, and the only high school lefthander who ever excited scouts as much was David Clyde. Taylor reached Double-A in his second pro season while learning to harness a fastball that reached 98 mph and a power curveball.
Then he tore the capsule and labrum in his shoulder during a fight in December 1993, and Taylor’s career was essentially over. After missing all of 1994, he went 3-15, 11.24 in parts of five minor league seasons.
It’s much easier for a pitcher to suffer a career-ruining injury than a position player. The only hitter I can think of who was nearly as highly regarded as Taylor (or Roger Salkeld or Jesse Foppert or Greg Miller . . . I could go on an on) was outfielder Ruben Mateo. A five-tool talent, he looked like the next in the line of stud Latin American prospects developed by the Rangers, following Sammy Sosa, Juan Gonzalez and Ivan Rodriguez.
Mateo was hitting .291/.339/.447 at age 22 in the majors in June 2000 when he broke the femur in his right leg trying to beat out an infield grounder. He never performed that well in the big leagues nor looked as fluid again. Texas traded him to the Reds in 2001, and he bounced between five organizations over the next seven seasons, hitting in Triple-A but unable to break through in the majors.
He wasn’t injured, but the position player whose career I most would have liked to see play out without interruption was third baseman Drew Henson, who juggled playing quarterback at Michigan with professional baseball. He had just 10 games of pro experience and had missed spring training because of football responsibilities when he went to high Class A at age 19 in 1999 and batted .280/.345/.480 in 69 games. Yankees vice president of scouting and player development Mark Newman compared Henson’s upside to Mike Schmidt’s.
Henson lost too many at-bats during his three years with the Wolverines, however, and when the Yankees bought him away from football in 2001, an errant pitch broke his left wrist five games into the season. Maybe he never would have controlled the strike zone enough to be a star, but maybe committing full-time to baseball out of high school would have helped Henson figure it out.
- We've heard since midsummer about the quality of the Royals farm system. My question is this: If you were to remove the five best players (Eric Hosmer, Wil Myers, Mike Moustakas, John Lamb and Mike Montgomery) from Baseball America's Royals Top 10 Prospects list, would Kansas City still rank in the upper half of farm-system talent?
Unless general manager Dayton Moore starts making a bunch of prospect-for-veterans trades, the Royals are going to be No. 1 in our organization talent rankings in the 2011 Prospect Handbook. J.J. Cooper already has written the Royals Top 30 for the Handbook, so we know exactly what their Top 10 would like if we sliced five elite prospects off the top: shortstop Christian Colon, lefthanders Danny Duffy and Chris Dwyer, righthander Aaron Crow, outfielder Brett Eibner, righties Jason Adam and Yordano Ventura, lefty Tim Collins, righty Tim Melville and third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert.
That Top 10, combined with the Royals’ exceptional depth, would still give them a system that would rank somewhere in the 8-15 range. Colon, Eibner and Cuthbert all have the potential to become above-average regulars. Duffy and Dwyer are two of the best lefty starting prospects in the minors. Crow, Adam, Ventura and Melville are starters with plus pure stuff. Collins is a lefty reliever with two quality pitches and a career average of 13.3 strikeouts per nine innings in the minors.
Kansas City has had just one winning season since 1995. With the young talent that’s on the verge of arriving, the Royals finally can think about the playoffs again.
- Blue Jays righthander Joel Carreno had a 173-30 K-BB ratio in 138 innings at high Class A Dunedin. How good is he?
Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2004, Carreno led the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League with 64 strikeouts in 65 innings in his U.S. debut three years later. Though he consistently threw strikes and racked up whiffs, he didn’t spend an entire year in full-season ball until 2010, when he ranked fifth in the minors in strikeouts.
Carreno is a prospect in that he has a fighting chance to get to the big leagues, but he’s not going to make our Blue Jays Top 30 in the 2011 Prospect Handbook. He was old for the Florida State League at age 23, and scouts who saw him weren’t sure how he’d be able to overmatch more advanced hitters like he did high Class A opponents. Carreno’s best pitch is a changeup that grades as plus at times, and he also throws an 88-92 mph fastball and an average curveball.
Pitchers with good command of average stuff often thrive in the lower minors. Carreno’s future should become clearer after he pitches in Double-A next year.