We’ll start rolling out our organization Top 10s online today, starting with the Braves. If you have any questions about the players on those lists, or guys who just missed the cut, or the process in general, that’s perfect fodder for Ask BA. Send those queries to firstname.lastname@example.org (include your full name and hometown), and I’ll answer as many as I can.
- With a good showing after he signed and a fine performance in the Arizona Fall League, has lefthander Mike Minor shed the notion that he wasn't worthy of being drafted seventh overall by the Braves?
No one ever has disputed the fact that Minor can really pitch. He does a nice job of mixing and locating his fastball, curveball, slider and changeup. He has been very impressive in four starts at low Class A Rome (though that’s a small sample size) and in four brief outings in the AFL (a smaller sample size, and you shouldn’t read too much into AFL stats).
Still, Minor doesn’t have a true plus pitch beyond his changeup and his fastball usually operates in the upper 80s. His realistic ceiling is as a No. 3 starter, it’s easier to project him as a No. 4 and it’s not difficult to draw parallels between him and another Vanderbilt finesse lefthander who was a top-10 choice, Jeremy Sowers.
Was Minor a worthy first-rounder? Yes. Would have I taken him seventh overall? Not a chance. One of the reasons teams complain that the draft doesn’t distribute talent equitably is the clubs won’t take the best player available. Atlanta wouldn’t exceed MLB’s bonus recommendation at No. 7, though they mistakenly budgeted for the 2008 figure ($2.42 million) rather than the reduced 2009 number ($2.178 million) because the commissioner’s office didn’t give them the amount quickly enough. That limited their choices, though former Braves scouting director Roy Clark (now assistant GM with the Nationals) was a big believer in Minor. Clark loved Tyler Matzek, too, but didn’t have the budget to sign him.
- I know the AFL is a hitter's league, but White Sox outfielder Jordan Danks is batting .388/.508/.571 through 14 games. Reality or chimera?
I believe this is the first time the word “chimera” has appeared in Ask BA. Well played, Cliff.
I often say that people shouldn’t read too much into AFL stats, as I just did in the previous answer. The conditions favor hitters, there are few quality pitching prospects and a lot of the players are worn out after the long minor league season. Just glance at the AFL record book, and you’ll see that Ken Harvey holds the league records for batting (.479), slugging (.752) and on-base percentage (.537); Brandon Wood owns the mark for homers (14); and Orlando Miller set the standard for RBIs (44).
Danks is what he is. Though he’s 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, he never has grown into the power scouts projected he would when he was a potential first-round pick as a high schooler. He hit 13 homers in three seasons at the University of Texas, and he has slugged .425 in pro ball. He’s 23 now, and he’s not going to have average power. So those AFL power numbers are a chimera.
That said, Danks can be a solid regular. He has the bat speed and swing to hit for average, and he draws enough walks to post a solid OBP. He runs well enough to steal a few bases and play center field, and he has enough arm to move to right field if he loses a step.
- Shortstops Dee Gordon (Dodgers) and Gustavo Nunez (Tigers) played in the low Class A Midwest League at age 21, are close to the same small size and posted very similar numbers as top-of-the-order dynamos. Both are fast, though Gordon is faster. Nunez is a better defender right now, with a strong arm and quick release. Is Nunez a legitimate prospect?
Though Gordon ranked No. 2 on our MWL Top 20 Prospects list and Nunez didn’t make it, he is a prospect.
The biggest difference between the two is that Gordon projects to provide much more offense. He has less baseball experience, and thus more room to grow as a hitter. He has more speed and a better idea of how to use it, so he projects as a big-time basestealer, while Nunez got caught in 36 percent of his attempts. Gordon also projects to add more strength and hit for more pop, and he has more patience at the plate.
While some wonder if Gordon can smooth out his rough edges defensively, there’s no doubt that Nunez will stay at shortstop. He’s a good defender, and his ability to become a big league regular will depend on how much he hits. Most of his offensive value will come from his batting average, though he can steal a few bases.