See also: Thursday's Daily Dish
See also: Today's Baseball America Prospect Report
As we head into the final weekend of the regular season around the minor leagues, we pause to recognize the overall leaders in several categories.
Average: Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3b, Triple-A Buffalo.
Kouzmanoff actually leads in both average (.3801 to be precise, edging James Loney at .3797) and slugging percentage (.661), and has been just as good if not better since his promotion from Double-A Akron. Kouzmanoff is charging up the leaderboards after he has spent time on the disabled list on three different occasions with hamstring and back issues.
Hits: Chris Rahl, of, high Class A Lancaster
Coming into today, Rahl has 12 more hits than Double-A Corpus Christi center fielder Josh Anderson, and nearly 20 more than teammate Emilio Bonifacio. Overall, the fifth-rounder in 2005 is hitting .336/.378/.516 in 550 at-bats.
Home Runs: Kevin Witt, 1b, Triple-A Durham
The International League MVP leads this race with 36 homers, three more than Double-A Arkansas outfielder Terry Evans. Double-A Frisco first baseman Nate Gold, Double-A Tulsa first baseman Joe Koshansky are the only players within striking distance of Witt who is now in the big leagues.
Doubles: Chris Nowak, 1b, high Class A Visalia
A 19th-round pick in 2004, Nowak has been a doubles machine and already has driven in 100 runs in the California League. Nowak is currently tied at 45 doubles with Double-A Tulsa outfielder Seth Smith and Double-A Chattanooga first baseman Joey Votto. Rahl and low Class A Lakewood outfielder Jeremy Slayden are right behind them with 44, and eight other players have 40 or more.
RBIs: Jon Knott, 1b/of, Triple-A Portland • Joe Koshansky, 1b, Double-A Tulsa
Knott and Koshansky are tied with 108 runs driven in, and seven other players–including low Class A Kane County third baseman Jeff Baisley, high Class A Tampa first baseman Cody Ehlers, Triple-A Sacramento third baseman Scott McClain, Double-A Akron outfielder Ryan Goleski, Triple-A Colorado Springs outfielder Jeff Baker, Triple-A Round Rock first baseman-catcher J.R. House, and Nowak–all have 100 or more RBIs heading into the weekend.
Stolen Bases: Eric Young Jr., of, low Class A Asheville
Congratulations, Eric on your 86 steals. The next-closest speedster is Double-A Trenton outfielder Justin Christian . . . with 67.
Extra-Base Hits: Brooks Conrad, 2b, Triple-A Round Rock
Upset city. If Double-A Arkansas shortstop Brandon Wood hadn't committed to play for his country in the Olympic qualifying tournament this summer, the Angels slugger would likely have added a second straight season of leading the minors in this category. Instead, Conrad has overtaken Wood with 75 extra-base hits. The 26-year-old second baseman, who has set career highs in triples (15) and home runs (23, a tie) this season, shouldn't look behind him, however. If he does, he'll see bats like Double-A Wichita third baseman Alex Gordon, Votto and Double-A Corpus Christi outfielder Hunter Pence all with a shot.
Strikeouts: B.J. Syzmanski, of, low Class A Dayton
Double-A Binghamton shortstop Corey Ragsdale doesn't have a chance to break the 200-strikeout plateau, but Syzmanski does–and so does Triple-A Round Rock outfielder Charlton Jimerson, for that matter. Syzmanski has 191 strikeouts with four games left on the schedule, while Chewdini has 183.
Wins: Five tied with 16
It appears 17 is the number to beat. The problem is which hurlers will get one more crack at the mound before the season ends? We know it won't be Phillies righthander Zach Segovia (Team USA) or Triple-A Tucson righthander Micah Owings, who last pitched on Thursday. It might not be high Class A Kinston lefthander Chuck Lofgren, either, with the K-Tribe beginning postseason play at home next week. That leaves low Class A Lakewood lefthander Matt Maloney and Triple-A Sacramento righthander Jason Windsor to battle it out if Lofgren doesn't get another chance.
Stewart To The Outfield
The Rockies signaled their future direction by calling up two of their top prospects, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, 21, and catcher Chris Iannetta, 23, in the past week. They crystallized their plan when general manager Dan O'Dowd announced yesterday that Ian Stewart, 21, could be shifted from third base to the outfield to get his bat in the lineup next season.
Incumbent third baseman Garrett Atkins has established himself as a Colorado regular with by hitting .317/.391/.533 this year, so it is Stewart, who is hitting .270/.353/.457 for Double-A Tulsa, who will likely move.
"And with what Garrett Atkins has done, what it says is that Ian will be part of our team eventually at a different position," O'Dowd told the Denver Post. "Where and when will depend on how he does and how the players do in front of him."
Tulowitzki took over shortstop from Clint Barmes, who had done a 180 degree turn from his breakout rookie campaign in 2005. Iannetta is taking at-bats away from career backup catchers Yorvit Torrealba and Danny Ardoin. Like Barmes, 2005 breakout rookie Cory Sullivan was struggling as the club's regular center fielder and Ryan Spilborghs, 26, has provided modest production and defense.
"It's a two-fold signal: We are trying to set things up to be the best team we can be next year because we are more than a good series away from getting into (the playoff race)," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle told the paper. "We also want to make sure they understand in the clubhouse that we aren't going to sit on our hands. We know the areas we need to improve upon. We need more productivity out of shortstop, center field and catcher."
• September is an exciting time of year for prospect watchers, and the first wave of minor leaguers got the call yesterday. With their Triple-A clubs long ago eliminated from the playoff picture, a couple of big outfield bats highlighted the promotions. Matt Kemp returns to the Dodgers after spending a month and a half at Triple-A Las Vegas, and Blue Jays outfielder Adam Lind will make his major league debut against the Red Sox this weekend after hitting over .390 for Syracuse.
The Reds recalled utilityman Brendan Harris, 26, from Triple-A Louisville. Harris, who was acquired from the Nationals in the Austin Kearns-for-relievers trade, hit .300/.381/.463 on the season, but had been especially hot since becoming a Red. He hit .324/.384/.534 for the Bats, while matching his Triple-A New Orleans home run total of five. Harris has played every infield spot this season, seeing the most time at third base.
Dodgers first baseman James Loney is back up after his breakout season with Vegas. His final line: .380/.426/.546. Loney, 22, established a new career best with 33 doubles.
The Twins promoted shortstop Alexi Casilla, who hit .318/.385/.398 between high Class A Fort Myers and Double-A New Britain. And the Rangers called up outfielder Victor Diaz, who hit, well, not much at all for Triple-A Norfolk before being acquired this week from the Mets for catcher Mike Nickeas.
• Minor league sluggers captured both Triple-A league MVPs. Durham first baseman Kevin Witt won the IL award by hitting .291/.360/.577 with 36 home runs. Witt, 30, has hit 269 minor league home runs. Sacramento third baseman Scott McClain, 34, has 230 careers shots. He won the PCL award by hitting .252/.312/.464 with 27 home runs.
• Matt Antonelli, the Padres' first-round pick in June from Wake Forest, was promoted from short-season Eugene to low Class A Fort Wayne this week and played his second game for the Wizards last night. Antonelli hit a triple, his first low Class A hit, but that was not what was notable. The 21-year-old, who had been drafted as a third baseman, played second base for the first time in his pro career, but that does not come as a shock for those that saw him with Eugene in the Northwest League, as managers agreed across the board that he profiles better there.
"He's more of a second baseman–it's hard to project his body and power potential," one Northwest League manager said. "He's got a good on-base percentage, he's got a good eye at the plate, a line-drive hitter. You might see a different guy come next year, after he's had an offseason to rest and work on a few things. There's definitely tools there: His bat stays in the zone a long period of time, the ball jumps off his bat from time to time, he stays back on some offspeed pitches. You just don't see the raw power potential for a third baseman. He seemed like more of a middle guy, he runs pretty good."
In 189 NWL at-bats Antonelli hit .286/.426/.360.
• After his performance last night, Southwest Michigan righthander Wade Davis is redefining hard-luck loser. In game one of a doubleheader against Beloit, Davis threw a seven-inning no-hitter and took the loss as the Devil Rays fell to the Snappers 1-0.
The only run came in top of the fourth when Beloit shortstop Yancarlos Ortiz reached on a fielding error by Davis to lead off the inning. Ortiz then stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error by catcher Christian Lopez and scored on a sacrifice fly by left fielder Dwayne White.
Davis, 20, struck out seven and walked two and his record dropped to 7-12, 3.02. After dominating the low Class A Midwest League over the first two months, Davis posted ERAs over 5.00 in both June and July. He rallied in August and had a 1.55 ERA for the month in 29 innings with a 35-8 strikeout-walk ratio.
• Mariners lefthander Tony Butler had his longest professional outing Thursday but is still looking for his first win at short-season Everett. The 6-foot-7 Butler, who was a third-round pick out of Oak Creek (Wis.) High in June, struck out nine without issuing a walk in six solid innings against Eugene, allowing three runs on six hits. He is now 0-2, 3.31 with 43 strikeouts and 24 walks in 35 innings over his first eight starts.
"He has good arm action, shows a real good curveball and a good lively fastball," Emeralds manager Dave Myers said. "He has good leverage, just real projectable. He has a changeup, a real good pitch at times, but it's inconsistent right now. He tops out at 94 (mph) and works in the low 90s."
• The Arizona League Padres became the second champion of the 2006 season, joining the Gulf Coast League Red Sox. Felix Carrasco drove in two runs and Pablo Menchacha picked up the win as the Padres beat the AZL Angels 5-2.
Contributing: Aaron Fitt