See also: Previous Prospect Hot
Because the draft will occupy so much of our attention on Friday, we’re presenting a special Tuesday Prospect Hot Sheet that will honor the top performers of April and May.
This is a chance for prospects’ entire bodies of work to be recognized—not just the ones who’ve reeled off a good week here or there.
Remember as always,
this is not a re-ranking of our Top 100 Prospects list. Instead, it’s a
snapshot of who are the hottest prospects in baseball right now, with
stats through games of June 2.
Contributing: Ben Badler, J.J. Cooper, Matt Eddy, Jim
Shonerd and Nathan Rode
|No. 1 JAY BRUCE, CF||REDS|
Team:Triple-A Louisville (International)
Why He’s Here: .364/.393/.630 (67-for-184), 10 HR, 9 2B, 5 3B, 37 RBIs, 34 R, 12 BB, 45 SO, 8-for-9 SB
The Scoop: Bruce began the season ranked as the game’s top prospect, and he’s lived up to those expectations—and more—through the season’s first two months. More accurately, Bruce was very good in April (.316/.340/.561) before busting loose in May, batting .419/.453/.709 in 86 at-bats before his well-deserved big league callup.
Big league pitchers have proven to be even worse at retiring Bruce. Through 26 at-bats, he’s batting .577/.667/1.038 with three homers (one of them a walk-off winner), three doubles, seven RBIs, six walks and only one strikeout. If you’re looking for further encouragement, consider that Bruce has already shown a more refined batting eye in Cincinnati than he did in the minors, or that he handled lefties better than righthanders in Triple-A this season (.389/.386/.685).
Bruce closes the book on his minor league career with .308/.366/.555 averages in 1,341 at-bats in the Gulf Coast, Pioneer, Midwest, Florida State, Southern and International leagues. He hit a home run (61) once every 22 at-bats, made contact in 75 percent of his at-bats and compiled a remarkable .247 isolated power.
Perhaps you’d rearrange them slightly, but it’s been so far, so good for the first-round high school outfielders from the 2005 draft: Justin Upton (No. 1), Cameron Maybin (10), Andrew McCutchen (11), Bruce (12) or Colby Rasmus (28). Upton and Bruce are making an impact in the big leagues, McCutchen and Rasmus are in Triple-A and Maybin is in Double-A.
|No. 2 MAT GAMEL, 3B||BREWERS|
Team:Double-A Huntsville (Southern)
Why He’s Here: .382/.444/.670 (89-for-233), 54 R, 18 2B, 5 3B, 13 HR, 49 RBIs, 26 BB, 39 SO, 4-for-7 SB
The Scoop: It’s hard to match Bruce’s total package—the outstanding performance, the tools, the potential superstar future, the defensive prowess while doing it all as the youngest regular in Triple-A. But in terms of pure hitting, Gamel’s numbers stack up with anyone’s. He’s getting hits, he’s getting extra-base hits and he’s drawing walks. Gamel has reached base safely in 54 of the 55 games he has played, recording at least one hit in 47 games, at least one extra-base hit in 28 games and stringing together a multi-hit game 29 times. With Bill Hall struggling to hit as Milwaukee’s third baseman at the big league level, Gamel might not be as blocked as he once appeared to be. Of course, that assumes Gamel, who came into the season a well-below-average defender, will be able to stick at third base. Errors don’t tell the whole story, and while his 12 errors in 56 games aren’t inspiring, it’s a far cleaner total than the 53 errors he made in 113 games a year ago.
|No. 3 MATT WIETERS, C||ORIOLES|
Team: high Class A Frederick (Carolina)
Why He’s Here: .329/.426/.576 (56-for-170), 37 R, 6 2B, 12 HR, 33 RBIs, 29 BB, 33 SO
The Scoop: After being taken fifth overall in the 2007 draft, Wieters and the Orioles agreed to a contract just seconds before the new signing deadline of Aug. 15. Wieters’ first taste of pro ball came in Hawaii Winter Baseball, where he batted .283/.364/.415 and ranked as the league’s top prospect. He was assigned to Frederick to begin 2008 and he has wreaked havoc on pitching since Opening Day when he hit two home runs. He already has three multi-home run games this season and has done most of his damage from the right side, pounding lefthanders to the tune of .417/.462/.938 in 48 at-bats with seven home runs. He also leads the league in basestealers caught, nailing 46 percent of those who try to swipe a bag on him.
|No. 4 TREVOR CAHILL, RHP||ATHLETICS|
high Class A Stockton (California)
Why He’s Here: 5-3, 2.88, 69 IP, 40 H, 24 R, 22 ER, 20 BB, 83 SO
The Scoop: Forget the fact that Cahill is just 20 years old and only in his second full season. He is simply dominating opposing hitters, in what is the best hitter’s league in all of baseball. Cahill has carved batters up, leading the minors in strikeouts and is among the top 10 in ERA in the Cal League. How does he do it? Not only does he have good downward life on his fastball, but his curveball is his best pitch, coming in the high-70s and hitters have difficulty picking up the spin. That arsenal has helped him not only rack up the whiffs, but also force hitters to hit the ball on the ground. His groundout-to-air out ratio is 2.14 and had hovered around 3.00 for some time. That’s the secret of the Cal League. It’s hard to hit it out when you hit it on the ground.
|No. 5 JASON HEYWARD, RF||BRAVES|
Team: low Class A Rome (South Atlantic)
Why He’s Here: .332/.385/.516, 72-for-217, 15 2B, 2 3B, 7 HR, 29 RBI, 43 R, 22 BB, 36 SO, 8-for-9 SB
The Scoop: Heyward has established himself as probably the top prospect in low Class A this season. While many other top prospects at this level entering the season have had their struggles, Heyward has performed at an elite level from the start. The 14th overall pick from last year has battered Sally League pitching to the tune of a .901 OPS and he hasn’t gone more than two games without a hit at any point all year, including hitting streaks of nine and 11 games in late April and mid May. He ranks fourth in the league in average and third in hits and runs scored, and as good as Heyward was in April (.330/.375/.470), he was even better in May (.345/.398/.564). Another impressive aspect of Heyward’s year is that the lefty swinging outfielder been more deadly against lefthanded pitching (.388/.446/.551 in 49 at-bats) than righthanded pitching (.315/.367/.506 in 168 at-bats). Heyward earned a trip to the SAL All-Star game in Greensboro, and he’s doing all this in spite of being on a struggling Rome club that sits in last place in the SAL’s Southern Division.
|No. 6 CLAYTON KERSHAW, LHP||DODGERS|
Team: Double-A Jacksonville (Southern)
Why He’s Here: 0-3, 2.28, 43 1/3 IP, 32 H, 16 R, 11 ER, 0 HR, 15 BB, 47 SO
The Scoop: Kershaw didn’t need much time in the minor leagues to reach the majors, but that didn’t prevent the hype surrounding him and the expectations to build for the supremely talented lefthander. After dominating the Southern League as the league’s youngest player, Kershaw had one of the most successful big league debuts in history for a pitcher his age, showcasing his low- to mid-90s fastball and wipeout curve to the world. Our frontrunner for Minor League Player of the Year heading into the season, Kershaw may not end up coming even close to the honor if he logs more innings in the major leagues than the minors.
|No. 7 JEREMY HELLICKSON, RHP||RAYS|
Team: high Class A Vero Beach (Florida State)
Why He’s Here: 5-1, 2.44, 63 IP, 62 H, 19 R, 17 ER, 5 BB, 69 SO
The Scoop: The Tampa Bay organization has been very patient and cautious with moving this Iowa righthander along. He’s spent a full season at each level, even though he hasn’t taken a full workload, maxing out at 111 innings pitched last year with low Class A Columbus (South Atlantic). While he’s been good the last two seasons, he’s been outstanding this year. What stands out most about Hellickson’s season is his excellent command. In 63 innings he’s allowed just five walks and hit four batters while striking out better than a batter per inning. “He’s got a great delivery, he works down in the strike zone a lot and he works both sides of the plate,” Vero Beach manager Jim Morrison said. “He’s got a plus fastball, he keeps hitters off stride and throws the breaking ball for a strike.He gets way out front and gets on the front side really well, which a lot of guys struggle with. He’s got a real quick, fast arm, and he’ll get the same kind of arm release with his breaking ball and his changeup.”
|No. 8 MAX RAMIREZ, C/DH||RANGERS|
Team: Double-A Frisco (Texas)
Why He’s Here: .368/.448/.679 in 190 at-bats, 40 R, 70 H, 13 2B, 2 3B, 14 HR, 42 RBIs, 26 BB, 48 SO, 1/3 SB
The Scoop: Ramirez entered the season as the No. 23 prospect in the Rangers system, ranking behind Taylor Teagarden and Jarrod Saltalamacchia among the talented young catchers in the organization. But it’s no question that Ramirez, who homered in three consecutive games in April and then homered in four straight games in may, has been the most outstanding performer in the Rangers farm system this season. Ramirez has put up numbers that would play well at any position; and ultimately, a position switch may happen, as Ramirez is a below-average receiver who lacks quick feet. But it’s hard to deny that hitting skills that Ramirez, a .304/.404/.489 career minor league hitter entering the season, offers.
|No. 9 ANDREW McCUTCHEN, CF||PIRATES|
Team: Triple-A Indianapolis (International)
|No. 10 BEN REVERE, CF||TWINS|
low Class A Beloit (Midwest)
Why He’s Here: .420/.463/.594, 58-for-138, 11 2B, 5 3B, 1 HR, 20 RBI, 11 BB, 10 SO, 16-for-26 SB
The Scoop: Revere got a late start to 2008, not joining Beloit until April 28 out of extended spring training, but he’s been the MWL’s hottest hitter ever since. For that matter, calling him red hot would be an understatement, as there is a long list of superlatives you could come up with to describe his season so far. Revere has torched Midwest League pitching, reaching base at least once in 31 of the 33 games he’s played. On May 3, he celebrated his 20th birthday by going 3-for-5 with a double against Great Lakes, kicking off a streak of five straight multi-hit games. Revere’s had an even hotter streak from May 13-19 when he recorded six straight multi-hit games, which was also part of a stretch where he went almost two entire weeks without striking out once. He doesn’t have enough at-bats yet to qualify for the MWL batting title race, but if he did, he would lead it by almost 70 points. Not bad for a guy who wasn’t a consensus first-rounder.
|No. 11 MATT LaPORTA, RF||BREWERS|
Team: Double-A Huntsville (Southern)
Why He’s Here: .286/.395/.586 in 210 at-bats, 41 R, 60 H, 14 2B, 2 3B, 15 HR, 49 RBIs, 31 BB, 43 SO, 1/2 SB
The Scoop: LaPorta is making Brewers scouting director Jack Zduriencik and his staff look like geniuses for taking the Florida first baseman with the seventh overall pick last year. LaPorta and Gamel form the most dangerous hitting duo in the Southern League and perhaps in all of the minors. LaPorta is still getting used to playing in the outfield, but there’s been no learning curve at the plate for the slugger with a slugging average .300 points higher than his batting average. The thought of adding LaPorta’s and Gamel’s bats one day to a lineup that already includes Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun is downright scary.
|No. 12 MADISON BUMGARNER, LHP||GIANTS|
low Class A Augusta (South Atlantic)
Why He’s Here: 5-2, 2.10, 51 1/3 IP, 43 H, 14 R, 12 ER, 9 BB, 59 SO
The Scoop: Bumgarner has yet to appear on a Hot Sheet despite being remarkably consistent for a guy making his professional debut this season. He just hasn’t had that real knockout week where he blows a couple teams away to put himself on the Hot Sheet, but the format for this particular edition of the Hot Sheet gives us a good opportunity to reward him for his efforts throughout the season. Bumgarner struggled in his first three starts, giving up 10 earned runs in 11 2/3 innings to put his ERA at 7.71 at the time. But Bumgarner, the Sally League’s youngest pitcher in 2008, has been dominant from there on. He’s went his next four starts without giving up an earned run, and hasn’t allowed more than one in any of his last seven outings. Also impressive is the fact that Bumgarner has yet to surrender a home run all year, despite pitching in the more hitter-friendly of the two low Class A leagues.
|No. 13 MICHAEL BOWDEN, RHP||RED SOX|
Team: Double-A Portland (Eastern)
Why He’s Here: 4-3, 2.20, 61 1/3 IP, 39 H, 18 R, 15 ER, 2 HR, 16 BB, 58 SO
The Scoop: Bowden has displayed good command since the Red Sox took him in the supplemental first round in 2005. With a low-90s fastball and a plus curveball, Bowden’s delivery is a little unorthodox, but he repeats it well. He’s also repeated his success nearly every time out on the mound, establishing himself as one of the Eastern League’s best pitchers despite being one of the youngest players in Double-A. With an advanced feel for his craft, Bowden has allowed no earned runs in four of his 11 starts, including an April 26 start against Binghamton in which he struck out 11 in six innings.
|No. 14 DARYL THOMPSON, RHP||REDS|
Double-A Chattanooga (Southern)/Triple-A Louisville (International)
Why He’s Here: 5-2, 1.55, 75 1/3 IP, 54 H, 21 R, 13 ER, 2 HR, 16 BB, 68 SO
The Scoop: Thompson had a lot to prove entering the season, and he’s proven it . . . and then some. After labrum surgery cut short his 2005 season in July, and limited him to 21 innings in 2006, Thompson spent last year domination A-ball batters. While that was impressive given his medical history, it did little to separate him from many other young, hard-throwing pitchers. Thompson has eased many of those concerns this season with his fine performance versus Double-A and Triple-A competition. (In two starts for Louisville, he’s struck out 12 in 14 innings while walking two and giving up two runs on 10 hits.) He commands an explosive low-90s fastball and gets good separation on his changeup, but the development of his breaking pitches will determine his timetable. Thompson has been pro long enough to have been drafted by the Expos (eighth round, 2003), but he’s just now coming into his own, meaning he’s officially no longer just the throw-in to the Austin Kearns-for-relievers trade.
|No. 15 JEFF CLEMENT, C/DH||MARINERS|
Triple-A Tacoma (Pacific Coast)
Why He’s Here: .369/.488/.738 (48-for-130), 11 HR, 15 2B, 34 RBIs, 32 R, 28 BB, 20 SO
The Scoop: About the only negative things you could say about Clement’s offensive performance thus far is that he’s grounded into seven double plays and that he has spent about a third of his time at DH. He also hasn’t stolen a base, hasn’t hit for the cycle and hasn’t hit a home run batting righthanded. The lefty-hitting Clement, though, has done just about everything else—hit for average, hit for power, make contact, draw walks—and he ranks first in the minors in slugging, second in on-base percentage and eighth in average. However, that production didn’t translate in 48 at-bats with Seattle (.167/.286/.250) and the Mariners bailed after 15 games. Clement homered in three of his first four games back in Tacoma, where he’s thrown out 6 of 24 basestealers (25 percent), proving that he’ll be back.
|No. 16 CHASE HEADLEY, LF/3B||PADRES|
Team:Triple-A Portland (Pacific Coast)
Why He’s Here: .302/.371/.524 (68-for-225), 10 HR, 18 2B, 1 3B, 30 RBIs, 41 R, 22 BB, 58 SO
The Scoop: Steady Headley won’t blow you away with any one aspect of his game (he ranks among the top five in the PCL in only one category: doubles), but the sum of his contributions make for one heck of a ballplayer. But unlike most players, Headley leads a double life at the plate, where he’s a switch-hitter, and in the field, where he plays two positions, one of them new this year. Headley is better from the left side of the plate (.318/.389/.568), which is good, but because he’s faced lefthanders in only 22 percent of his at-bats this year, it’s been difficult to get repetitions as a righthanded batter. After beginning the year as a left fielder exclusively, Headley has sprinkled in six games at third base, his natural position, and three of those appearances have come in the past eight games.
|No. 17 JAIME GARCIA, LHP||CARDINALS|
Team:Double-A Springfield (Texas)/Triple-A Memphis (Pacific Coast)
Why He’s Here: 4-2, 2.81, 64 IP, 57 H, 23 R, 20 ER, 2 HR, 23 BB, 64 SO
The Scoop: Garcia offers an uncommon package of being a prolific groundball pitcher who also has strikeout stuff with a low-90s sinker and a plus curveball. Garcia, who turns 22 on Sunday, struck out more than one batter per inning in Double-A and has continued his success upon his transition to Triple-A. In a system full of sinkerballers like Clayton Mortensen, Mitch Boggs, Tyler Herron, Garcia has separated himself with the quality of his pitches and his on-field success.
|No. 18 TOMMY HANSON,
Team:high Class A Myrtle Beach/Double-A Mississippi (Carolina/Southern)
Why He’s Here: 5-3, 2.55, 60 IP, 34 H, 21 R, 17 ER, 21 BB, 69 SO
The Scoop: Hanson lasted just seven starts at Myrtle Beach before getting the promotion to Mississippi. If his numbers seem good, but not great, to you then take out his May 18 start or simply look at his Myrtle Beach line. To sum it up for you, he has dominated opposing hitters. With the Pelicans he went 3-1, 0.90 in 40 innings and gave up a mere 15 hits and 11 walks while striking out 49. Though he’s been good prior to this year, it’s safe to say he’s breaking out and it’s mostly thanks to his command, according to Myrtle Beach pitching coach Bruce Dal Canton. His best start came in his season debut, when he faced a total of 16 batters and retired 13 of them via the strikeout.
|No. 19 CHRIS TILLMAN, RHP||ORIOLES|
Team:Double-A Bowie (Eastern)
Why He’s Here: 6-0, 2.68, 53 2/3 IP, 36 H, 16 R, 16 ER, 2 HR, 28 BB, 58 SO
The Scoop: It was a little unusual last year when the Mariners promoted Tillman, a second-round pick in 2006, to high Class A High Desert after just eight starts in low Class A Wisconsin. But Tillman handled the promotion cleanly, striking out 105 in 102 innings despite being just 19 years old. Perhaps there are prospects with better raw numbers than Tillman, but given the context of his environment, Tillman’s performance has been outstanding. The youngest pitcher in Double-A, Tillman has one of the lowest ERAs in the Eastern League while striking out nearly a batter per inning with his low-90s fastball and above-average curveball. Sure, the walks are a little high, but most pitchers his age are either in A-ball or finishing their sophomore year of college. With his smooth delivery, command shouldn’t be a huge concern.
|No. 20 SEAN DOOLITTLE, 1B
Team:high Class A Stockton (California)
Why He’s Here: .332/.420/.625, 69-for-208, 43 R, 15 2B, 2 3B, 14 HR, 45 RBI, 34-59 BB-K, 4-for-7 SB
The Scoop: Heading into the 2007 draft there were a lot of questions about Doolittle’s ability to hit for power and whether he’d be worthy of a first or second round pick as a defensive first baseman with John Olerud comparisons. After a subpar debut season where he hit .243/.341/.347 in 239 at-bats between short season Vancouver and low Class A Kane County, Doolittle has taken full advantage of the Cal League’s generous conditions. He’s been slugging over .600 since April 19 and is among league leaders in hitting (fourth), home runs (second), RBIs (tied for first), on base percentage (fifth), slugging percentage (first) and runs scored (fourth). Certainly striking out in a quarter of his at-bats is a concern, but he’s also been patient at the plate drawing plenty of walks and has made a handful of starts in the outfield, increasing his versatility.
• Jeff Samardzija, rhp, Double-A Tennessee. Samardzija signed a five-year major league contract with the Cubs worth $10 million in 2006 to give up a potential NFL career and ranked 80th in our Top 100 prospects entering 2007. But not much has gone well for Samardzija this season. The 6-foot-5 former Notre Dame football star has nearly as many walks (33) as strikeouts (37) in 60 2/3 innings, good for a 5.34 ERA. Samardzija is still a relatively unique talent, a raw 23-year-old college player with a fastball that has touched the high-90s, but the signs of progress have yet to catch up with his talent.
• Chris Marrero, 1b, Nationals. At first, we could chalk up Marrero’s numbers to his usual slow start. But now it’s been going on for a little longer than Nationals personnel and fans would like. He spent 68 games with high Class A Potomac in 2007 and hit .259/.338/.431 in 255 at-bats with nine home runs. That’s pretty good considering he was just 19 years old. Well, he’s still 19 at Potomac, but still hasn’t quite figured it out. So far in 2008, he’s hitting .232/.316/.419 in 198 at-bats with 42 strikeouts. The power isn’t missing, but he’s having a tough time hitting for average and getting on base regularly. He’s now had 453 at-bats at high Class A and is hitting .247/.375/.426. Those numbers shouldn’t send up a white flag, but its not great for a guy that has already been moved to first base and is relying on his bat to carry him to the big leagues.
• Charlie Culberson, ss, Giants. While the rest of low class A Augusta’s prospect-loaded lineup has at least held their own, if not better, the 19-year-old Culberson has struggled both at the plate and in the field. Culberson fared pretty well in his pro debut after the Giants made him the 51st overall pick a year ago, but that success has been slow to translate to 2008. Culberson’s April was particularly brutal, when he hit only .104/.155/.179 and committed a grand total of 15 errors at shortstop in just 20 games. His May (.286/.369/.375) was more respectable offensively, but he still managed to commit another 10 errors in the field. And overall, he’s still hitting only .183/.250/.260 with six extra-base hits and six RBIs in 131 at-bats.
We wanted to recognize players who may not be age appropriate for their leagues, but are having having seasons that deserved some notice. Topping this list is low Class A Clinton 1B Ian Gac (Rangers). Already in his fourth stint in the Midwest League, Gac, 22, has been pounding the ball with a line of .329/.445/.676. Anyone who can slug over .600 in the pitcher-friendly MWL has to be doing something right, and Gac is already opened up a nice lead in the MWL home run race with his 16 long balls in 47 games … Low Class A Kane County RHP Craig Italiano (Athletics) is a great story. Italiano, 21, isn’t necessarily inappropriate age-wise for the MWL, but on the other hand he’s a fourth year pro. Once regarded as one of the top arms in the Oakland system, Italiano had made only 18 professional appearances before this year as his career was sidetracked by injuries, including labrum surgery in 2006 and being struck in the head by a line drive last season. Italiano is finally getting his chance in 2008, and he’s making the most of it. He leads the MWL in ERA with a mark of 0.65, and he didn’t allow a single earned run in the month of May … Low Class A Lakewood LF Michael Taylor (Phillies) leads the SAL in average, OBP, and slugging with a line of .361/.438/.579. Taylor, 22, is also fourth in RBIs and second in hits. A fifth rounder from Stanford last season, Taylor hit only .227/.300/.365 in the Short-season New York-Penn League in his pro debut, but Sally League pitching looks like it’s not enough of a challenge for him this season.
low Class A Burlington (Midwest)/high Class A Wilmington
Here: 4-4, 2.69,
67 IP, 55 H, 22 R, 20 ER, 9 BB, 57 SO
was completely off the radar entering the season, but he emerged as one
of the low Class A Midwest League’s better arms before earning a
late-May promotion to high Class A. Cegarra was signed out of
Venezuela at the age of 16 in 2005, but he struggled in his U.S. debut
last season, going 1-6, 5.12 in 16 appearances for Burlington. But that
all changed this season, Cegarra’s first as a full-time starter.
Although his fastball isn’t overpowering, he locates it as well as his
above-average curveball for strikes at any time. He started the season
with an amazing 37-1 K-BB ratio through his first six appearances, and
he’s gone at least six innings in all 10 starts he’s made while
surrendering more than three earned runs only
low Class A Asheville (South Atlantic)
Here: 9-1, 1.84,
83 IP, 60 H, 23 R, 17 ER, 23 BB, 74 SO
Scoop: Few people
outside the Rockies’ organization and Prospect Handbook owners saw what
was coming with Chacin, who’s been one of the Sally League’s most
dominant pitchers in 2008. He went only 6-5, 3.13 in his U.S. debut
last year in the Rookie-level Pioneer League, but he finished the
season strong, going 5-2, 1.20 in his last 10 starts, and he’s carried
that momentum into this season. He grew three inches and added around
30 pounds during the offseason, meaning his fastball can now reach the
mid-90s. When he has his changeup and curveball working, his
three-pitch mix can be as deadly as any you’ll find at the Low A level.
Pitching deep into games hasn’t been usual for Chacin either, who leads
the SAL in innings pitched. He’s pitched seven innings or more in eight
of his 12 starts, but he’s being efficient enough with his pitch counts
that the Rockies aren’t concerned with his workload. Chacin has won
seven straight decisions and his team is 11-1 when he’s taken the
Triple-A Richmond (International)
Here: 4-1, 1.91,
66 IP, 46 H, 16 R, 14 ER, 0 HR, 23 BB, 55 SO, .195
pro seasons, Morton’s ERA stood at 4.90, his strikeout rate at 7.1 per
nine innings and his walk rate at 4.8 per nine. Worse, he was 24 years
old and had averaged an alarming 1.69 baserunners per inning. So why in
the world did the Braves add him to their 40-man roster last winter?
The reason was simple: Morton, a third-round pick in 2002, turned in a
fine Arizona Fall League performance, going 4-1, 2.57 with 20
strikeouts and eight walks in 21 innings, and turned heads with
improved command of his stuff. That success has
carried over to the 2008 season, as Morton leads the IL in
ERA. He’s kept the good stuff (strikeouts), while losing the bad
(walks, baserunners) and had yet to allow a home run this
|PABLO SANDOVAL, C||GIANTS|
|Team: high Class A San Jose (California)
Why He’s Here: .371/.429/.619, 75-for-202, 47 R, 19 2B, 2 3B, 9 HR, 45 RBIs, 20-30 BB-K, 2-for-3 SB
The Scoop: This 5-foot-11, 245-pound, switch-hitting catcher wasn’t much to speak of before the 2008 season. He had bounced between third base and first base, seemingly putting his catcher’s mitt away, while also struggling some at the plate. So it’s hard to explain how a move back behind the plate last year helped turn his career around. He hit 11 home runs last year (after hitting seven in his first four seasons), but that didn’t prepare anyone for this year’s explosion. Sandoval maintained an average over. 400 for most of the first two months of the season. In addition to ranking among the minor league leaders in multiple categories, he’s also nailing 45 percent of runners trying to steal, good for second in the league. Last year he caught 51 percent in limited time. He’s obviously pushing for a promotion and with those kind of numbers, it will be interesting to see how he progresses at high levels.
|JESS TODD, RHP||CARDINALS|
|Team: Double-A Springfield (Texas)
Why He’s Here: Double-A Springfield: 1-1, 0.91, 29 2/3 IP, 14 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 1 HR, 7 BB, 21 K
high Class A Palm Beach: 3-0, 1.65, 27 1/3 IP, 18 H, 7 R, 5 ER, 0 HR, 7 BB, 35 K
The Scoop: Maybe it seems a bit unusual that a second-round pick from a year ago finds his name in this section, but Todd’s early-season results have forced us to take notice. Ranked as the No. 12 prospect in the Cardinals organization entering the season, the former Arkansas Razorback has a combined ERA of 1.26 with 56 strikeouts through 57 innings with Palm Beach and Springfield. Todd, who has surrendered just one home run, has two quality pitches, a 90-94 mph fastball and a plus slider. There’s still an opinion among scouts that he profiles better in a major league bullpen than in the starting rotation, but as long as he’s having success, he’ll get the chance to stick as a starter.