Prospect Hot Sheet: Sept. 11


See also: Previous
Prospect
Hot
Sheets


It’s over.

After 19 regular season Prospect Hot Sheets, it’s time to wrap up another season. We picked 20 prospects who we felt stood out from the crowd this season. It was extremely hard to narrow this list down to 20—in fact, we could have written 40 prospects up just as easily. As we did during the season, this list is a combination of prospect status and performance.

Thanks to everyone who’s stopped by every Friday to check out the Prospect Hot Sheet and participate in the chat. We look forward to starting to roll out the league Top 20 Prospects on Sept. 21.

Contributing: Ben Badler, J.J. Cooper,
Matt Eddy, Conor Glassey and
Jim
Shonerd.

No. 1 JASON HEYWARD, RF

BRAVES

Jason HeywardTeam: high Class A Myrtle Beach (Carolina) / Double-A Mississippi (Southern) / Triple-A Gwinnett (International)

Age: 20

Why He’s Here: .323/.408/.555 (117-for-362), 17 HR, 25 2B, 4 3B, 63 RBIs, 51 BB, 51 SO, 10-for-11 SB

The
Scoop:
When Jason Heyward was in high school, scouts struggled to get a good read on the Atlanta prep prodigy. Opposing teams pitched around him, and his coach struggled to throw a good batting practice, which meant a crosschecker or scouting director could fly in, watch a Heyward game and leave without really ever getting a chance to see what he could do.

The Braves were thrilled that other teams weren’t getting a good look. Heyward slipped past 13 teams, giving Atlanta a chance to develop another hometown star with their first pick in the 2007 draft. Ever since then, Heyward has lived up to every expectation. He dominated low Class A Rome in 2008, but he was even better in 2009. Heyward can run, he can hit for power and he can hit for average. But as his Myrtle Beach manager Rocket Wheeler explained, his defense is the part of the game that is underrated.

“He’s an outstanding player. He has
a plus arm, he makes diving catches and he has great instincts on the
bases when he runs. He’s the complete package.”

2009
Stats
No. 2 BUSTER POSEY, C

GIANTS

Buster PoseyTeams: high Class A San Jose (California) / Triple-A Fresno (Pacific Coast)

Why He’s Here: .325/.416/.531 (137-for-422), 18 HR, 31 2B, 1 3B, 80 RBIs, 84 R, 62 BB, 68 SO, 6-for-7 SB

The
Scoop:
As he sits unused on the Giants’ big league bench, Posey has plenty of time to reflect on an outstanding first full pro season, which included throwing out 39 of 84 basestealers (46 percent). Posey may not have matched Matt Wieters’ pro debut in 2008 (.355/.454/.600 in the Carolina and Eastern leagues), but it still ranks among the best debuts by a catching prospect in years. Everything is set up for Posey to become the Giants stater next year, when pending free agent Bengie Molina may be on another club’s roster.

2009
Stats
No. 3 CHRIS CARTER, 1B

ATHLETICS

Chris CarterTeam: Double-A Midland (Texas) / Triple-A Sacramento (Pacific Coast)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .329/.422/.570 (179-for-544), 28 HR, 43 2B, 2 3B, 115 RBIs, 115 R, 85 BB, 133 SO, 13-for-19 SB

The Scoop: Carter might have had a shot at winning the triple crown in the Texas League if the A’s hadn’t let him get his feet wet in Triple-A for the last two weeks of the season. Carter wound up finishing second in the TL in average (.337) and home runs (24) and third in RBIs (101). He made the most of his time with the River Cats though, going 3-for-5 in his first Triple-A game and slugging four home runs. Carter worked hard on shortening his swing and using the whole field more, resulting in a 70 point increase in his average from ’08 (.259) to ’09. He’s also been the best power hitter in the A’s system, and this was his third consecutive season with at least 25 home runs.

2009
Stats
No. 4 BRIAN MATUSZ, LHP

ORIOLES

Brian MatuszTeam: high Class A Frederick (Carolina) / Double-A Bowie (Eastern)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: 11-2, 1.91, 113 IP, 87 H, 7 HR, 32 BB, 121 SO

The Scoop: Seemingly everyone who watched Matusz blow through the minor leagues en route to Baltimore this year came away impressed. The fourth overall pick in last year’s draft out of San Diego came as advertised. That is, he’s polished and ready to move quickly with an advanced repertoire of pitches, all of which grade as at least average. While a low-90s fastball would be the best pitch for most lefthanders, Matusz worked more off of his secondary stuff than most pitchers, showing an excellent changeup, a sharp curveball and a good slider. If he stays under 50 big league inning this year to retain his prospect eligibility, Matusz would be the favorite to be the top lefthanded pitching prospect entering 2010 and possibly the top pitching prospect in baseball outside of the Strasburg family.

2009
Stats
No. 5 DESMOND JENNINGS, CF

RAYS

Desmond JenningsTeam: Double-A Montgomery (Southern) / Triple-A Durham (International)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .318/.401/.487 (158-for-497), 11 HR, 31 2B, 10 3B, 62 RBIs, 92 R, 67 BB, 67 SO, 52-for-59 SB

The Scoop: Finally healthy for an full season, Jennings showed off his wide range of tools by putting together one of the best seasons in the minor leagues. With Montgomery, Jennings was selected for the mid-season and postseason all-star teams and was named the league’s MVP. He continued to terrorize opposing pitchers after his promotion to Durham and helped the Bulls return to the International League playoffs.

A 10th-round pick in 2006 out of Itawamba (Miss.) CC, Jennings was the only minor leaguer this season to record both 50 extra-base hits and 50 stolen bases. He was the first to do so since Cody Strait did it as a Reds’ farmhand in 2006. Jennings’ speed also helps him in the outfield, where he figures to join forces with Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton in the near future.

2009
Stats
No. 6 CARLOS SANTANA, C

INDIANS

Carlos SantanaTeam: Double-A Akron (Eastern)

Age: 23

Why He’s Here: .290/.413/.530 (124-for-428), 23 HR, 30 2B, 2 3B, 97 RBIs, 91 R, 90 BB, 83 SO, 2-for-4 SB

The Scoop: Santana’s performance could have easily merited a promotion to Triple-A Columbus or even to Cleveland, yet the Indians played it conservative and left Santana in Double-A all season. That decision provided little for Eastern League hitters to enjoy, as Santana ranked first in the league in slugging, second in OBP, first in walks and second in home runs. In other words, the switch-hitting catcher, who last year earned MVP honors in the California League, was an easy choice for Eastern League player of the year. It shouldn’t be long before Santana is unleashing similar fury on American League pitching.

2009
Stats
No. 7 DEREK NORRIS, C

NATIONALS

Jaff DeckerTeam: low Class A Hagerstown (South Atlantic)

Age: 20

Why He’s Here: .286/.413/.513 (125-for-437), 23 HR, 30 2B, 0 3B, 84 RBIs, 78 R, 90 BB, 116 SO, 6-for-9 SB

The Scoop: Norris catapulted his prospect status this season, going from an intriguing short-season catcher with a good approach at the plate to one of the best overall hitters in the South Atlantic League. Norris works the count well, which is why he ranked first in the league in walks and OBP, and puts a charge into the ball when he does connect—he finished second in home runs and fifth in slugging. He still needs to get better defensively (he nabbed 36 percent of basestealers), but his bat would be superb for a catcher.

2009
Stats
No. 8 CHRISTIAN FRIEDRICH, LHP

ROCKIES

Christian FriederichTeam: low Class A Asheville (South Atlantic) / high Class A Modesto (California)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: 6-5, 2.41, 120 IP, 94 H, 5 HR, 43 BB, 159 SO

The
Scoop:
Friedrich’s 2009 season was similar to the ascent of Jhoulys Chacin last year. Both started the year in Asheville before earning a mid-season promotion to Modesto, across the country in the hitter-friendly Cal League. Friedrich, like Chacin, pitched well at both stops. After missing a month with the Nuts because of irritation in the back of his triceps, Friedrich didn’t approach the 170 innings Chacin threw last year, but posted a more dominant strikeout rate.

During his time in Asheville, Friedrich went 3-3, 2.18 with 66 strikeouts and 15 walks over 45 innings. With Modesto, he was 3-2, 2.54 with 93 strikeouts and 28 walks over 74 innings. Friedrich’s most dominating stretch came over three starts at the end of July and early August. He didn’t record a win in any of the games, but struck out 32 and walked six over 17 innings, recording a 0.54 ERA in the process.

2009
Stats
No. 9 MADISON BUMGARNER, LHP

GIANTS

Madison BumgarnerTeam:
Double-A Connecticut (Eastern) / high Class A San Jose (California)

Age: 19

Why He’s Here: 12-2, 1.85, 131 1/3 IP, 100 H, 6 HR, 34 BB, 92 SO

The
Scoop:
Of the top 15 minor
league ERA leaders from a year ago, only one returned to the same heights in ’09—Bumgarner. He led the minors in ERA in ’08 and followed it up
by finished third this time. But where Bumgarner
simply blew the ball by low Class A hitters in ’08, he relied more on
pitching this year. His fastball lost a little velocity as the season
went along, but it didn’t seem to help hitters.
Long term, the question still remains
whether Bumgarner’s secondary stuff will ever catch up to his
fastball. And if it doesn’t, can a starting pitcher can succeed
largely on the basis of one pitch—even if it’s a very good
fastball. Either way,
Bumgarner’s blitz through the minors could not have been any more impressive.

2009
Stats
No. 10 JEREMY HELLICKSON, RHP

RAYS

Jeremy HellicksonTeam: Double-A Montgomery (Southern) / Triple-A Durham (International)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: 9-2, 2.45, 114 IP, 72 H, 8 HR, 29 BB, 132 SO

The Scoop: Already seen as one of the organization’s top 10 prospects, Hellickson had what was arguably his best season, and he did so for the highest levels, splitting time between Montgomery and Durham. He went 3-1, 2.38 for the Biscuits with 62 strikeouts and 14 walks over 57 innings before being promoted to Durham. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound righty known as Hellboy helped the Bulls get into the playoffs by going 6-1, 2.51 with 70 strikeouts and 15 walks over 57 innings. Hellickson got the ball in the Bulls’ first playoff game, facing a Louisville lineup whose first five hitters were Chris Heisey, Yonder Alonso, Jay Bruce, Todd Frazier and Juan Francisco. Hellickson got a no-decision, but struck out 12 over 5 2/3 innings.

2009
Stats
No. 11 JAFF DECKER, LF

PADRES

Jaff DeckerTeam: low Class A Fort Wayne (Midwest)

Age: 19

Why He’s Here: .299/.442/.514 (107-for-358), 16 HR, 25 2B, 2 3B, 64 RBIs, 78 R, 85 BB, 92 SO, 10-for-16 SB

The Scoop: The Midwest League recognized Great Lakes teammates Dee Gordon and Kyle Russell as co-MVPs, but it’s Decker who had the finest offensive season. After all, the 42nd overall pick in the ’08 draft ranked second in the minor leagues with his .442 on-base percentage and 11th with 85 walks (making him only one of five Padres farmhands to rank in the top 15). Two stints on the disabled list cost Decker about six weeks of the season, but he still cracked 16 home runs in 104 games and ranked second in the MWL in slugging to Kyle Russell, a 23-year-old who spent three years at Texas. When healthy, Decker served as one of the biggest threats on a Fort Wayne club that won a minor league-best 94 games.

Decker won MVP honors in the Rookie-level Arizona League a year ago, of course, but judged in context his follow-up was just as impressive. His .956 OPS compares favorably with recent high school picks to take on the MWL in their first full seasons—Jay Bruce (.871) and Cameron Maybin (.844) in ’06; Travis Snider (.902) in ’07; and Ben Revere (.930), Andre Lambo (.807) and Mike Moustakas (.805) in ’08.

2009
Stats
No. 12 JESUS MONTERO, C

YANKEES

Jesus MonteroTeam: high Class A Tampa (Florida State) / Double-A Trenton

Age: 19

Why He’s Here: .337/.389/.562 (117-for-347), 17 HR, 25 2B, 1 3B, 70 RBIs, 45 R, 28 BB, 47 SO

The Scoop: Montero was probably the frontrunner for our Minor League Player of the Year award and certainly would’ve been higher on this list if not for his season being cut short by a finger injury on Aug. 1. Nevertheless, Montero still put together a tremendous campaign, dominating in Double-A as a teenager by hitting .317/.370/.539 in 44 games with Trenton. Montero has outstanding power to all fields and enough bat control to limit his strikeouts. His defensive future is still in question, and he threw out a mere eight of 64 basestealers while he was with Tampa—though he posted a 14-of-44 mark after he moved up to Trenton.

2009
Stats
No. 13 DAN HUDSON, RHP

WHITE SOX

Dan HudsonTeam:
low Class A Kannapolis (South Atlantic) / high Class A Winston-Salem (Carolina) / Double-A Birmingham (Southern) / Triple-A Charlotte (International)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: 14-5, 2.32, 147 1/3 IP, 105 H, 5 HR, 34 BB, 166 SO

The Scoop: A fifth-round pick in ’08 out of Old Dominion, Hudson made an impressive debut last year in the Rookie-level Pioneer League, going 5-4, 3.36 with 90 strikeouts over 70 innings. Still, nobody expected him to blaze his way through four minor league levels this season, finishing the year in Chicago’s bullpen.

Hudson met nearly every player in the White Sox organization this year. He started the season with Kannapolis, where he pitched 22 innings before being promoted to Winston-Salem, where he pitched 45 innings. Hudson spent the most time in Birmingham, getting nine starts and 56 innings. He pitched 24 more innings with Charlotte before being promoted to the big leagues. So far, Hudson has pitched in 16 different cities this season. But despite his gaudy strikeout total, Hudson’s total is not the most by a White Sox pitcher in recent memory. During his second tour of duty with Chicago, Gio Gonzalez fanned 185 batters in ’07.

2009
Stats
No. 14 PEDRO ALVAREZ, 3B

PIRATES

Pedro AlvarezTeam: high Class A Lynchburg (Carolina) / Double-A Altoona (Eastern)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .288/.378/.535 (134-for-465), 27 HR, 32 2B, 1 3B, 95 RBIs, 80 R, 71 BB, 129 SO, 2-for-3 SB

The Scoop: After his signing-deadline fiasco last year and then reports of him showing up to camp overweight, Alvarez didn’t get off on the right foot with Pirates fans. When he was hitting .207/.321/.391 in early May, some were probably shaking their head and writing it up as yet another Bucco blunder.

But Alvarez heated up with the weather. By the end of June, he was hitting .247/.342/.486 for Lynchburg. Pittsburgh promoted him to Altoona, where he only got better. In the month of August, Alvarez hit .368/.485/.651 with seven homers to end his Double-A season at .333/.419/.590. Last week, he headed off to join Team USA in the World Cup.

2009
Stats
No. 15 JAMES DARNELL, 3B

PADRES

James DarnellTeam: high Class A Lake Elsinore (California) / low Class A Fort Wayne (Midwest)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .311/.424/.536 (142-for-457), 20 HR, 35 2B, 4 3B, 81 RBIs, 80 R, 87 BB, 89 SO, 8-for-14 SB

The Scoop: Justin Smoak and Reese Havens were first-round picks a year ago, but it’s second-rounder Darnell who enjoyed the most productive full-season debut among the trio of South Carolina Gamecocks. Noted for his potential for five average-to-plus tools, Darnell did not disappoint in his debut, hitting for average and power while showing a strong knowledge of the strike zone. His 87 walks and .424 on-base percentage each ranked ninth in the minors. While Darnell improved the consistency with which he made the routine play after a promotion to Lake Elsinore (his fielding percentage improved from .875 to .924), he committed 30 errors at third base on the year. It’s a small quibble because Darnell’s bat appears as if it will play at any position.

2009
Stats
No. 16 THOMAS NEAL, LF

GIANTS

Thomas NealTeam: high Class A San Jose (California)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here:
.337/.431/.579 (160-for-475), 22 HR, 41 2B, 4 3B, 90 RBIs, 102 R, 65 BB, 98 SO, 3-for-3 SB

The Scoop: Yes, Neal played in the California League, which makes poor hitters look OK, average hitters look good and good hitters look great. But Neal spent his year at San Jose, which qualifies as a pitcher’s park by league standards. His knack for centering the ball on the bat is not a mirage. He joins recent San Jose alumni Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey in suggesting that the Giants can develop hitters.

2009
Stats
No. 17 MARTIN PEREZ, LHP

RANGERS

Martin PerezTeam: low Class A Hickory (South Atlantic) / Double-A Frisco (Texas)

Age: 18

Why He’s Here: 6-8, 2.90, 114 2/3 IP, 111 H, 5 HR, 38 BB, 119 SO

The Scoop: Perez became an adult in the eye of the law when he turned 18 just before the season began, but his pitching has been well beyond his age ever since he signed with the Rangers as a 16-year-old from Venezuela. With a low- to mid-90s fastball that touches 96 mph and a plus curveball, Perez made most SAL hitters look like they were the inexperienced ones. Whether the Rangers wanted to aggressively push Perez or just wanted to keep him out of the Cal League, the organization skipped him over high Class A Bakersfield when they sent him to Frisco in August, positioning Perez to likely be the youngest player in Double-A on Opening Day 2010.

2009
Stats
No. 18 IKE DAVIS, 1B

METS

Ike DavisTeam: Double-A Binghamton (Eastern) / high Class A St. Lucie (Florida State)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .298/.381/.524 (128-for-429), 20 HR, 31 2B, 3 3B, 71 RBIs, 58 R, 57 BB, 112 SO, 0-for-2 SB

The Scoop: Davis overcame a startlingly slow start as a pro (.260/.330/.338 without a home run through his first 312 plate appearances) to assert himself as a top first base prospect. (He played two games in right field, too, in preparation for the World Cup.) And if spending half a season with Binghamton, the worst team in the minors, had any ill effects, it was not apparent in Davis’ performance. He hit significantly better in Double-A than he had in high Class A (.951 OPS vs. .863), and from April 28, the date of his first pro homer, to the end of the season he batted .303/.388/.551 in 415 PAs.

One of five college first basemen taken in the ’08 draft’s first round—a group that includes Yonder Alonso, David Cooper, Allan Dykstra and Justin Smoak—Davis this season led the quintet in average, home runs, RBIs, OPS (.906) and isolated power (.226). The power came at a cost: He also averaged the most strikeouts per at-bat (26 percent) and posted the lowest walk-to-strikeout ratio (.48), indicating areas for improvement.

2009
Stats
No. 19 MICHAEL TAYLOR, RF

PHILLIES

Michael TaylorTeam: Double-A Reading (Eastern) / Triple-A Lehigh Valley (International)

Age: 23

Why He’s Here: .320/.395/.549 (137-for-428), 20 HR, 28 2B, 5 3B, 85 RBIs, 74 R, 48 BB, 70 K, 21-for-26 SB

The
Scoop:
Those questions during his college career about whether Taylor would ever hit for power have definitely been answered. And he’s managed to do it while still hitting for average and showing an excellent feel for the game. With Domonic Brown following right behind Taylor, the Phillies of the near future may have to find room for two corner outfielders. It’s a problem teams would line up to have.

2009
Stats
No. 20 TYLER FLOWERS, C

WHITE SOX

Tyler FlowersTeam:
Double-A Birmingham (Southern) / Triple-A Charlotte (International)

Age: 23

Why He’s Here: .297/.423/.516 (105-for-353), 15 HR, 28 2B, 2 3B, 56 RBIs, 67 R, 67 BB, 108 SO, 3-for-3 SB

The Scoop: As the centerpiece of the trade that sent Javier Vazquez to Atlanta last December, Flowers has done nothing but impress since joining the Good Guys.

Flowers started the year with Birmingham and hit .302/.445/.548 over 248 at-bats before a promotion to Charlotte. With the Knights, Flowers hit .286/.364/.438 over 105 at-bats and the performance earned him a callup to the big leagues when rosters expanded.

Flowers’ production shouldn’t come as a surprise, as he’s put up a good line each year as a pro. His on-base percentage was .373 and .378 his first two seasons and then jumped to .427 last year and .423 this year, and his slugging percentage has steadily improved each year as a pro, from .465 in 2006 with Rookie-level Danville to .516 this year.

2009
Stats
NOT-SO HOT
SHEET

Greg Halman, cf, Mariners: Halman might have the biggest gap in the minor leagues between his raw tools and his ability to apply them in game situations. His power is huge—it’s hard to hit 25 home runs with a .210 average—but his swing mechanics and his approach at the plate are a mess, which led to a .210/.278/.420 final line in 121 games for Double-A West Tenn. Were it not for a brief amount of time off this year, Halman likely would have surpassed 200 strikeouts, though he still led the minors with 191 punchouts.

Andrew Brackman, rhp, Yankees: The Yankees drafted Brackman (and paid him a handsome sum) as a first-rounder in 2007 out of North Carolina State, where he showed a mid- to high-90s fastball and a power curveball. But after missing the ’08 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, Brackman finally made his full-season debut this year, only to show an average fastball that often dipped into the 80s, a diminished curveball and well below-average control. Brackman’s 26 wild pitches ranked second in the minors, while his 76 walks were tops in the low Class A South Atlantic League. Brackman found slightly more success pitching out of the bullpen at the end of the year, but a 5.91 ERA in 106 2/3 innings is a major disappointment for the 23-year-old.

Lars Anderson, 1b, Red Sox: Coming into the season, there were thoughts that Anderson might push for a big league job in 2010, if not by the end of this year. Those notions are on the shelf for now, as Anderson endured his most difficult season as a pro, batting only .233/.328/.445 for Double-A Portland. A lefthanded hitter, all nine of Anderson’s home runs this year came against righthanded pitchers, and he hit only one long ball after July 1. The good news for Anderson is that he’s still just 21 (he turns 22 later this month), but 2009 was undoubtedly a step backwards for him.

Jeremy Jeffress, rhp, Brewers: Jeffress’ season was already going bad enough before he was hit with a 100-game suspension in June after his third positive test for a drug of abuse. Jeffress, 21, opened the season with Double-A Huntsville, but went only 1-3, 7.57 and struggled with his command, to put it mildly, walking 33 batters in 27 innings before being demoted to high Class A Brevard County in mid-May. His command still wasn’t great, but he seemingly was headed in the right direction, going 2-1, 2.18 in 33 innings before being hit with the suspension. Jeffress was the Brewers’ top pitching prospect coming into the season, but now he’s one more positive drug test away from a lifetime ban.

Kyle Skipworth, c, Marlins: Skipworth was far being the only 2008 high school draftee to have a difficult first full season, but he might be the poster child for the group. The sixth overall pick, Skipworth, 19, was compared to Joe Mauer in his prep days thanks to his size, lefty bat and outstanding offense. Yet Skipworth, who signed for $2.3 million, has yet to hit as a pro. He batted just .208/.263/.340 in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in ’08 and an almost identical .208/.263/.348 for low Class A Greensboro this year. He managed only seven home runs, a surprisingly low total considering Greensboro’s park is a bandbox.

MEN AMONG
BOYS

Grant Desme, of, Athletics: Like many prospects in the low Class A Midwest League, Desme was embarking on his first year in a full-season league in 2009. The only difference was that he was already 23 years old. A second round pick by the A’s in 2007 out of Cal Poly, Desme’s pro career had been plagued by hand and shoulder injuries that limited him to only 49 pro at-bats over his first two seasons. Finally healthy in 2009, Desme showed the power and athleticism that led the A’s to take him so highly, belting 31 home runs and stealing 40 bases between stops with Kane County and high Class A Stockton.

BLAST FROM THE PAST

Brian Dopirak, 1b, Blue Jays: Given up for dead after the Cubs released him during spring training ’08, Dopirak signed on with the Blue Jays, in part so that he could play for high Class A Dunedin, his hometown club. In two years with the organization, the righthanded slugger has bashed 56 home runs. The Cubs’ second-round pick in ’02, Dopirak, 25, hit 39 home runs as a 20-year-old in the Midwest League back in ’04, so the power always was there. He delivered on that promise in ’09, ranking third in the minors in hits and total bases (300), sixth in extra-base hits (71) and 11th in both doubles and RBIs in stops at Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Las Vegas.

Dopirak’s New Hampshire manager, Gary Cathcart, offered his take:

“He was not a professional hitter when we got him. He didn’t know how to use the whole field. For whatever reason, (our Double-A batting coach) Paul Elliott really clicked with him last year, and opened up the whole field for him.

“He has taken to instruction and uses the whole field now, and his BP round is all to center and right-center field. He has power to all fields. He’s also a real leader, a natural leader for us. He’s an easy guy to root for.”

HELIUM

ALEX AVILA, C

TIGERS

Team: Double-A Erie (Eastern)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .264/.365/.450 (87-for-329), 12 HR, 23 2B, 1 3B, 55 RBIs, 52 R, 52 BB, 77 SO, 2-for-3 SB

The Scoop: Avila, whose father Al is the Tigers’ assistant GM, entered the year as Detroit’s 20th-best prospect. The fifth-round draft pick in 2008 out of Alabama had a solid debut with low Class A West Michigan, hitting .305/.383/.385, and the Tigers aggressively assigned him to Erie to begin this season. Avila handled the promotion well, hitting .264/.365/.450 before the club jumped him another level by sticking him in the big leagues after only 151 games in the minors. Avila joined the Tigers after a few other backup catcher options didn’t work out. Not only did he give the club a lefthanded bat off the bench but through his first 44 at-bats, Avila was batting .295/.373/.659 with four doubles and four home runs.

2009
Stats

ALEX LIDDI, 3B

MARINERS

Team: high Class A High Desert (California)

Age: 21

Why He’s Here: .345/.411/.594 (170-for-493), 23 HR, 44 2B, 5 3B, 104 RBIs, 97 R, 53 BB, 122 SO, 10-for-16 SB

The Scoop: The Italian-born Liddi hit .313 in the Arizona League back in ’06 during his pro debut as a 17-year-old. Now after two tough years in the Midwest League, in which he hit .240 and then .244, Liddi redeemed himself by winning the minor league batting title as well as Cal League MVP honors. A physical third baseman with a line-drive stroke and natural power to the opposite field, Liddi’s name overwhelmed the minor league leaderboards, ranking fourth in hits, total bases (293) and extra-base hits (72); sixth in doubles and slugging and eighth in RBIs. Playing home games at a hitter’s haven like High Desert can distort a player’s offensive production, but Liddi hit well on the road, too, batting .308/.351/.498 in 247 at-bats with six homers and 23 doubles. In fact, among Mavericks players with more than 50 games played on the road, his .849 OPS ranked No. 1.

2009
Stats

KIRK NIEUWENHUIS, CF

METS

Team: high Class A St. Lucie (Florida State) / Double-A Binghamton (Eastern)

Age: 22

Why He’s Here: .282/.364/.479 (145-for-514), 17 HR, 38 2B, 6 3B, 73 RBIs, 99 R, 57 BB, 127 SO, 17-for-22 SB

The Scoop: After hitting a combined three home runs in June and July, Nieuwenhuis began pulling the ball for power in August. The results: he batted .345/.406/.647 with six homers and 13 doubles in 27 games, earning a promotion to Double-A for the final week. Had it not been for this offensive explosion, Nieuwenhuis would likely still be regarded as an obscure ’08 third-rounder with a hard-to-pronounce name. (Kirk’s father assures us it’s NEW-en-hice.) But that assault on Florida State League pitching catapulted him to a No. 1 ranking among league batters in doubles (35), slugging (.467), extra-base hits (56) and runs scored (91). He finished third with 16 home runs. A physical, lefty-swinging center fielder, Nieuwenhuis will have to reign in the strikeouts as he advances, but it’s an encouraging full-season debut for an NAIA product who bypassed low Class A.

2009
Stats

Minors | #2009 #Prospect Hot Sheet

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