Prospect Notebook: Clayton Blackburn, Henry Owens Finish On A High Note

Notable performances by prospects around the minors on Tuesday.

Clayton Blackburn

Clayton Blackburn (Photo by Bill Mitchell)

Clayton Blackburn, rhp, Giants. A 16th-round find in the 2011 draft, Blackburn turned in one of the finest seasons in the high Class A California League in 2013, going 7-5, 3.65 with 138 strikeouts in 133 innings. After dealing six scoreless innings yesterday with seven strikeouts, one walk and three hits allowed, the 20-year-old finished the season in strong fashion. In his nine starts for July and August, Blackburn posted a 2.09 ERA and a 50-12 K-BB ratio over 56 innings. With a strong three-pitch mix and performance track record, he’s positioned himself to move quickly next season if he dominates at Double-A.

Henry Owens, lhp, Red Sox. Though free passes remain a fixture of his game, the Double-A Portland southpaw has been virtually unhittable this season when bringing the ball near the strike zone. The 21-year-old proved as much yesterday, stifling New Hampshire over 6 2/3 innings by allowing a mere two hits and one walk while striking out six. He’s now 3-0, 1.09 through five Eastern League starts with 38 whiffs in 24 2/3 innings. For the moment, Owens ranks third in the minors with 161 strikeouts (in 129 1/3 innings) and first in opponent average (.173).

Byron Buxton, cf, Twins. He went “just” 1-for-2 with a walk and a steal yesterday for high Class A Fort Myers, but don’t lose sight of the No. 1 overall prospect’s otherworldly full-season debut. Buxton hasn’t hit a home run yet in August, but his OPS for the month has climbed to 1.092 thanks to 19 walks, and with a strong finish his slugging percentage in the Florida State League could top .500 (he’s at .492 now). Did we mention he’s 19?

Not only is Buxton’s performance impressive in the context of his youth and comparative inexperience, but he’s produced at a rate that has him jockeying with older, more experienced players on the overall leaderboards. He ranks fifth in the minor league batting race at .336, ranking behind Chris Colabello (Twins), Devon Travis (Tigers), Brent Keys (Marlins) and Rosell Herrera (Rockies). More impressively, his .428 on-base percentage trails only Garin Cecchini (Red Sox), Allan Dykstra (Mets) and Mike O’Neill (Cardinals) for the minor league lead.

The two categories that Buxton can win outright are triples—where his 18 are three more than Micah Johnson (White Sox), Kevin Kiermaier (Rays) and Andrew Toles (Rays)—and runs scored (106), where he trails only Mariners Double-A middle infielder Chris Taylor. Oh, and Buxton ranks among the top 20 full-season players in categories such as hits (11th), stolen bases (12th) and total bases (13th).

Astros full-season affiliates. While center fielder George Springer may be stuck on 37 home runs since hitting his last on Friday, his Triple-A Oklahoma City Redhawks clinched a trip to the Pacific Coast League playoffs with a win yesterday. The American Southern Division title gives the Astros organization playoff teams at all four levels of the full-season minors. The Rangers last accomplished this feat in 2011, though not one Texas affiliate actually advanced to its league finals.

Double-A Corpus Christi clinched a Texas League playoff spot by winning the Southern Division in the first half. High Class A Lancaster won the Southern Division crown in both halves of the California League season. Low Class A Quad Cities has gone 76-56 (.576) to qualify for the Midwest League playoffs, though the River Bandits did not win the division in either half.

Power prospects. No statistics encapsulate raw power quite like home run totals for batters or strikeout tallies for pitchers, and this season’s overall minor league leaderboards lean especially heavy on prospects. Perhaps most notable are a pair of 20-year-olds, both 2011 first-rounders, in the Double-A Southern League. Cubs shortstop Javier Baez has slugged 35 homers in 125 games to trail only Springer in the overall race, while Diamondbacks righthander Archie Bradley with 160 strikeouts sits in fourth place, nine behind overall leader Dan Winkler of Double-A Tulsa (Rockies).

The home run leaders as we head into the final six days of the minor league season. Springer, Baez and Miguel Sano all ranked among the BA Midseason Top 50 prospects.

 

FULL-SEASON MINOR LEAGUE HOME RUN LEADERS
Batter Pos Age Org AAA AA Hi A Lo A Total
George Springer CF 23 Astros 18 19 37
Javier Baez SS 20 Cubs 18 17 35
Miguel Sano 3B 20 Twins 17 16 33
Joey Gallo* 3B 19 Rangers 32 32
Andrew Lambo LF 25 Pirates 18 14 32
Matt Fields 1B 28 Royals 31 31
Ryan Rua 2B 23 Rangers 2 29 31
Maikel Franco 3B 21 Phillies 14 16 30
Mauro Gomez 1B 28 Blue Jays 29 29
Zach Walters SS 23 Nationals 29 29
* Hit two home runs in Arizona League while on rehab

 

The home run and strikeout leaders as we head into the final six days of the minor league season. Bradley and Taijuan Walker ranked among our Midseason Top 50.

 

FULL-SEASON MINOR LEAGUE STRIKEOUT LEADERS
Pitcher Pos Age Org AAA AA Hi A Lo A Total
Dan Winkler RHP 23 Rockies 17 152 169
Matt Buschmann RHP 29 Rays 100 63 163
Henry Owens LHP 21 Red Sox 38 123 161
Archie Bradley RHP 21 Diamondbacks 117 43 160
Tyler Glasnow RHP 20 Pirates 160 160
Taijuan Walker RHP 21 Mariners 64 96 160
Andrew Barbosa LHP 25 Diamondbacks 156 156
Jimmy Nelson RHP 24 Brewers 81 72 153
Matt Shoemaker RHP 26 Angels 153 153
Jarrett Grube RHP 31 Angels 102 49 151
Robbie Ray LHP 21 Nationals 51 100 151