Low Class A Lakewood righthander Jason Knapp turned in perhaps the most dominant performance by a prospect so far this year. The 18-year-old second round pick from last year’s draft fired seven shutout, one-hit innings against Lake County while striking out 14 Captains hitters and issuing only one walk.
"He can throw three pitches for strikes and he’s done so at any time in the count," Lakewood manager Dusty Wathan said. "He had all three working yesterday. He got a lot of swings and misses with his fastball. It was a pretty thing to watch."
Knapp’s plus fastball gets the most notice, and deservedly so. The young righty can already bring mid-90s heat, and he hit 96 mph in his outing yesterday. When he complements the fastball with an effective curveball and changeup, which he did yesterday, the results can be spectacular.
"He went through the lineup early on with a real good fastball and he continued with his real good fastball the whole game," Wathan said. "But when he needed to, and when it seemed like they were starting to cheat on his fastball a little bit, he was able to throw his breaking ball for a strike or get them off of his fastball by using his changeup."
Knapp, who attended North Hunterdon High in Annandale, N.J., worked efficiently, finishing his seven innings in 98 pitches.Through his first three starts of the year, he’s allowed only nine hits in 18 1/3 innings, while piling up a 30-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His ERA is a sparkling 1.96, though his record is a deceiving 0-2 thanks to the BlueClaws’ offense scoring a grand total of three runs in his three starts. They were shut out yesterday, losing by a 2-0 score.
Knapp put up strong numbers in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2008, going 3-1, 2.61 with 38 strikeouts in 31 innings, but Knapp’s success so far this year could be attributed to his improving his philosophical maturity as much as anything physical.
"He’s realizing that guys are going to hit the ball off him," Wathan said. "I think in high school, not many guys hit the ball off of him. And though he’s getting strikeouts now, I think he’s realized he needs to be aggressive in the zone and let guys hit the ball sometimes, so he can go into the seventh inning and not be four or five innings every time. He’s been doing that very well and, on top of that, getting a lot of swings and misses."
Beckham’s Bat Coming Around
Tim Beckham earned high marks for his enthusiasm and makeup just as much as his talent after the 2008 draft’s No. 1 pick made his pro debut last year in the Rookie-level Appalachian League. He batted just .243/.297/.345 for Princeton, but still showed enough to be ranked as the league’s top prospect.
Now in his first full season with low Class A Bowling Green, the 19-year-old Beckham is still earning praise for his personality and work-ethic, but his production has started catching up as well.
"He’s a very young player for this level and he’s really holding his own," Bowling Green manager Matt Quatraro said. "He’s been getting hits off the better arms we’ve faced and having competitive at-bats consistenly and been playing well in the field, too. He’s done everything you could hope for early on and his makeup’s outstanding. He’s got great ability to take things in stride positively and negatively."
Beckham homered on Opening Day against Rangers righthander Wilfredo Boscan and has posted five multi-hit efforts in his first 12 games. He went 0-for-3 Tuesday against West Virginia, snapping a five-game hitting streak. Nevertheless, his average still stands at a healthy .304.
Beckham’s plate discipline is still a work in progress, which is to be expected of such a young player. he’s struck out 13 times on the season while drawing only two walks. But that, like all the other areas of his game, is something Beckham, a Griffin (Ga.) High product, will continue working on, and the team is fully confident he can live up the expectations of a No. 1 overall pick.
"He’s got a dynamic personality," Quatraro said. "He understands why he gets so much attention. He knows where he is in the organization and what the organization hopes he can be down the road. He understands that all of that is part of the game and part of the process. As much as developing as a player, he has to develop as a person and as a media figure"
Kiker, Walden Duel In Frisco
We might have seen one of the best duels between prospects on the young season last night in the Double-A Texas League. Frisco lefty Kasey Kiker and Arkansas righthander Jordan Walden matched each other zero for zero.
Kiker carried a no-hitter into the sixth and wound up allowing one hit over seven shutout innings while fanning seven. He needed only 91 pitches to get through his seven frames. Walden had to pitch out of a couple of jams, but produced the same result: seven shutout innings. Walden struck out six while giving up six hits and two walks on 89 pitches.
Neither pitcher got a decision for his efforts, as the two bullpens kept the game going until the 13th inning, when Frisco finally pushed across a run to win the game 1-0.