2014 Baseball America Top 100 Prospects: The 25th Edition
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Baseball America's Daily Dish
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Compiled by Kevin Goldstein and Chris Kline
DURHAM, N.C.—The Tigers’ No. 1 prospect also knows the key to a good pregame meal, at least if the subject is peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
"It's the jam," Granderson said, sitting in his locker spreading some across a piece of bread with a plastic knife. "That's the key. It just spreads better."
Granderson himself got better last season, hitting .301/.405/.513 with a career-best 21 homers at Double-A Erie to earn his first big league callup. The 2002 third-round pick out of Illinois-Chicago is with Triple-A Toledo this season and sat down with BA’s Chris Kline to discuss hitting, travel and being a Mud Hen.
On his strong finish to last season (he hit .347 in his last 62 games): "It's been a combination of a few things. We had talked about making an adjustment with my hands in the spring. I was one of the unorthodox types of swingers because my hands started in front of my face--that was my loading mechanism and it worked for me. I started having some problems with it this past season. Rovers and coaches told me that eventually I was going to have to change that in order to be a big league hitter, and at the time I had had success. Now, going to Double-A last season I wasn't where I wanted to be so I decided to make the adjustment. It was time to do it.
“Me and (Erie hitting coach) Pete Incaviglia started to get my hands further back. I finally started to get gradually comfortable with that and then from there, I had to figure out my timing mechanism. Before, it was it front of my face. It was so long and drawn out and that was my timing. Now since my hands are further back, I had more time, but also more room for error. I had to figure out when to go and finally that started after repetitions in the cage and adjusting to different pitchers coming at me different ways."
On playing center field or one of the corner spots: "Both or all three. I started off as a left fielder, in college I was a right fielder and played center and now I'm playing center. Every one they put me at I feel as though I have the ability as an outfielder to do it. When people start talking statistically offensively, can I do it as a corner guy? I don't see myself as a home run guy or a big power guy. Last year I did it, but I was in a position to do it. I was up with runners in scoring position and that's how I was able to get runs in. But in terms of power production, Comerica (Park) is my home and that's a big yard. I'll run into a few, but I'm not going to put up 40--at least not right now until maybe I hopefully become that type of hitter. Or be like I am now and take advantage of the gap."
On toughest pitcher he's faced: (Phillies righthander) Gavin Floyd. I know him and I've talked to him a lot just from playing against him when he was with Clearwater and playing against him in Reading. He's a guy who comes out with a name, but also comes out with good stuff. Mentally, you're already a little bit defeated and then he comes in throwing his fastball the way he does and he has one of the best breaking balls I've seen. He can throw it at any time. And depending on how you're hitting, it looks like a ball out of his hand and then it breaks right back over the plate. And by that time, it's too late. It's not like I hate him. You just have to give him that respect and he does what he does."
On his extensive offseason travel plans: "I'm going to have to bring (Toledo righthander) Kenny Baugh with me this time. We're talking about going to Brazil this offseason. There are a lot of places on the list, but Brazil is first. This past offseason I was all over the country. I was in California, Vegas, Pittsburgh, D.C., Detroit for Tigerfest and then went to Toronto. I just love to get out there and enjoy it. I love to travel. Now I have the chance to finally do it."
On minor league nicknames: I just had a lot of people asking me what a Sea Wolf was. It's the same thing right now--what's a Mud Hen. I still really don't know. I've seen the mascot--it looks like a big bird. But that's the main thing--what is it? What are you guys supposed to be? It's funny, because that's the biggest question I always get."
• First we called him starting in the big leagues in the White Sox rotation, and after that didn't happen, we overlooked his first Triple-A start. All apologies goes out to Brandon McCarthy, who went seven strong innings, allowed just two hits and struck out 10 in his debut for Charlotte. There isn't much left to prove for the 21-year-old righthander.
• Giants No. 1 prospect Matt Cain showed no signs of last year's late-season fatigue in his Triple-A debut for Fresno. With a fastball that reportedly touched 97 mph, the 20-year-old righty hurled six shutout innings in the Grizzlies' 4-0 win over Portland, allowing just three hits and striking out seven.
• One of the Pacific Coast League's hottest hitters is Triple-A Nashville outfielder David Krynzel, who went 3-for-5 with a home run and four RBIs in an 8-7 win over Oklahoma last night. In five games, the 2000 first-round pick out of Green Valley High in Henderson, Nev., in batting .471-1-9.
• The best line of the night Monday belongs to Double-A Akron righthander J.D. Martin. The 2001 Indians supplemental first-round pick made his Double-A debut with a splash, allowing one hit over eight innings. He struck out 10 and did not issue a walk against Bowie. Martin works in the upper 80s to low 90s, relying on command and control, and features the best curveball in the Indians system. However, Aeros lefthanders Mariano Gomez and Chris Cooper gave up seven unearned runs in the ninth for a 7-3 Bay Sox win.
• Double-A Carolina shortstop Robert Andino went 3-for-4 in the Mudcats' 5-4 win over Birmingham on Monday night and has 10 hits in his first 18 at-bats. The game featured one of the more intriguing pitching matchups around the minors yesterday, pitting Carolina righthander Yorman Bazardo against Birmingham righthander Kris Honel. But the game didn't exactly live up to its billing. Both starters struggled with their location at times, and both were hit hard as a result. Honel's control was mediocre at best, and gave up a three-run homer to James Shanks off the scoreboard in left field. He allowed five earned runs on eight hits in five innings, walking two. It was Honel's first Double-A start since Opening Day of last season, after which he was shut down for the majority of the year with shoulder tendinitis. He made one more start at Rookie-level Bristol in 2004 and didn't make it out of the first inning. While he was effective in spring training this season, his velocity is still down--in the 85-87 mph range, a far cry from the 91-93 mph he was posting in the Carolina League two years ago. Bazardo's velocity was better, though he didn’t approach the 98 mph he has shown in the past. His fastball averaged between 88-91, touching 94. And for the record, the Mudcats rotation has been blemished, but the bullpen is still untouched after 10 2/3 innings.
• Sometimes, Devil Rays righthanded reliever Chad Orvella has to wonder why he is a Biscuit. The Rays' 13th-round pick out of North Carolina State in 2003 cruised through the system last season, making it to Triple-A Durham. In Double-A in 2004, he made six appearances, striking out 14 in seven innings while not allowing a baserunner. This season, it's been more of the same for the 23-year-old. In four innings, Orvella's given up two hits, no runs, walked two and struck out five.
• High Class A Rancho Cucamonga second baseman Howie Kendrick, who entered the year with a career batting average of .357 in 180 pro games, delivered his first career two-home run game in Rancho Cucamonga’s 9-3 win over Lancaster.
• While J.D. Martin had the best line of the night, Frederick lefthander Richard Stahl wasn't far behind. Stahl went seven shutout innings, allowing just one hit and struck out 10 in a 1-0 win over Salem. Stahl, who career was, well, stalled for parts of three seasons with shoulder and groin injuries, was finally healthy last year and even added some Arizona Fall League experience to his resume once the minor league season ended. It's a good sign for the Orioles, who took him with their No. 1 pick (18th overall) in 1999 out of Newton High in Covington, Ga.
• He still got the save, but for now, Tigers righthander Eulogio de la Cruz and his triple-digits fastball is no longer a closer. Put into a partial tandem starter system at Lakeland, De La Cruz pitched a career-high four shutout innings in the Tigers’ 6-5 win over Clearwater, allowing only one hit while striking out three.
• The Ft. Myers Miracle improved to 5-0 with a win over Tampa. Third baseman Matt Moses, healthy after being dogged by a back injury in 2004, continues to swing a hot bat, driving in a pair of runs to give him nine RBIs on the season.
• West Virginia may have the Sally League’s most dynamic double-play combination in second baseman Hernan Iribarren and shortstop Alcides Escobar. The tandem paired for five hits in an 8-5 loss at Lexington last night, but their early play has Power hitting coach Tony Diggs excited about their potential. “(Iribarren) is a good hitter right now because of his bat quickness,” Diggs said. “He’s so relaxed at the plate, and even for a free swinger, he makes good contact and has good plate coverage. For his age and maturity, he can really do a lot of things—take it the other way very well, show pull power. Escobar’s offense could be similar, though. He’s got great hands and good wrists. He’s got solid instincts and the tools to match.”
Contributing: John Manuel.