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Baseball America's Daily Dish
Complete Daily Dish Archive
Compiled by Kevin Goldstein and Chris Kline
When the White Sox signed Stanford outfielder Joe Borchard to a record $5.3 million bonus as the 12th overall pick in 2000, they expected him to be a power hitter with impact potential within just a few years.
Four years later, with Borchard getting minimal at-bats in the big leagues over the past three seasons and seemingly mired in Triple-A--he just opened his fourth straight year at Charlotte--the Chisox selected Oklahoma State third baseman Josh Fields.
Fields went 18th overall, but cost a comparatively cheap $1.55 million. He opened the season at Double-A Birmingham. Though they play different positions, they share a background as college quarterbacks in addition to both trying to make their way to Chicago. So who has the brighter future for the White Sox?
“I saw both of them, and to me, Fields is the more complete package,” a National League scout said. “He’s a better all-around hitter. He doesn’t have that plus-plus raw power Borchard has, but he has everything else at a much higher premium position.”
Just as the White Sox pushed Borchard to Birmingham in his first full season, are doing the same with Fields, who played 66 games at high Class A Winston-Salem after signing last year.
“I like what I see in him, even if it’s only been four games,” Barons manager Razor Shines said. “I like his footwork, I like his arm and he does a lot of the little things right. I don’t have much of a feel for him now, but he’s the kind of player who carries himself well. For them to move him here with such little experience tells you what they think of him.”
Fields spent just two seasons as a third baseman in college, focusing most of his time on the gridiron. He set a school record at Oklahoma State for career passing touchdowns (55) and a Cotton Bowl mark for passing yards (307).
“He’s proved in a very short time that he can handle third base,” the scout said. “He’s extremely athletic and a hard worker. If he didn’t spend much time there in college, it sure doesn’t show.”
Fields combines bat speed with strength to produce above-average power. He drives the ball to all fields and should hit for average as well as extra bases.
“We felt like he showed all the ability to be ready for Double-A,” White Sox farm director David Wilder said. “In addition to his bat, he’s an all-star-caliber third baseman. He’s an above-average third baseman with great hands and good range. We worked on his footwork some, but he’s pretty polished defensively.”
Borchard, who started as a center fielder in the organization, has since moved to a corner spot. The ultimate free-swinger, Borchard can hit the ball out of any park but also strikes out a ton—he’s fanned 561 times in 2,000 at-bats since he reached Double-A five years ago.
But the Sox are not yet ready to give up on the 26-year-old.
“With him—and he’ll tell you this—it was the pressure and trying to live up to being more than that bonus,” Wilder said. “Sometimes you’d like him to be a little more selfish, but that isn’t his personality. We still believe Joe Borchard is going to be an everyday major league outfielder. He’s still learning and it’s taken a little longer. He’s more comfortable in his own skin now. I think he’s finally understood that it’s OK to be Joe Borchard.”
But for now, if we're picking between two former quarterbacks who were White Sox first-rounders, we'll take Fields.
• Hey, didn't you used to be B.J. Upton? The Devil Rays shortstop continues to struggle with his defense at Triple-A Durham, where he's playing shortstop every day and has committed four errors in seven games. He's off to a slow start at the plate as well, hitting just .179/.258/.179 with one RBI in his first 28 at-bats.
• It wasn't a typically dominant outing, but Mariners righthander Felix Hernandez still has an ERA of 0.00 after two starts. Hernandez went five shutout innings, allowing five hits, walking three and striking out five in Triple-A Tacoma's 4-0 win over Sacramento.
• Angels first baseman Casey Kotchman finally got going Wednesday night, singling off Las Vegas lefthander Mike Venafro to end his season-opening streak of hitless at-bats at 19. The bad news: Kotchman also struck out three times in Salt Lake's 9-4 loss.
• Cubs lefty Renyel Pinto had a miserable outing, walking seven of the 15 batters he faced, surrendering seven runs and failing to get out of the second inning in Iowa's 8-3 loss at Round Rock.
• Royals righthander Ambiorix Burgos has taken his power repertoire to the bullpen, and the results have been eye-popping so far. Burgos struck out the side in the ninth inning Wednesday night to preserve Wichita's 6-5 win over Arkansas. It was Burgos' first career save, and he's yet to give up a hit in four innings, striking out eight and walking just one. "We worked hard with him in the offseason to get him to stay on top of his pitches, finish his offerings and stay down in the zone," Royals farm director Shaun McGinn said. "He made huge strides pitching in the Dominican over the winter, pitched great with the big league club in spring training, and the conversion to the bullpen lets him go with pure power, which fits well with his approach."
• Paul DePodesta, who was an assistant general manager in Oakland at the time, said Brant Colamarino (then at Pitt) might be the best hitter in the country entering the 2002 draft. While he hasn't lived up to those expectations, the first baseman has been the best hitter in the Texas League over the season's first week. Colomarino’s solo home run off San Antonio's Bobby Livingston in the fifth accounted for the game's only run in Midland's 1-0 win over the Missions. On the season, Colamarino is batting .480 (12-for-25), and leads the circuit in hits and total bases (20).
• It was an interesting night for Royals top prospect Billy Butler. He went 3-for-5 with a double and a pair of home runs in High Desert's 17-11 loss to Inland Empire, a game that featured 15 walks and nine errors--four for Butler at third base, including three in a five-run fourth and two on one play. "He dropped 15 pounds in the offseason and worked hard in our agility and flexibility programs. His range is improved and his fielding is something we'll have to monitor throughout the season," McGinn said. "We can't really challenge his glove; he's going to make plays and make errors at any level we put him. If the bat keeps progressing so quickly, we may be forced into a decision--but we want him at third base."
• Twins 2002 first-round pick Denard Span, who was limited to just 64 games last season with a broken hamate bone in his right wrist, is off to a strong start at High Class A Fort Myers. Span went 3-for-4 with a triple in last night's 6-4 loss to Tampa, raising his average to .429. "Span was just an entirely different guy in spring training, he just underwent a metamorphosis," said Kevin Boles, who is managing at low Class A Beloit but saw Span in minor league spring camp. "Bigger, stronger, faster--and his confidence was back now that he is completely healthy."
• More good news for the Twins on the mound, as 2004 first-round pick Kyle Waldrop pitched a seven-inning shutout in game two of Beloit's doubleheader sweep of Kane County. Six-foot-seven righty Angel Garcia, the first pick in December's major league Rule 5 draft who was returned to Minnesota in spring training, picked up the win in game one with a scoreless inning of relief, touching 97 mph on the radar gun.
• Red Sox righthander Cla Meredith is perfect so far this season, picking up four saves in four innings of work at Double-A Portland. Meredith, a sixth-rounder out of Virginia Commonwealth last year, didn't join the organization until June but led all Boston farmhands with 18 saves between low Class A Augusta and high Class A Sarasota last season.
• It took seven games, but Dodgers shortstop Joel Guzman went deep for the first time this season. He led off the ninth inning with a homer off Huntsville lefthander Mitch Stetter in Double-A Jacksonville's come-from-behind 5-4 win.
• Double-A Montgomery center fielder Elijah Dukes is on a tear. Dukes went 2-for-4 yesterday, to bring his numbers up to .321/.333/.679 with two homers and eight RBIs in 28 at-bats. Dukes' teammate and Devil Rays top prospect Delmon Young was hitting .310/.375/.414 with a homer and five RBIs in 29 at-bats.
• White Sox lefthander Gio Gonzalez is rolling through the South Atlantic League for low Class A Hickory. Gonzalez, a first-round pick last year out of Monsignor Pace High in Miami, is 2-0 and has yet to surrender a run in 11 innings. He has allowed just four hits, walked two and struck out 19. The 19-year-old works in the high 80s, topping out at 94, but his best pitch is a tight curveball.