Top 100 Prospects
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Compiled by Kevin Goldstein and Chris Kline
Two of the best catching prospects in the minors currently reside in the Southern League, and while Brian McCann and Russ Martin appear to be very different on the surface, their tools and skills are similar.
The main difference, however, is the thunder in McCann's bat. McCann, the Braves' second-round pick in 2002 out of Duluth (Ga.) High, has always been known as a bat-first backstop. The lefthanded-hitting catcher tied for the organization lead in doubles and set a career-high for homers (16) while playing in a dreadful hitter's park at high Class A Myrtle Beach. McCann has as much raw power as anyone in Atlanta's system and makes consistent contact, as evidenced by his 54-31 strikeout-walk ratio in 2004.
Martin's calling card, on the other hand, is his defense. A 17th-round pick of the Dodgers, also in 2002 out of Chipola (Fla.) Junior College, the 22-year-old Canadian has advanced game-calling ability and has shown great leadership skills in handling a pitching staff. He has a plus arm and solid transfer, unloading the ball to second base in as little as 1.83 seconds. He is also an excellent blocker, squaring up and deadening pitches back to the center of the diamond.
"At first glance, you say McCann's the guy based solely on the bat," an American League scout said. "But they're more or less equals when you take in how well Martin calls games, catches and throws. And really, both players have become more well-rounded and aren't that far away. It's the impact of McCann's bat--that's the difference-maker."
But McCann, 21, dedicated himself to improving defensively since he was drafted, and the results have been somewhat staggering over his three years of development. He threw out 30 percent of basestealers at Myrtle Beach, and Braves farm director Dayton Moore said he has the potential to be a "certainly more than adequate major league defender."
"His defense really isn't much of a question at all," Moore said. "What separates McCann is his potential to be an impact bat in the middle of the order."
The Dodgers are hoping for similar results from Martin. While he only hit .250 at high Class A Vero Beach last season, he drew 72 walks compared to 54 strikeouts and had a .366 on-base percentage. He has a compact, line-drive stroke that can tend to get long but is a contact hitter who puts the ball in play.
"He's the type of hitter who doesn't try to do too much, takes what he's given and goes with it," farm director Terry Collins said. "He's really improved with his ability to go the other way and use the whole field. He's learned to go with his strengths."
So far this season, Martin is hitting .324/.489/.382 in 34 at-bats with Double-A Jacksonville, adding 10 walks to boost that on-base percentage. But McCann is out-hitting him, mashing to the tune of .325/.364/.675 with three homers in 40 at-bats. Martin may never be the middle-of-the-order threat McCann has the potential to be, but both should be good enough to make their mark in the big leagues.-- CHRIS KLINE
• Three Cubs pitchers combined on a 10-inning no-hitter as low Class A Peoria needed extra innings to top Cedar Rapids 3-2. Righthander Sean Gallagher, who has an 0.54 ERA in his first three starts, pitched the first six innings, striking out eight, while reliever Walt Nolen got the win with three perfect innings, striking out five. Jonathan Hunton pitched a perfect 10th for his first save of the season, as the three pitchers combined to retire the last 23 batters they faced in succession.
Manager Julio Garcia said Gallagher was effective in using his 88-92 mph fastball to get ahead in the count, then using his changeup and slider to put hitters away. “He used both sides of the plate well,” Garcia said. “He’s all business out there; he gets on the mound and goes after hitters.”
Garcia called Nolen’s effort “the best I’ve seen him throw” and chalked up his success to command of his average fastball and slider.
The Kernels took advantage of a pair of errors by shortstop Jose Rios to score single runs in the first and second innings, but the Chiefs tied the game with two runs in the seventh and took the lead in the 10th on Drew Larson’s RBI single.
• Blue Jays righthander Francisco Rosario is having success in his first Triple-A stint. In three starts at Syracuse, Rosario is 1-1, 2.55 with 22 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings. He creates good sinking life on his mid-90s fastball and has an above-average changeup. Rosario shut down Pawtucket Wednesday, allowing one hit over six shutout innings. "He dominated our guys," Pawtucket manager Ron Johnson told the Woonsocket (Rhode Island) Call. "You could say that we weren't swinging the bats good, but if you saw the ball coming out of his hand, you know why we weren't swinging the bats good . . . We just got beat by a very impressive pitching performance."
• When he’s healthy, he’s good: In six pro seasons, Chris Snelling has never hit less than .305. However, the Australian has never stayed healthy for a full season either. After going 3 for 5 last night to raise his average to .438 at Triple-A Tacoma, Snelling just needs to stay in one piece to earn a call back to Seattle.
• The Brewers' plan was to slow down Anthony Gwynn's development track, and the 22-year-old outfielder is responding positively early this season. A second-round pick out of San Diego State in 2003, Gwynn was grouped together with first baseman Prince Fielder and second baseman Rickie Weeks since they were together at Rookie-level Beloit. But Gwynn struggled last season, hitting .243/.318/.311 at Double-A Huntsville after all three prospects skipped high Class A. Gwynn is back in Huntsville while Weeks and Fielder have moved on to Triple-A, and in his first 45 at-bats, he's hitting .311/.392/.333.
• Double-A Carolina lefthander Scott Olsen was untouchable in his first two starts—he didn’t allow an earned run in 10 innings--but Chattanooga left fingerprints all over him. The Lookouts tagged Olsen for six runs on 10 hits, chasing him after 4 2/3 innings.
• Double-A Birmingham righthander Sean Tracey won his second straight start, allowing a run on five hits and struck out seven in six innings. Tracey, the White Sox' eighth-round pick in 2002 out of UC Irvine, runs his 93-94 mph fastball up to 97 and also features a hard slider with late bite. "I just tried to get ahead and throw strikes," Tracey told the Birmingham News after the 5-4 win against Jacksonville. "We got the lead early, and I was able to relax. I try to make pitches and watch our defense play lights out."
• Class A Myrtle Beach left fielder Josh Burrus went 2-for-4 with a homer and five RBIs in a 7-6 win Wednesday against Winston-Salem. Burrus, the Braves' first-round pick in 2001 out of Wheeler High in Marietta, Ga., took three years to escape rookie ball, but started coming on last year in the South Atlantic League, where he impressed managers with his fast hands and raw power. Burrus is hitting .319/.400/.511 with three homers and 12 RBIs in 47 at-bats this season.
• Double-A Akron outfielder Franklin Gutierrez missed four games after tweaking his knee sliding into third base on Saturday. He is expected to return to the lineup tonight against Altoona. Gutierrez, the Indians' No. 3 prospect, is hitting .263/.364/.474 with two homers and five RBIs in 38 at-bats.
• It was a rough day for low Class A Dayton, whose game at Southwest Michigan was delayed for 16 minutes as the squad had to wait on its laundry at the team hotel. Clean clothes did not help the Reds affiliate, as the Devil Rays trounced them 10-0, getting four no-hit innings from righty Jose De La Cruz.
• Some hot bats in the pitching-friendly high Class A Florida State League: Mets first baseman Brett Harper hit his minor league-leading eighth home run of the season in St. Lucie’s 11-8 win over Brevard county, Dodgers third baseman Adam LaRoche homered for the third time in six games as Vero Beach topped Palm Beach 6-1, and Twins third baseman Matt Moses went 3-for-3 with a double and a triple in a 4-0 win over Clearwater. Moses has reached base in eight consecutive plate appearances.
• Reds righthander Bobby Basham, who was ranked the Reds No. 2 prospect following the 2002 season, picked up his first win since June 12, 2003 with six solid innings in high Class A Sarasota’s 5-3 win over Tampa. Basham had been hampered by a series of shoulder problems since going 6-4, 1.64 in 13 starts for Dayton in 2002.
• Lefthander Troy Patton fell to the ninth round last season because most teams thought he was headed to the University of Texas. The Astros took a chance and are reaping the benefits. Patton struck out 10 hitters in six innings yesterday in low Class A Lexington’s 6-2 win against struggling West Virginia. He didn’t allow a walk in lowering his ERA to 1.93 in 14 innings with 15 strikeouts.
• With two hits last night, Jai Miller snapped a 2 for 36 slump to raise his average to .103. The Marlins No. 17 prospect has a career .206 average in three pro seasons. Now at Class low A Greensboro, the former three-sport, all-state athlete from Alabama needs to prove he has more than just tools.Contributing: Matt Meyers.