Midseason Top 50 Prospects
Click above to listen the Midseason Top 50 Prospects Podcast This list bears little resemblance to the Top 100 Prospects ranking we published before the season, and thatβs because so […]
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Prospect Showdown: Robert Valido vs. Javier Guzman
Two of the best shortstops in the Carolina League this year are Winston-Salem's Robert Valido and Lynchburg's Javier Guzman. And while they appear to be near-mirror images of each other, there are subtle differences in the way they play the premium position.
Both are solid shortstop prospects because of their good range, soft hands and solid athleticism, though Guzman rates a tick ahead of Valido in the range department based on his athleticism. He has been compared to Tony Fernandez or a young version of Jose Vizcaino. Guzman turns a better double play, with an uncanny ability to avoid the lead runner by leaping over him and making strong, accurate throws while in mid-air. The 20-year-old Dominican also has a slightly stronger arm, which ranks as the best in the Pirates' system as a 70 on the 20 to 80 scouting scale.
Valido, 19, has been known to force things defensively sometimes, which has led to errors. He committed 27 miscues in 111 games at low Class A Kannapolis last season, but Guzman was worse, with 40 in 124 games at Hickory.
"With both these guys, it's about learning body control," an AL scout said. "And they have a lot to learn. For Valido, it's more about getting a bigger body under control. But they both sometimes tried to do too much last year--trying to make the tough play in the hole and then make the throw. They just need to learn more about what they can handle within their own abilities."
While Valido (6-foot-2, 180) is bigger than Guzman (5-foot-11, 160), neither projects to hit for much power, and of the two, Guzman has more pop in his bat. Valido projects to be good enough defensively to play in the big leagues, though some scouts have questioned whether or not he'll hit enough to be an everyday player.
Both of their games revolve around getting on base and using their speed. Guzman, who was raw enough to be left off the 40-man roster in the offseason, has a long, slow swing but shows good ability to make contact from both sides of the plate. He had four hits, including a home run, yesterday in Lynchburg's 21-8 rout at Kinston.
Guzman outhit Valido by more than 50 points in the Sally League last year, but Valido is ahead of him now. Valido, a fourth-round pick in 2003 out of Coral Park High in Miami, is batting .342/.358/.506 with two homers and eight RBIs in 79 at-bats, while Guzman is hitting .328/.389/.484 with a pair of homers and 10 RBIs in 64 at-bats.
While both are hitting well--and getting on base--Guzman has a better shot at being an everyday shortstop in the big leagues. His bat from both sides of the plate and balance and agility in the field separate him slightly--even if he is a year older.
Ryan Howard hasn't shown the legendary power he became known for last season when he led the minors in home runs with 46, but he is again beginning to terrorize Triple-A pitchers. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre first baseman hit his fourth homer last night and is hitting .365/.475/.683 with 14 RBIs in 63 at-bats. While the knock on Howard has been his high strikeout totals, he is being more selective at the plate with a strikeout-walk ratio of 19-14. "He's become a more complete hitter," an AL scout said. "The big power is always there, but he's really honed his two-strike approach and shown the ability to make contact and go the other way when he has to."
Speaking of sluggers, Double-A Altoona first baseman Brad Eldred hit his eighth homer in a 7-1 win against Erie yesterday. The Pirates' sixth-round pick in 2002 out of Florida International is hitting .294/.347/.721 with 16 RBIs in 68 at-bats overall.
Triple-A Toledo center fielder Curtis Granderson came back to the Mud Hens' lineup in a big way last night, going 4-for-6 with three runs scored. Granderson had been out since being hit on the hand with a pitch Sunday.
Double-A West Tenn center fielder Felix Pie continues to do nothing but hit in the Southern League. Pie went 3-for-4 with three runs scored and hit his third home run in a 7-2 win against Montgomery. The 20-year-old is hitting .358/.403/.657 with 15 runs scored in 67 at-bats.
At low Class A Hickory, the Pirates are having Neil Walker, the team's No. 2 prospect, and Steve Lerud, the Pirates No. 15 prospect, split time. Both of them looked good last night but have struggled thus far while splitting the catching and DH duties. Last night, Lerud was 3-for-3 with a double, two triples and five RBIs, which were more hits than he had in his first 30 at-bats. He's not hitting .152/.200/.424. Walker was 2-for-4 with an RBI as his numbers improved to .233/.296/.384. Lerud will most likely stay at catcher if he is to make it to the majors. Walker is more likely to shift positions, because the Pirates' 2004 first-rounder projects to have a plus bat.
One Sally League catcher who isn't struggling at the plate is Jason Jaramillo at Lakewood. Taken in the second round out of Oklahoma State by the Phillies last year, Jaramillo is hitting .316/.409/.474. While he has been fine at the plate, it has been his game calling skills that are under scrutiny. "In college you can get away with throwing a lot more breaking balls and you can pitch away a lot more," said Lakewood manager P.J. Forbes. "With a wooden bat you've got to establish your fastball on the inside part of the plate. He has admitted that he reverts back to pitching to a hitters' weakness as opposed to staying with a pitchers' strength which is really what we are trying to bear down upon pitchers and catcher."
Rangers lefthander Ryan Wing, a former highly-regarded prospect in the White Sox system whom Texas picked up when Chicago tried to pass him through waivers at the end of last season, made his Rangers debut and first appearance since August 30, 2003, allowing one run over four innings in high Class A Bakersfield's 3-2 loss to High Desert. Wing, a second-round pick in 2001, missed all of 2004 with shoulder surgery after compiling a 22-14, 3.37 record in 52 games for the White Sox.
He's back! Rockies righty Ubaldo Jimenez, who was the most dominant pitcher in the California League last year before being shut down in May with the beginnings of a stress fracture, pitched six shutout innings in high Class A Modesto's 7-5 over Lancaster, earning his first win of the season and extending his scoreless streak to 12 innings.
Twins third baseman Matt Moses continues to put on a hitting clinic at high Class A Ft. Myers. The 2003 first-round pick went 4-for-5 with a home run and four runs scored in the Miracle's 10-1 blowout over Dunedin, raising his batting average to a league-leading .435 (27-for-62) to go along with 18 runs and 19 RBIs. In hit last seven games, Moses has gone 17-for-27 with eight extra-base hits.
High Class A Winston-Salem third baseman Micah Schnurstein's bat has been relatively quiet since he set a Rookie-level Arizona League record with 26 doubles three years ago, but his bat has been alive and well this season. The White Sox' seventh-round pick in 2002 out of Basic High in Henderson, Nev., is hitting .311/.417/.459 with a pair of homers and 10 RBIs in 61 at-bats.
Talk about ouch. High Class A Kinston allowed 21 runs--all of them earned--in a 21-8 loss to Lynchburg yesterday afternoon. Five Hillcats--Bobby Kingsbury, Jon Benick, Anthony Bocchino, Avelino Asprilla and Guzman--went deep and second baseman Chris Stansberry went 4-for-6 with a pair of doubles. For the Indians, lefthander Billy Traber allowed eight earned runs, and righthanders Daniel Eisentrager gave up nine and Jim Ed Warden coughed up four.