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, Chris Kline and Matt Meyers
GREENSBORO, N.C.--Jason Vargas didn't last long in Greensboro. Drafted in the second round by the Marlins out of Long Beach State, the lefthander dominated the short-season New York-Penn League for eight starts last season before earning a promotion to low Class A Greensboro at the end of the season.
Vargas, who was a two-way player in three college stops, began 2005 at Greensboro and was nearly unhittable. In five starts, he went 4-1, 0.80 with 33 strikeouts in 34 innings. It was no surprise he earned a promotion to high Class A Jupiter by May.
We caught up with Jason before his trip to Jupiter and talked to him about his odd golf tendencies, his various college stops and his relationship with former college teammate Jered Weaver.
On his first full minor league season: “You have to find ways to stay busy on the bus whether it is sleep, play video games, play cards. I am not much of a card player, so I am kind of stuck with sleeping and playing video games. So far it has been a bit of a grind. Spring training was tiring. Not necessarily hard, but day in and day out just doing the same thing wears on you. You have to figure out a way to stay busy and make every day different the best you can.”
On video games and his golf game: “My favorite (video) game is Tiger Woods golf. If I wasn't doing this, I would probably be trying to play golf. I don't know much it would work out, but I'll shoot in the mid- to high 70s. When I get a chance to practice I can get it down there. I hit lefthanded and play golf righthanded but putt lefthanded. Growing up, I never had a lefthanded set of clubs. I started playing when I was in junior high. All we had was old set of clubs in the garage, and I started hitting them in the front yard righthanded, and never picked up a lefthanded club.”
On his college odyssey: “I went to three different spots. I started out at LSU my freshman year, ended up transferring to Cypress Junior College and then to Long Beach State. It all worked out in the end. I loved Long Beach, I love that area, I love the coaching staff. I really think it was the best fit for me and I really wish I could've been there longer.”
On Jered Weaver: “I talk to Weaver, I'd say a couple of times a month, maybe every week to see how things are going. We don't really talk much about what is going on with him, because I know it is stressful for him and I know things haven't really gone his way. I really feel bad for him because he really is a great guy. He is not what people make him out to be, some money-hungry, greedy kid.”
On having to chart pitches between starts: “I can't stand being in the stands. I would much rather be in the dugout any night of the week than be in the stands. The radar chart is a little tedious; the pitching chart keeps you in the game a little bit more. You need to follow the pitches closely and if you don't you can make mistakes. No job is better than being in the dugout or being on the field.”
--ALAN MATTHEWS AND MATT MEYERS
• Nationals lefthander Mike Hinckley made his 2005 debut at high Class A Potomac Monday night. Hinckley, who was held back in extended spring training with a shoulder strain, allowed five earned runs on six hits—including four doubles—struck out three and walked two in three innings of a 10-7 win against Kinston. Hinckley’s fastball was consistently in the 88-89 mph range, topping out at 90.
“His command was a little off and they hit him at times, but overall we were pleased,” farm director Adam Wogan said. “It wasn’t the command you expect from Mike Hinckley, but once he gets three or four starts under his belt he’ll be back to what you normally expect. He was right where he needs to be at this time of year for him.”
Wogan said the team has no timetable for Hinckley’s jump to Double-A Harrisburg, and he will make at least one more start for the P-Nats and then be re-evaluated.
• Indians righthander Jeremy Guthrie hasn’t been what the Tribe envisioned when they drafted him 22nd overall out of Stanford in 2002, compiling 19-21, 4.60 career numbers in 309 innings in the minors. He went into last night 1-4, 9.28 in 19 innings at Triple-A Buffalo, but tossed six shutout innings, allowed three hits, walked three and struck out four in a 6-1 win against Durham. Guthrie struggled with his control over the first inning, throwing 35 pitches, but of the 88 pitches he threw, 51 were for strikes and his fastball topped out at 94 mph.
"I think I kept the ball down, which is the most important thing for me," Guthrie said. "The fastball was located a lot better than it has been. When I missed over the plate, it tended to be down for the most part, so that was a big difference. I thought we mixed it up well against the hitters as well."
• Pirates first baseman Brad Eldred is warming up to Triple-A pitching at Indianapolis, going 2-for-4 with a triple and his first Triple-A home run last night. "It was a first-pitch curveball, and I saw it really well out of the pitcher's hand," Eldred told the Indianapolis Star. "I knew it was going to go because I got the good part of the bat on it. It feels really good to get that first (Triple-A) home run out of the way." The homer came against Richmond righthander Kyle Davies, who was roughed up over 4 2/3 innings. Davies allowed six earned runs on five hits, walked six and struck out five.
• While one Braves pitching prospect struggled, righthander Anthony Lerew put together another quality start at Double-A Mississippi. Lerew allowed two earned runs on three hits and struck out five in six innings of a 4-2 win against Birmingham. Lerew has struggled a bit with his command this season, particularly with his fastball, and has gotten hit hard at times as a result. He has allowed 38 hits in 33 innings and is carrying a 5.18 ERA. “The velocity is there,” a National League scout said. “He sits 91-92 (mph) and touched 95. His secondary stuff is all there, too. Good slider, tight changeup with late, diving action. With all the late life he has on the plus fastball, he just needs to command it a little better.”
• It looked like one of the better pitching matchups of the night, but Double-A Bowie righthander Hayden Penn versus Binghamton righthander Brian Bannister turned out to be a slugfest. Penn lasted four innings and allowed five earned runs on eight hits, walked three and struck out two. Bannister was no better, allowing five earned runs on six hits over 5 1/3 innings. He walked two and struck out two in Bowie’s 8-7 win.
• The wind was blowing out last night in Las Vegas at 25-30 mph, and hitters took advantage. Triple-A Sacramento put up 19 runs, including 11 in the fifth inning, behind a 4-for-4 performance from the streaking Dan Johnson and a 4-for-6 performance from Jack Cust. The pitcher who took the brunt of the abuse was Edwin Jackson, who gave up eight earned runs over three innings. Las Vegas managed to put up 13 runs as nine hitters combined for 13 hits. "It was field trip for the schoolkids and a field day for the hitters," Las Vegas manager Jerry Royster told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “It's unfortunate. You wish it didn't happen, but it did. I don't think we did a good job of pitching by any stretch of the imagination.
• It was a tasty pitching matchup in Oklahoma last night as the RedHawks hosted Triple-A Round Rock. The RedHawks John Hudgins, the Rangers' No. 6 prospect, faced off against Jared Gothreaux, the Astros' No. 21 prospect. Both went seven innings, but Hudgins gave up four runs in the first two innings and took the loss. Gothreaux was not dominant, but pitched well enough to earn the victory as he scattered seven hits while striking out three and allowing no runs.
• One of the breakout stars of the Sally League has been Mike Carp of low Class A Hagerstown. The Mets selected the 18-year-old in the ninth round last year out of Lakewood (Calif.) High and he has shown prodigious power for his age. The first baseman went 3-for-4 with a homer, a double and walk last night and is hitting .284/.400/.704 with 10 homers.
• If you had May 9 in your office pool for when Orioles lefthander Dave Haehnel finally gives up a run, you are out of luck. He went 1 2/3 innings last night for low Class A Delmarva to earn his eighth save, and has thrown 14 1/3 scoreless innings overall.
• Blake Dewitt, considered by many to be the best hitter in the 2004 draft class, is proving himself in the SAL. After a 2-for-5 performance last night, the first-round pick is hitting .293/.323/.423. At 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds, the power still isn't there, but his smooth lefthanded stroke should provide more pop as his body fills out.
• Seen as one of the best position players in the Reds system based on his defensive skills, catcher Miguel Perez is beginning to show offensive abilities as well at high Class A Sarasota. A 21-year-old Venezuelan who hit .236-1-27 last year, Perez went 3-for-4 with 3 RBIs in last night’s 7-6 win over Jupiter, and is now 14-for-25 in his last six games, with season averages of .329/.354/.418.
• Outfielder Jason Perry hit three home runs and drove in eight in Double-A Midland’s doubleheader sweep of Tulsa. Perry is thriving is his second go-'round in the Texas League, batting .280/.345/.533 with seven home runs and 25 RBIs. Last year, Perry hit just .198-1-11 in 28 games for Midland before going down to the California League, where he led the circuit in on-base percentage, slugging and extra-base hits despite playing just 83 games.
• Also in Midland, reliever Jairo Garcia continues to rack up strikeouts at an incredible rate, punching out the side in game one of last night’s double dip for his sixth save, and giving him 30 strikeouts in 16 2/3 innings, while allowing just nine hits.