2014 Baseball America Top 100 Prospects: The 25th Edition
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Scout’s View: Ryan Garko
Indians catcher Ryan Garko jumped three levels in his first full season last year, beginning at high Class A Kinston and winding up at Triple-A Buffalo, where he helped the Bisons win their first championship since 1998.
The 24-year-old capped a stellar Stanford career with a .402-18-94 season in 2003, and the Cardinal played in the College World Series every year of his career. His offense has never been a question for Garko: Along the way in his first year as a pro last season, he hit a combined .330/.476/.530 in 430 at bats.
The suspicions lie around his defense. The Indians weren’t sure he could be a full-time catcher last year, as he played 60 games either at first base or DH. But the club re-committed itself to keeping Garko behind the dish this season, with the philosophy being Victor Martinez and Josh Bard are a foul tip away from injury, and Garko provides a viable option because of his bat. One club official compared him to Josh Phelps as a third catcher/DH/first baseman.
But will he be able to catch everyday in the big leagues? One National League scout weighed in.
“His throws are all right; there’s just nothing on them,” an NL scout said. “He gets decent times to second base, but there’s nothing really behind them. A (big league) backup is probably what he amounts to. I think he’s durable enough to play every day, and the bat will definitely play, but to me, he’s not a guy where you go, ‘This guy can catch for me everyday in the big leagues,’ without a doubt.
“The bat is going to play. He’s got very good strike zone discipline and he’s patient; doesn’t swing at many bad pitches at all. I know some people think he’s going to wear out a path between home plate and the backstop, but people said the same thing about Joe Girardi and look what happened to him. I’m not sure if he’s a Girardi-type guy though. Maybe in terms of leadership skills and handling a staff—the makeup stuff isn’t a question. And he looks like he’s taken care of his body, which he will have to do to stay as agile as he can back there.
“The bat isn’t a question. What’s a question is how runners are going to exploit him and how much he’ll be able to keep balls in front of him and not be a defensive liability.”
• Staying with Buffalo, righthanded reliever Andrew Brown had a tough outing last night in Durham. Brown, a sixth-rounder in 1999 that came over to the Indians in the Milton Bradley deal last year, began the seventh inning and allowed a single, double, two-run double, and then walked Reggie Taylor and B.J. Upton before getting pulled. Brown has power stuff, armed with a fastball that tops out at 96 mph and two power breaking balls, but his location was off Tuesday. “Early on in the year, his velocity was way higher,” Buffalo manager Marty Brown said. “He went out there and just gripped it and ripped it. Now he’s working on some things on the side trying to locate better. But if I threw as hard as he throws I wouldn’t be trying to be fine; I’d let that thing eat. We just have to get him out there and keep getting him innings and see how he works out. He threw very well early on in the year and we hope to get that guy back.” Brown allowed five earned runs in the inning, pushing his ERA to 7.71.
• With Sammy Sosa going on the diabled list, the Orioles made a pretty shocking promotion, reaching all the way down to the Carolina League to promote outfielder Jeff Fiorentino, who was batting .313-5-13 for Frederick. Fiorentino becomes only the second player to ever jump from Frederick to the Orioles, joining Eugene Kingsdale, who got the call in 1996. A third-round pick out of Florida Atlantic last June, Fiorentino becomes the first position player from the 2004 draft to reach the majors.
• Double-A Portland righthander Jon Papelbon got the better of New Hampshire righty Josh Banks, as the Sea Dogs defeated the Fisher Cats, 6-1. Papelbon was solid, allowing just a run on one hit and striking out five over six innings. Banks on the other hand, got hit hard. The second-round pick in 2003 out of Florida International allowed six earned runs on seven hits, struck out five in 5 1/3 innings and lost his first decision of the season. “He wasn't able to avoid the big inning and we were able to get the big inning," Papelbon told the New Hampshire Union Leader. "Give the hitters a lot of credit. They took advantage of that when the time was right. That's a big deal with a pitcher, avoiding that big inning.”
• The struggles continued for Diamondbacks lefthander Matt Chico last night. Chico, a third-round pick in 2003 out of Palomar (Calif.) Junior College, allowed six earned runs on 12 hits in 6-3 loss to Double-A West Tenn. Diamond Jaxx outfielders Felix Pie and Matt Murton, as well as first baseman Brandon Sing, all took Chico deep. On the season, Chico is 1-6, 5.82 in 39 innings. West Tenn righthander Ricky Nolasco got the win, allowing two runs on five hits in seven innings and improving to 6-0, 1.29 with 43 strikeouts in 42 innings. “I felt like I was in slow-motion during the first inning, but then there was a ball where I had to cover first base and it felt like I got my blood flowing a little better,” Nolasco told the Jackson Sun. “It was a good night. I had a consistent changeup and arm slot and did well keeping my pitches low in the strike zone.”
• Braves righthander Blaine Boyer was back on the mound last night after missing a start with forearm stiffness. Boyer, a third-round pick out of Walton High in Marietta, Ga., allowed three runs on seven hits and struck out five in five innings. On the season, Boyer is 0-4, 6.59 in 27 innings.
• Reds righthander David Shafer made his Double-A debut last night against Carolina, allowing two hits and two walks in one inning of work. Shafer, a 32nd-round pick in 2001 out of Central Arizona Junior College, went 1-0, 0.00 with five saves at high Class A Sarasota prior to being called up. He struck out 18 and walked four in 13 2/3 innings.
• Keep an eye on White Sox righthander Charlie Haeger, who is now 5-0 at high Class A Winston-Salem. Haeger, a 25th-rounder in 2001 out of Catholic Central High in Redford, Mich., allowed two earned runs on four hits and struck out six in six innings. On the season, Haeger has a 2.25 ERA with 34 strikeouts in 40 innings.
• Devil Rays righthander Jason Hammel joined Double-A Montgomery from extended spring training and is expected to start today against Jacksonville. Hammel, a 10th-round pick in 2002 out of Treasure Valley (Ore.) Community College, was rehabbing a broken elbow that occurred during the offseason while he was playing basketball. He led the organization with 154 strikeouts last year, finishing 6-2, 1.89 in 71 innings at Class A Bakersfield.
• After getting off to a tough start (five hits in his first 28 at-bats), Shin-Soo Choo is getting it together. The Mariners outfield prospect, who had a brief callup to Seattle last week, was 3-for-5 last night with two homers and five RBIs for Triple-A Tacoma as the Rainiers defeated Round Rock 9-4. Choo is now hitting .294/.400/.544.
• In his second start of the season, Jeff Allison struggled. With Marlins brass looking on, Lexington knocked around the low Class A Greensboro righthander. Allison did not get out of the fourth as he allowed four earned runs with four hits and four walks and two homers. After walking four batters in the first inning and allowing two runs, Allison gave up back-to-back home runs in the second inning before settling down, retiring seven of the final nine hitters he faced without allowing another run.
"For the most part, my adrenaline was flowing,” he told the Salem (Mass.) News. “I felt real good down in the bullpen, but it's going to take a little bit more time for the location and velocity to come. I'm being patient with it. I really didn't expect too much of myself again tonight. It's a little frustrating, but that's going to happen." Ben Zobrist was one of the main culprits for the Legends, he went 3-for-5 with a double and stole his 12th base of the year.
• Rockies third baseman Ian Stewart had a pair of doubles and an RBI in high Class A Modesto’s 6-1 win over Bakersfield last night, but is off to a slow start after missing the first month of the season with a hamstring injury. The Rockies No. 1 prospect is hitting .212/.257/.303 in eight games, with 12 strikeouts and one walk in 33 at-bats.
• Devil Rays first baseman Wes Bankston made his season debut last night, going 2-for-3 with a pair of RBIs in high Class A Visalia’s 4-2 win over Rancho Cucamonga last night. Bankston, who hit .289-23-101 last year for Charleston in the South Atlantic League, had minor knee surgery during spring training.
• It was a good night to go for two in Modesto last night, as the high Class A San Jose Giants crushed Modesto 10-2. Outfielder Clay Timpner, who has 18 hits in his last nine games, went 3-for-6 with three doubles; outfielder Nate Schierholtz, who is batting .327-2-13, went 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles and four RBIs; and outfielder Eddy Martinez-Esteve was 3-for-5 with (what else?) a double.
• Diamondbacks righthander Ross Ohlendorf has been on a roll of late at low Class A South Bend. The 2004 fourth-round pick out of Princeton allowed one run over six innings, striking out nine in the Silver Hawks 14-1 win over Kane County to improve to 4-1, 2.61 with a Midwest League-leading 50 strikeouts.
• The Padres promoted lefthander Sean Thompson to Double-A Mobile. Thompson, a 2002 fifth-round pick who was ranked the No. 8 prospect in the system, went 4-1, 2.16 in six starts for low Class A Lake Elsinore, striking out 45 in 33 1/3 innings.