2015 Southern League Top 20 Prospects
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Baseball America's Daily Dish
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Compiled by Kevin Goldstein, Chris Kline and Matt Meyers
Lucky for us, the most interesting matchup in the minors this weekend will be right down the street.
While the Triple-A Durham lineup is mostly filled with veteran players, the Bulls still have B.J. Upton, Joey Gathright and the recently reassigned outfielder Jonny Gomes. And with Indianapolis in town for a four-game series beginning Saturday, the opener should be something to see.
Pirates righthander Bryan Bullington is slated to take the mound, facing Upton for the first time. The two will be forever linked, since Pittsburgh took Bullington ahead Upton with the first overall pick in 2002. They knew he wasn’t a legit No. 1 starter, but contended that he was more polished and could make a big league impact faster than the high school shortstop.
Three years later, with Upton already having major league experience under his belt and Bullington making his Triple-A debut in early May, the two will square off against each other for the first time.
Bullington has just made two starts this season since joining the club earlier this month. He was held back in extended spring training with minor shoulder fatigue but was relatively effective in his first two outings. Overall, the first-round pick out of Ball State is 1-1, 4.50. He has shown the propensity for giving up the long ball early on, however, allowing three homers in 12 innings.
Upton’s season so far has been a mixed bag. He started off slowly, hitting just .188 through mid-April, then got hot, with his average peaking at .306 on May 10. Since then he has fallen off again, with only one hit in his last 16 at-bats. He also started off a mess in the field, but has tightened his defense up since then—though he still has 16 errors in 41 games at short.
The Bullington vs. Upton hype isn’t the only reason to check out this series though. Indianapolis comes with some other big names in the Pirates’ system, including catcher Ryan Doumit and first baseman Brad Eldred. Doumit, a second-round pick in 1999, has been on fire this season. The switch-hitting catcher is hitting .353/.430/.681 with 10 homers and 28 RBIs in 116 at-bats. No matter how much he hits, however, the Pittsburgh media has been all over him for his lack of defense, referring to him as “Ryan No-Mitt.” But the reality of the situation is Doumit has all the tools to catch—the problem has been a lack of experience behind the plate since injuries have dogged the 24-year-old catcher throughout his pro career. He’s committed four errors in 27 games this season.
“He’s going to be a catcher,” farm director Brian Graham said. “We’re keeping him back there. You have to remember that he really hasn’t caught all that much.”
Eldred is one of the premiere power hitters in the minors, hitting 13 homers in just 84 at-bats at Double-A Altoona. But he struggled to adjust to Triple-A pitching after being called up to Indy on May 3. He’s hit three bombs in 61 at-bats with the Indians.
• Righthander Logan Kensing was called up to the big leagues from Double-A Carolina. The Marlins’ second-round pick in 2003 out of Texas A&M was 4-1, 3.18 with a 33-18 strikeout-walk ratio in 39 2/3 innings this season. Kensing wasn’t so good last year in the major leagues in an emergency callup from Class A last September, posting a 9.88 ERA and an 0-3 record in 14 innings.
• Triple-A Ottawa righthander John Maine had his best outing of the season last night in a 5-2 win against Charlotte. Maine, a sixth-round pick in 2002 out of UNC Charlotte, allowed a run on two hits, walked one and struck out eight over seven innings. On the season, Maine is 3-2, 3.83 in 42 innings.
• Few Double-A catchers are under the microscope more than Oakland’s Jeremy Brown, who is enjoying his best offensive season since his 2002 debut. The 25-year-old, who was the subject of an entire chapter in “Moneyball.” has upped his batting average 54 points in his last six games, including a 3-for-4 performance in Midland’s 8-4 loss to Frisco, raising his season averages to .283/.408/.481.
• The pitching matchup of the night took place in Palm Beach last night as the high Class A Cardinals topped Lakeland 1-0. Lakeland starter Justin Verlander went the distance but took the loss, allowing one run over eight innings while striking out nine and not allowing a walk. It wasn’t enough as the three Cardinals pitchers combined on the shutout. Palm Beach righty Stuart Pomeranz, the Cardinals’ second-round pick in the 2003 draft, pitched the first six innings for his second win of the year.
• Reds righthander Calvin Medlock pitched five no-hit innings in high Class A Sarasota’s 4-3 win over Brevard County. Signed in 2003 as a draft-and-follow from North Central Texas CC, Medlock struck out 157 over 142 innings last year splitting time between low Class A Dayton and high Class A Sarasota.
• Royals righthander Luis Cota pitched seven innings of one-hit shutout baseball in low Class A Burlington’s 2-1 loss to Quad Cities, extending his scoreless streak to 22 innings. The 19-year-old draft-and-follow is 2-2, 1.60 in eight starts and has limited Midwest League batters to a .189 average.
• Double-A Binghamton righthander Brian Bannister scattered five hits over seven innings and struck out five as the B-Mets blanked Reading, 6-0. It was the longest outing of the season for Bannister, who leads the Eastern League in wins. The 24-year-old is now 6-1, 1.94 in 51 innings.
• There were some notable pitching performances in the PCL last night, the most impressive turned in by the Cardinals' Anthony Reyes. The Memphis righthander struck out six without allowing a walk and retired 27 of the 28 batters he faced for the first shutout of his two-year professional career. The only thing standing between Reyes (5-1), who threw 112 pitches, and a perfect game was Portland's J.J. Furmaniak, who reached base on a one-out double in the bottom of the fourth.
• In Tucson, the Sidewinders got a stellar performance from Bill Murphy. The Diamondbacks lefthander threw six scoreless innings giving up four hits, two walks while fanning eight. This was Murphy's third start of the season (he tore his left hamstring in March) and by far his best. In his previous two starts, he had walked nine in nine innings.
• If you had May 19th in your office pool for when Dave Haehnel would finally give up a run, you won! The Orioles’ lefthander surrendered his first run of the season and took the loss as Delmarva fell to Kannapolis 1-0. For the record, the streak lasted 19 2/3 innings to begin the season.
• Although he didn't get the win, Gaby Hernandez was brilliant last night for Hagerstown. The Mets righty tossed six shutout innings while whiffing nine and allowing just four baserunners. He is now 2-1, 3.18 with 44 strikeouts and 16 walks in 39 2/3 innings.
• Greg Golson update: The Phillies’ first-round pick last year sprained his ankle April 30 and has been slow to recover. The club plans to send him to extended spring training in Clearwater, Fla., before returning him to game action, according to director of minor league operations Steve Noworyta. "Right now we are looking two to three weeks. Hopefully it is just a sprain and nothing more than that. We will probably send him to Florida to rehab so he can get a chance to play in warmer weather and be ready to go in two to three weeks." Golson was hitting .267/.333/.344 in 90 at-bats at low Class A Lakewood before going on the disabled list.
Contributing: Matt Stucko.