2014 Top 10 Prospects Index
We are ranking the Top 10 Prospects in each organization in preparation for the 2014 season. Here is a listing of the Top 10s we have already unveiled as well [...]
Baseball America's Daily Dish
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Compiled by Joshua Cooper, Dan Friedell and Kevin Goldstein
When Josh Holden arrived in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League last summer, his teammates began calling him "Rambo" after he reported for baseball duty in his Army battle dress uniform.
Nearly a year later, Holden's wardrobe and professional aspirations have taken a novel twist. He has shed the military garb for double knits with matching spikes, cap and outfielder's glove, and he's about to make a full-fledged run at baseball.
Holden, a 2003 West Point graduate and budding prospect in the Reds system, is about to pursue baseball full-time as part of a new Army program called the Pro Option. The program allows cadets who have served two years of active duty to leave the Army if they have a professional contract available.
Holden is scheduled to join Cincinnati's extended spring training program in Sarasota this weekend before the Reds determine his next stop. He will continue to be available to the Army for recruiting purposes.
"Josh is almost like a pioneer, because this leads the way for future Army cadets to pursue professional sports careers," said Jeff Frye, Holden’s agent. "This program doesn't have Josh Holden's name on it, but all indications are they implemented it because of him."
Holden, 24, signed with Cincinnati out of an Oklahoma tryout camp last year and hit .348-0-4 in 89 at-bats the GCL last season. While his advanced age weighs against him as a prospect, he's an intriguing blend of intelligence, strength and speed.
Grant Griesser, Cincinnati's assistant farm director, said the organization does a series of tests with new players in the organization, and that Holden was the first player to grade "off the charts" in every category--from strength to body fat to flexibility to agility to vertical leap.
"Josh has a ton of confidence in his ability, and a work ethic that's also off the charts," Griesser said. "I don't think anybody believes you'll see him in the big leagues a year from now. But if he works as hard as we know he will, he'll have every opportunity two or three years from now to possibly be knocking on that door."
• OK, so maybe we're just fortunate to have Double-A Carolina in our backyard, but if we could go anywhere to see a series this weekend, it would be in Zebulon, N.C. The Mudcats play host to West Tenn beginning today, and not only do both clubs ooze prospects, but there are first-half title implications involved. The Diamond Jaxx come in 1.5 games up on Carolina, and the last time these two teams hooked up, West Tenn swept the three-game series, outscoring the Mudcats 18-8. West Tenn features a power lineup that includes center fielder Felix Pie, left fielder Matt Murton, and first baseman Brandon Sing. Pie has been hitting for average and power in the leadoff spot this year, combining speed with power and already topping his home run total from last year with 11 in 49 games. (He hit eight in 105 games last year at high Class A Daytona.) Murton leads the Southern League in hitting--and ranks fourth in the minors overall--with a .385 average. And Sing, who made a strong run at the Florida State League home run record last year, is hitting .306/.434/.611 with 11 homers in 157 at-bats. The Diamond Jaxx will be without lefthander Rich Hill, however. Hill, who led the SL in strikeouts with 90 in 58 innings, was promoted to Triple-A Iowa earlier this week and struck out 14 in 6 2/3 innings in his debut against Oklahoma.
Carolina counters with strong pitching, as lefthander Scott Olsen will take the mound Saturday against righthander David Aardsma. Olsen, whose fastball tops out at 97 mph, started off the season strong but is currently in the midst of a three-game losing streak. His last start was significantly better, as he struck out seven and allowed two runs in seven innings in a no-decision against Chattanooga. Aardsma, a 2003 first-round pick out of Rice, came over to the Cubs from the Giants in the LaTroy Hawkins deal and has just one start under his belt with his new club. He went five innings allowing a run on three hits, walking five and striking out five against Birmingham. The other intriguing matchup will come Monday, as Mudcats righthander Josh Johnson faces lefthander Ricky Nolasco. Johnson is 6-1, 2.63 in 51 innings and hasn't lost since April 12; Nolasco is 6-0, 2.64 in 65 innings. He was hit hard in his last start, however, allowing five earned runs on 10 hits in just four innings.
• Royals doubles machine Mitch Maier appropriately enough has been promoted to Double-A. Maier hit .336/.370/.583 with eight homers, and his 26 doubles lead the minor leagues. He’s headed to Wichita to replace Shane Costa, who was promoted to the major leagues.
• After a bad cup of coffee in the majors last week against the Mets, Marlin farmhand Yorman Bazardo was welcomed back to Double-A in rude fashion by Chattanooga. Bazardo was out-dueled by Reds prospect Richie Gardner in the Lookouts’ 6-4 victory over Carolina. In his first start since he allowed five runs in 1.2 innings of relief against the Mets on May 26, the flame-throwing Bazardo gave up two runs in the top of the first and then two more in the sixth. Gardner pitched 6.1 innings while allowing one Mudcat to cross home.
• In other Southern League news, 2003 Dodgers first-round pick Chad Billingsley was flat-out dominant against Mobile. Billingsley, who features mid-to-high 90s fastball, late breaking slider and hard curveball, allowed only one run on three hits while striking out 12 in seven innings of work for Jacksonville. At one point Billingsley recorded nine outs in a row by way of strikeout. In what has been an up and down year for Billingsley, the win moved him to 5-3 and lowered his ERA to 4.45.
• In his second worst start of the season, Indians farmhand Nick Pesco got roughed up by Frederick, allowing six earned runs on six hits. Pesco, one of the Indians’ top prospects at the start of the year, has been a rock for a deep Kinston rotation for most of the season. His worst outing came on May 5, against Potomac in which the righthander gave up eight runs on 10 hits.
• The latest hot bat for the Giants’ affiliate at high Class A San Jose is outfielder Nate Schierholtz. The 2003 second-round pick was 2-for-4 in last night’s 6-1 win over Visalia–his sixth multi-hit game in his last seven contests. On the season, the 21-year-old is batting .323/.374/.471 in 49 games.
• Third baseman Scott Moore, the former Tigers first-round pick (2002) acquired by the Cubs in the Kyle Farnsworth deal, continues to bounce back from a miserable 2004 season. The 21-year-old third baseman homered in both ends of a doubleheader as high Class A Dayton dropped a pair of games to Brevard County. Moore leads Daytona in home runs (12) and RBIs (34), and is batting .274/.356/.574 in 48 games.
• Blue Jays first baseman Chip Cannon had a night to remember, hitting for the cycle in low Class A Lansing’s 14-13, 13-inning slugfest win over Clinton. Cannon, an eighth-round pick out of The Citadel last June, took care of the single, double and home run by the fifth inning, but needed the extra frame to complete the cycle, tripling in the 10th. Cannon is batting .268/.351/.542 in 46 games with 11 home runs.
• The Mets have suspended first baseman Brett Harper indefinitely for an off-field incident. Harper, a 45th-round pick in 2000 out of Scottsdale (Ariz.) Community College, was hitting .287/.347/.610 with 17 homers and 47 RBIs in 195 at-bats--by far the most power he has shown in his four-year pro career.
• Fresh off of one of his worst starts as a pro (giving up six hits and five earned runs without getting out of the second inning), Blue Jays prospect Brandon League put together an outing more consistent with his status as the No. 1 prospect in the organization on Thursday night. The righthander touched 98 mph and recorded six strikeouts as he held the Bulls and hot-hitting Johnny Gomes to two runs in six innings. He did give up nine hits, however, including a double to Gomes in the sixth which led to the Bulls’ second run. However, the Bulls scored two in the eighth off Jason Arnold due to a throwing error by shortstop Julius Matos.
• The Twins’ 25th-rated prospect Boof Bonser, who was a part of the 2003 Joe Nathan/A.J. Pierzynski trade between the San Francisco and Minnesota, combined with three Rochester relievers to blank Richmond 2-0. Bonser, (5-2, 3.63) who legally changed his first name from John to Boof in high school, gave up three hits while striking out seven in six innings.
• Buffalo was more fortunate in the run-scoring department on Thursday thanks to Dusty Wathan, the son of former major leaguer John Wathan, who cracked three home runs, including a grand slam in the Bisons 13-1 blowout of Toledo. Wathan drilled a two-run shot in fourth, a three-run blast in the fifth and hit his grand slam in the eighth. The Mud Hens’ Kenny Baugh gave up Wathan’s first two homers and took the loss to drop to 4-4 on the year. The output almost matched Wathan’s season stats through 79 at-bats, as he had four homers and 10 RBI heading into the game.
• Four sixth-inning walks that led to three runs gave Harrisburg a 6-3 win against visiting Altoona on Thursday. Former Mets prospect Matt Peterson, who came to the Pirates organization in the Kris Benson deal, started the game and gave up three runs in four innings. Peterson recovered from a rough first inning, where he gave up a three-run homer to Ramon Castro, but left the game after just four innings since missing his start last week due to shoulder fatigue.
• In just his second start of the year at Double-A, lefthander Richard Stahl, a first-round pick in 1999 by the Orioles, tossed four shutout innings Thursday for Bowie as the Baysox topped Reading 1-0. The Bowie relief trio of Ryan Keefer, Sendy Rleal (29 strikeouts in 27 innings) and Chris Ray (34 strikeouts in 28 innings, 13 saves) held the Phillies in check, only giving up two hits while striking out six in five innings. Reading’s Seung Hak Lee gave up a homer to former big leaguer Peter Bergeron to leadoff the game, but went on to record eight strikeouts while giving up just two more hits in seven innings.
Contributing: Chris Kline.