2014 Baseball America Top 100 Prospects: The 25th Edition
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Compiled by Dan Friedell, Kevin Goldstein, Chris Kline and Matt Meyers
Before he even reached full-season ball, righthander Juan Morillo showed the Rockies enough that they protected him on their 40-man roster in the offseason.
But when you're topping out at a reported 104 mph, as Morillo did last season, you're likely to garner the attention of a bevy of scouts.
Morillo has an electric fastball and consistently hits 96 mph with an easy arm action. He dumped his curveball last year, and came up with a power 87-89 mph slider in its place. Though his changeup is still a work in progress, Morillo finished strong at low Class A Asheville, going 1-3, 4.54 with 43 strikeouts in 33 innings. Since his promotion to high Class A Modesto, Morillo is throwing more changeups and has 44 strikeouts in 45 innings with the Nuts.
We caught up with the 21-year-old Dominican to see what kind of progress he's making as he heads into this year's Futures Game in Detroit.
On his mechanics and throwing inside: "I started feeling really good last year at (short-season) Tri-City. My coaches were really good with me, and that allowed me to become more comfortable. My control wasn't very good before. I don't think my mechanics were too bad; I just didn't pitch inside. Hitters were kind of afraid of me pitching inside and I didn't want to hit anyone. This year, I'm not afraid to pitch inside--I have good control over the inner part of the plate and am hitting my spots."
On his developing changeup: "I throw seven to 10 changeups each game. I'm trying to throw it more often. I need to have more confidence in my changeup. I throw it really well in bullpens, but in games it's not so good. I'm very comfortable throwing my fastball and my slider in games, but the changeup is not so good for some reason. I just need to be more comfortable, to trust it more."
On racing fellow Rockies righthander Ubaldo Jimenez to the big leagues: "I'm competing against the other teams. Ubaldo's my friend and we want the best for each other. We play to get other teams out. We're on the same side. We're close. Our goal is to get to the big leagues and we both are working very hard to be there one day."
• Indians righthander Kyle Denney is fine after the latest in a line of sometimes bizarre injuries that have dogged him throughout his career. Denney, the starting pitcher for Triple-A Buffalo Sunday night, was hit in the head by a line drive off the bat of the game's first hitter, Durham outfielder Joey Gathright. Buffalo trainer Todd Tomczyk said Denney suffered a cerebral contusion, a fracture of the parietal/temporal bone in his skull and a ruptured eardrum, but said he is in good condition and in good spirits. He never lost consciousness after the ball hit him behind his right ear, but was carried off the field on a stretcher and taken to a local hospital. He could be released from the hospital today.
Denney, a 1999 26th-round draft pick out of Oklahoma who finally reached the big league last year, got national attention when a stray bullet grazed his right calf while he was riding the Cleveland team bus to the airport in Kansas City last season. He was wearing leather go-go boots because of a rookie hazing ritual, which authorities said dented the bullet's impact. He also had Tommy John surgery in 2001, and was struck in the knee by a thrown bat during a spring training game this year, forcing him to miss the season opener. He later spent 33 days on the disabled list for an elbow injury.
• The conversion of Chris Resop can officially be called a success. Resop, who moved from the outfield to the mound in the middle of the 2003 season, was called up by the Marlins after posting great numbers as the closer for Double-A Carolina (1-0, 2.60 with 18 saves in 27 appearances). Resop, a fourth-round pick out of a Florida high school in 2001, hit .193 in 269 minor league at-bats before moving the mound in 2003 for low Class A Greensboro. In his last nine Double-A appearances, Resop recorded 13 strikeouts in 10 scoreless innings. He heads to Florida to join former Mudcats teammate Scott Olsen, who earned his first major league win last week against Tampa Bay.
• Jorge Toca, who hit a solo homer in the World team’s 7-0 win in the inaugural 1999 Futures Game, hasn't fulfilled the promise he showed back then, but he has proven to be a reliable Triple-A batter. He came up to the plate with two on in the top of the ninth inning in Scranton last night with his Charlotte Knights down 2-1, and smacked a three-run homer off Franklin Perez as Charlotte went on to win the game 4-3. Arnie Munoz, who went eight innings and tallied six strikeouts for the Knights, got the win and Jeff Bajenaru picked up his ninth save and dropped his ERA to 1.27.
• Athletics prospect Freddie Bynum is raking in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, increasing the possibility that he could earn a big league utility job soon. The Sacramento second baseman went 2-for-3 with a double last night to raise his average to .301. He is hitting .380 in his last 25 games.
• When White Sox outfielder Chris Young was chosen for the Futures Game outfield, it was based more on his talent than production, but since his selection he has been on a tear at Double-A Birmingham. Young went 3-for-4 against Carolina last night to raise his average to .254 while stealing two bases. He is 11-for-17 in his last four games with sevens runs and eight RBIs.
• A fourth-round pick by the Twins out of East Tennessee State, Caleb Moore is having little trouble in his professional debut at nearby Elizabethton. The catcher went 3-for-5 with two homers and five RBIs yesterday and is now hitting .385 with five walks in 18 plate appearances in the Rookie-level Appalachian League.
• Rangers righthander Thomas Diamond, who went 8-0, 1.99 at high Class A Bakersfield, struggled with his control in his Double-A debut, allowing two runs on four hits and four walks over four innings, striking out six as Double-A Frisco topped Tulsa 8-6. "I had no location on my pitches whatsoever after a while," Diamond told The Dallas Morning News. "I struggled throwing strikes and with my mechanics."
• Mariners shortstop Adam Jones hit his first Double-A home run last night in San Antonio’s 5-4 win over Arkansas in the Texas League. One of the youngest players in the league at 19, Jones is batting .278-1-4 in five games for the Missions after batting .295/.374/.494 in 271 at-bats for high Class A Inland Empire.
• After he struck out nine over five scoreless innings in his first three outings, the comeback of 1997 Mariners first-round pick Ryan Anderson has hit a bump in the road. The 6-foot-11 lefty retired just one of the six batters he faced last night, allowing three runs on three hits and two walks as high Class A Brevard County topped Jupiter 10-3. In his last three games, Anderson has allowed nine runs in four innings.
• Few players feel at home in the Pioneer League, where bus trips are often eight hours and population centers are scarce. But righthander Carlos Fisher played at Lewis-Clark State in Idaho, signed with the Reds as a 12th-round pick this year and reported to Billings, where he turned in a pair of solid starts. Monday night he lowered his ERA to 1.12 with five shutout innings, surrendering just two hits. Fisher, 22, has allowed four hits and one earned run in eight innings overall.
• Righthander Brent Leach struck out six in three scoreless innings in Ogden’s 14-4 win over Orem yesterday. A sixth-round pick by the Dodgers out of Delta State (Miss.) this year, Leach has yet to allow a run or a walk in two appearances spanning five innings.
• First baseman Kevin Barker was released by the Phillies during spring training and caught on with the Blue Jays organization, moving up from Double-A to Triple-A Syracuse when the SkyChiefs ran into problems at first base. He has ignited the offense, leading them on an 18-7 run while batting .404-9-39, including a three-run shot against Ottawa last night that gave the Sky Chiefs a 5-4 lead. Chris Baker earned his fourth win of the year and Matt Whiteside collected his 13th save in a 7-5 Syracuse win.
• Yankees first baseman Mitch Jones, who hit .246-39-97 last year for Double-A Trenton, has been keeping up his power numbers at Triple-A Columbus, while keeping his average over .300. With the Clippers down 4-3 in the bottom of the seventh last night, Jones ripped a grand slam to left field to lift Columbus to a 7-4 win over Norfolk. Jones is batting .313-18-48 for the season.
• Cubs lefthander Sean Marshall threw six solid innings for West Tenn on Monday, giving up six hits but no runs while striking out six and walking none. He left with a 1-0 lead, but the bullpen allowed two runs in the seventh to give the Mobile Bay Bears a 2-1 win.