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 Kevin Goldstein, Chris Kline and Matt Meyers
At first glance, Miguel Montero doesn't look like the prototypical catcher. The 21-year-old Venezuelan is listed at 5-foot-11, 195 pounds, though he's more like 5-foot-9 at best.
Physical stature is one thing, prospect stature is another. Montero has been lighting up pitching in the California League at high Class A Lancaster, hitting .349/.404/.639 with 24 homers and 82 RBIs in 335 at-bats, and he’s emerging as a fine prospect, earning a Futures Game roster spot.
He has also been impressive behind the plate as well, improving his game-calling ability--his English is exceptional--while he learns the nuances of handling a pitching staff in a premier hitter's league.
All he's done this season is post career highs in nearly every offensive category and turn the Diamondbacks depth chart at the position on its ear.
We caught up with Montero, so to speak, to talk about success, the finer points of catching and his big game coming up in Detroit.
On the breakout year this season: "I feel like I keep getting better every year with more experience. I'm making adjustments to certain pitches than I ever had to before--I'm seeing more breaking pitches than I ever have, so that's been something I've had to handle. I'm still learning how to hit in certain situations because I want to be a guy my teammates can count on with runners on base or when the game is on the line. I want to be that guy. I know people say the ball carries a lot (in the California League), but I don't think the numbers get too out of hand. You still have to have good patience, good selection and make good contact. That's the bottom line."
On the challenge of handling a pitching staff: "It's very difficult. You see catchers hit .250 or .260 and are good defensively and they make the big leagues. I feel like I'm making a lot of progress. Playing winter ball helped me a lot, just having a lot of veteran pitchers in Venezuela to kind of teach me about hitter's tendencies and what pitches to call for. People say that Venezuela is a catching machine as far as turning out big league catchers (the list includes Ramon Hernandez and Victor Martinez). I just hope I can be the next one in the tradition."
On life in his hometown of Caracas, Venezuela: "My family is originally from Spain, but we moved to Venezuela when I was really young. I don't do too much there when I'm home because it's such a dangerous city. When I go out, I have to make sure where I'm going because there are so many bad parts. If someone there knows you're a player, they're going to do something to you. I don't like to even leave my house. I don't want to make my family worry about me."
On being named to the Futures Game: "It's just plain awesome. I was in San Jose and I saw a Fed Ex envelope for me. I saw all this stuff about the all-star game and I was like, ‘OK, I know I'm going to the (California-Carolina League) all-star game, so what is this?' Then I saw the Futures Game logo and I said out loud, 'Hey, wait a minute.' I read the whole letter and ran outside the clubhouse to call my parents back home. When I finally got through, they already knew. I guess the Internet is much, much faster than Fed Ex."
• The Red Sox called up righthander Jon Papelbon to Triple-A Pawtucket and brought up righthander Anibal Sanchez to replace him on the Double-A Portland roster. Papelbon, a fourth-round pick in 2003 out of Mississippi State, went 5-2, 2.48 in 87 innings for the Sea Dogs. In his last Double-A outing, Papelbon tossed six no-hit innings, striking out 10 on Saturday night. Sanchez went 6-1, 2.40 with 95 strikeouts in 79 innings at high Class A Wilmington this season.
• The Phillies called up lefthander Cole Hamels to Double-A Reading, and the 2002 first-round pick will make his debut Wednesday at home against Akron. Hamels, who made four starts last year and was shut down with a triceps injury, went 2-0, 2.25 with 18 strikeouts in 16 innings at high Class A Clearwater. He was held back this season by a broken hand injured in a bar fight.
• Indians lefthander Rafael Perez made his Double-A debut at Akron on Saturday, striking out nine in 6 1/3 innings. The 23-year-old Dominican allowed four runs on four hits and came away with the win. Prior to his promotion, Perez went 8-5, 3.36 in 78 innings at high Class A Kinston.
• Keeping on the promotion tip, Braves righthanded reliever Joey Devine was called up to Double-A Mississippi after just four appearances at high Class A Myrtle Beach. Devine, a first-rounder this year out of North Carolina State, struck out seven and walked three in four innings for the Pelicans during his brief tenure.
• Mets shortstop Anderson Hernandez has been one of the hottest hitters in the International League since being called up to Triple-A Norfolk in late June. The 22-year-old middle infielder came over to New York from the Tigers for Vance Wilson in January and has 17 hits in his first 45 at-bats for the Tides. Hernandez batted .326-7-24 in 273 at-bats at Double-A Binghamton this year before being promoted.
• One of the hottest hitters in the minors got a promotion as the Athletics moved first baseman Daric Barton up to Double-A Midland. Barton, a 2003 first-round pick by the Cardinals who went to Oakland as part of the Mark Mulder trade, hit .318/.438/.469 in 292 at-bats for high Class A Stockton, including a .393 mark in his last 28 games. To fill Barton's slot on the Stockton roster, the A's promoted second baseman Kevin Melillo from low Class A Kane County. A 2004 fifth-round pick out of South Carolina, Melillo hit .286/.399/.457 in 280 at-bats for the Cougars and placed third in the league with 53 walks. Barton had a pinch-hit single Monday night in his Texas League debut, while Melillo had two hits for Stockton, including a home run.
• Rockies righthander Ubaldo Jimenez got the win in his Double-A debut on Sunday, despite a bout of wildness. The 21-year-old Dominican allowed four runs on four hits and four walks over five innings, striking out five in Tulsa's 8-4 win over Arkansas. Jimenez went 5-3, 3.98 in 72 innings at high Class A Modesto, striking out 78.
• While not synonymous, the phrases "Adrian Gonzalez" and "unfulfilled expectations" have certainly been associated with one another. However, the 23-year-old is putting together a fine season at Triple-A Oklahoma. The Rangers first baseman is 8-for-16 in July with two homers and is now hitting .313/.385/.498.
• Jeff Allison's season has been a bit of a rollercoaster, but at least all of it is baseball related. The Marlins righthander made four starts in May after returning from his drug suspension, but was shut down after his start on May 20 with shoulder soreness. The 2003 first-rounder returned last night and went 3 1/3 innings against Charleston while allowing a run and fanning three and walking one. He is now 1-2, 3.75 in 24 innings at low Class A Greensboro.
• The Mets’ Nick Evans is having a field day in the Appy League. The 2004 fifth-rounder went 5-for-5 yesterday with three doubles, a homer and six RBIs. On the season, the 18-year-old first baseman is hitting .357/.400/.800 with six homers in 56 at-bats for Kingsport.
• Several Padres officials saw Jared Wells as just being a few refinements away from breaking out, and one of the few power pitchers in the system has been doing just that of late. Pitching for high Class A Lake Elsinore, Wells fired a four-hit shutout against one of the best offensive teams in the Cal League, High Desert, on the road in one of the best hitter's parks. In his last three outings, Wells, now 10-2, 3.08 on the season in 16 starts, has fired 23 1/3 shutout innings in his last three games and is 8-0, 1.99 in his last 10 starts.
• Diamondbacks righthander A.J. Shappi made his California League debut on Monday, allowing four runs on nine hits over four innings in high Class A Lancaster's 9-5 win over Bakersfield. A 2004 ninth-round pick out of UC Riverside, Shappi went 11-1, 2.86 in 15 starts for low Class South Bend.
• Twins lefthander Justin Jones earned his first win in a Twins uniform, and first win overall in more than a year Saturday night, pitching five shutout innings in high Class A Fort Myers' 7-2 win over Sarasota. Jones, ranked as the Cubs No. 2 prospect prior to the 2004 season, has spent the last 18 months dealing with elbow discomfort, and went to the Twins last summer in the four-team Nomar Garciaparra deal.
• Blue Jays righthander Casey Janssen continues to have a breakout season, improving to 6-1, 2.26 at high Class A Dunedin and 10-1, 1.87 overall with seven shutout innings Monday in a 5-0 win over Clearwater. Janssen allowed a leadoff double to Tim Moss and held the Threshers hitless the rest of the way, walking one and striking out six.
• Righthander Kevin Slowey, the Twins' second-round pick this year out of Winthrop, was promoted to low Class A Beloit and pitched a shutout inning on both Saturday and Monday. Slowey began the year with Rookie-level Elizabethton, where he had a 1.17 ERA and one save in four games, with 15 strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings.
• Two of the Indians top picks put on a fireworks show a day early as short-season Mahoning Valley blasted Batavia 16-3. First-round pick Trevor Crowe went 3-for-5 with three runs and his first pro home run, while first baseman Stephen Head, a second-round pick playing in just his second professional game, went 4-for-6 with a double, two home runs and seven RBIs.
• Also off to a quick start in the New York-Penn League is Auburn outfielder Ryan Patterson. The Blue Jays’ fourth-round pick out of LSU, Patterson has begun his pro career with a 14-game hitting streak, batting .429-3-12 in 56 at-bats.
• Former Cardinals No. 1 prospect Blake Hawksworth pitched in his first game since April 15th, 2004, allowing an unearned run on one hit and three walks over two innings for Short-season New Jersey. Hawksworth, who received $1.475 million in 2002 as a draft-and-follow, had shoulder surgery last May to clean up the joint, though no major damage was found.
• Former Georgia Tech star Tyler Greene, the final pick in the first round of this year’s draft, made his pro debut Monday night, going 2-for-4 with a double and a error in short-season New Jersey’s 1-0 loss to Brooklyn. Greene signed for a $1.1 million bonus last week.
• Mets Rookie-level Gulf Coast League shortstop Jose Coronado went 5-for-12 in three games over the holiday weekend to boost his average to .361. A 19-year-old switch-hitter, Coronado has hit safely in seven of eight games played. He batted .248-3-17 in 121 at-bats last year in the Rookie-level Venezuelan Summer League after signing in August of 2003.
• Aaron Thompson made his second professional appearance Monday in the GCL and surrendered five earned runs off six hits with five strikeouts and no walks in two innings. The Marlins drafted Thompson in the first round with the 22nd-overall selection out of Second Baptist High in Houston where he was a second-team All-American this season as a senior. The lefty is 0-2, 13.50 in four innings overall.
• Diamondbacks righthander Adam Howard has to pitch well to avoid being passed by all the college pitchers Arizona drafted in ’05, and he’s off to strong start with short-season Yakima. Sent down to get a rotation spot after throwing 30 solid innings as a reliever at low Class A South Bend, the 44th-round pick in 2004 out of Walters State (Tenn.) CC pitched seven shutout innings in a 1-0 win against Vancouver, giving way to reliever (and second-round pick) Matt Torra, who pitched his second scoreless inning in two career games, and closer Enmanuel Duran. Howard improved to 1-1, 2.25 in three starts and has yet to walk a batter in 20 innings with the Bears.
• As is often the case, the secondary numbers tell the better story at lower levels of the minors. Cubs first-rounder Mark Pawelek took his second loss in three pro starts in the Rookie-level Arizona League, an 8-2 loss to the Athletics. Pawelek, however, gave up two unearned runs in his latest loss, striking out six in three innings. He gave up two hits (the first ones he’s allowed as a pro) and two walks. Overall he has 12 strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings with four walks allowed and a 1.59 ERA.
Contributing: Alan Matthews.