Baseball America's Daily Dish
Complete Daily Dish Archive
Compiled by Kevin Goldstein, Chris Kline and Matt Meyers
July 13, 2005
Today is traditionally one of the quietest days in sports, but there is still a place to see prospects.
The International League will square off against the Pacific Coast League in the 18th Triple-A all-star game at Raley Field in Sacramento, Calif., tonight. The game will be broadcast on ESPN 2 beginning at 10 p.m. eastern.
While the game doesn't normally boast a bevy of prospects, tonight's matchup features some potential impact players that will be coming to a big league ballpark near you in the near future--including five prospects (and one manager) who participated in Sunday's Futures Game in Detroit.
Here are the players to keep an eye on tonight:
International League All-Star Prospects
ABE ALVAREZ LHP, Pawtucket (Red Sox)
Age: 22. Drafted: Second round, 2003, Long Beach State
The Red Sox believed Alvarez' exceptional feel for pitching would allow him to move quickly, and he made his big league debut in an emergency start against the Orioles just 13 months after they drafted him. A childhood infection left him legally blind in his left eye, and he wears his cap askew to shield his right eye from too much light. Alvarez' command and his changeup--his main weapons--are the best in the organization. Though his fastball won't wow you at 85-88 mph, he gets outs with precision. His curveball is also a solid-average pitch. Righthanders have a history of doing well against Alvarez, and he's done more to pitch them inside this season and keep them honest. He projects as a No. 3-5 starter in the big leagues. This season, Alvarez is 7-4, 4.67 in 94 innings for the Paw Sox.
TRAVIS BOWYER RHP, Rochester (Twins)
Age: 23. Drafted: 20th round, 1999, Liberty HS; Bedford Va.
Three years into his career, Bowyer wasn't considered much of a prospect. But a rigorous offseason conditioning program implemented after the 2001 season at Rookie-level Elizabethton created a 225-pound frame and his velocity spiked upwards of 98 mph as a result. His heavy fastball has great late life and he uses his changeup to keep hitters off-balance. A starter for much of his career, Bowyer was moved to the bullpen in 2002 and has flourished, posting his best numbers yet this season at Triple-A Rochester. His secondary numbers have also improved with the jump to Rochester--he's getting more than a strikeout per inning. Bowyer is 3-1, 1.09 in 50 innings and has recorded 18 saves for the Red Wings.
EDWIN ENCARNACION 3B, Louisville (Reds)
Age: 22. Drafted: Ninth round (Rangers), 2000, Manuela Toro High, Caguas, P.R.
If it weren't for righthander Homer Bailey, Encarnacion would rank as the Reds' No. 1 prospect. He has excellent hitting tools, including improved patience (career-high 53 walks last year and 31 through 243 at-bats this year) and power--he was well on his way to topping his career mark in homers this season at Louisville. He's also improved in using the whole field, and his above-average bat speed has scouts projecting him to be a .280-.300 hitter with 25-30 homers annually. But they also continue to question his defense. While 2004 marked the first campaign in which he recorded less than 30 errors, most of the miscues came on poor throws related to his footwork. Encarnacion is just coming off third straight Futures Game appearance and is hitting .293-13-47 in 256 at-bats this season.
RYAN GARKO C, Buffalo (Indians)
Age: 24. Drafted: Third round, 2003, Stanford.
Garko jumped three levels last season, helping Buffalo bring home a championship in the International League. There is little doubt that his bat will play at any level, but scouts question his ability to be an everyday catcher in the big leagues. The Indians weren't sold on his defense either, but have opted to get him significant playing time behind the plate with the Bisons this season. At the right side of the plate, Garko simply rakes, hitting to all fields and showing above-average power. He's short to the ball with an efficient swing that allows him to adjust to any type of pitch or location. His makeup and leadership skills are among the best in the organization. Garko is hitting .285-13-53 in 288 at-bats this season.
PETE LAFOREST C, Durham (Devil Rays)
Age: 27. Drafted: 16th round (Expos) 1995, Gatineau (Quebec) HS
Signed as a third baseman, LaForest has made significant strides during his conversion to catcher, but is far from a finished product behind the plate. Still, he does a decent job at calling a game and hustles behind the plate with a warrior mentality. His arm strength rates as at least average, and he has good quickness with his footwork in making throws to second base. His greatest improvement developmentally has been with the bat, however. He makes solid contact with the ability to drive the ball. He is in his third straight season in Triple-A, and is hitting .271-19-46 in 247 at-bats.
JAKE GAUTREAU 3B, Buffalo (Indians)
Age: 25. Drafted: First round (14th overall, Padres), 2001, Tulane
The Padres finally gave up on Gautreau in the offseason, trading him
to the Indians for their stalled first-rounder in 2001, third baseman
Corey Smith. All Gautreau has done in his first year with the Tribe
is make them look like they got the better end of the deal, hitting
for both average and power and also playing a solid third base--something
he hadn't done in his career. He always had tremendous raw power, but
hadn't tapped into it until this season. He battled ulcerative colitis
in 2002, and it took him a while to get his strength back. He moved
from second base to the hot corner this season with Triple-A Buffalo,
and has made the position change appear seamless. Gautreau is hitting
.279-16-45 in 297 at-bats this season.
B.J. UPTON SS, Durham (Devil Rays)
Age: 20. Drafted: First round (second overall), 2002, Greenbrier Christian Academy; Chesapeake, Va.
Upton finished last season with Tampa Bay, hitting .258-4-12 in 159 at-bats. Some have criticized the Devil Rays for their handling of Upton, who lost development time while the club toyed with moving him off shortstop after his callup. Now back in Triple-A again, Upton is playing short every day--and the results have been sketchy at best so far. In 88 games this season, he committed 30 errors. A career .305 hitter in the minors, Upton's bat will play anywhere. It just comes down to how committed and patient the Rays are at keeping him in the middle of the diamond. Upton is hitting .292-9-43 in 342 at-bats.
JOHN-FORD GRIFFIN OF, Syracuse (Blue Jays)
Age: 25. Drafted: First round (23rd overall, Yankees), 2001, Florida State
Griffin battled significant injuries that drained his raw power in 2002 and 2003. And last year, he played in a horrible makeshift ballpark at Double-A New Hampshire that sapped the offensive numbers of everyone on that club. Florida State head coach Mike Martin calls Griffin the best hitter his program has ever produced and this year, Griffin is living up to those accolades. He has a smooth lefthanded swing that grew shorter, enabling him to take advantage of his bat speed and hit for better power than he previously had shown. The only thing solid about Griffin is his bat, however. He's not a good runner, basestealer or fielder, ill-suited even for left field because of his lack of speed and poor arm. If the power projections don't pan out, Griffin could be a Jeremy Giambi clone--a solid hitter without a position. He is hitting .250-17-61 in 332 at-bats.
NATE McLOUTH OF, Indianapolis (Pirates)
Age: 23. Drafted: 25th round, 2000, Whitehall (Mich.) HS
The Pirates have promoted McLouth aggressively since they signed him away from the University of Michigan for $500,000, starting him out at low Class A Hickory. After struggling though his first campaign at high Class A Lynchburg in 2002, McLouth has done nothing but rake since then. This year is his first taste of Triple-A, and he has held his own. McLouth is a contact hitter with the strength to reach the gaps. He has above-average speed and is a good basestealer with an 83 percent success rate as a pro. He could be a legitimate candidate for a big league job at one of the corners next season if the power numbers increase. McLouth is hitting .300-5-34 in 290 at-bats for the Indians this season.
MANAGER: MARTY BROWN, Buffalo (Indians)
Brown was Baseball America’s minor league manager of the year last year, leading Buffalo to its first Governor's Cup title in the International League since 1997. A former infielder in the Reds' system, Brown was also on this year's Futures Game coaching staff in Detroit on Sunday. He is one of the most respected managers in the minor leagues, and even sometimes warms up his pitchers between innings.
Pacific Coast League All-Star Prospects
DIONER NAVARRO C, Las Vegas (Dodgers)
Age: 21. Signed: Venezuela (Yankees), 2001.
Navarro had a breakout year in 2003, and entered last year as the Yankees' top prospect. But he showed up in Double-A overconfident and his play suffered. New York sent him to the Diamondbacks in January, then Arizona sent him and three minor league pitchers to the Dodgers for Shawn Green the next day. Navarro's compact swing allows him to make consistent hard contact from both sides of the plate. He's a gap-to-gap, line-drive hitter and isn't afraid to go deep in counts, understanding the value of a walk. A converted infielder, Navarro has a plus arm and average receiving skills. He has never hit for much power, and some scouts question his dedication to conditioning. Navarro is hitting .278-6-26 in 212 at-bats.
CONOR JACKSON 1B, Tucson (Diamondbacks)
Age: 23. Drafted: First round (19th overall), 2003, California.
Two words describe Jackson best: power and patience. He followed the path of teammate Carlos Quentin, jumping from high Class A Lancaster to Double-A last season; and the two are back together again this year at Tucson. Jackson is easily one of the best pure hitters in the minors. He has above-average bat speed and makes consistent sharp contact to all fields. One of his best tools is his plate discipline--he rarely swings at bad pitches and rarely misses good ones. He has ranked in the top three in the minors in on-base percentage all season. Primarily a third baseman in college, he moved from the outfield to first base this season. Jackson is hitting .373-7-64 with a 22-54 strikeout-walk ratio this season.
IAN KINSLER SS, Oklahoma (Rangers)
Age: 23. Drafted: 17th round, 2003, Missouri.
Kinsler played at three colleges in three years before settling at Missouri,
where in 2003 he helped the Tigers to their first NCAA playoff berth
in seven years. An offseason strength program coupled with Kinsler's
already short swing and instruction from Rangers coaches allowed his
bat to blossom last season, as he jumped to Double-A and tied for the
minor league lead in doubles with 51. Kinsler's hands, arm, speed and
instincts are all average, which might not be enough for him to stay
at shortstop, and second base is a likely destination, where he has
played the majority of this season. No one predicted Kinsler's 2004
outburst, but no scout who saw him called it a fluke either. He has
been challenged in his first season in Triple-A but has more than held
his own. In 330 at-bats, Kinsler is hitting .270-16-63.
RYAN SHEALY 1B, Colorado Springs (Rockies)
Age: 25. Signed: 11th round, 2002, Florida.
The Rockies drafted Shealy in the fifth round out of a Fort Lauderdale high school in 1998--ahead of Matt Holliday (seventh round) and Juan Pierre (13th). They made an aggressive attempt to sign him, but Shealy chose college and failed to improve his stock in four years with the Gators. Shealy has won two minor league home run titles in three pro seasons, including last year in the Double-A Texas League. His strength gives him 30-plus home run potential in any ballpark, and it's scary to think about what he might do at Coors Field. But with Todd Helton anchored at first base for the rest of the decade, Shealy is both an insurance policy and possible trade bait. In 268 at-bats, Shealy is hitting .332-15-54 with 20 doubles.
TYRELL GODWIN OF, New Orleans (Nationals)
Age: 26. Signed: Third round (Blue Jays), 2001, North Carolina
A two-time first-round pick, Godwin chose an academic scholarship at North Carolina, where he starred in both football and baseball. He finally signed with the Blue Jays in 2001 after he graduated early with a U.S. History degree, becoming the first person in his family to earn a college degree. The Blue Jays soured on him after he had his worst season in Double-A last year, even though he decided to pay his own way to go to instructional league with the Jays last fall. Nationals interim GM Jim Bowden liked what he saw in Godwin, taking him in the Rule 5 draft last December, then trading lefthander Aaron Wideman to keep him. Godwin's game revolves around speed with occasional pop. With the Nats in the playoff hunt, Godwin could be a valuable role player down the stretch. Godwin is hitting .325-5-27 in 305 at-bats.
COREY HART OF, Nashville (Brewers)
Age: 23. Drafted: 11th round, 2000, Greenwood HS, Bowling Green, Ky.
After signing as a first baseman and winning the 2003 Southern League MVP award as a third baseman, Hart spent last year learning to play the outfield. A slight shoulder injury limited him to one at-bat in his first big league callup last September. With a long wingspan that generates good leverage, Hart is capable of generating tremendous raw power and has drawn comparisons to Richie Sexson since high school. He still has a tendency to get a little long in his swing and is prone to striking out in bunches. Because of his size, Hart gets challenged inside regularly and is also prone to breaking balls. Hart is hitting .307-8-39 in 322 at-bats.
• Jimmy Barthmaier enjoyed one of the best nights of his pro career, as the righthander struck out 12 in six innings for low Class A Lexington. Unfortunately, the 21-year-old allowed three runs and took the loss. On the season, the former high school football star is 6-4, 2.63 with 103 punchouts and 41 walks in 99 innings.
• It took 25 pro appearances, but Mark Rogers finally earned his first win. The Brewers flamethrower, whose fastball was recently clocked in triple digits, allowed two runs over five innings while fanning six to earn the win for low Class A West Virginia. The fifth overall pick in the 2004 draft is 1-6, 4.63.
• Not surprisingly, Ryan Mullins is having little difficulty with the Appalachian League. The Vanderbilt product, taken in the third round by the Twins this year, fanned 10 over six innings last night to earn his first pro win at Rookie-level Elizabethton. He has allowed only 14 baserunners in 17 innings and has 23 strikeouts.
• After a year and a half of struggles in the Texas League, the Rockies may have found something by moving second baseman Jayson Nix to the leadoff slot. Nix was 3-for-4 with a double and four runs scored in Double-A Tulsa's 11-9 win against Frisco last night, and is 8-for-14 with seven runs scored in three games since moving to the top of the order. On the season, Nix is batting .239/.288/.365 in 310 at-bats.
• Also finding his groove in the Texas League is Angels lefthander Joe Saunders. Saunders, a 2002 first-round pick out of Virginia Tech, struck out a career-high 10 batters last night, allowing one run on six hits over seven innings in Double-A Arkansas' 2-1 loss to San Antonio. In his last three starts, Saunders has allowed just two runs and nine hits over 23 innings, and is 7-4, 3.49 on the season in 18 starts.
• So far, so good for Padres first-round pick Cesar Carillo, who was given a challenging opening assignment of pitching for Lake Elsinore in the high Class A California League. Carillo struck out six over 4 1/3 innings in his second pro start last night, allowing four hits and two runs in the Storm's 7-4 win against Bakersfield.
• When the naming system for hurricanes and tropical storms gets to
'J', they might want to use 'Javon', as Reds outfielder Javon Moran
has been just that in the Florida State League of late. A 2003 fifth-round
pick acquired from the Phillies last year in the Corey Lidle
trade, Moran was 3-for-5 with a triple and two RBIs last night as high
Class A Sarasota topped Jupiter 3-2. In the month of July, Moran is
batting .514 (19-for-37) in 10 games, with season totals of .349/.400/.430
in 172 at-bats.
• Arizona righthander Jason Neighborgall made his professional debut last night, and the results were eerily similar to his days at Georgia Tech. Neighborgall fired a hitless inning in Rookie-level Missoula's 11-9 loss to Orem, but still allowed an earned run thanks to three walks and a wild pitch. A third-round pick recently signed to a $500,000 bonus, Neighborgall is known to consistently hit triple-digits with his fastball to go along with a plus-plus breaking pitch, but has been constantly set back by miserable control problems.
• Somebody needs to tell Royals second-round pick Jeff Bianchi that this isn't high school anymore. The Lancaster, Pa., native went 2-for-2 last night in the Rookie-level Arizona League, and is now hitting an even .500 (30-for-60) in 17 games with 12 extra-base hits, 21 runs scored and 22 RBIs.