2014 Baseball America Top 100 Prospects: The 25th Edition
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No one could have predicted high Class A Rancho Cucamonga shortstop Brandon Wood would be leading the minors in home runs at this point in the season.
Less of a surprise is Wood's teammate and middle infield partner Howie Kendrick, who leads the minors in batting average, as hes hitting .383/.421/.642 with 12 homers and 46 RBIs in 274 at-bats for the Quakes. Kendrick added to his lead last night, going 2-for-3 with his sixth triple of the season in a 6-2 win against Lancaster.
That's not to say that Kendrick, a 10th-round pick of the Angels in 2002 out of St. John's River (Fla.) Community College, never hit until this year. The second baseman, who celebrated his 22nd birthday Tuesday, was a career .357 hitter in three minor league seasons.
He missed nearly a month this season with a strained oblique muscle, but even that wasn't enough to throw him off track. When he returned from the disabled list, Kendrick reeled off 11 hits in his first six games.
A Futures Game omission because of the sheer depth in the Angels' system, Kendrick was named to the California/Carolina League all-star game this year. And along with Wood, Kendrick is pushing the middle infield tandem ahead of them--Alberto Callaspo and Erick Aybar at Double-A Arkansas--giving the Angels a nice problem to have.
We caught up with Kendrick, who talked about how difficult it was to find a school that would actually let him play, his success this season, being raised by his grandmother and what can best be described as the makings of a pretty cool home improvement show.
On being cut as a college freshman: "People say I got cut, but I never really got cut, actually. I just tried out at a lot of different schools and there was never a spot until I got to St. John's River. They gave me a scholarship that covered books and tuition and it worked out for me."
On his success this season: "I feel like in past years I've done a pretty good job also, but this year I think it's more that I'm understanding hitting a lot more. I'm beginning to recognize patterns in pitchers and what they're throwing me in different situations. I'm starting to look for certain pitches in certain counts and it seems like when I'm looking for them, I'm getting my pitch a lot of times."
On he and Wood creating some waves of their own: "We don't pay too much attention to all the hype. We've been together three years. We play around, joke and have our fun. But when the game starts, it comes down to taking care of business. This year, he's swinging the bat well and not missing his pitches. And fortunately enough, I've been swinging the bat well too. We've just been doing a good job together."
On what he does in the offseason: "I work for my family. We do home remodeling. We're currently building a cabin right now. As far as remodeling goes, we do hardwood floors, we do tongue and groove--like siding on the inside of the house, tearing down sheet rock. But before that, in high school and stuff, we built houses in Florida. That's what I did for a summer job so I could still play baseball, because I could work whenever I wanted to. But now, we're just getting a business started in Tennessee, and hopefully that will be up and running and that's what I'll be doing this offseason. I'd rather be playing baseball, but I'll do what I have to do."
On growing up outside of Jacksonville, Fla.: "It was a challenge. My grandmother raised me because my parents were both in the service. Her neighborhood was a pretty troubled environment, but baseball's what kept me away from all that--she kept me away from that too. Growing up in that kind of straightened me out for the long run because I saw so much stuff with drugs and cops everywhere that I knew how bad it could get if you let it. But baseball and the fact that my grandmother would beat my behind kept me away from that stuff. Those are two of the main reasons I am where I am today."
Devil Rays outfielder Delmon Young's run at a Triple Crown came to an abrupt halt as the top prospect in the minors was promoted Thursday to Triple-A Durham. To say Young dominated the Southern League in his half season at Double-A Montgomery would be an understatement. The 19-year-old batted .336-20-71 in 330 at-bats, with 25 steals to boot. "I think everyone in the organization has been very impressed up to this point with what he has been able to do," Rays player development/scouting director Cam Bonifay told the St. Petersburg Times. "We feel like he's ready for this challenge. He'll get close to eight weeks at Durham for us to continue to monitor his progress." Young, the first overall pick in the 2003 draft, is just ready to get the rest of the season underway. His all-star break wasn't much of a break--Young was in Detroit for Sunday's Futures Game, then traveled to Mobile, Ala., for the Southern League all-star game--his last game as a Biscuit. "It was good news to get moved up. It will be a new challenge for the rest of the season," Young said. "I'm going to try to duplicate what I did in Montgomery in Durham."
The Marlins keep promoting prospects to the big leagues, and while outfielder Jeremy Hermida remains at Double-A Carolina for now, the latest to join the major league club is lefthander Jason Vargas. Vargas, a second-round pick last year out of Long Beach State, started the year at low Class A Greensboro, where he went 4-1, 0.80 in 34 innings. He was then promoted to high Class A Jupiter, going 2-3, 3.42 with 60 strikeouts in 55 innings. Most recently, Vargas was 1-0, 2.84 in just 19 innings for the Mudcats, where he had been since the end of June. Vargas pitched an inning of shutout relief in his debut last night. "If he makes quality pitches, he should get outs," Jupiter pitching coach Reid Cornelius told the Palm Beach Post. "If he gets too excited and things get to him, which I don't think they will, he could leave some pitches up. But he's a real cool customer with a good head on his shoulders."
Vargas wasn't the only lefthander promoted to the majors yesterday, as the Brewers called up Dana Eveland from Double-A Huntsville. Eveland, a 16th-round pick in 2002, began his pro career as a reliever but was moved to the rotation after his first season at Rookie-level Helena in 2003. The 21-year-old went 10-4, 2.72 in 109 innings with the Stars this season.
Thursday, Twins' lefthander Francisco Liriano had his toughest outing since being promoted to Triple-A Rochester, giving up five earned runs on five hits in a 5-3 loss to Durham. Liriano, whose fastball topped out at 97 mph, struck out six over six innings. It was hit first loss in Triple-A since being called up June 20.
Pirates first baseman Brad Eldred is on another power stretch. After being relatively quiet since being called up to Triple-A Indianapolis, Eldred has belted five homers in his last four games--including two last night in a 13-2 win at Charlotte. In Triple-A, Eldred now has 23 home runs overall this season.
Pirates lefthander Paul Maholm made his first start at Double-A Altoona in nearly two weeks Thursday, allowing two runs on six hits in a 4-3 loss to Harrisburg. Maholm, who had been on leave to attend his mother's funeral in Mississippi, was not sharp in his brief Futures Game appearance. He allowed two hits, a walk and hit a batter in just 1/3 of an inning against the World team. This season, Maholm is now 5-2, 3.09 in 76 innings for the Curve.
Phillies lefthander Cole Hamels made his second start at Double A Reading Thursday and earned his first Eastern League win. Hamels held Binghamton to just three hits and struck out eight over seven innings of work in the 4-1 victory. "It will be very good for him to stay (in Reading) until August. I think he needs that level of competition because he hasn't really seen it since he's been drafted," director of minor league operations Steve Noworyta said. "Each start is going to be watched carefully. We would like to take our time because he hasn't had that many chances in our system, but you never know what the needs are and we are hoping we have some more time with him."
Mets' top prospect Lastings Milledge made his Double-A debut with Binghamton in last night's game as well. The Mets outfield prospect went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts against Hamels.
The Phillies top pick (third round) in 2003 out of Texas, second baseman Tim Moss, had slipped off the prospect radar after hitting .217-3-39 in 121 pro games entering this season. The 5-foot-9 righthanded hitter has rebounded this year with one of the biggest comeback years in the minors at high Class A Clearwater. Moss provided nearly all of the Threshers' offense Thursday by slugging a pair of home runs in a 14-3 blowout loss to Vero Beach, giving him four home runs in his last three games and 15 on the season to go along with totals of .284/.364/.527 in 317 at-bats.
If you wanted offense last night, Kane County was the place to be, as shortstop Gregorio Petit's 10th-inning single gave the low Class A Cougars a wacky 16-15 win over Beloit last night. The game featured 38 hits, 20 walks and took four hours and twenty minutes to complete.
Red Sox first-round pick Jacoby Ellsbury made his pro debut Thursday night, going 0-for-2 with two walks, a stolen base and a run scored in short-season Lowell's 4-3 loss in the New York-Penn League. Former Stanford star and supplemental first-round pick Jed Lowrie is also at Lowell and has gone 2-for-13 in three games.
The Mariners are smartly bringing Felix Hernandez back slowly from his bout with minor shoulder bursitis, but his stuff appears to be back. The 19-year-old righthander made his second appearance since being shut down, and struck out four over two innings while not allowing a baserunner for Triple-A Tacoma.
Shortstop Yunel Escobar is putting together an impressive stint in the South Atlantic League. The Cuban defector went 4-for-4 on Thursday for Rome including his second SAL homer. The 22-year-old is now hitting .327/.362/.491 for the Braves low Class A affiliate.
After seeing his average reach its nadir at .247 after an 0-for-7 performance on July 8, Greg Golson is getting his act together. The Phillies first-rounder in 2004 went 3-for-5 Thursday and is now 8-for-19 since his 0-for-7 debacle. The 19-year-old is now hitting .264/.352/.378 for low Class A Lakewood. "I just made a couple of adjustments in the cage before the game," Golson said. "The pitchers were throwing pretty hard so I knew I didn't have to supply much of the power. I just swung at it."
In the short-season Northwest League, Salem-Keizer didnt get the most out of its offense but still beat Eugene last night 2-1 in 11 innings. The Volcanoes got 18 hits but stranded 16 runners before a wild pitch scored Joey Dyche with the winning run. Salem third baseman Pablo Sandoval, making the move from catcher to third base, had two of the hits to improve to .326-1-12.
Reds outfielder Gerardo Cabrera continued his hot start in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, going 3-for-3 to improve to 12-for-25. Cabrera, 21, is a Dominican Republic native who spent two seasons playing at Miami-Dade CC.