Baseball America's Daily Dish
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Compiled by Kevin Goldstein, Chris Kline and Matt Meyers
Amidst the debate as to who is the best pitching prospect in the International League this season, Twins' lefthander Francisco Liriano is quickly ending that discussion.
In a league that saw Pirates lefthander Zach Duke and Braves righthander Kyle Davies rocket through to their respective big league clubs, Liriano arrived at Triple-A Rochester in July from Double-A.
And the 21-year-old Dominican has stated his case in the IL emphatically, despite Duke's late run at National League rookie of the year since being called up.
"The difference is purely in the stuff," a scout from an American League organization said. "Liriano clearly has the better stuff of the two, if you're talking about lefthanders. One's a power guy and one's more of a finesse guy. But it's hard to argue against Duke because all he does is find ways to win."
Liriano throws three plus pitches for strikes--his fastball tops out at 97 mph. He complements it with a hard-breaking 86-88 mph slider and a changeup he drops off at 82-83 with the same easy arm action as his fastball.
"He's so tough because his fastball might be his third-best pitch," Triple-A Buffalo catcher/first baseman Ryan Garko said.
Liriano throws his offspeed stuff in any count, while working both sides of the plate with his heater, sitting at 93-94 mph. After two years of shoulder problems, Liriano showed flashes of a package similar to Twins' lefthander Johan Santana last season, but hadn't consistently shown that kind of promise until now.
Liriano tossed seven shutout innings, allowing just four hits and striking out 12 in Rochester's 3-2 win against Pawtucket on Saturday. Since being called up from New Britain, Liriano is 8-1, 1.59. In 79 innings, he's compiled a 93-22 strikeout-walk ratio and opponents are hitting just .160 against him.
"He's as good as it gets in this league," Syracuse manager Marty Pevey said. "There's too much to like. And I'm not just talking about what he does on the mound. He's got unbelievable makeup as well. I think he's learned a lot this season, and he has a plan for attacking hitters that I think sets him apart from the rest of the pack."
And then there are those that think Liriano has nothing left to prove in the IL; that he is ready to join Santana in Minnesota's rotation.
"The bottom line is that this guy doesn't belong in this league," Buffalo manager Marty Brown said. "Anyone you refer to as ‘Mister’ belongs in the big leagues. I think he's going to be ready for whenever the Twins want him."
• Triple-A Durham shortstop B.J. Upton celebrated his 21st birthday in style, going 3-for-4 with the game-winning single in the Bulls' 5-4 win against Charlotte on Sunday. Upton is hitting .307/.395/.505 with 17 homers in 489 at-bats.
• Pirates righthander Ian Snell picked up his 10th International League win Friday night after nearly a two-month absence while pitching out of the bullpen in Pittsburgh. Snell, who went 0-2, 6.84 in 25 big league innings, is now 10-2, 4.04 in 98 innings at Triple-A Indianapolis.
• The Dodgers called up righthander Edwin Jackson to the big leagues, and he will start today against Marlins' lefthander Dontrelle Willis. Jackson, who was sent down to Double-A Jacksonville earlier this season due to command problems in the Pacific Coast League, went 6-4, 3.48 in 62 innings with the Suns. In his last three starts, Jackson gave up just two earned runs in 21 innings while striking out 14.
• Coming out of spring training, first baseman Ryan Mulhern was one of the last players the Indians expected to have an impact on their depth chart, but due to injuries--primarily to No. 3 prospect Michael Aubrey--Mulhern was given a chance to perform this year. And the 11th-round pick out of South Alabama in 2003 has delivered, hitting .321 with 17 homers in 159 at-bats at high Class A Kinston before being called up to Double-A Akron. With the Aeros, Mulhern is still raking, batting .340/.406/.640 with 13 homers in 200 at-bats. Power long has been Mulhern’s calling card; he led the nation’s junior colleges in 2000 with 28 homers in 58 games at Trinidad State (Colo.) JC.
• In the now daily Nolan Reimold watch, the Orioles' second-round pick this year continues to punish Carolina League pitching. Reimold hit two homers against high Class A Myrtle Beach on Saturday and is now batting .333/.484/.833 in 24 at-bats. Four of his eight hits have been homers.
• In other O's news, lefthander Garrett Olson made his debut at high Class A Frederick over the weekend, allowing three hits over four shutout innings. Olson, a supplemental round pick this year out of Cal Poly went 2-1, 1.58 with 40 strikeouts in 40 innings at short-season Aberdeen before being called up. Counting his work for Cal Poly this spring, Olson has worked 180 innings in 2005.
• While the trio was the talk of the California League during the season's first half, the Rangers ‘DVD’ set of lefthander John Danks and righties Thomas Diamond and Edison Volquez have found it much harder to succeed at Double-A Frisco. Danks surrendered eight runs over five innings on Sunday in an 8-4 loss to Arkansas to drop to 3-9, 5.56, while Diamond (4-3, 4.80) and Volquez (1-5, 4.42) have also struggled. Volquez returned Thursday after missing a month with a strained left oblique muscle.
• Arkansas second baseman Howie Kendrick went 0-for-3 in Sunday's game, ending a 20-game hitting streak in which the Angels prospect hit .405. Since moving up to Double-A, Kendrick is batting .345/.373/.585 in 142 at-bats. Also swinging a hot bat in the Texas League is Athletics farmhand Daric Barton, who is currently riding a 15-game hitting streak and batting .333/.433/.519 in 162 at-bats . Barton got his first career start in right field on Friday, recording no putouts but fielding three singles hit to him cleanly.
• Angels shortstop Brandon Wood's attempt to lead the minor leagues in as many categories as possible took another step forward as Wood smashed a double and two home runs while driving in seven in high Class A Rancho Cucamonga's 12-11 slugfest win over High Desert on Sunday. The seven RBIs gives Wood 106 on the season, tying him with White Sox minor leaguer Leo Daigle for the overall lead. Wood already leads the minor leagues in doubles (48), home runs (38), extra-base hits (90) and total bases (325).
• Luke Scott had a field day this weekend in the Pacific Coast League. Over three games, the left fielder went 9-for-13 with two homers and six RBIs. He is now hitting .288/.361/.599 for Triple-A Round Rock. The Astros could use some lefthanded power so it will be interesting to see what the 27-year-old Scott can do in a September callup.
• Having survived bone cancer, the fact that Tim Battle is even playing professional baseball makes him a fantastic story, but if he wants to advance to the big leagues he is going to need to cut down on his strikeouts. The Yankees outfielder went 0-for-4 yesterday with two strikeouts and now has a Rob Deer-esque 173 on the season for low Class A Charleston.
• Eric Campbell is filling up box scores in the Rookie-level Appalachian League. The Danville third baseman went 3-for-4 yesterday with four runs scored and two RBIs. On the season, the second-round pick in 2004 is hitting .317/.389/.639 while leading the league with 16 homers, 59 RBIs, 22 doubles, 40 extra-base hits and 69 runs scored. He is also third in the league with 15 stolen bases.
• Cubs outfielder J.J. Johnson, a 2000 sixth-round pick who in his sixth professional year has yet to get out of A ball, had a career day on Sunday, going 4-for-5 with three home runs and eight RBIs in high Class A Dayton’s 13-0 shellacking of St. Lucie. Johnson is batting .273/.311/.451 in 384 at-bats with 10 home runs on the season.
• After putting up a 2.12 ERA in six Gulf Coast League games, Cincinnati fifth-round pick James Avery picked up his first professional win on Saturday, allowing two hits and an unearned run in low Class A Dayton’s 7-1 win over South Bend.
• Indians righthander Joe Ness struck out a career-high 11 over six shutout innings on Saturday in short-season Mahoning Valley's 7-6 loss to Batavia. A sixth-round pick out of Ball State, the 6-foot-5 Ness is 3-1, 2.00 in 11 games for the Scrappers, striking out 50 in 45 innings.
• The Padres promoted righthander Neil Jamison to low Class A Fort Wayne over the weekend, and the sixth-round pick retired all four batters he faced on Friday (striking out two), and allowed one run in 2/3 of an inning on Sunday. Jamison, who had a perfect 0.00 ERA in 27 games for Long Beach State this spring, began his pro career at short-season Eugene, where he was 1-2, 1.32 with eight saves in 25 games.
• Seattle first-round pick Jeff Clement has found his stroke at low Class A Wisconsin. The No. 3 overall pick out of Southern California, Clement is 8-for-15 with two home runs and eight RBIs in his last four games, upping his season totals to .297/.403/.469 for the Timber Rattlers.
• The Phillies top pick in 2005, second-rounder Mike Costanzo has caught fire at short-season Batavia. The third baseman, who hit just .213-5-23 in his first 45 games for the Muckdogs, has hit .400-5-17 in his last 13 contests, raising his season totals to .259/.344/.478 in 224 at-bats.
• Plenty of rehab appearances in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League over the weekend; start with lefthander Ty Howington going two scoreless innings for the Reds in his second outing of the year. Howington, a 1999 first-round pick, has had repeated shoulder problems. Dodgers lefty Mike Megrew gave up three hits and two runs in his third outing of the year as he comes back from Tommy John surgery, which he had in September 2004. He hasn’t been injured, but Tigers righthander Eric Beattie, their second-round pick in 2004, is coming back from severe control issues but pitched a scoreless inning Sunday. That’s the first scoreless outing he’s had as a pro.
• Astros second-round pick Ralphie Henriquez hit his first home run as a pro to extend his current hitting streak to five games for Rookie-level Greeneville. Henriquez, whose father Ralph is a coach in the Braves organization, has improved his average to .220 during the streak.
• Rookie-level Bluefield righthander Kyle Schmidt has had a checkered career since breaking his left (non-throwing) arm as a high school senior. That injury helped depress his draft stock, and Schmidt attended Georgia Tech. Despite a solid freshman season for the Yellow Jackets and a dominant 2003 summer in the Cape Cod League (he ranked second to Beattie in ERA and led the league in strikeouts), Schmidt fell out of favor at Tech and transferred as a junior to South Florida, closer to his Tampa-area home. The Orioles drafted him in the 14th round last year out of South Florida, and the 21-year-old is pitching well in the Appalachian League. He won his fourth straight start for Bluefield on Sunday and struck out 11 in 6 2/3 innings, his second straight double-digit strikeout effort. Schmidt’s 5-2, 4.69 with 67 strikeouts in 63 innings, though he’s allowed 70 hits and 25 walks.
Contributing: John Manuel.
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