Buster Posey is the best catching prospect in baseball and just hit .325/.416/.531 in his first full season in the minors, including a .375 average and five homers in Triple-A in August. The Giants are fighting for a playoff spot despite one of the worst offenses in baseball.
Yet San Francisco initially didn't plan on promoting Posey when rosters expanded on Sept. 1. The Giants did call him up for added depth because starter Bengie Molina is battling a quadriceps injury, but Posey has yet to get an at-bat in his first five days in the major leagues. They have won three of those five games, and Molina did hit a game-winning homer on Friday, but San Francisco scored at total of 12 runs in those contests. Posey didn't even get off the bench in a 12-inning loss to the Brewers on Sunday.
The Giants aren't going to the posteason without scoring more runs, and Posey would provide them more offense. Failing to recognize that is just inexplicable.
The common thread among the disappointing careers for the two Youngs, Hermida and Francoeur is that pitchers have exposed their plate discipline in the majors. But with the exception of Francoeur, that wasn't a major issue for any of them in the Double-A Southern League four years ago.
Delmon Young, whose performance I addressed in the May 19 Ask BA, could have drawn a few more walks but he didn't strike out excessively and did a good job of using the whole field and hanging in against breaking balls. He walked 25 times in 84 games for Montgomery and has taken just 90 free passes in 565 games since.
Hermida led the SL with 111 walks and a .457 on-base percentage in 2005, and while he isn't the free swinger the other guys are, he hasn't been nearly as disciplined with the Marlins. I hold out more hope for him than the rest of this group, and I wonder if Hermida has focused too much on trying to hit homers rather than letting them come naturally.
Francoeur struck out four times as much as he walked in the SL, and after he had a strong second half with the Braves in 2005, big league pitchers realized he'd get himself out if they'd let him. Francoeur hasn't adapted his approach, and athleticism alone isn't going to save him at the plate.
Chris Young walked 70 times in the SL, and though he had 129 strikeouts in 466 at-bats, he was making progress against offspeed pitches and using the whole field. His strikeout rate has stayed the same but his walk rate has dropped significantly, and if a hitter is going to chase out of the strike zone, major leaguers will let him.
Francoeur's struggles could have been forecast, but I don't know if anyone could have foreseen the extent of the Young's and Hermida's difficulties. I think this serves as another example of how developing and forecasting prospects is more art than science, and there always will be elite prospects who succeed in Double-A but can't get over the hump against better competition two levels higher in the major leagues. Our rankings are based on extensive conversations with scouts, player-development officials and managers, which gives us the weight of multiple looks at players from several different sources.
Though the talent on the Cape was unquestionably down this summer and there were no slam-dunk first-rounders, there still were a number of players who would be good values in the third to fifth rounds. Cotham, who signed for $675,000 as a fifth-rounder, and Lyons, who returned to Oklahoma State after failing to sign as a 10th-rounder, both would fall in that group.
Cotham would have slid into the back half of the Top 30 somewhere had he qualified, but he worked only 13 innings for Brewster. A sore knee hampered him during the spring, but he showed a 91-94 mph fastball and flashed a quality slider on the Cape. He displayed more than fifth-round talent and had extra leverage as a draft-elgible sophomore, which his why he was able to command $675,000.
Lyons starred in his first two seasons with the Cowboys and led Team USA with a 0.00 ERA last summer, giving him a chance to go in the first round. But his stuff was down this spring, as his fastball dipped to 86-87 mph and his changeup regressed as well. He looked more like his old self in the NCAA regionals and with Chatham this summer. His fastball sat at 89-91 mph and he commanded four pitches. Lyons would have been the next lefthander on our Cape prospects list if we had gone deeper.
The Yankees had interest in signing Lyons and a similar Cape lefty, Harwich's Aaron Meade, a 28th-round sophomore-eligible from Missouri State. Though New York has seemingly unlimited supplies of money, it held to a strict draft budget this year and couldn't find cash for Lyons or Meade after exceeding MLB's slot recommendations to sign first-rounder Slade Heatchott ($2.2 million), second-rounder J.R. Murphy ($1.25 million), Cotham, 14th-rounder Graham Stoneburner ($675,000), 16th-rounder Bryan Mitchell ($800,000) and 44th-rounder Evan DeLuca ($500,000).
That's a nice draft haul, but I would have scraped up the additional $500,000 to sign Lyons because the potential return on investment is so high.
Dopirak was a second-round pick in 2002, when scouts believed he had more raw power than any high schooler in the draft—including Prince Fielder. He ranked No. 1 on our Cubs Top 10 after the 2004 season, when he hit .307 with 39 homers (three shy of the low Class A Midwest League record) and 120 RBIs.
But Dopirak's career began to nosedive the following season, when he got off to a slow start in high Class A and became so homer-conscious that he messed up his swing and his plate discipline, which wasn't strong to begin with. He missed time with a broken foot in 2006 and batted just .250 with 35 homers from 2005-07, prompting the Cubs to release him.
Dopirak signed with the Blue Jays, in part because he'd start at their high Class A affiliate in Dunedin, Fla., his hometown. In the last two years, he has hit .313/.372/.554 with 56 homers while reaching Triple-A. He's not the prospect he was when he tore up the MWL five years ago—he's 25 now, and his value lies solely in his bat because he's a below-average defender and runner—but he does deserve a chance.
Toronto isn't close to contention and is looking for ways to cut costs. If Dopirak got a chance to play in September, that could green-light a trade of Lyle Overbay, who's having a nice year and makes $7 million in 2010. Or Dopirak could DH, with Adam Lind moving to left field, where the Jays have given way too many at-bats to Jose Bautista and started punchless infielder John McDonald there on Saturday. But Toronto has yet to promote Dopirak.