Daily Dish: May 11

See also: Wednesday’s Daily Dish
See also: Today’s Baseball America Prospect Report

The first round of the 2000 draft is littered with players who haven’t exactly lived up to their potential.

Among the names of first-rounders that year are the likes of Adam Johnson, who went second overall to the Twins and spent some time in the independent Golden League before singing with the Athletics last year. There is also Justin Wayne (fifth overall to the Expos), who also spent part of last season in independent ball. Or Mike Stodolka (fourth), who is trying to resurrect his career as a corner infielder in the Royals system at high Class A High Desert after struggling on the mound for six seasons and never sniffing Triple-A.

Needless to say, Cubs outfielder Luis Montanez won’t ever live up to the expectations that come along with being the third overall pick in that draft, but since he moved from shortstop to the outfield, his bat has come to life.

The first five seasons of his pro career had few highlights and plenty of struggles. Montanez spent three straight seasons in high Class A Florida State League, before his career hit rock bottom in 2004, when he was sent back to short-season Boise to ease his conversion to the outfield.

In 2005, he spent most of the year as a 23-year-old in the low Class A Midwest League, before getting a late season promotion to Double-A West Tenn. In Montanez’ case, moving backwards may have been just what he needed, as he seemed to regain his confidence with a strong 2005 season at Peoria that has carried over to West Tenn this year.

“I really think it was just a matter of time for him,” Double-A West Tenn hitting coach Tom Beyers said.
“His personality and the way he plays the game is so confidence-driven
and he needs to have some kind of success to feed off of. He’s always
shown flashes of being able to do good things with the bat, but now
he’s been able to incorporate consistency in there as well.

“His work habits have improved in that he now has a routine he believes in and is taking that into games.”

Montanez has been the Diamond Jaxx hottest bat, hitting .353/.433/.448 in 116 at-bats this season. The career .272 hitter currently leads the Southern League in batting.

“Early in his career, there was just no comfort level anywhere for Luis,” Beyers said. “The stress of the expectations, coupled with the stress of not playing well defensively, passed along into his hitting.

“But he’s come a long way since the change. He’s made himself into a pretty good outfielder and has been one of our most consistent hitters this season. He always had that great potential. Now it’s really exciting to see him reaping the rewards for his hard work.”

The 24-year-old is currently riding a seven-game hitting streak in which he’s batting .555 (15-for-27). Over the past two nights against  Mississippi, Montanez was 7-for-9 with five RBIs.

He’s also commanding the strike zone a lot better, which Beyers said comes back to his maturation as a hitter.

“He’s clearly focused on hitting and being the best outfielder he can be,” he said. “He’s understanding pitching patterns, and really has an idea of what pitchers try to do to him in game situations. And that’s a big step. Hopefully we’ll see this kind of consistency throughout the year.”


Kudos For Corso

In his pro debut in 2005, Jeff Corsaletti lit up the South Atlantic League by hitting .357/.429/.490 for low Class A Greenville after the Red Sox made him a sixth-round pick out of Florida.

The hits are not coming as easily this season, but last night he came through with two big ones to help high Class A Wilmington defeat Lynchburg 7-0. Corsaletti broke a scoreless tie in the fifth with a two-run single to give the Blue Rocks all the runs they would need.

“I’ve had some struggles lately at the plate and haven’t been getting my hits,” Corsaletti told The (Wilmington) News Journal. “But I’m still seeing the ball right and getting my walks. I was fortunate enough to muscle one up in the outfield and have it fall in.”

If Kevin Youkilis is the Greek God of Walks, then Corsaletti might hold the Italian title. In 122 at-bats he has 27 walks to go with 24 strikeouts. Last season he had 32 walks in 249 at-bats to help him to a .429 on-base percentage.

“He’s not swinging the bat the way he wants, and he’ll be the first guy to tell you that,” Wilmington manager Chad Epperson, who managed Corsaletti in Greenville last year, told the paper. “But he’s able to draw his walks because he does have such a good idea of the strike zone. When you’re in a slump and you’re still drawing walks, that ought to tell you what kind of hitter you got.”

While the outfielder is hitting just .254, his 27 walks are third best in the minors and his on-base percentage is an impressive .387.


A Win’s A Win

Rangers righthander Edinson Volquez picked up his third win of the season last night for Triple-A Oklahoma, but in a discouraging trend, he made it look anything but easy. The Rangers No. 1 prospect entering the season allowed at least two baserunners in each of his six innings, but allowed just one of them to score.

“Every inning they got men on base, but that’s part of the game, you know?” Volquez told the Oklahoman. “I’ve got to make adjustments. When you’ve got runners on base you’ve got to get a double play or something.”

Volquez struck out six, walked five and allowed eight hits with his 119 pitches–67 of them for strikes–in the RedHawks 4-3 win against Sacramento. A lack of fastball command was the culprit, according to Oklahoma pitching coach Andy Hawkins.

“Overall I thought he threw the ball pretty well, but his fastball command wasn’t where we wanted it, but it’s getting there,” Hawkins told the paper. “His curveball’s getting there, too, and his changeup is something you can always count on. But he was in trouble the whole day, and a lot of that has to do with his approach to the game, and he’s getting there. It’s a process.”

Volquez has thrown at least 91 pitches in all but one of his seven starts, including a 120-pitch effort April 23.

Opposing Volquez was Athletics righthander Shane Komine, who allowed two runs in his five innings, striking out six and walking four. Designated hitter Daric Barton singled, doubled and walked three times for Sacramento.



Most teams don’t get too excited about a two-game winning streak, but it doesn’t take most teams 33 games to get their first one of the season.
With a 7-3 victory against Lexington, Kannapolis had themselves their first back-to-back wins of the season to raise their record to 7-26.

At the start of last week, the White Sox low Class A affiliate was on a historically inept pace as they had won just three of their first 25 games. They have turned things around, so to speak, and by winning four of their last eight they have gone from chasing records for futility to simply futile.

Bright spots have been few and far between for the Intimidators. First baseman Brandon Allen and catcher Francisco Hernandez were considered two of the top prospects on the squad, but Allen is hitting .185/.222/.311 with 38 strikeouts and just five walks in 119 at-bats while Hernandez is hitting .250/.317/.304.

One prospect that’s performed despite the team’s malaise is outfielder Aaron Cunningham. With two hits last night, the outfielder is now hitting .284/.378/.520. This comes on the heels of hitting .315/.392/.446 at Rookie-level Bristol after the White Sox took him in the sixth-round out of Everett (Wash.) Community College. The 20-year-old has plus bat speed and uses it to spray line drives to all fields. Though he was undersized coming out of high school, and not on anyone’s radar, Cunningham has managed to add muscle without losing his above-average speed. He still swings and misses too much; however, as evidenced by 33 strikeouts in 102 at-bats. But when you consider the performance of the rest of the Kannapolis squad, that is the least of their worries.



• Double-A Corpus Christi outfielder Hunter Pence went on a tear Wednesday in Arkansas, going 2-for-5 with a pair of homers in the Hooks’ 11-8 win. The Astros’ second-round pick in 2004 now has 10 homers overall, and is now tied for third in the minors in that category. Pence has four homers in his last three games . . . Cardinals infielder Randy Roth is tied for the minor league lead in homers with low Class A Hickory first baseman Steve Pearce. Both have 11 homers this season, though Roth is a year older than Pearce at the same level. Roth, 24, was a 10th-round pick last year out of Southeastern Louisiana. He has spilt the first month and a half of the season playing both first and third base at low Class A Quad Cities . . . Double-A West Tenn third baseman Scott Moore has been raking over the last two games against Mississippi. Moore went 7-for-18 in the four-game series, going 6-for-10 with a pair of homers and a pair of doubles to raise his overall numbers to .293/.368/.517 in 116 at-bats . . . Double-A Connecticut left fielder Eddy Martinez-Esteve left a May 6 game during an at-bat with a left shoulder injury and has yet to return. Martinez-Esteve was scheduled to have an MRI done on his shoulder, but the results of the exam and a timetable on his return have not been released. The Giants’ second-round pick in 2004 was hitting .272/.324/.446 in 92 at-bats this season . . . Double-A Tulsa righthander Juan Morillo didn’t make it out of the first inning in the Drillers’ lost to Midland, 6-5. Morillo had major command issues, giving up a single, a pair of walks, hitting designated hitter Vasili Spanos (who was hit three times in the game) and uncorking a wild pitch. Morillo faced just seven hitters, going 2/3 of an inning, before being pulled . . . The Dodgers called up third baseman Willy Aybar when they placed outfielder Jason Repko on the disabled list. Aybar was hitting .358/.409/.585 for Triple-A Las Vegas and led the PCL in hits (44) and RBIs (33) . . . Mariners outfielder Chris Snelling singled in the winning run in the 10th inning for Triple-A Tacoma in his first game back from September surgery to repair a torn ACL. The win snapped an 11-game win streak for Round Rock. When healthy, Snelling has been one of the Mariners’ best hitting prospects for the past eight years, but he’s has missed significant time because of injuries in each of the past seven seasons.