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Compiled by Josh Cooper, Aaron Fitt and Chris Kline
The prototypical right fielder is supposed to look like Vladimir Guerrero or vintage Larry Walker. He's big, strong, powerful and armed with a throwing arm better suited for hurling thunderbolts from Mount Olympus.
Ryan Sweeney has the strong arm, and as he grows into his 6-foot-4, 200-pound frame, he should have the "big" part down too. The Iowa native just needs the powerful part to start showing at the plate.
Sweeney had two hits--both singles--two RBIs and scored a run for Double-A Birmingham last night in a 10-5 win at Mississippi. He improved his season average to .282 and has 45 RBIs.
Of course, speedy left fielder Jerry Owens had two more hits and has 40 RBIs out of the leadoff spot, and he's actually hit a home run. Center fielder Chris Young hit his 35th double and 20th homer in the victory. Sweeney's two singles left him with just 21 extra-base hits, the same as Owens, and his .350 slugging percentage barely beats his .343 on-base percentage.
"He's been banged up some this year," Birmingham manager Razor Shines said. "He plays so hard--he runs down every ball, crashes into every wall. Everything he does is full-speed. He's a banger. But I'm not making excuses for him not having any home runs.
“I throw BP to him every day and believe me--those home runs will come. As a hitter, I liken him to a stronger version of John Olerud with a lot more raw power in his bat."
A veteran scout with a National League organization doesn't go by the numbers, either. He goes by what he sees in a hitter's swing, and the sound of the ball coming off the bat. So the fact that Sweeney, still just 20, had yet to homer through 90 games and 354 at-bats at Birmingham meant little to him.
"The balls he hits, he hits with pop," the scout said. "He hits the ball hard, and a young man who hits the ball hard with wood bats, he's going to grow into a man with power. He has a short swing from the left side--it's compact, and he's got such quick hands, the bat just flies through the hitting zone.
"I think the world of their hitting coach, Gregg Ritchie, and he's working like hell with those guys to make them better. I'm confident Sweeney will hit for power. When he does, he'll have three plus tools--hitting for average, hitting for power and arm. He's got a 65 arm now, and I'd say he's a future solid average defender in right. He's not a great runner, but he'll fit the right field profile when it's all said and done."
• In addition to the Phillies losing first baseman Jim Thome for the remainder of the season, Philadelphia fans got more bad news today as lefthander Cole Hamels is also gone for the year. Hamels, a first-rounder in 2002, will be shut down for at least a month. He hadn't pitched since July 19, going on the disabled list for what was labeled as a back strain. Hamels had a similar problem with his back last year, and a CT scan revealed that last year's injury never fully healed. Hamels has been dominant in 28 pro starts in the Phillies' system, going 11-3, 1.54 with 208 strikeouts in 152 innings and was expected to contribute down the stretch. "I was probably as aggressive as anyone in our organization in regard to getting him to the big leagues this season," GM Ed Wade told the Philadelphia Daily News.
• The Pirates promoted outfielder Nate McLouth to the big leagues. The 25th-round pick in 2000 was hitting .297-5-39 in 397 at-bats at Triple-A Indianapolis. While McLouth might only have average tools across the board, it's the intangibles he brings to the table that make him better and not just a fourth outfielder in the major leagues. "He's an everyday guy," Pirates farm director Brian Graham said. "He's not going to make you jump out of your shoes, but he's the type player you have to watch every day to appreciate. Scouts grade him out as average, but his approach, his work ethic and his hustle are reasons every manager has loved to have him on their club. He's not a guy with one or two standout tools, it's the whole package. He's a baseball player.
"Brian Giles was the same way in the minor leagues. He was a baseball player. McLouth won't have Giles-type power, but all the other phases of his game are comparable."
• Dodgers lefthander Greg Miller made his second appearance at Double-A Jacksonville Wednesday--again pitching out of the bullpen. Miller, who hadn't pitched in Double-A for two years, allowed two hit in his lone inning of work in the Suns' 6-0 win against Chattanooga. "It's a weird word to use, but it's really a relief to be back," Miller said. "That's all I can say--I feel relieved. It's been a long few years and if there's one thing I learned, it's not to take anything for granted. Everything I do now, I do with a purpose."
• If the Orioles are looking for a solution at first base with the Rafael Palmeiro debacle hanging over the club, they need to look no further than Triple-A Ottawa, where big Walter Young is waiting in the wings. Young, a 31st-round pick of the Pirates in 1999, went 4-for-5 with five RBIs and slugged his 13th homer of the year off Rochester righthander Boof Bonser in Ottawa's 7-6 win. The 6-foot-5, 300-pound first baseman is hitting .293/.343/.464 in 392 at-bats for the Lynx this season.
• Braves lefthander Chuck James made his Triple-A debut last night against Durham, and while he pitched well--4 2/3 innings, four hits, one earned run, two walks and four strikeouts--the Bulls teed off against the Braves' bullpen for a 7-2 win. Shortstop B.J. Upton and outfielder Delmon Young combined to go 6-for-9 with three RBIs, as Upton homered and tripled and Young doubled to lead Durham.
• Low Class A Savannah righthander Collin Balester was forced to leave yesterday's 8-7 loss to Greenville in the second inning after being accidentally hit in the head with a throw from catcher Luke Montz. Montz was trying to throw out Bombers right fielder Austin Easley when the throw caught Balester in the top of the head. The fourth-round pick in 2004 out of Huntington Beach (Calif.) High was removed from the game for precautionary reasons and is not expected to miss his next start.
• Everyone got their in licks for Double-A Springfield in a 15-1 romp against Frisco. Leading the way were the Cardinals' first two batters, center fielder Shaun Boyd and right fielder Rick Ankiel. Both players hit a double and a home run, as Boyd went 4-for-5 with five RBIs and four runs scored, and Ankiel went 3-for-4 with three RBIs and two runs scored. Ankiel's big day raised his average nearly 60 points; he's now hitting .220 in his 41 at-bats in Double-A. Boyd, meanwhile, has hit safely in 15 of his past 16 games and is hitting .375 in August, boosting his season average to .287.
• Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a 2-for-4 day in Double-A Arkansas' 4-2 loss to Midland. Kendrick has recorded two hits in eight of the 10 games during his streak, and he is hitting .340/.356/.567 at Arkansas after going .384/.421/.638 at high Class A Rancho Cucamonga.
• Kendrick's former middle-infield mate at Rancho Cucamonga, minor league home run leader Brandon Wood, broke out of a 3-for-30 funk with three hits in the Quakes' 9-7 loss to Stockton. Wood hit a double in the game but did not homer; he has hit just one longball in 59 at-bats since July 25 but still leads the minors with 35 on the year. Low Class A Asheville's Joe Koshansky has closed within one of him, however.
• After hitting .361 in June and July and then cooling off a bit to start August, Rangers outfielder Kevin Mahar seems to be heating up again at high Class A Bakersfield. The undrafted senior sign out of Indiana in 2004 had his second straight three-hit game in a 9-4 win against San Jose, adding a double, a triple and three runs scored. Mahar is hitting .327/.393/.555 in 355 at-bats for the Blaze.
• Blue Jays first-rounder Ricky Romero is still looking for his first professional win, but he pitched well for high Class A Dunedin in an 8-6 loss to Sarasota. In his fourth Florida State League start, the lefthander out of Cal State Fullerton struck out 11 and allowed just one walk and four earned runs in six innings, and he did not factor in the decision.
• Yankees righthander Tyler Clippard and Twins righthander Jay Rainville were outstanding but neither got a decision in high Class A Fort Myers' 2-1 win against Tampa. Clippard allowed a run on four hits while striking out a season-high 13 and walking none in seven innings of work. Rainville yielded just an unearned run on six hits while striking out four over 8 1/3. Clippard's ERA in the FSL dropped to 3.02, Rainville's to 2.12.
• Rookie-level Helena continued its hot streak Wednesday, defeating Casper 7-3. The win pushed Helena's record to 10-0 in the second half and kept the Brewers six games ahead of Great Falls in the Pioneer League's North Division.
• Twins lefthander Alexander Smit continued his dominance of Appy League hitters yesterday for Rookie-level Elizabethton. In three innings of relief, Smit had six strikeouts, allowed one hit and one walk. Smit has 73 strikeouts in just 38 innings on the year to go with his 2.37 ERA.
• Taylor Teagarden broke out in a big way for short-season Spokane yesterday. The Rangers’ third-round pick this year had his first multi-hit game since joining the Indians on Aug. 3. As the DH, Teagarden went 3-for-4 with a double and five RBIs. Despite the outburst, Teagarden is batting .167/.200/.458 in 24 at-bats.
• Phillies outfielder Mike Costanzo broke out of his most recent slump against short-season New Jersey on Tuesday, going 2-for-5, and then continued his hot hitting against Vermont yesterday, going 3-for-5 to raise his average to .230. Costanzo, a second-round pick out of Coastal Carolina, has had a difficult transition to pro ball, but has shown glimpses of his potential throughout the year.
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