April 2010

No-nos abound for Draft prospects

On the one hand, you expect these top high school Draft prospects to dominate their opponents. On the other, a no-hitter is still a no-hitter, right?

In this week’s batch of Draft Reports (along with a feature on North Carolina’s Matt Harvey) is a report on California righty Taijuan Walker. Interesting thing about the report is that it wasn’t a glowing one. Not that Walker doesn’t have talent, mind you. But he’s been maddeningly inconsistent, both start-to-start and between starts. But I talked to a scout who saw him today who reported that Walker threw a no-hitter against Eisenhower High School. His velocity was right around 90-93 the entire start, it didn’t vary, and he maintained it throughout the start. His slider, which did not look good in earlier viewings, looked a lot sharper (it still needs some work, but it was vastly improved). Now, if Walker can keep that up in his following starts, he’ll continue to move up Draft boards.

aviles.jpgOne no-hitter is nice. But how about two, back-to-back? And what if one of them was a perfect game? That’s what Suffern HS RHP Robbie Aviles has done in his last two starts. Last week, he threw a perfect game.Then yesterday came the no-hitter. According to the story on LoHud.com, Aviles didn’t even realize he had the no-no because he started the game with two walks and walked four total. He struck out 15 and hasn’t allowed a run this season (spanning 20 innings). The Northeast guys always get a later start because of the weather and when there’s a guy making things happen like this, he’ll become a hot commodity in a hurry. The report said there were 30 scouts in attendance yesterday and it sounds like there were more than just area guys there. He starts again on Wednesday, so let’s see if he can make it three in a row.

Just some Draft tidbits for you while you’re waiting to see if the rain stops in Oxford, Mississippi for the big Anthony Ranaudo vs. Drew Poermanz matchup.

Minor League Baseball in Ohio in April is a tough sell

I’m in beautiful Eastlake, Ohio, today to at Classic Park, home of the Lake County Captains. It’s a beautiful night, the Captains have the best record in the Midwest League and I think there may have been more people in my wedding party than are in attendance tonight.

I don’t say this to knock the Captains or the fans in this area. I’ve been to this wonderful park several times with large crowds in attendance. But tonight, not so much. It’s April, the weather in Eastern Ohio can be iffy (though it’s nice, albeit a little chilly tonight), and school is still going on. Teams like this inevitably draw better once the summer hits.

I came here to see a few guys with the visiting Great Lakes Loons, the Dodgers’ affiliate. The story is that the roster is chock full of guys with MLB bloodlines (look for a story on this in the future). Last names that stand out are Wallach (dad is Tim) and Yount (uncle is Robin). There are more, but you’ll have to wait for the story.

Coincidentally, the best hitter on Lake County, which is in the Midwest League for the first time and leads the circuit in hitting, is Bo Greenwell. That’s right, Mike’s kid. The outfielder entered tonight’s game fourth in the minors with a .468 average, first with 20 RBIs, third in total bases and among the leaders in a host of other offensive categories.

There aren’t any elite prospects here — none in the Top 50 — but that’s ok. I did get to see 2009 fourth-round pick Angelo Songco with the Loons. Just for kicks, I went and looked at his Draft Report. This is the line that stood out:

He’s got big-time legitimate power to all fields.

songco.JPGThat was certainly on disiplay in the fourth inning of this game. Facing lefty Chris Jones from Lake County, Songco took what looked like a hung changeup and tattooed it out to right field. It was only his second homer of the season, but it will be interesting to see how he develops. I always find it intriguing to see if guys who have power as an amateur continue to do so as they transition to the pro game. Last year, Great Lakes had Kyle Russell, who was older as a senior sign, but the power did translate to the tune of 26 homers and 102 RBIs. Lets see if Songco can follow suit.

Also here is second-round pick Blake Smith, who’s made a number of fine catches in right field (Indians fans, I’m not ignoring you — 2009 Draftee Joe Gardner is here, but he’s not pitching today). Smith’s off to a good start, hitting .357 over his first 11 games. Smith was a two-way player at Cal who some liked on the mound, but the Dodgers are having play the outfield full-time.

This is why I love coming to Minor League games. Even when there aren’t “big-name” prospects, there’s plenty to see.

Ex-Stras-aganza

OK, so maybe that title was weak. They can’t all be winners.

It’s now been a few days since the big Strasburg debut in Altoona on Sunday. I’m sure the nation and beyond has caught its collective breath, at least in time for his home debut in Harrisburg on Friday (by the way, Aroldis Chapman’s on the same schedule).

Reports had it that there were 70+ credentials handed out for the game on Sunday. There were 10 TV stations in attendance, five radio stations (not including the broadcasters for the game) and tons of newspapers and websites there to chronicle it all.

I thought it’d be fun to try and link to a bunch of the subsequent reporting here. Of course, we’ll start with my story on the Strasburg start as well as a side story on fellow first-rounder Drew Storen.

As for others… (some of these require subscriptions, just so’s you know):

The list goes on and on. Needless to say, a good time was had by all and I must admit, it was fun to be a part of all of that, the packed house, the hoopla, the media frenzy and watching him pitch. I saw his no-hitter against Air Force a year ago, so seeing him take that next step was fantastic.

I know everyone was all excited to see Strasburg in action, but I kind of hoped more would’ve been written about Storen. The guy was the No. 10 overall pick in the Draft, after all and should get to the big leagues just as quickly, if not faster, than Strasburg. He seems to get that he’s going to be painted as the sidekick, the Robin to Strasburg’s Batman, if you will, but man, was he lights out on Sunday. And seeing the Strasburg starting, Storen finishing formula in action must get Nats fans excited.

OK, onward and upward. I’ll be back soon, I hope, with some Draft tidbits for the class of 2010.

The Santana legend grows

As if going 4-for-5 with a pair of homers, a double and 4 RBIs wasn’t enough (or, in the parlance of the recently concluded Passover holiday — Dayenu), there’s more for the Santana Opening Day file.

According to the report on the Columbus Dispatch blog about the Clippers, the first homer was a revenge shot. Earlier in the game, Carlos Carrasco plunked Indianapolis’ Brian Friday in the third. Kevin Hart threw behind Santana in the fourth and got tossed. So Santana greeted reliever Jeremy Powell by hitting one over the scoreboard.

Oh, and it’s his birthday to boot.

Can’t make this stuff up, folks.

A whole lot of zeroes

Check out the Beloit-Cedar Rapids game. Scoreless in the ninth inning. Guess the whole pitchers are ahead of the hitters this time of year thing carries water in this case.

Garrett Richards probably shouldn’t be only in A ball (as pointed out by my colleague at Baseball Prospectus Kevin Goldstein — @Kevin_Goldstein), but all he can do is go out and pitch. He gave up just two hits, walked none and struck out seven.

Winter Wonderland in Wisconsin

Yes, I like alliteration.

The Kane County-Wisconsin game got snowed out today. That’s right. Snow. Here’s some pics and some video, courtesy of the TimberRattlers (@TimberRattlers). Thanks also to @battlekow for letting me know about it.

And some pics

snow1.jpg

snow2.jpg

Cashner-Minor in Southern League

Missed this in my Southern League update earlier…

Good pitching matchup. Braves 2009 first-rounder Mike Minor starting for Mississippi. Cubs 2008 first-round pick Andrew Cashner on the hill for Tennessee. Minor went five innings and allowed four runs on six hits and two walks, striking out six. Cashner got lifted after 4 1/3 IP (pitch limit) and gave up three runs on three hits and two walks. He had something going on though — he struck out 10.

Carlos Santana locked in

The Indians catching (or should I say hitting) prospect was 3-for-4, already with two solo home runs, two RBIs and two runs scored, when he came to the plate with the bases loaded in the seventh inning. It’s part of an 8-run seventh inning for Columbus. They’re spanking Indianapolis, 16-4.

And he doubled. Drove in two more. Not a bad opener, huh?  4 hits, 2 HR, a double, 4 RBIs…

Down at Double-A

Been spending too much time at the highest level. Here’s what’s going on in Double-A thus far tonight:

Texas League

Aaron Crow (Royals) went 4.2 IP for NW Arkansas, giving up four hits and one unearned run. He walked three and struck out two. Not a bad pro debut, huh?

Blake Beavan (Rangers) has pitched extremely well for Frisco. The big right-hander has gone five innings, allowing just one run on two hits, walking none and whiffing three.

Christian Friedrich (Rockies) looks good in his Double-A debut. He’s gone four innings, allowed one run on four hits, walking two and striking out three. He’s thrown just 58 pitches.

Eastern League

Kyle Drabek got the win in his Blue Jays organization debut. He did give up four runs (three earned) over five innings, yielding four hits and two walks. He did strike out eight.

He’s not a “prospect” per se, but props to Altoona’s Michael Crotta, who’s repeating the level. If he keeps pitching like this — 6 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K — he won’t stay there long.

The first four batters in Portland’s lineup — Ryan Kalish, Che-Hsuan Lin, Nate Spears and Luis Exposito have homered in Reading. Jose Iglesias is 2-for-4 with a pair of runs scored.

Southern League

Dodgers prospect Chris Withrow threw well for Chattanooga. He went six innings against Brett Lawrie and Huntsville (Lawrie went 1-for-4 with a double and an RBI), allowing two runs on three hits, walking one and striking out four. He didn’t figure into the decision.

I guess Mike Stanton’s power is legit. He hit one out in his first at-bat of the season, off of Dan Cortes. He’s 2-for-3 so far with one RBI from the solo shot and two runs scored.


Opening Day pitching prowess

I ran down some of the top pitching prospects who are on the hill tonight in Minor League games. Let’s check in on the big matchup of the day.

The Jeremy Hellickson-Chris Tillman matchup has gone about how you’d expect (check Gameday here). Tillman’s out of the game, having thrown 81 pitchers over four innings. He gave up two runs on five hits while striking out five and walking one. Hellickson’s been even better. In his four innings (and he’s still in the game), he’s thrown just 57 pitches, allowing one run on four hits, no walks and five K’s. Talk about efficient.

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