Catching up with the Minors -- Part III
New Britain Rock Cats
Garrett Guzman, OF, was drafted in 2001 and has slowly but surely risen through the ranks. For the most part, his seasons have been remarkably consistent -- and unremarkable. This season seems to be a bit different, as Guzman has put together a .304 batting average and 13 homers, which is easily his best season since his days in the GCL back in 2001. Those numbers virtually assure that he'll spend 2008 in Rochester. I'm also very pleased with the performance of Trevor Plouffe (SS) this year, even though it hasn't been perfect -- he's made 24 errors (albeit on what I've read is a terrible infield), and he's hitting just .279, which isn't all that remarkable. Nonetheless, this has to be considered a very positive season for Plouffe after he struggled mightily in 2005 with Beloit and 2006 with Ft. Myers. I don't expect him to be promoted at the start of next season (though it is a possibility) -- but he seems to be doing what he can to regain his status as a legitimate prospect.
On the pitching side, Oswaldo Sosa has started just 5 games in New Britain, but his season clearly has been excellent. Sosa started off in Ft. Myers, where he posted a 2.23 ERA in 105 innings before being sent up. In his 5 starts with the Rock Cats, Sosa has put up a 3.45 ERA in 28.2 innings, which is still pretty solid. Beyond that, the really impressive Rock Cats pitchers have all found their way up to Rochester.
At the top of the list has to be Matt Moses, the once (and maybe future) top third base prospect in the future. Moses, who was the Twins first round selection in the 2003 draft, has so far been a bust. This year, he failed miserably in Rochester and was sent back to New Britain, being passed on the way by Brian Buscher, who proceeded to get an unexpected callup to the bigs. The Twins seem to have been hoping that Moses would take a step forward in 2007, positioning himself to take over in the Majors in 2008. Instead, Moses hit .224 in Rochester, and is hitting just .257 with New Britain. Things aren't looking good for Moses' future at this point, but of course he'll get another chance next year.
On the mound, there are a number of candidates for being on this list, but the top choice has to be Tristan Crawford. The right-handed swingman from Anchorage started his season in Rochester but lasted just 3 games, posting a 10.12 ERA in just 2.2 innings before being shipped back to New Britain. Since that time, he's put up a 5.56 ERA in 68 innings of work. That has to classify as a disappointment. The performance of righty reliever Danny Powers also has to be considered a disappointment (I'm breaking my rules here -- Powers has been demoted to Ft. Myers, but hasn't been there for long, so I'm including him on this list). After starting his season with 2 solid seasons of work, Powers put up a 5.28 ERA in 59.2 innings of work, which is a step backwards for him.
Rochester Red Wings
Jose Morales (C) was once something akin to a top-level prospect, back when he was drafted by the Twins in the 3rd round of the 2001 draft. His 2001 season in the GCL wasn't much, but in 2002 he hit .309 in 175 AB's to demonstrate that he had some ability with the stick. His 2003 and 2004 seasons were solid but unremarkable, and then things took a turn for the worst. Morales played in just 7 games in 2005 due to injury, and posted a .215 average in 251 AB's for New Britain in 2006. Imagine the surprise, then, when Morales returned to form this season by hitting .324 in 324 AB's. You have to love a guy making good, and hopefully Morales can back it up next season. I also have to mention Matt Tolbert (IF/LF), who has been constantly mentioned this season as being on the verge of a Major League callup thanks to his solid offensive season. Tolbert cooled off a bit in the summer, but is still hitting .305 on the year in 357 AB's.
On the mound, there are almost more deserving names than I can fit in a reasonably sized column. Forgetting about those players (Garza and Baker) who started the season in AAA and have since been promoted, there are still at least three guys who deserve a mention. First is phenom Kevin Slowey, who has a 9-3 record and a 1.77 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, and 89-14 K-BB ratio. He's also made his Major League debut, of course, and even though his stint in the bigs wasn't exactly what he was hoping for, this season still has to be considered a tremendous success for him -- he showed glimpses of what his future should hold. Also making the list are two pitchers who started off in New Britain but have risen to Rochester and, frankly, dominated. First off is Nick Blackburn, who is 7-1 with a 2.14 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 48-19 K-BB ratio. At the beginning of the year, he was not really on anybodies radar -- how could he be, when players like Garza, Slowey, Baker, and Perkins were ahead of him on the depth chart? Now, he's positioned himself to get an invite to Spring Training and a long look from the developmental staff. A 2008 Major League debut wouldn't be at all surprising for Blackburn. Finally, former Nebraska lefty Brian Duensing had a similar trajectory to Blackburn this year, also starting in New Britain and earning a promotion. Since his callup, Duensing is 10-3 with a 2.56 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and 60-26 K-BB ratio. Those numbers certainly aren't as amazing as Slowey's or Blackburn's, but there's no question that he's been very solid.
How could anyone other than Matt LeCroy be at the top of this list? Honestly, I almost didn't include him, simply because he's not exactly a prospect. Nonetheless, LeCroy has managed to be so spectacularly bad that he deserves inclusion on this list even if his performance is, ultimately, of no consequence whatsoever. LeCroy is hitting a whopping .195 on the year, along with a .279 On-base percentage and a .543 OPS in 231 AB's. Also on the list, largely due to the lofty expectations that he started the year off with, is centerfielder Denard Span. Span has managed to hit just .252 in 432 AB's. That's not an inspiring number for a player who many in the organization (and outside the organization) believed would get a chance to replace Torii Hunter in center for the Twins in 2008. That now seems like a very dubious proposition, indeed.
On the mound, the most disappointing performance to me has been that of Dave Gassner, who at one point seemed to be a top prospect. After being injured for much of 2006, Gassner was removed from the 40-man roster and was placed in AAA to see if he could hang with the young guns listed above. Instead, he's posted a 5.21 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in 126 innings of work. Gassner's time in the organization has, unfortunately, very likely passed.
Labels: Minor Leagues (General)