Minor League First Half Grades -- Part 4
Rochester Red Wings
Morales is currently on the disabled list, and has been limited to 197 at bats this year because of his injury. Nonetheless, he's easily had the best season amongst any of the other minor league catchers in the system, with a .315 average and 774 OPS. What's fairly remarkable is that Morales started off in a horrible slump this season, but has still put up really good numbers to cement his status as the organization's third catcher.
GRADE: A- (Would have been an A without the injury)
The primary beneficiary of the injury to Morales has been Jorgensen, who was brought in to the organization as a minor league free agent in the off-season. A career .240 minor league hitter, Jorgensen has actually thrived with the Red Wings this year, hitting .277/821 with 7 homers. Much as it surprises me, I have to admit that he's been a steady replacement for Morales.
Christy has split his season between Rochester and New Britain, and hasn't been particularly effective with either. In New Britain, Christy had a .216 average and 592 OPS in 74 AB's. His numbers have actually been a bit better in Rochester, where he's hit .241/644 in 29 AB's. Christy has done virtually nothing offensively since being drafted in 2006, but since he continues to be moved quickly through the system I assume that he's a reasonably good defensive catcher.
New Britain Rock Cats
Speaking of defensive catchers, the Twins knew that was exactly what they were getting when they picked up Butera from the Mets last year. So far in 2008, Butera has a .221 average and 672 OPS in 235 AB's. That's pretty much in line with his .214 career average. Hey, nobody said catchers were all that exciting! Butera gets a slightly better grade than Christy because I expect less of him and because he's shown more power, which is at least a somewhat useful offensive skill that Christy doesn't seem to have.
Palacios flitted around the short season leagues from 2005-2007, although the only year he got any significant playing time was in 2006. This year, Palacios started off in Ft. Myers, where he hit .231/537 in 65 AB's, before being promoted to New Britain. He has a .200 average and 463 OPS in 40 AB's in AA. I imagine Palacios was promoted more out of necessity than for any other reason.
Ft. Myers Miracle
After two seasons in which he hit .286 and .291, Ramos found himself a highly touted prospect coming into this season with Ft. Myers. He hasn't exactly disappointed -- he's hitting .261/722 with 10 homers and 53 RBI's in 333 AB's, in a league that often chews up offensive prospects -- but I suspect a lot of people (myself included) were hoping for a little bit more. Nonetheless, the fact that his power is continuing to develop nicely, and that he hasn't bottomed out offensively like many have done before when going from Beloit to Ft. Myers, is cause for being pleased overall.
Lehmann is the only catcher drafted in 2007 by the Twins to make it to a full season team so far, and in 12 months he's gone from Elizabethton to Beloit to Ft. Myers. As with Palacios' promotion, this one seems to have been more out of necessity than anything else, although the Twins could have promoted Jair Fernandez (see below) instead of Lehmann. Either way, his season has been less than stellar offensively. In 104 AB's with Beloit, Lehmann hit .240/650. In 61 AB's with Ft. Myers, he's hitting a more paltry .213/524.
Fernandez was acquired by the Twins in exchange for allowing the Mariners to send Rule 5 pick R.A. Dickey to the minors at the beginning of the year. He's hitting better this season than he has previously in professional baseball, with a .283 average and 703 OPS in 127 AB's. If he turns into anything at all, the Twins will have done well in picking him up -- Dickey was a minor league free agent, so the Twins essentially turned a journeyman pitcher who they wouldn't have relied on in the least into a young catcher who will presumably in the organization for a few years.
Allan de San Miguel
De San Miguel has played with both the Miracle and the Snappers this season, and hasn't been that good with either. In 65 AB's with the Miracle, he hit an absolutely horrific .123 with a 439 OPS. He's been better with the Snappers, with a .226 average and 725 OPS in 62 AB's -- but you know there's a problem when a .226 average is actually a marked improvement.
Yersich got off to a terrible start last year, hitting just .180 before being sent down to Elizabethton when the short season started. His strong performance with the E-Twins (.312 average in 186 AB's) had me hopeful that a return to Beloit this year would produce a different result. In a way it has -- his .210 average in 224 AB's for the Snappers this season isn't great, by any means, but at least it's 30 points higher than what he was hitting last year. Yersich also has 6 homers this year, which is more than he's hit before in a full season. That means there's been a little bit of improvement, but not enough to make me happen.