Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Prospect Rundown: July

Now that July is behind us, it's time for the fourth monthly check-in on our Top Ten Prospects. Let's see how the boys fared over the past month...

10. Steve Tolleson (AAA): .271/.357/.396, 2 HR, 12 RBI, 18 R, 4/5 SB
(Season Totals: .288/.364/.421, 7 HR, 34 RBI, 61 R,13/18 SB)

Tolleson took a small step back in July but still posted quality numbers, displaying excellent plate discipline (16/14 K/BB) and scoring runs at a solid clip. He has shown an ability to maintain a good average while drawing walks and delivering extra-base hits at the highest level of the minors, so it seems it's only a matter of time before the Twins give him a look.

9. Angel Morales (A): .361/.375/.541, 1 HR, 11 RBI, 13 R, 4/4 SB
(Season Totals: .244/.302/.423, 9 HR, 38 RBI, 45 R, 11/15 SB)

Morales bounced back from a disappointing month of June to post a stellar 916 OPS in July. He's still not walking and isn't displaying the type of power we'd like to see -- he has followed up a 5-HR May with single-homer months in June and July -- but the average was way up and he continued to cut down on his strikeout rate. He has transitioned into the No. 2 spot in the Beloit lineup.

8. Shooter Hunt (GCL): 7 IP, 0-3, 19.29 ERA, 3/19 K/BB, 3.43 WHIP
(Season Totals: 32.2 IP, 0-5, 10.19 ERA, 26/58 K/BB, 2.54 WHIP)

Yikes. The wheels continue to come off for Hunt, who had a disastrous month of July while pitching in the rookie-level Gulf Coast league. In seven innings spread over five appearances, Hunt managed only three strikeouts while issuing a ghastly 19 walks. That's a BB/9IP rate of 24.4, which is basically just cartoonish. In two of his five appearances, he failed to record a single out. If he can't figure out how to find the strike zone, it seems that his pro career could be in jeopardy.

7. Anthony Slama (AA): 17 IP, 6 SV, 3.18 ERA, 25/10 K/BB, 1.24 WHIP
(Season Totals: 61.2 IP, 22 SV, 2.63 ERA, 86/31 K/BB, 1.22 WHIP)

More of the same for Slama. Once again, he posted an excellent strikeout rate while proving extremely tough to hit (.183 BAA), and once again he remained mired in New Britain while the Twins' big-league bullpen continued to struggle. Slama continued to display middling control with 10 walks in 17 innings, but it didn't prevent him from getting solid results. That the Twins haven't even given Slama a look in Triple-A yet is simply a travesty.

6. Kevin Mulvey (AAA): 24.2 IP, 1-2, 5.84 ERA, 24/13 K/BB, 1.58 WHIP
(Season Totals: 114.1 IP, 4-6, 4.33 ERA, 97 K/45 BB, 1.45 WHIP)

July was a tough month for Mulvey. Not only did he have his worst month yet for the Red Wings, he also made his major league debut and was tagged for four runs on six hits while recording just four outs over two appearances before being sent back down to the minors. At 24, Mulvey is still young, but he's taken pretty clear step backs from last year in nearly all categories. Hopefully he can finish strong and reemerge as a rotation candidate for next season.

5. Danny Valencia (AAA): .287/.305/.465, 3 HR, 20 RBI, 11 R, 0/0 SB
(Season Totals: .289/.353/.483, 12 HR, 56 RBI, 62 R, 0/3 SB)

After a scalding hot start in Rochester, Valencia cooled off in the latter half of July but still finished with very respectable numbers. His inability to walk (just five in 36 games) has severely limited his ability to reach base, but he has clearly demonstrated that he can hit the ball at this level. Defense and plate discipline will be the main obstacles he must overcome to reach the majors.

4. Jose Mijares (MLB): 12.1 IP, 2.19 ERA, 10/5 K/BB, 1.05 WHIP
(Season Totals: 36.1 IP, 2.72 ERA, 29/18 K/BB, 1.35 WHIP)

Mijares posted good numbers for the Twins once again in July, with a solid strikeout rate and improved control. His peripherals haven't been overwhelming this season, but he has posted an ERA of 2.84 or lower in every month so far and has been one of the only reliable arms at the back end of the Twins' bullpen.

3. Ben Revere (A+): .288/.316/.397, 0 HR, 6 RBI, 11 R, 5/7 SB
(Season Totals: .309/.371/.382, 2 HR, 37 RBI, 56 R, 33/47 SB)

Revere saw his batting average bounce back a bit in July and flashed some extra-base power with two doubles and three triples, but the majority of his value stems from getting on base and using his speed, so seeing him draw just two walks and steal a season-low fives bases over the course of the month is disconcerting. In fairness, he did miss about a walk and a half at the end of the month due to a knee injury.

2. Wilson Ramos (AA): Did not play
(Season Totals: .308/.326/.444, 3 HR, 18 RBI, 22 R, 0/0 SB)

Sidelined by a pair of partial hamstring tears, Ramos missed the entire month of July and hasn't played in a game since June 12. There is hope that he'll be able to return for the final couple weeks of the season, but it could be that Ramos is done for the year and will finish with only 36 games played. It's always a shame when a talented prospect loses nearly an entire season to injury, but on the bright side Ramos still doesn't turn 22 until next week, so there is plenty of time for him to bounce back and put together a good career.

1. Aaron Hicks (A): .223/.333/.372, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 15 R, 3/8 SB
(Season Totals: .225/.342/.341, 1 HR, 15 RBI, 20 R, 4/9 SB)

It was a tough month for Hicks, who continued to struggle with his batting average and did not fare well on the basepaths. On the plus side, though, he started to hit the ball with more authority, as 10 of his 21 hits went for extra bases, and he posted a nearly even strikeout-to-walk ratio (17/16). In spite of the underwhelming numbers, there is little reason to worry about Hicks at this point.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Shooter Hunt has been sent home.

Nick N. said...

Seriously? I hadn't heard that.

Anonymous said...

You should put projected positions next to the prospects' names, as unless I already followed the Twin's farm system, I wouldn't have any idea which positions are strong.

Anonymous said...

Nick,

Great article!! I can't believe we did not trade Revere or Ramos at the trade deadline for pitching help. It is clear these two players are not the great prospects we thought they were. The farm must be hurting right now if they are considered two of the best in the system.

Nick N. said...

You should put projected positions next to the prospects' names, as unless I already followed the Twin's farm system, I wouldn't have any idea which positions are strong.

Good input. I'll make sure to add that in future editions. For now...

Steve Tolleson - 2B
Angel Morales - OF
Shooter Hunt - SP
Anthony Slama - RP
Kevin Mulvey - SP
Danny Valencia - 3B
Jose Mijares - RP
Ben Revere - OF
Wilson Ramos - C
Aaron Hicks - OF

TT said...

"(Valencia) has clearly demonstrated that he can hit the ball at this level. "

That is plainly not true. Valencia had a hot streak to start at AAA, but since the all star break he is hitting .224 and he is 5 for 37 over the last ten games. It looks like AAA pitchers have caught up to him and he isn't adjusting. At least not yet.

"Slama continued to display middling control with 10 walks in 17 innings, but it didn't prevent him from getting solid results."

Walking one in every four batters you face at AA is not the path to the big leagues. Major league hitters, and even AAA hitters, are going to have a better sense of the strike zone than the AA hitters Slama is facing.

"it seems it's only a matter of time before the Twins give him a look."

Tolleson really taken a step back at all, that's just statistical noise. His pre and post allstar break numbers are very similar. But he has the same problem as Luke Hughes. He has the bat to play the middle infield, but he may not have the glove. As a corner outfielder, his bat doesn't really stand out.

Nick N. said...

It looks like AAA pitchers have caught up to him and he isn't adjusting. At least not yet.

Valencia has proven to be a streaky hitter at basically all stops. Does the fact that he's gone into a short slump prove that pitchers have "caught up to him" or is it simply regression to the mean after an insanely hot start? I'd tend toward the latter, though I suppose it might be a little of both.

Major league hitters, and even AAA hitters, are going to have a better sense of the strike zone than the AA hitters Slama is facing.

Know what would be a good way for him to figure that out? I'll let you guess...

But he has the same problem as Luke Hughes. He has the bat to play the middle infield, but he may not have the glove.

I do wonder whether you have anything to back this up. I'm aware that Tolleson is not viewed as an all-world defender, but everything I've heard indicates that he's worlds better than Hughes as an infielder.

TT said...

"Know what would be a good way for him to figure that out?"

I think maybe the Twins have already figured it out. If he had major league control, he wouldn't be walking that many AA batters.

"simply regression to the mean"

Whatever it is, Valencia certainly isn't showing he can hit AAA pitching right now. I agree, that is not necessarily permanent. But if you look at Trevor Plouffe, he has been hitting better as the year goes on, not worse.

"everything I've heard indicates that he's worlds better than Hughes as an infielder."

I think you are right. The problem may be the same but it is not nearly as bad. My point was that the improvement Tolleson needs to make isn't going to show up in the boxscore.

Nick N. said...

I think maybe the Twins have already figured it out. If he had major league control, he wouldn't be walking that many AA batters.

Here's the point I'm trying to make: despite the shaky control, Slama has a 2.63 ERA and 12.6 K/9 rate. Given that he is having overwhelming success at the Double-A level with his current approach, how likely is he to really try and change it?

Get him in Triple-A, see how his control plays there. If he struggles, then he'll realize that it's something he needs to work hard to improve if he wants to be successful big leaguer. I just can't possibly see how, at age 25, continuing to dominate Double-A hitters is benefitting Slama at this point.

Nick N. said...

Whatever it is, Valencia certainly isn't showing he can hit AAA pitching right now. I agree, that is not necessarily permanent. But if you look at Trevor Plouffe, he has been hitting better as the year goes on, not worse.

It should be noted that Valencia had a pretty bad slump for three weeks or so earlier this season when he was in Double-A that lowered his average by like 50 points. He came out of it, got back on track, was promoted to Rochester and went on a tear. Everyone has their ups and downs. If Valencia's slump stretches for a couple more weeks maybe I'll be concerned, but his overall numbers in Triple-A are still quite good at this point.

As for Plouffe, here are his month-by-month OPS figures:

April: 734
May: 563
June: 723
July: 677

I'm not sure the evidence really supports your assertion that he's been getting better as the year has progressed. He just isn't a very good hitter.

TT said...

"I just can't possibly see how, at age 25, continuing to dominate Double-A hitters is benefitting Slama at this point."

The point is Slama, at age 25, is obviously not a major league pitcher and not very likely to be. He's an organization player and the organization needs him at AAA a lot more than it needs him taking innings at AAA.

"his month-by-month OPS figures:"

Another demonstration of why that "statistic" is garbage. It makes performance clear as mud.

Plouffe - pre- allstar break hit .247 with K/BB of 54/22. Post-allstar break he is hitting .277 with K/BB of 4/4. He hit .228 in April, .215 in May, .273 in June and .272 in July. In other words, he added almost 50 points to his batting average. That is the kind of improvement you are looking for from a guy who is the youngest player on his team.

"he's gone into a short slump "

It hasn't been that short. He is hitting .211 since the allstar break, .135 over the last ten games. His "slump" has been as long as his hot streak at this point.

Nick N. said...

The point is Slama, at age 25, is obviously not a major league pitcher and not very likely to be. He's an organization player and the organization needs him at AAA a lot more than it needs him taking innings at AAA.

This is "obvious" huh? Jose Mijares had considerably worse control in the minors than Anthony Slama, and still does. Would you say this has unequivocally prevented him from being an effective major-league pitcher?

Another demonstration of why that "statistic" is garbage. It makes performance clear as mud.

What's "garbage" is basing all of your arguments on post All-Star break numbers and declaring that Plouffe is flourishing in the second half while Valencia has been solved by Triple-A pitching. About three weeks have passed since the All-Star break, there's just not enough data to draw those types of conclusions.

TT said...

Mijares walked 1 batter in 6 innings at AAA this year and 11 batters in 56 innings at three levels in 2008.

The only year he spent any real time at AA was 2007 and he was 22 years old, not 25. His control had improved considerably over the course of the season, as his lack of any walks at the major league level that year show.

"About three weeks have passed since the All-Star break, there's just not enough data to draw those types of conclusions."

Your claim was that "(Valencia) has clearly demonstrated that he can hit the ball at this level" based on the three weeks before the allstar break.

As the numbers show, the Plouffe actually was getting better results starting in June, not just for the last three weeks.

You will also notice I haven't drawn any firm conclusions. But I am always a bit skeptical of 25 year old "prospects" who are just getting to AAA. There aren't many successful Twins players who made it after being that far behind the age curve.

Nick N. said...

The only year he spent any real time at AA was 2007 and he was 22 years old, not 25. His control had improved considerably over the course of the season, as his lack of any walks at the major league level that year show.

You're ignoring the main point, which is that relievers with middling control can still be effective. Mijares doesn't have very good control, plain and simple. I don't think his lack of walks in 10 major-league innings last year proves that he had drastically improved his control; his walk rate of 4.5 BB/9 this year is right in line with his minor-league rate of 5.0 BB/9. And yet, despite issuing 18 walks over 36 innings this year, Mijares has been one of the three best pitchers in the Twins' pen and has posted a sub-3 ERA every month.


As the numbers show, the Plouffe actually was getting better results starting in June, not just for the last three weeks.

And then in July he failed to reach base at even a .300 clip while showing decreased power. That matters more to me than the fact that he had a few more singles fall in for hits.

You will also notice I haven't drawn any firm conclusions. But I am always a bit skeptical of 25 year old "prospects" who are just getting to AAA. There aren't many successful Twins players who made it after being that far behind the age curve.

How about Pat Neshek, who is easily the best organizational comp for Slama?

I'd be more inclined to agree with you if Slama hadn't experienced such overwhelming success at every level. It isn't often that players who post a 1.75 ERA and 13.4 K/9 rate in their minor-league careers fail to become solid major-league contributors.

Slama is only "behind the curve" because the Twins have failed to promote him at a reasonable pace. You can argue until you turn blue about the reasons they might have for being so conservative with him, but the results speak for themselves.

TT said...

Nick -

"How about Pat Neshek, who is easily the best organizational comp for Slama?"

Neshek a comp for Slama. Neshek was 22 when he first reached AA. At 24 he had almost two years at AA under his belt. At age 25, he split the year between AAA and the majors, dominating both. Neshek's numbers his first year at AA look a lot like Slama's, but he was two years younger and he spent another full year at AA after that.

"Slama is only "behind the curve" because the Twins have failed to promote him at a reasonable pace. "

I doubt that, but it is irrelevant. The fact is he is 25 and pitching at AA. You have to evaluate his performance with that in mind.

"while showing decreased power. "

Except Plouffe didn't show decreased power. He has had 6 or 7 extra base hits every month. The difference is statistically insignificant - aka meaningless.

"That matters more to me than the fact that he had a few more singles fall in for hits."

It shouldn't. The volatility of walks and extra base hits is always going to be higher. They aren't going to reflect real improvement nearly as accurately as hits do.

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