We are more than a month into the season, so time to take a look at some of our potential impact prospects for 2011.
Before we get into it though one important note - – the Mets Jenrry Mejia has a torn MCL in his right elbow and will most likely require Tommy John Surgery, so cross him off the list of potential impact prospects for 2011. It will now most likely be 2013, if he fully recovers, before he once again reaches the Majors.
Moving on, let’s revisit our crop of catchers:
Caleb Joseph is repeating Double-A, but is showing good pop and contact-making skills. He will turn 25 this summer. As long as he remains behind Matt Wieters in this organization, he is not likely to get a shot, but could be someone marketed in a deal later this summer.
Tyler Flowers is slugging over .500, but striking out once again over 35 percent of the time as a right-handed hitter only deepens my doubts about his chances as a MLB regular.
Hank Conger won a spot on the roster out of spring training and is in a timeshare situation with Jeff Mathis. Mathis, however, is once again failing to hit over .200 while Conger is starting to translate his minor league skills, albeit not fully yet, to the Majors and is hitting .271 .327 .500. It won’t be surprising to see the timeshare disappear and for Conger to move into the lead role in the near future. So, mixed leaguers, if he is available still, take note.
Jesus Montero was tearing up Triple-A and then went day to day with a groin strain. He is hitting .373 .384 .470. As expected, the number one reason he is in the minors is for defensive purposes. With Russell Martin actually performing well, the Yankees can afford to wait and they might wait as long as they can given the depth of the rest of their offense.
Austin Romine, meanwhile, is playing very well in Triple-A too and is showing much improved patience and contact-making skills in his second go-around. Unlike Montero, he has the defensive chops to stay behind the plate. But of course, he is still in the same logjam situation. He is starting to look a lot more like a September call-up.
Josh Donaldson received a cup of coffee once this year already and is likely to receive some more, but his chances for playing time in the Majors seem rather blocked by Kurt Suzuki .
Robinson Chirinos may have to wait for next season to take over as John Jaso’s platoon partner. For now the Rays appear to be content with Kelly Shoppach, but are unlikely to give him another fairly large contract after the year is done. Of course it does not help the fact that Chirinos has been miserable for Durham with his normally tremendous plate discipline and contact skills vaporized over his first 75 plate appearances. Given his history, I believe he’ll rebound, but he needs to show it if he wants to be considered a part of the Rays’ long-term plans.
J.P. Arencibia won the starting catching job out of spring training as expected and so far has a respectable .261 .320 .536 line. Given a strikeout rate approaching 30 percent and a BABIP of .304 (high for a catcher and especially so for one who doesn’t make much contact), however, I suspect that his batting average is more likely to go downwards, than upwards in the long run. But, you didn’t draft him for his batting average anyway.
Max Ramirez bounced a lot this off-season and the Cubs managed to get him to clear waivers and head to the minors. He continues to be patient, but the power has not shown up this season. In fact, in retrospect, it has not been all that apparent since 2008, so it is becoming a head-scratcher as to where all that once purported, 20+ HR per season power went. I suspect he is heading into Triple-A journeyman status. The fact that he isn’t a very good fielder either does not help his cause.
Wilin Rosario is receiving a second tour of duty in Double-A and is pretty much continuing from where he left off, walking about 7 percent of the time and striking out 20 percent of the time, but slugging well over .500. Chris Iannetta is being his inconsistent self again, so there may be an opportunity for Rosario. Right now, however, he does not appear to be on the fast track to the Majors.
Devin Mesoraco is dominating Triple-A, hitting .314 .410 .543 with 3 HR and walking 13 percent of the time. He is still striking out over a quarter of the time, but he still looks at least like a .280’s hitter in the Majors to me at the moment. Ramon Hernandez is playing well for the time being, but it’s only a matter of time before they make the transition to Mesoraco. NL and mixed leaguers should definitely be watching this situation.
Michael McKenry – Traded to the Red Sox since I wrote about him. I really like this move by the Sox and will be interested to see if he can crack their lineup. He certainly has more of a chance given the fairly week catching in the farm system and not having to battle Wilin Rosario anymore. He is hitting over .300 for Pawtucket with a .400+ OBP. His strikeout rate/right-handedness combination may make him a platoon player in the long run
Over at First Base
David Cooper- Recently recalled and supplanting Juan Rivera as the primary DH at the moment. He is not a great power hitter, but makes contact and is showing some improvement against lefties. In the Majors I think he could be a .270’s to .280’s mid to high-teens per season home run hitter. Juan Rivera appears to be the most likely candidate to be losing playing time as a result of his promotion.
Jordan Brown – Brown was just acquired from the Indians by the Brewers this past weekend, but still remains in Triple-A. His road to playing time in Milwaukee is even more blocked than it was in Cleveland. He may get a call-up to serve as a bench player, but unless there are injuries, a path to a starting gig does not seem in the cards.
Eric Hosmer – As I recently reported, he is tearing up Triple-A and is making Ka’aihue owners tremble in their shoes right now. The Royals, to their credit at least, are being patient with Ka’aihue given his minor league track record and a chance to right the ship. It is hard, however, to hold back someone who is hitting over .400 and walking 15 percent of the time.
Mark Trumbo is in the Majors and has been playing regularly while Kendry Morales remains sidelined. His righty/lefty splits (not unexpected) are atrocious as he has hit .210 against righties and .333 against lefties. Overall he is striking out a quarter of the time and walking 3 percent of the time. My original fear that Trumbo would end up a wrong-side of the platoon, platoon player, may be coming true.
Chris Carter is not making a tremendous case at the moment to return to the Majors. Yes he is walking a very Cust-like 17 percent of the time, but he is also striking out a very Cust-like 39 percent of the time and hitting just .173 .323 .346. He needs to get the strikeouts more under control if he wants to be a Major Leaguer, let alone even a right-handed half of a platoon, at the moment.
Freddie Freeman is hitting just .215 in the Majors, but an overall .215 .321 .376 line with a 13 percent walk rate and 82 percent contact-rate along with 3 home runs is still encouraging, especially for a 21-year old. Do not give up on him just yet, though on the same note, do not be surprised to see him sent down despite his good peripherals, just to get his bat going.
Chris Marrero’s is having some difficulty adjusting to Triple-A with his contact-rate dropping 5 percent. Everything else about his game remains quite in line with his solid, though not great, 2010 Double-A season. He is not going to hit the Majors anytime soon, but if he can return to a 80 percent+ contact rate, he might still yet be a viable fantasy option in the long run.
Yonder Alonso is off to a solid, though not dominant start at all. His typical contact-making/high-end plate discipline is not yet where it was in the lower minors and disturbingly is mirroring his 2010 time in Triple-A when he failed to walk 10 percent of the time and stuck out nearly 19 percent of the time. He profiles at best as a low to mid-twenties home run hitter per season so it is the strength of his ability to get on base/hit for average skills that will make him an interesting fantasy option. He appears to have stagnated and needs to prove there is room for more improvement.
Koby Clemens is enjoying playing in the PCL, hitting .280 .372 .547. So while he does have better patience skills than Mark Trumbo and he is managing to keep his strikeout rates just under 30 percent, he still strikes me as a platoon player.
Brandon Allen continues to show he has little left to prove in the minors, hitting for power while posting a solid .366 OBP. For now though, he’ll have to bid his time behind the trio of Juan Miranda, Xavier Nady and Russell Branyan. It’s possible he could end up being traded again.
Anthony Rizzo – As reported last week, he is tearing things up in Triple-A while Brad Hawpe continues to flounder. It is only a matter of time.
Brandon Belt – Belt made the team out of spring training, but ended up struggling, so they sent him down to get back on track. While the Giants want to keep him down for a good sample of at-bats, he may not let them when you consider that he is hitting .458 .594 .833 since his demotion. Hope you didn’t panic and drop him.
That’s it for this week. Tune in next week for more updates.