Monday, May 04, 2009

Prospect Rundown: April

With one month in the books, let's take a look at how each member of my preseason Twins' Top Ten Prospects list has fared thus far...

10. Steve Tolleson (AA): .164/.243/.224, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, 2/3 SB
It was a little surprising to see Tolleson start at New Britain again after hitting .300/.382/.466 in 93 games there last year, but it seems the organization wanted to see if his performance was a fluke and thus far he's provided little reason to think it wasn't. Tolleson has shown essentially no power thus far and has struggled to make solid contact. A disappointing start.

9. Angel Morales (A): .169/.200/.338, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 8 R, 1/2 SB
Morales continues to be extremely strikeout-prone, fanning 24 times in 71 at-bats, and he managed to work only two walks over the first month of the season. That's a K/BB ratio that would make Carlos Gomez blush. Morales struck out a lot last year, too, but made up for it by hitting for average and big power. So far, he's been unable to do that this season.

8. Shooter Hunt (A): 14.2 IP, 0-1, 10.43 ERA, 14/29 K/BB, 2.66 WHIP
Well, so far we're 3-for-3 on slow starts from this list. Hunt's control took a turn for the worse when he moved from rookie ball to Beloit near the end of last season, and this year it's been disastrous. He just cannot find the strike zone, and until he does he won't be a factor.

7. Anthony Slama (AA): 11.2 IP, 3 SV, 2.31 ERA, 20/8 K/BB, 1.46 WHIP
I don't really like talking about Slama because it gets me all riled up. He should have been in New Britain for the second half of last season and should be in Rochester right now, ready to help a beleaguered big-league bullpen.

6. Kevin Mulvey (AAA): 19.1 IP, 0-1, 3.26 ERA, 20/8 K/BB, 1.38 WHIP
Mulvey's strong strikeout rate is encouraging, particularly considering that he's missed more bats as he's moved up through the minors, and he's getting lots of ground balls. Should anyone in the Twins' rotation go down, Mulvey is making a great case to be the top replacement option.

5. Danny Valencia (AA): .275/.389/.500, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 16 R, 0/1 SB
There was some thought that Valencia might start the season in Rochester after he finished well in New Britain last year, but the Twins opted to start the third baseman at Double-A again. That's fine, considering that Valencia had struggled with his plate discipline despite solid overall numbers during his time in New Britain, but I think his 18-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio thus far proves that he's gotten a handle on the strike zone at this level. He should be moved up Rochester sooner rather than later.

4. Jose Mijares (MLB): 4.2 IP, 0.00 ERA, 8/1 K/BB, 0.64 WHIP
After a rough spring, Mijares opened the year in Rochester but it wasn't long before he was back up with the big-league club. He's pitched well thus far and is already establishing himself as the team's top eighth-inning option. Of course, a sample of 4 2/3 innings isn't much to go by.

3. Ben Revere (A+): .283/.371/.337, 1 HR, 14 RBI, 15 R, 12/17 SB
My greatest concern with Revere was that he'd be unable to sustain his high level of production when his batting average inevitably dropped from the high .300s; thus far he has quelled those fears to a degree. Revere has displayed tremendous plate discipline, drawing 12 walks while striking out only seven times, and he's got an excellent on-base percentage after one month. It'd be nice if he were producing more extra-base hits, but he offsets that to some degree by moving himself around the bases on steals. All in all, a strong start for Revere, who turned 21 yesterday.

2. Wilson Ramos (AA): .275/.298/.363, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 10 R, 0/0 SB
Ramos had a very impressive spring with the big-league club, so he's a player who many will be following closely this season. Unfortunately, he hasn't gotten his season off to a real good start. There have been reports that Ramos is unable to hit breaking balls, and it could be that this issue is starting to weigh on him now that he's reached the higher levels. Still, he hasn't struck out at a particularly high rate (just 13 times in 80 AB), so hopefully with time he'll start connecting better. He's young enough that there's no real reason to worry even if the hitting drought continues for a while.

1. Aaron Hicks (Extended Spring Training)
Rather than assign Hicks to one of their minor-league teams, the Twins opted to start Hicks in extended spring training to work on his game and receive intensive instruction. It's tough to argue with this strategy, since it's what the Twins did with Revere last year prior to his monster season in Beloit, but it is nevertheless frustrating from a fan standpoint because it gives us no competitive statistics to digest.

There are some worrisome early starts to be found here, but for the most part the most highly rated prospects are all getting the job done. It's very encouraging to see Revere drawing walks, Mijares finding the strike zone and Valencia cutting down on his strikeouts. We'll check in on all these guys once again at the end of May.