Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Prospect Rundown: August

With August now behind us, it's time for our second-to-last monthly check-in on my preseason Top Ten Prospect group. I'll note that I would have some of these guys rearranged if I were to redo to the list now (Jose Mijares, for instance, has been with the big-league club nearly all year and certainly can't be viewed as a prospect anymore), but the plan was to create this list prior to the start of the season and track these 10 guys throughout the year. At the end of September (or perhaps sometime during the month, since minor-league seasons are on the verge of ending), we'll take a look at each of these guys' seasons as a whole and their outlooks going forward.

For now, a look at how each of our Top Ten fared in August:

10. Steve Tolleson (AAA): .250/.301/.346, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 15 R, 0/2 SB
(Season Totals: .275/.348/.395, 8 HR, 39 RBI, 75 R, 13/20 SB)
Tolleson hit well early on after being promoted to Rochester in late May, but his performance has gradually regressed and August was his worse month yet. The low average and lack of power (just six extra-base hits in 104 at-bats) are palatable, but the fact that Tolleson barely reached base at a .300 clip this month is quite disappointing, since his on-base skills have been one of this greatest strengths. Ultimately, though, his defense will dictate whether he can make a major-league impact.

9. Angel Morales (A): .337/.404/.576, 5 HR, 24 RBI, 17 R, 9/12 SB
(Season Totals: .267/.328/.455, 13 HR, 60 RBI, 60 R, 19/25 SB)
While Tolleson has been watching his offensive performance regress over the past few months, Morales just keeps getting better and better. August was a tremendous month for the power-hitting outfielder, as he posted a season-high 980 OPS. He flashed power by homering five times and plating 24 runs, and also showed aggressiveness on the basepaths by more than doubling his previous monthly high in stolen bases. He continues to strike out at an alarmingly high rate and has now fanned 100 times in 363 at-bats this season, but for a 19-year-old to be posting numbers like this is pretty special. He's almost a lock for a top three spot on this list next year.

8. Shooter Hunt (GCL): Did not play
(Season Totals: 32.2 IP, 0-5, 10.19 ERA, 26/58 K/BB, 2.54 WHIP)
After a dreadful month of July, Hunt was sent home for the season, where he'll try to get his head straight and overcome his horrendous control issues. The kid has great stuff so obviously we're all hoping he can get things figured out.

7. Anthony Slama (AAA): 9 IP, 2 SV, 5.00 ERA, 9/5 K/BB, 1.44 WHIP
(Season Totals: 74.1 IP, 27 SV, 2.78 ERA, 102/37 K/BB, 1.22 WHIP)
After allowing just two hits and a walk while striking out nine to start his month in New Britain, Slama FINALLY received his promotion to Rochester when the Twins moved Jeff Manship up to the major-league club. In his third appearance with the Red Wings, Slama was rocked for five runs on four hits and three walks over 1 2/3 innings, but he's rebounded from that disaster with five straight scoreless outings and has issued just one walk over 5 1/3 innings during that span. Slama might get a look as a September call-up with the Twins, but would need to be added to the 40-man roster so perhaps such a move isn't terribly likely. Either way, I'm just glad to see him finally facing an appropriate level of competition.

6. Kevin Mulvey (AAA): 34.2 IP, 1-2, 2.60 ERA, 16/9 K/BB, 1.18 WHIP
(Season Totals: 149 IP, 5-8, 3.93 ERA, 113 K/54 BB, 1.39 WHIP)
After struggling through July and making an ugly debut stint in the majors, Mulvey bounced back with his best month of the season in August. Unfortunately, in the wake of his strong month he was shipped out of the organization, as yesterday he was announced to the PTBNL in the Jon Rauch trade. Mulvey is now a Diamondback, and the Twins' already thin organizational starting pitching depth takes another hit. Very unfortunate.

5. Danny Valencia (AAA): .283/.307/.396, 1 HR, 13 RBI, 12 R, 0/1 SB
(Season Totals: .289/.344/.467, 13 HR, 67 RBI, 74 R, 0/4 SB)
Valencia's numbers during his second full month in Triple-A were quite similar to those he posted during his first full month there, except with a drop-off in power. Valencia encouragingly cut down on his strikeout rate (just 12 whiffs in 106 at-bats) but continued to reach base at a substandard rate. Like Slama, Valencia is not on the 40-man roster, so a September call-up may be unlikely. Yet, if Joe Crede is going to miss the remainder of the season, calling up Valencia and feeding him regular at-bats at third base in September might be in the team's best interest, particularly if they view him as a serious candidate to take over the position next year.

4. Jose Mijares (MLB): 16 IP, 1.69 ERA, 17/3 K/BB, 0.81 WHIP
(Season Totals: 51.1 IP, 2.10 ERA, 45/20 K/BB, 1.15 WHIP)
August was easily Mijares' best month yet, as he posted a sub-2 ERA for the first time over a meaningful sample size and displayed dramatic improvement with his control, walking only three of the 57 batters he faced over the course of the month.

3. Ben Revere (A+): .284/.339/.294, 0 HR, 9 RBI, 14 R, 11/14 SB
(Season Totals: .306/.366/.364, 2 HR, 46 RBI, 70 R, 44/61 SB)
Many folks ranked Revere as this organization's best or second-best prospect during the last offseason, but I never had any thoughts of doing so. In fact, I was somewhat hesitant about ranking him as high as third, though eventually I just couldn't battle off that temptation considering he led all the minor-leagues in batting average last season. Basically, this month's numbers encapsulate the reservations I had about Revere -- once the batting average dropped, his lack of true patience or any semblance of power would severely limit his offensive contributions. In August, he posted just a 633 OPS while managing only one extra-base hit (a double) in 106 at-bats. Revere remains a skilled baserunner and swiped 11 more bags during the month, but his lack of production with the bat is causing his prospect stock to drop rather quickly.

2. Wilson Ramos (AA): .326/.380/.435, 0 HR, 7 RBI, 5 R, 0/0 SB
(Season Totals: .313/.338/.441, 3 HR, 25 RBI, 27 R, 0/0 SB)
On a happier note, Wilson Ramos is back. When we last checked in, the catching prospect hadn't appeared in a game since June 12 and had recently experienced a setback while rehabbing from injury, so I expressed some concern as to whether he'd be able to return at all this year. Fortunately, he was back in the Rock Cats lineup halfway through August and was able to piece together some solid numbers, hitting for a strong average and striking out only five times against three walks in 46 at-bats.

1. Aaron Hicks (A): .264/.350/.358, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 15 R, 4/7 SB
(Season Totals: .242/.346/.352, 3 HR, 23 RBI, 34 R, 8/16 SB)
Hicks was able to ramp up his batting average in the month of August, though he still wasn't flashing a ton of consistent power. His raw tools aren't translating to big numbers just yet, but a 700 OPS for a 19-year-old in A-ball is pretty respectable.