Rookies, 2003 (6)                                                                                            Rookies 2003 Page Seven


01 August, 2003

Chris Reed, Prospect Report, tackles the Cubs in his mid-season prospect update.  He comes out with Angel Guzman atop the pack with OF Felix Pie as the runnerup.  A bit of a surprise in the ranking of the 3-4-5 guys with Jones rated over Sisco :

Justin Jones " ...  has been fantastic as one of the youngest players in full-season competition. He has good velocity, a plus curve and a great strikeout rate. Yet another top Cubs pitching prospect."

Andy Sisco " ..  has huge upside, but the big guy still has to hone his mechanics and command. Besides that, he also needs to continue to work on his off-speed pitches (which will lead to more strikeouts.)"

Jae Kuk Ryu " ... has a million dollar arm and a ten cent head. Still, he should finish the year with solid numbers at the Double A level - that would be impressive for a 20-year old."

Pouliot on Ramon Nivar TEX :

" ... With Michael Young having a breakthrough offensive season and center field being a gaping hole in the organization, Nivar was moved off second base in Double-A during June. After seeing he could handle the center, the Rangers quickly promoted him to Triple-A Oklahoma, where he was batting .337 in 23 games. He ended up hitting .345 with 6 HR, 49 RBI, 28/25 K/BB and 15 SB in 406 AB between the two levels. Nivar seems to have the range and arm to play center. I’m not entirely sold on him offensively ...  I see him as a bottom-of-the-lineup hitter, not a leadoff man ... Expect him to hit at least .280 with 25 runs and 20 RBI over the rest of the season."

Jamey Newberg, TEX Minor League Report, on Ramon Nivar :

" ... On June 14, after 492 pro games in the infield, Nivar became a center fielder. By all accounts, there was hardly a teeth-cutting period. Though a bit raw with his routes, Nivar was routinely making circus catches as if he'd roamed center his whole baseball life, and upon his assignment to Oklahoma, he was getting very little action at second base . In 23 RedHawk games, Nivar played center field 19 times, second three times, and both once, making just one error. And he hit .337/.368/.472 in 89 at-bats, going deep twice and driving in 12 runs, with similarly scant walk and strikeout totals, amassing only five of each. His 140 hits were second only to Josh Barfield's 141 in all of minor league baseball. This is a guy who puts the ball in play, hitting pitchers' pitches and hitters' pitches alike. He will dazzle you in every phase. He runs with a brand of electricity that you haven't seen in Texas in years, and when he is on his game he will disrupt things offensively and quash things defensively. But he won't walk, and -- hopefully -- he won't strike out. Considering he'd been a Class A player for three years coming into 2003, he's already made two significant jumps, not only failing to miss a beat but actually showing arguably that better competition prompted better results. Whether the leap to the big leagues presents yet another quickly surmountable challenge for Nivar is anyone's guess, but we're going to be educated on that issue right away. Texas wants to see if Nivar is ready to be this club's everyday center fielder."

04 August, 2003

John Sickels,, on David Bush TOR :

" ... The Jays got Bush in the second round of last year's draft ... He's got good stuff, including a 90-mph fastball and a hard slider. He was used as a closer after signing, posting a 2.82 ERA and 10 saves in the short season Class A New York-Penn League, but converted to the rotation this year.  He's picked up the changeup reasonably well, and has done fine in the rotation ...  Promoted to the Double-A Eastern League, he is 4-1 with a 2.36 ERA in his first eight starts for New Haven. His strikeout rate has remained strong, with 39 whiffs in 46 innings, but his command hasn't been as reliable, with 14 walks. That's hardly bad, but does represent some deterioration from what he did in A-ball, which is normal."

" ... I know the Blue Jays like him a lot, although I imagine we won't see him in the Show until sometime next year. His conversion to starting work has gone well, although it's possible he could still end up in the bullpen someday. Bush is a solid Grade B prospect right now, and could end up at B+ by the end of the year if he keeps pitching well, which I think he will."

Sickels, on Rett Johnson SEA :

" ... Johnson has received less notice than (Clint) Nageotte, but is a fine prospect in his own right. Drafted in the eighth round in 2000 ... he's made steady progress through the Mariners system. He doesn't have Nageotte's slider, but his arsenal is more diverse, featuring a 90-mph sinker, a curve, a slider, and a changeup. He posted a 3.04 ERA in 14 starts at San Antonio this year, earning a promotion to Triple-A, where he has a 1.67 ERA in his first seven starts. Statistically, his K/IP and H/IP marks are less impressive than Nageotte's, but his control is better. From seeing both in person, it looks like Johnson's mechanics are more consistent as well."

" ... Of the two, Nageotte has the higher ceiling and greater potential for dominance, but Johnson is more consistent and perhaps a bit more likely to avoid the problems of injury and control that plague young pitchers. Both are excellent prospects, among the best in the game."

05 August, 2003

Upton, Bush & Francoeur were the upward mobility guys in the latest Prospect Hot Sheet from Josh Boyd at Baseball AmericaCole Hamels PHI held on to the top spot with a strong debut in A+ and Joe Mauer MIN maintained the runnerup slot.

TB's BJ Upton climbed to the #3 slot :

" ... .411 batting average in July earns promotion to Double-A, talk of September callup."

David Bush TOR has zoomed up the chart to hold the #4 position :

" ... Bush, rhp, Double-A New Haven (Blue Jays) Converted Wake Forest closer has moved quickly; 20 scoreless innings in his last three starts."

OF Jeff Francoeur ATL is #5.  The former #1, Zack Greinke KC has tumbled all the way to #19 with his recent poundings in AA.

Nice parting gift :

" ... The Vero Beach Dodgers' pitcher of the month wasn't around to collect his prize. Greg Miller already received his reward — a ticket to Jacksonville. Miller was promoted to the Dodgers' Class AA affiliate after going 11-4 with a 2.53 ERA for Vero Beach. The 18-year-old left-hander went 3-1 with an 0.72 ERA in July to earn the team's Pitcher of the Month honors. Miller allowed only two earned runs in 25 innings last month." (

Looks like a clear path to the majors for Khalil Greene SD :

" ...   One way to develop a rookie shortstop is to surround him with a lot of hitting talent. The Padres have such a plan for Khalil Greene, their first-round draft pick in 2002. By obtaining Pirates regulars Brian Giles and Jason Kendall, or other proven hitters, the Padres intend to create a gantlet, whereby a pitcher must deal with seven experienced hitters before facing Greene. "It's going to help him develop," general manager Kevin Towers said. "There won't be a lot of pressure on him to produce a lot of offense. I think he'll be an eighth-hole hitter. He can take time to develop and play shortstop. We're not looking for him to be a one-through-seven hitter." ... Greene, who will turn 24 in October, was drafted for his bat as well as his glove and throwing arm. In his first month in Class AAA, he batted .357 with five home runs and 20 RBI. But, assuming ownership raises the payroll, the Padres can ask far less of Greene offensively than they did Sean Burroughs, who got off to a rough start as a rookie, then was demoted. "The glove is there with Khalil," Towers said. "We know that right now." (SD Union Tribune)

06 August, 2003

Josh Boyd, Baseball America, on Mike Fontenot BAL :

" ... a year after the 23-year-old hit .264-8-53 in Class A Frederick, he has turned many skeptics into believers at Double-A Bowie. Fontenot entered pro ball with a reputation as a muscle-bound slugger who benefited from aluminum bats and LSU's gorilla ball style of play in 2001 ... Fontenot has turned things around this year, making improvements at the plate since getting contacts a few months back. He was hitting .311-9-50 and had boosted his on-base to .383 and slugging to .463. He has been more of a table-setter type by reaching base safely in 43 straight games this season, while cutting down his strikeouts (117 in 481 at-bats last year; 72 in 354 this season)."

Chris Reed, Prospect Report, has the WSox update and OF Jeremy Reed has vaulted to the top of the chart :

" ... Reed has enjoyed a breakout season this year. Chicago's second round pick in the 2002 draft has shown excellent plate discipline (17:41 K:BB in High A, 13:13 K:BB in Double A) with gap power and solid speed (28 SB.) His baserunning is still raw, as shown by his 25 times caught stealing. He profiles as a player who will hit for high average at higher levels."

Pitchers grabbed the next two slots :

Neal Cotts " ... an excellent pick-up in the Keith Foulke/Billy Koch swap. The lefthander profiles (statistically) similar to Cleveland's Cliff Lee. Given his age, he should compete for a spot in the rotation next spring."

Kris Honel " ... The 20-year old proved to be too much for the Carolina League and earned a promotion to AA-Birmingham. Honel should improve his command once he adjusts to upper level pitching."

07 August, 2003

Will Kimmey, Baseball America, on Colt Griffin KC :

" ... When the 6-foot-4 Griffin began the 2003 season 0-4, 5.25 at low Class Burlington, detractors again came out in droves. But since May 1, Griffin quietly has compiled very solid numbers, going 7-6, 3.34 with 76 strikeouts and 62 walks in 108 innings. He's held batters to a .228 average over that span, as he has gained more control of his fastball by dialing it down to the 94-95 range while topping out at 97. His slider has also come around, giving him another plus pitch at 86-88 with a sharp bite. "I think from an mental and emotional standpoint, he's come a long way," Royals scouting director Deric Ladnier said. "He's under control with his delivery and focused on what he has to do. His stuff is unhittable at times, with his fastball, slider and showing flashes of an above-average change at times." Griffin's still working to find the delicate balance between stuff and control ... Royals have been pleased with his slow but steady progress and expect him to continue to hone his control as he moves up the ladder. "He shows you everything you want to see," Ladnier said. "He gets better with each start. The guy has never had a sore arm or missed a start and has never had an ounce of problems. He's still has the makings of a No. 1 starter."

08 August, 2003

BAL with extra caution for prized lefty Adam Loewen :

" ... Loewen, the 6-foot-6 athlete the Orioles selected fourth overall in 2002 and signed to a major league contract worth $4.02 million just before this year's draft, has been shut down. The 19-year-old started pitching at Chipola (Fla.) Junior College in January, going 6-1, 2.47 and logging 53 innings. After signing, Loewen reported to short-season Aberdeen and went 0-2, 2.70 with 25 strikeouts and nine walks in 23 innings. "We wanted him to get a taste of pro ball this year," Rodgers said. "It's been a long year for him, starting earlier than he ever has and pitching longer into the season than he ever has. And rather than tire him out and risk injury on his young arm, we're going into preventative mode with respect to the heavy workload." (Will Kimmey, Baseball America)

09 August, 2003

TOR ecstatic with the progress of former closer, righty David Bush :

" ... sits in the 89-92 range as a starter, but his command and secondary stuff have improved. His power slider has always been a go-to pitch, and it's still a weapon for him, but he's added a changeup, too. He's pumping the strike zone with three pitches, hitting the zone with 70 percent of his changeups. "He just throws strikes," Buckley said. "He's a real good competitor. He's a smart pitcher. It's like 'Hey hit it.' You like to watch that, because so many young hitters try to show off their arm strength. I don't know anyone knew he was going to do as good as he is." After going 7-3, 2.81 for Dunedin, posting a 75-9 strikeout-walk ratio, he was promoted to Double-A New Haven, where he's 6-1, 2.15 with 51 strikeouts in 59 innings." (Josh Boyd, Baseball America)

Jamey Newberg, TEX Minor League Report, on some Ranger arms :

" ... I'm all out of superlatives on (Kameron) Loe, so I'll just stick to the numbers. Since going 4-3, 1.95 in 23 Clinton appearances, allowing opponents to hit .217 and featuring a 94-19 strikeout-walk ratio in 97 innings, the 6'8" righthander has yet to give up an earned run with Stockton. In four outings, covering 15.2 innings, he has scattered 11 hits (.183) and two walks while punching out 11 California Leaguers."

" ... In his nine pro innings to date, first-rounder John Danks has given up one earned run on five hits and three walks, striking out an obscene 16 Arizona Leaguers. That's 27 outs, 16 on strikes."

Matthew Pouliot, RotoWorld, with his weekly prospect updates :

" ... Luis Martinez ...   It’s taken a long time, but Martinez, who was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 1996, has finally broken through ...  Martinez was put back into Double-A Huntsville’s rotation to start the year and went 8-5 with a 2.58 ERA, 93 H and 116/54 K/BB in 115 IP. That earned him a promotion to Triple-A Indianapolis, where he has yet to allow a run in three starts. He’s given up 16 hits and posted a 23/6 K/BB ratio in 20 1/3 IP. Although it’s taken him a long time to put it together, now that he has done so, Martinez is a terrific prospect. The 23-year-old throws in the low-90s and features a plus changeup. He tends to be wild with his curveball ... Although he’s no Rich Harden and shouldn’t be viewed as a tremendous keeper prospect, I think Martinez is the type of young pitcher who could have a lot of success his first trip around the league."

" ... Garrett Atkins ... he Rockies decided that Atkins had spent enough time in Triple-A, calling him up after he hit .320 at Colorado Springs. His ability to hit for average is Atkins’ biggest asset, but the 23-year-old does have decent power. If he was a quality defensive third baseman, he probably would have been a regular for the Rockies months ago. He isn’t and Chris Stynes has done well, so Atkins is only going to play two or three times per week for now."

" ... Dioner Navarro ... The 19-year-old Navarro has emerged as one game’s top catching prospects in his third season as a pro. The native of Venezuela hit just .238 at Single-A Greensboro in 2002, his first year of full-season ball, but the Yankees still had him open this year at Single-A Tampa, and Navarro batted .299 with 3 HR, 28 RBI, 27/17 K/BB and 1 SB in 52 games before earning a promotion to Double-A Trenton. He’s hitting .349 with 3 HR, 26 RBI, 16/14 K/BB and 1 SB in 146 AB for his new team ...  He has a strong arm and pretty good footwork behind the plate. Offensively, he’s a switch-hitter who thrives at making contact and should develop 15-homer power ... If Navarro progresses as much next year as he has in 2003, the Yankees could decide to make Jorge Posada available after the season. That’s still a long way off, though. Even if Navarro is traded, he shouldn’t be a major leaguer until 2005."

Finally, some recognition for the ANA infield combo :

" ... Two young Anaheim Angels' infielders - 20-year-old Alberto Callaspo and 19-year-old Erick Aybar - from the lower level Cedar Rapids Kernels are combining to form one of the most exciting and electrifying double-play tandems in recent memory. Like two encircling fireflies, Callaspo (the second baseman) and Aybar (the shortstop) have created such a buzz in baseball that the well-kept secret is no more. "If there was a minor league ESPN, they would be on it every night doing something," said Rookie League Provo manager Tom Kotchman, who guided both phenoms in their first year together last season. "I don't know what it would be, but they would be doing something out of the ordinary."

" ... they not only proved that they were capable of impressing onlookers with sparkling plays in the field, but they also displayed some pop in their bats. Aybar, a pull hitter, batted .326 with 29 RBI and his 89 hits were second only to Callaspo's 101. Callaspo, who sprays the ball to all fields but has less power, led the league with a .338 average, 10 triples and was second with 60 RBI. Both were named first-team all stars in the Pioneer League."

" ... Like conjoined twins, the two move as one, and were both shipped this year to the Midwest League and manager Todd Claus for their first full season of pro ball ... By the end of their first week in Cedar Rapids, Clause already had anointed them "enanos", Spanish for midgets. "They're like these little jitterbugs out there that are bouncing all around" he said. "It seems like every time those guys come back into the dugout, the whole team's there going, 'Enanos! Enanos!' "The last thing that these two guys need is just physical maturity and time at a higher level. They're on their way to Anaheim." (MinorLeagueBaseball)

Greg Miller LA 7 2 0 0 1 14 :

" ... At 18 years and 9 months, the youngest player in the Southern League, Greg Miller has a lot to learn about being a professional pitcher. But at this precocious point of a career that is just now beginning to unfold, you have to say he's miles ahead of about 99 percent of the young pitchers in this league, or maybe any other league. 

" ... Miller, a 6-foot-5 first round draft choice of the Los Angeles Dodgers last year out of high school in Yorba Linda, Calif., (near Anaheim), was spectacular Friday night in a seven-inning, 14-strikeout, two-hit performance that resulted in a 6-0 Jacksonville victory over the Greenville Braves. "Everything felt pretty good tonight," the young left-hander said after throwing 96 pitches that included a fastball that topped out at 94 mph and a changeup that consistently hit 80 mph. "All I'm doing is trying to pitch as well as I can and it definitely helps when you have a team behind you that plays defense like these guys do." That was a wisely mature thing for him to say, but the truth was that Miller needed little help in achieving a career-high in strikeouts in just his second Southern League start. Five days earlier he went seven innings, allowed just three hits and struck out seven. And yes, five base hits with 21 strikeouts in 14 AA innings is an impressive start."

" ... With this guy, well, there's not a whole you can say,' said Jacksonville pitching coach Marty Reed, "he's the real deal. We're just trying to make sure he doesn't overdo things, that he doesn't get too aggressive out there. There's been a couple times back in spring training you could see him trying to do a little too much and he gets his arm out in front of him (in his delivery) to a point where the body can't catch up with him. But you point it out, he makes a correction and he's back on track." (Bart Wright, Greenville News)

10 August, 2003

Prince Fielder MIL, Kevin Wheeler's Prospect of the Week at The Sporting News :

" ... He's just a year removed from high school, so there is obviously no rush to promote him. He's having huge year in low Class A and the Brewers' decision to let him continue to dominate the Midwest League is a good one. With a little less than a month remaining in the season, Fielder has a legitimate chance at winning the Triple Crown in the Midwest League. His .310 batting average ranks second (behind Alberto Callaspo at .334), his 24 home runs are just one off the lead (Jayson Drobiak leads with 25) and his 93 RBIs are 15 better than the next best total. Perhaps as impressive, Fielder has also walked nearly as often as he's struck out (63 BB to 69 K in 410 AB). While there is no need to fast-track Fielder, it will be tough to hold him back over the next couple seasons. He's not capable of moving to the outfield, so something will eventually have to give if he's going to join Milwaukee's lineup at a future date."

11 August, 2003

Jim Callis, Baseball America, on the top lefty prospect -- Scott Kazmir, Cole Hamels or Greg Miller ?

" ... Kazmir was the first lefty on our 2003 Top 100 Prospects, coming in at No. 11. He'd still come out ahead for me, despite the fact that Hamels may have the most spectacular statistics in the minors and that Miller is the first of the three to reach Double-A (where he hasn't allowed a run in his first 14 innings). Kazmir throws a little harder and has a better breaking ball than Hamels and Miller, though he isn't advanced. Strong arguments can be made for Hamels and Miller, but I'll still go with Kazmir."

12 August, 2003

Greg Miller, the LA phenom vaults to the top of Josh Boyd's Prospect Hot Sheet at Baseball America :

" ... one of the best pitching prospects in the minors. Miller, who doesn't turn 19 until November, started the year in high Class A Vero Beach. He was just 2-2, 4.63 in April, but wasn't overmatched and got better each month before dominating by the time of his promotion at the end of July. Miller left an 11-4, 2.53 mark behind in Vero and is 1-0, 0.00 in his first two starts in Jacksonville, including a 14-strikeout performance Friday."

" ... Miller has added a slider and changeup to complete his fastball-curveball arsenal. He pitches at 92-93 mph with his fastball, his power curve at 77-80 (up from 75-78 last spring), a hard 84-88 mph slider and a plus changeup."

Jamey Newberg, TEX Minor League Report, on today's TEX starter, Jose Dominguez :

" ...  Dominguez, who turned 21 last week, will take the next step in an astonishing breakthrough season that began in Class A, taking his combined 10-0, 2.87 record and plus-plus fastball/change-up assortment to Arlington ...  There has been sentiment over the last month or so that the righthander might have earned an opportunity to get a taste of the major leagues this summer, but at the same time he has pitched 131.2 innings this year -- after never reaching 70 frames in any of his first three pro seasons. With that in mind, it's conceivable that if Dominguez was going to get his big league debut in 2003, the franchise might have decided to give it to him earlier on the calendar than it did with Ben Kozlowski after a similar rise to prominence a year ago, and then shut Dominguez down for the year. Kozlowski pitched for the Rangers on September 19 and 28 last season -- my guess is that by those dates in 2003 Dominguez will be done pitching. In his three stops this year, Dominguez has permitted just 104 hits (.212 opponents' average) and 37 walks in those 131.1 innings, punching out 137. He's given up just six home runs. He's trying to develop a slider right now but hasn't needed it on the farm." 

Some familiar names on the awards list ... Alexis Rios TOR Hitter of the Week in the Eastern league :

" ... Rios, a native of Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, batted .444 (12-for-27) with one double, one triple, two home runs, seven RBI, eight runs scored, five walks, one stolen base, a .531 on-base percentage and a slugging percentage of .778 in seven games last week. The 22-year old Eastern League All-Star had four multiple hit games last week, including a pair of three-hit games, to raise his league leading batting average to .345 on the season. The 6’5”, 194 lb. slugger is also leading the league in hits (150) and triples (10) and is among the league leaders in extra-base hits (46-3rd) and slugging percentage (.510-4th). Rios was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the first round as the 19th overall pick in the June 1999 draft." (Eastern League Press Release)

Dallas McPherson ANA, Player of the Month in the California League :

" ... 3B Dallas McPherson was named the California League’s Topps Player of the Month for July after hitting .369 with 11 home runs and 25 RBI in 29 games for Rancho Cucamonga. The 23-year-old has hit .235 (8-for-34) in his first 10 games with the Travelers after batting .308 with 18 homers and a .606 slugging percentage for the Quakes." (Texas League Press Release)

ANA's Nick Gorneault the Hitter of the Week in the TL :

" ... Gorneault’s blazing bat was one of the driving forces behind Arkansas’ climb to the top of the East Division standings this past week. After going just 1-for-9 in his first three games with the Travelers, the 24-year-old outfielder responded with a trio of three-hit games versus the Tulsa Drillers. Highlighting the week was Gorneault’s 3-for-4 night on August 10 that included an eighth-inning, two-run single that broke a 4-4 tie and paved the way for an 8-4 victory. For the week Gorneault amassed 13 hits and six RBI to lead the Travelers to five wins in the six game series with Tulsa. Gorneault joined the Travelers on August 1 after hitting .321 at Class A Rancho Cucamonga." (TL Press Release)

Chris Shelton PIT Carolina League's Player of the Month :

" ... catcher/first baseman Chris Shelton was voted the Carolina League's Topps Player of the Month for July in a poll of the CL managers. Shelton was also named Player of the Month for May ...  For the month, Shelton batted .429 (33 for 77) with seven home runs, 24 RBI and 21 runs in 24 games. The University of Utah product also added six doubles and a triple to post a staggering .805 slugging percentage during the month. In those 24 games, Shelton was walked 25 times and posted a .563 on-base percentage. The righty leads the league with a .359 batting average and 21 home runs. However, he was promoted to AA Altoona on July 28th, so those stats are unlikely to change. His .359 batting average will rank first all-time in the Lynchburg record books, .001 better than Lenny Dykstra's .358 in the 1983 campaign." (Carolina Press Release)

13 August, 2003

Jeff Francis COL (just named the Rockies' Pitcher of the Month for July and the CAL Pitcher of the Week for the second time this season) ) took awhile, but seems to have figured out this game with another seven shutout frames, 7.0 3 0 0 3 11, 3.75.  Francis, after a horrible start to the season went 4-1, 2.09 in six starts in July. He had a no-hitter and a complete game shutout during the month. Over the past six weeks he's chopped his ERA in half. Since the first of June, excluding one game where he was bombed for six runs in 1 2/3s, Francis has compiled a 1.16 ERA in 70 innings allowing just 36 hits and 14 walks while fanning 69.

 Joe Mauer MIN, Player of the Month in the Eastern League :

" ... The 20-year old had an amazing month for New Britain, hitting .402 (41-for-102) with 11 doubles, one triple, two home runs, 17 runs scored, 14 RBI, five walks, a .431 on-base percentage and a .588 slugging percentage in 27 games. Mauer is currently batting .359 with 15 doubles, four homers, 36 runs scored, 29 RBI, a .408 on-base percentage and a .508 slugging percentage in 51 games since making his Double-A debut with the Rock Cats on June 16th. The 6'4", 220 lb. Fort Myers, Florida native had a hit in 21 of the 27 games he played in during the month of July, to raise his batting average from .302 at the start of the month to .364 through July 31st." (Eastern League Press release)

Josh Boyd, Baseball America, on Bobby Jenks ANA :

" ... Since returning from the DL, Jenks kicked off the most consistent regular season string of performances in his four professional seasons. Jenks is 4-0, 1.86 in seven starts since his return early in July, and Arkansas has won each of those starts. He hasn't allowed an earned run in his last 17 2/3 innings, covering three starts. His fastball still threatens 100 mph every five days, but he's finding the strike zone with it more frequently these days. He has compiled 50 strikeouts in his last 39 innings, while cutting his walks down. After averaging 6.4 walks per nine innings before 2003, Jenks has trimmed that number down to 4.4 since his comeback in July. He's still far from a polished product, but if he can keep his focus on the field, he's inching closer and closer to realizing his potential as a frontline starter or dominant closer. And there's a good chance Jenks will be rewarded with a September callup."

All of a sudden, those LA phenoms begin to attract a lot of attention.  Dan Troy, the new prospect writer for Strike Three, likes the latest Dodger trio (note: Hanrahan since promoted to AAA) :

" ... With the promotion of 18-year-old wunderkind Greg Miller to AA, I count not one, not two, but three young pitchers in Jacksonville with top-of-the-rotation potential. While the Dodger staff doesn't appear to need a lot of buffering right now, it's not unreasonable to expect that Edwin Jackson, Joel Hanrahan, and Miller may force their way into the big club's plans over the next couple of seasons. 

" ... That meteor you thought you just saw streaking across the sky may actually be Greg Miller ...  zoomed from high school to AA in about a year ...  Scouts have long praised his location and curveball, and, with a lanky 6'5" build, it was hoped his fastball would eventually have plus velocity as he grew into his frame. Well, tomorrow arrived ahead of schedule, as he's been clocked in the mid-90s this season. His performance this year for Vero Beach in the high-A Florida State League was certainly good, striking out nearly a batter per inning, posting a fine K:BB ratio (2.66:1), and allowing only five HR in 113 innings. I think most organizations would have been pleased that an 18-year old had done so well in A-ball, and would have been content to let him finish the year at that level. Not the Dodgers. They promoted Miller to Jacksonville early this month, and he's been lights out in his first couple of outings. Notably, in his second AA start he whiffed 14 Greenville batters against only one walk in seven innings of work."

" ...  Hopefully, Miller's rapid rise won't overshadow teammate Edwin Jackson, whose star shines pretty brightly as well ... At the ripe old age of 19, Jackson has established himself as one of the top pitching prospects in the game while facing much older Southern League competition ... His K rate is 28 percent better than the league average, and his K:BB ratio (128:44 in 127 innings) is a whopping 50 percent ahead of the average Southern League hurler. Jackson's bread and butter is a low-mid-90s sinking fastball that induces batters to swing over the ball. He complements his fastball with a nasty slider and a developing change."

" ...  the Jacksonville rotation also features Joel Hanrahan. By comparison to his teammates, his 21 years of life experience make him seem almost ancient ... emerged in 2002 with a strong season in the Florida State League, and he has managed, by and large, to bring his solid ratios with him through a AA season. For Jacksonville, Hanrahan's averaged almost a K per inning (about 21 percent better than average), and his K:BB ratio is about 26 percent above the norm. Hanrahan has a solid slider and change, and he locates his fastball well. Compared to the Terrible Teens, Hanrahan's stuff may not seem quite so electric, but that says more about how good those two are than it does about Hanrahan's future, which should be a good one."

14 August, 2003

Callis on Josh Karp MON :

" ... When he's at his best, Karp will throw three plus pitches: a lively low-90s fastball, a curveball and a changeup. But his stuff hasn't been as crisp in 2003 as it has been in the past, and even with that quality arsenal he never was a big winner at UCLA. He had better numbers across the board in his 16 Double-A starts last year (7-5, 3.84, 69-34 K-BB in 87 IP, .256 opponent average), so he obviously has regressed. There's plenty of opportunity to move up the ladder to Montreal, but Karp doesn't look to make that climb anytime soon."

Joe Barbieri, SportsTicker, on Jeff Francis COL :

" ... He was so even keel," said Visalia pitching coach Jim Bennett, who also was with Francis in the South Atlantic League last season. "It blew my mind that (his struggles) did not phase him one bit."  ... He's been in a different mode the last couple months thanks to two adjustments that he's made," Bennett said. "Typically you're trying to hold guys back and slow 'em down, but really the first thing he's done is give more of an effort late in his delivery. His velocity is probably a good three-plus miles per hour (higher) than it was earlier in the season." The extra life in his fastball has had a trickle-down effect to his other offerings. With a smooth, easy delivery, he's able to surprise batters with his heater and fool them with his improving offspeed stuff. As a result, he has afforded the opposition just a .180 batting average over his last 12 starts - a huge contrast to the .308 mark the league was hitting against him over his first 11. "He has an understanding of why he's throwing what he's throwing, how to set up a hitter and how to throw the right pitch in the right situation," Bennett said."

" ...  While Francis still needs to gain more consistency with the curve and improve on his changeup, the last two months have spoken volumes of his makeup and his dedication to success. "He's smart enough to make sure that if you make a suggestion to him that he understands why," Bennett said. "He's not just a "Yes guy" who'll say 'OK, I'll do that.' He wants to know the reason. And as soon as he understands it, it's a done deal."

15 August, 2003

Matthew Pouliot, RotoWorld, on Joe Blanton OAK :

" ...  pitched just 20 innings after signing last year, so he was assigned to Single-A Kane County of the Midwest League at the start of this season. Even though he was dominant there, the A’s refused him to move him up to high-A ball, which is where most organizations would have started him. Instead, they waited until late last month to promote him and sent him straight to Double-A when they did so. After going 8-7 with a 2.57 ERA, 110 H and 144/19 K/BB in 133 IP for Kane County, he’s 2-0 with a 1.66 ERA, 11 H and 20/5 K/BB in 21 2/3 IP for Midland. Blanton has continued to pitch exceptionally well in Double-A, solidifying his status as a top prospect. The 22-year-old right-hander has a 92-96 mph fastball and a hard curve. His changeup is only average at this point. The A’s can afford to give him plenty of time to work on it, as they probably won’t need him until 2005 at the earliest. Maybe he can force his way into Oakland earlier, but don’t count on it. Blanton’s best chance of pitching in the majors next year is in another organization."

16 August, 2003

Jim Callis, Baseball America, on Jeremy Reed CHA :

" ... He's an advanced hitter but I don't see him as a big power guy. He has 30 doubles and 11 homers, and most scouts would project him as a 15-homer hitter, maybe 20. Reed does squeeze every ounce out of his ability, and those guys do tend to overachieve. He's a plus runner but not a blazer, yet he's a stolen-base threat. He's not a pure center fielder, but makes his share of plays when he's stationed there. With Carl Everett approaching free agency, Reed could break camp next year as Chicago's leadoff man and center fielder. I'd certainly give him that opportunity."

John Sickels,, on Grady Sizemore CLE :

" ... Sizemore has a hard-nosed attitude and a strong work ethic. In Seven Skill terms, he shows good or excellent potential in all categories except throwing ...  walk rate is down this year, all of his other numbers are up across the board, and his OBP remains strong. The development of his power is very promising; he is on course to set a career high in slugging percentage, and he's already exceeded his career bests in doubles and home runs. He projects as a .260-.270 hitter at the major league level right now, but he is just 21 years old, and has a lot of time to develop ...  Sizemore is one of the brightest gems in a Cleveland farm system filled with glittering jewels ... My guess is that Sizemore will get his first full opportunity at the major league level about a year from now. He should be a solid all-around player, capable of hitting for both average and power."

17 August, 2003

John Sickels,, on Bobby Crosby OAK :

" ...  He is fun to watch; he really puts a charge in the ball when his swing is right. But his judgment of the strike zone is shaky at times. Oakland has worked with him on this, and his walk rate is higher this year, though the strikeouts remain a problem. His MLE last year shows him as a .250/.300/.400 type hitter, a poor man's Jose Hernandez as B.D. said. This year, he looks more like a .270/.330/.440 type hitter, significant growth compared to last year, but still not awesome. At 23, Crosby still has development time ahead of him. I'm impressed with him in person, so perhaps I'm a bit more optimistic than the numbers should lead me to be. But I think he's going to be a good player."

Sickels on Rafael Soriano or Zack Greinke ?

" ... Soriano currently has 80.1 major league innings under his belt, with a 3.25 ERA and a sharp 74/22 K/BB ratio, allowing only 62 hits. These are excellent numbers. He throws harder than Greinke, and his command is superb for a young power pitcher. If Soriano stays healthy, he will have a great career ...  In my mind, Soriano really isn't a "prospect" anymore; I think he's established his value."

" ... Since being promoted to Double-A Wichita, Greinke is 1-2 with a 4.61 ERA in five starts, giving up 39 hits in 27 innings. But his K/BB is outstanding at 17/1 ... that's right, one walk in 27 innings. He still needs to make some adjustments, and rumors that Greinke could see Kansas City in September have subsided. But with Soriano and Oakland's Rich Harden now in the majors, Greinke is a good candidate for best RHP prospect in the minors. Others to watch in that category include Atlanta's Adam Wainwright, Philadelphia's Gavin Floyd, and Dodgers prospects Joel Hanrahan and Edwin Jackson."

Callis on Bryan Bullington PIT :

" ... I'm not concerned about Bullington yet. While he's pitching in the high-80s with a so-so slider, compared to the mid-90s heat and sharp breaking ball he showed as a Ball State junior last year, he's also pitching on four days' rest for the first time in his career ... I'm actually impressed that Bullington has succeeded in high Class A without his best stuff. His 3.22 ERA would rank ninth in the Carolina League if he had enough innings to qualify. While he hasn't been dominant ... he's not exactly struggling. His situation reminds me of what happened to Scott Elarton (a high school rather than college pick) when the Astros drafted him out of high school in 1994. Elarton saw his velocity dip for a while but learned how to pitch. Then his stuff came back and he was on his way to becoming a dominant big league before Houston ran him into the ground. How Bullington fares next year in Double-A, in terms of both statistics and stuff, will tell us more than his current radar-gun readings."

Tim Stauffer SD, on rehab to begin his pro career :

" ... Padres' first-round draft pick this June (fourth overall), Stauffer joined the Storm at The Epicenter to start a rehabilitation assignment. After it was revealed when he signed Thursday that the right-hander had fraying in his rotator cuff and labrum, the Padres said Stauffer would rehab with Lake Elsinore but not pitch in games. "It will be nice just to get my feet wet and see what it's all like," Stauffer said. "I'm sure it's going to be different than college. It will be nice to have a little idea of what it's like before you actually start playing." Stauffer didn't know immediately after he signed what his throwing program would consist of, but was hoping to recover well enough to throw in instructional league, which begins in September. "It will depend on how the rehab goes," Stauffer said. "Hopefully it goes well and I can throw a little bit this fall. I haven't thrown in two months." Stauffer pitched the University of Richmond Spiders to the Stanford Regional as a junior this spring. He went 9-5 with a 1.97 ERA in 114 innings, and said he started feeling discomfort in his arm following his last game, on May 30.. He signed for $750,000, considerably less than the $2.65 million originally offered to him, before the Padres knew of his injury. Stauffer said he was told he could start next season with the Storm." (North County Times)

19 August, 2003

A pair of Angels have zoomed to the top of Josh Boyd's Prospect Hot Sheet at Baseball America.

" ... 1. Bobby Jenks, rhp, Double-A Arkansas (Angels) Improved his changeup and has won four starts in a row without allowing an earned run, while Arkansas has reeled of victories in each of his last eight starts."

" ... 2. Dallas McPherson, 3b, Double-A Arkansas (Angels) Launched three bombs last Monday after PHS went up; went on to drive in 19 runs during the week while raising his average 100 points"

Jeremy Reed CHA ranked #3 with Greg Miller LA and Dioner Navarro NYA rounding out the top five. 

2B Jason Nix is the top dog in the COL system in Chris Reed's Prospect Report update. 

" ... Nix has had a big year in High A-Visalia, flashing Aaron Boone potential. He's hit well while showing projectable power (43 2B, 15 HR). He strikes out a lot (108 SO), which will prevent him from hitting for a high average in the future."

18-year-old third baseman Ian Stewart is #2 :

" ... Stewart is an awesome hitter. He has tremendous potential at the plate and he is the reason why teams should not ignore the high school talent pool. The only question is where he will play in the majors."

Familiar names with weekly honours in the Texas League :

" ... Zack Greinke ... Despite having just one year of professional baseball under his belt, Zack Greinke pitched with the poise and experience of a veteran in a 1-0 win over San Antonio on August 14. The 19-year-old right-hander baffled the Missions for seven innings, striking out eight while holding one of the Texas League’s most dominant lineups to just two hits before turning the game over to his bullpen. Greinke, the sixth overall pick in the 2002 draft, went 11-1 with a 1.14 ERA, while holding opponents to a .178 batting average for Wilmington before his July promotion to Wichita."

" ... Dallas McPherson ... After thoroughly obliterating Texas League pitching this past week, Dallas McPherson stood far above his closest competitors for Player of the Week honors. The 23-year-old third baseman pounded five home runs and drove home 19 runs to lead the Arkansas Travelers to six wins in eight games. Highlighted the week was McPherson’s 4-for-5 night on August 11 ... slugged a trio of home runs and drove in eight runs ... Later in the week, McPherson scored four runs and had four RBI in Arkansas’ 21-0 drubbing of Midland ... If that was not enough, McPherson came through again in the second game with a three-run homer ... Prior to his promotion to Arkansas in late July, McPherson hit .308 with 18 homers and 59 RBI for Rancho Cucamonga." (TL Press Release)

Amy K. Nelson, SportsTicker (previous to Monday's superb effort), on yet another Cubbies' pitching prospect :

" ... Righthander and first-year pro Chadd Blasko has yielded only one run over his last three starts, a span of 19 2/3 innings. The 6-7, 220-pounder needed just two starts in the lower-level Midwest League before joining Daytona in the Florida State League. Starting in May, Blasko's ERA in each month has gone as such: 1.88, 1.96, 2.81. He stumbled a bit in July, but has bounced back with a 3-0, 0.46 ERA in August. The 22-year-old Purdue product began the month with eight scoreless innings of one-hit ball in a win over Sarasota August 1. He followed that up with two straight wins and has won four of his last five starts. Between both levels, the 2002 supplemental first-rounder has gone 9-6 with a 2.03 ERA with 126 strikeouts and 42 walks in 133 innings."

20 August, 2003

John Sickels,, on Edwin Jackson, LA :

" ... Jackson has snuck into the upper tier of minor-league pitching prospects. One of the youngest regular starters at the Double-A level, he's had a solid season for Jacksonville in the Southern League, positioning himself for a jump to Triple-A, and possibly the majors, in 2004. He is one of the best right-handed prospects in the game ... has one of the best fastballs in the system, hitting 95 mph at times, with movement. He also has a very good slider. His curveball and changeup are inconsistent, but both have promise. Jackson's command is excellent. He throws strikes with regularity, and his mechanics are both clean and consistent, which helps keep his command in gear."

"  ...   no holes in Jackson's stat line. His K/BB, K/IP, and H/IP ratios are all significantly above league average this year ...  just now starting to get the attention he deserves. If everything proceeds according to plan, he should see Chavez Ravine sometime next year."

19-year-old OF Warner Madrigal ANA lighting up the Pioneer League :

" ... Madrigal was 5-for-5 against the O's for the second time in four games, this time clouting two 400-foot home runs through a blanket of forest fire smoke. He drove in six runs and scored four ... He comes from San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic ... "

" ... Madrigal's swing is as compact as his frame - he stands 6 feet tall and weighs 215. In previous seasons with Anaheim's Dominican Summer League team Madrigal batted .181 with no homers in 2001 and .229 with four home runs in 2002. Something about American air, no matter how smoky, has been to his liking. Madrigal started off modestly enough, singling and scoring in a two-run first inning and igniting a three-run third with another single. He came up in the fourth after Hipolito Guerrero gave up base hits to the first two Angels he faced. Madrigal launched a towering drive to the southwest that nearly prompted an evacuation order in Lolo. His second tater, a solo shot in the sixth, was more of a line drive off a curve ball by John Allender, but it flew well over the left-field fence as well. Madrigal's two-run double in the eighth chased Allender. The Osprey are tempted to treat him like Barry Bonds. "He hit everything we threw at him," Perezchica said. "He's one of those guys that you've almost got to throw balls at. We gave him pitches to hit and he didn't miss them." (Missoulian)

Through Monday's game,, Madrigal was 6th in average at .365, 2nd in RBI at 44, tied for 1st in doubles (21), 5th in SLG (.589), 1st in extra base hits (31), and tops in runs scored (30).  He has 8 homers, 10 walks, 42 Ks in 219 ABs. 

21 August, 2003

Josh Boyd, Baseball America, picks Josh Barfield SD as the cream of the crop :

" ... Barfield made major progress this year in Lake Elsinore ... Younger than Hairston by nearly three years and Chase Utley (who would have ranked No. 2 if he weren't in Philadelphia) by four years to the day, Barfield has developed more power this season, as evidenced by his 39 doubles and 12 home runs. He has tremendous bat speed and can drive the ball to right-center field with authority. Barfield needs to tighten his strike zone judgment. He's not a pure second baseman either, leading some scouts to project him as a left fielder."

Blue Jays prominent as the Eastern League annouces the 2003 All-Stars.  Guillermo Quiroz TOR won the catching spot & Alexis Rios captured one of the OF slots :

" ...  The 21-year old native of Venezuela is currently ranked among the league leaders in home runs (19-2nd), RBI (76-tied 4th) and slugging percentage (.510-3rd). Quiroz, who was selected as the catcher for the 2002 Florida State League All-Star team after hitting .260 with 12 home runs and 68 RBI for the Dunedin Blue Jays, was named to the Northern Division squad for the 2003 Eastern League All-Star Game and was also the starting catcher for the World Team at the Futures Game."

" ... Since making his Double-A debut with the New Haven Ravens on April 18th, Alexis Rios has dominated Eastern League pitching and helped lead the Ravens to the top record in the Northern Division standings. Rios is leading the league with a .342 batting average and is also among the league leaders in triples (10-tied 1st) and hits (160-2nd). The 22-year old was named by Baseball America as the “Best Batting Prospect” and “Most Exciting Player” in the Eastern League and was also selected to the Northern Division team for the 2003 Eastern League All-Star Game and the World Team for the 2003 Futures Game."

The full squad :

Catcher -- Quiroz, 1B -- Craig Brazell NYN, 2B -- Mike Fontenot, BAL, 3B -- Terry Tiffee MIN, SS -- Jason Bartlett MIN, OF -- Rios, Grady Sizemore CLE, Jeff Inglin PHI, Utility -- Kevin Youkilis BOS, DH -- Alejandro Freire SF, RHP -- Kyle Denney CLE, LHP -- Sean Burnett PIT, RP -- Brian Schmack DET.

The best of July.  Topps & MinorLeagueBaseball have announced their picks for the Players of the Month.  Some of the not-so-prominent stars :

" ... Ricky Nolasco (20) ... outstanding in his first two seasons, going a combined 8-2 with a 2.32 ERA. This year, playing for the Daytona Cubs in the Florida State League, Nolasco has continued that success, evidenced by his 4-0 record in July with a 0.68 ERA. The right-hander allowed only 26 hits and eight walks in 39.2 innings. Nolasco struck out 35 and opponents hit a mere .184 off him for the month. The Chicago Cubs drafted him in the fourth round out of Rialto High School in 2001."

" ... Vito Chiaravalloti (22) ...  had a hit in every game but three last month on his way to hitting .347 with five homers and 28 RBI for the Auburn Doubledays in the New York-Penn League. The first baseman had a hit in the first five games of July and ended the month by hitting in 14 straight games. Chiaravalloti’s hitting streak was stopped at 22 games earlier this month. The Toronto Blue Jays drafted Chiaravalloti in the 15th round out of the University of Richmond in June."

" ... Habelito Hernandez (22) ...  lit up Pioneer League pitchers for a .384 average with five homers and 26 RBI for the Billings Mustangs in July. The Cincinnati Reds, who signed the third baseman as a free agent in 2000, rewarded him with a promotion to Dayton in the Midwest League. Hernandez, however, has yet to appear in a game for Dayton, having been placed on the disabled list with an injured shoulder."

" ... Ronald Bay (20) ... went 5-0 with a 1.27 ERA for the Mesa Cubs in the Arizona League. The right-hander allowed just 26 hits and seven walks while striking out 44 in 35.1 innings, earning himself a promotion to Boise in the Northwest League. The Chicago Cubs drafted Bay in the 25th round out of Angelina, TX Junior College in 2002." (SportsTicker)

SportsTicker on Joey Gathright TB OF :

" ... Gathright has taken advantage of his promotion to Class AA, hitting .373 with 11 steals in 14 tries in 19 games. The 21-year-old has batted over .300 in every month except May (.288), including a .400 average through 15 games in August. Between the Class A California League and the Southern League, Gathright has hit .333 and swiped 68 bases, good for fifth among all minor leaguers. He has hit more than twice as many balls on the ground as in the air this season, allowing him to utilize his tremendous speed. Through Monday, the 5-10 Gathright has legged out 54 infield hits."

Jim Thomas, Savannah Morning News, on the progress of Clint Everts MON :

" ... Major League Baseball scouts have a tendency to fall in love with big, strong pitchers who can throw 95 miles per hour. The thinking is if you can throw hard, you can develop a breaking ball later. But Montreal Expos scouting director Dana Brown has a different view. Brown believes it's easier for a young pitcher to develop a fastball than a breaking ball. That's why the Expos took Savannah Sand Gnats right-hander Clint Everts with the fifth pick overall in the 2002 draft and gave him a $2.5 million signing bonus.

"We thought he had the best curveball and was also the most athletic pitcher in the draft,'' Brown said. "We knew he was just a 17-year-old high school senior and still had to grow into his body, but we were willing to be patient until he developed."

"... Our big thing was big-league hitters can hit fastballs all day, but they have problems with the kind of breaking balls that Clint will show you.'' Most curveballs are thrown in the 73-77 mph range — Everts throws from 80-83 mph. "That's very unusual,'' Brown said. "I think that puts him in a different class.'' Everts has continued to impress since joining the Sand Gnats on August 10 after going 2-4 with a 4.17 ERA at short-season Vermont in the New York-Penn League. In two starts, the 6-foot-2, 170-pounder is 0-1 with a 2.45 ERA. He has allowed just three runs in 11 innings, walked three and struck out nine."

" ... Clint has truly impressed me,'' Savannah pitching coach Reggie Jackson said. "Not only with his curveball, but the life of his fastball, the command of his fastball — he can place it on both sides of the plate. "Then there's the change-up, which a lot of people haven't been talking about, but I'm ranting and raving it's going to be even better than his curveball.'' Everts can throw his fastball from 89-92 mph. But it's his curveball that has drawn comparisons with the New York Yankees' Mike Mussina, one of the top pitchers in the American League."

" ... But as well as Everts has pitched, Jackson said he's still just a shell of what he's going to become. "He's got to learn how to use his legs and get a little more rhythm,'' Jackson said. "Mother Nature isn't really through with him yet. She's going to tack on another five or 10 pounds. "He's pitching like a kid at a serious Division I university right now. In three years max, he's going to be in the big leagues. He's going to be something to reckon with.''

22 August, 2003

Matthew Pouliot, RotoWorld, on Bobby Jenks ANA and Fausto Carmona CLE :

" ... Jenks, who missed two months with a stress reaction in his elbow, is beginning to dominate again, this time at Double-A Arkansas. The 22-year-old flamethrower is 7-1 with a 2.25 ERA, 46 H and 85/42 K/BB in 68 IP. He hasn’t allowed a run in his last 23 1/3 innings. It’s not any kind of a secret that Jenks has one of the highest upsides in the minors. The 2000 fifth-round pick can touch 100 on the gun when he wants to, but he typically pitches in the 94-98 mph range. His curveball is devastating, and his changeup can be effective when he’s throwing his fastball for strikes ... Even the best pitching prospects tend to be 50-50 shots to put together quality major league careers, and Jenks’ chances are something less than that. His lack of control is a big problem, and he’s struggled to put together more than one great month at a time. If Jenks were a typical prospect, he could probably look forward to a long look in the majors in September. It doesn’t seem likely that the Angels will take that risk, though. Better to let Jenks end his season on a high note than risk him losing confidence after some shaky outings in the majors."

" ... Carmona is yet another very good Indians pitching prospect. The low strikeout rate is usually a big warning sign, but Carmona’s sinker results in a ton of grounders, and he can throw it in the 91-95 mph range, so it should remain a very effective pitch at higher levels. Even though he’s just 19, he’s probably not going to need too much more time in the minors after this year."

Josh Boyd has a nice roundup of the prospects heading for this year's Arizona Fall League at Baseball America. Joe Mauer MIN, Greg Miller LA, BJ Upton TB, Casey Kotchamn ANA and Grady Sizemore CLE are among the familiar names, but there are a lot of the under-hyped too :

" ... Matt Peterson, rhp, Mets Peterson showed flashes in the past two seasons, but consistency eluded him. He broke through this year, emerging as one of the top prospects in the Mets organization. He's projectable with a live arm and a good breaking ball and was more efficient this year in Class A St. Lucie, though he has struggled with his command in Double-A."

" ... Josh Willingham, c, Marlins Willingham is coming back from a nagging knee injury that shelved him for most of the second half, following his promotion to Double-A Carolina. In addition to making up for lost at-bats, Willingham will continue working on the nuances of his new position. He moved behind the plate last fall in instructional league. The former college shortstop has tremendous power."

" ... Justin Leone, 3b, Mariners Leone spent last winter playing in Australia at the urging of his friend and Double-A San Antonio teammate Travis Blackley. It paid major dividends this season, as he's more apt to lay off offspeed stuff and is having a breakout year. After consecutive seasons in the California League, Leone has ripped 34 doubles and 19 home runs."

Jim Callis, Baseball America, on Chadd Blasko CHN :

" ... Blasko, 22, was a supplemental first-round pick out of Purdue in 2002. He didn't sign until Aug. 31 last year, receiving $1.05 million, so he's making his pro debut this season. Because he has a long arm action, scouts projected him as a reliever, but he's showing that he's more than that. With the Cubs loaded with pitching and Blasko lacking experience, they sent him to low Class A Lansing to start 2003, but it took him just two starts to earn a promotion to Daytona. In 24 starts overall, he's 10-6, 1.91 with a 132-43 strikeout-walk ratio in 141 innings. Opponents are batting just .212 with three homers against him. Blasko has a classic pitcher's body at 6-foot-6 and 210 pounds, and he has really improved his secondary pitches and his command. His fastball sits in the low 90s and will pop 96 mph every once in a while, and his slider is his second-best pitch. He backs those offerings with a curveball and changeup, and he also employed a splitter in college. There are few No. 1 starters around. Conservatively, Blasko projects as a No. 3, but if he keeps making this kind of progress, his ceiling will be higher than that."

Unusual.  Some praise for Drew Henson NYA :

" ...  Henson had a tough row to hoe when the former Michigan quarterback came to Columbus to play baseball. This week the Cooper Stadium crowd gave Henson a standing ovation after his game-winning hit. Henson’s “not afraid to get dirty”, aggressive play has won the hearts of the Clippers fans. He is currently second in the league in doubles with 37 and has raised his batting average over 30 points, no easy feat this late in the season. He’s also impressing critics with his glove work. He has made a number of sterling defensive plays this week and has only two errors for the month." (International League Press Release)

Prince Fielder MIL doing just fine :

" ... first baseman Prince Fielder drove in his 106th run of the season Tuesday against Burlington, setting a new franchise mark for a single season. Greg Vaughn had 105 RBIs in 1987 for the Beloit Brewers. Fielder's RBI total is also tops in the Midwest League, 14 ahead of Burlington's Donald Murphy. Fielder is tied for the league lead in homers with 26 and is second in batting average (.314)." (Beloit Daily News)

23 August, 2003

Josh Boyd, Baseball America, on Mike Hinckley MON :

" ... The 20-year-old lefty cracked the Top 100 Prospects list and ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the system after going 6-2 with a New York-Penn League-best 1.37 ERA last season, and Hinckley has only improved his status with a strong full-season debut. A projectable 6-foot-3 and 170 pounds with silky smooth mechanics and arm action, Hinckley's velocity has increased each year ... He reaches 94 mph frequently and the development of his curveball has been especially pleasing to Montreal's player-development staff."

" ... started the season in low Class A Savannah, where he went 9-5, 3.64 with 11 strikeouts in 124 innings before a promotion took him to high Class A Brevard County. Hinckley hasn't allowed a run in his first two starts, covering 12 innings, while posting a perfect 2-0, 0.00 mark. He hasn't issued a walk, either, while surrendering just four hits and punching out 12."

 25 August, 2003

ANA may have a winner out of the trade with the WSox :

" ... the Quakes rode the arm of Tim Bittner to a 4-0 win ...Bittner continued his unbelievable streak of performances by throwing a three-hit shutout in the opener ... In 27 2/3 innings since becoming a Quake, Bittner still has an ERA of 0.00 and a perfect 4-0 record. Bittner, who was acquired in a July trade with the White Sox, breezed through the Storm lineup only surrendering three singles. He struck out six, walked one and hit a batter.  ... So far the Storm, nor the rest of the California League has been able to figure out the 23-year-old left-hander. "Things started to click for me when I was at Winston(-Salem) with the White Sox organization and its just carried over to here," Bittner said. Bittner was 3-3 with a 3.60 ERA in 17 relief appearances for the Winston-Salem Warthogs before being involved in the trade for Scott Schoeneweis." (Ontario Daily Bulletin)

John Sickels,, on Bobby Jenks ANA :

" ... Jenks has one of the best arms in baseball ... a fastball clocked as high as 102 mph. Bob Feller-like velocity. He also has a big-breaking curveball. When the curve is working, it is a dominant pitch, giving him a killer 1-2 punch in coordination with the fastball. Jenks has continued working on his changeup, and it has been better this year, though still inconsistent. The big improvement for Jenks this year has been in keeping his mechanics in gear. He had an 11-25 record with a 5.46 ERA entering this year, but he's been very effective in 2003 at Double-A, with a 2.07 ERA in 14 starts and a 91/46 K/BB in 71 innings. He still gives up too many walks, but his control is much better than it used to be. If he continues to improve his change, further rapid progress is likely. Jenks has had some troubles with emotional maturity. But in terms of absolute raw ability, Jenks is one of the best around, and he's made huge strides this year in harnessing that raw talent."

Giants' #1 pick adjusting just fine to the pro game.  

" ... David Aardsma, the team's No. 1 pick in the June draft, has spent the past month blowing away California League hitters for the San Jose Giants. The hard-throwing, 6-foot-5 right-hander has seven saves and a 1.17 ERA in 15 games and has struck out 23 batters in 15 1/3 innings. ``He's got very good arm strength,'' said San Jose Manager Jack Lind. ``He's got good presence on the mound, good poise. He's got life on his fastball. That, along with his arm strength, makes him a potential major league pitcher. So far, we like what we've seen.'' A starting pitcher for most of his baseball life, Aardsma, 21, moved to the bullpen two years ago after he transferred to Rice from Penn State."

" ... While a major league debut could take a little longer than he would like, Aardsma remains confident that he will get the call soon. ``There are several different scenarios,'' he said. ``If I remain a closer, the timetable will be much shorter. Hopefully I'll be called up by September, but I'll still be very happy if it's next year.''  (San Jose Mercury News)

26 August, 2003

ANA kids highlight the latest Josh Boyd Prospect Hot Sheet at Baseball America :

" ... 1. Bobby Jenks, rhp, Double-A Arkansas (Angels) Has not allowed an earned run in over a month (five starts); opposing batters hitting a measly .167 (18-for-108) in that span "

" ... 2. Casey Kotchman, 1b, Class A Rancho Cucamonga (Angels) The hottest hitter in the minors, 27-for-51 (.529) during a 14-game hitting streak increased average to .373 and took OPS over 1.000"

" ...  3. Jeremy Reed, of, Double-A Birmingham (White Sox) From little-publicized second-round pick to dark horse Player of the Year candidate, Reed has his Double-A average back over .400 with 22 hits in his last 12 games."

A pair of SEA farmhands take the top honours in the Texas League -- 3B Justin Leone and SP Travis Blackley picked as Player & Pitcher of the Year :

" ... when regular third baseman Greg Dobbs completely tore an Achilles tendon, Leone’s role with his club changed dramatically. Suddenly inserted into the starting lineup, Leone became one of the most dangerous hitters in the Texas League. Through August 24, Leone leads the league in on-base percentage with a .395 mark, is second in league slugging percentage at .528, first with 61 extra base hits, tied for second with 34 doubles, third with 86 RBI’s and fourth with 20 home runs. These are very gaudy numbers from a player who hit just .248 in the California League in 2002."

" ... Arriving in Double A as one of the Seattle Mariners top prospects, 20-year-old lefty Travis Blackley certainly has lived up to the expectations of his organization. Currently 17-3 with a 2.62 ERA ... If Travis is able to win his final start of the season, he will become the winningest pitcher in 30 years ...  While he does not have an overpowering fastball, Blackley has great control and a devastating move to first base. By his own count this season, Blackley has picked off over 20 runners from first base. His ability to limit base runners and pick runners off has led to a 2.62 ERA second in the league. He also is second in with 144 strikeouts." (Texas League Press Release)

28 August, 2003

 Jim Callis, Baseball America, puts Rickie Weeks at #1 among second base prospects :

" ... When Josh puts together his Scouting Department rankings, he doesn't include 2003 signees, which is why Weeks was omitted. But there's no doubt that Weeks, drafted No. 2 overall in June by the Brewers, would rank No. 1 on that list ahead of the Padres' Josh Barfield if he had been considered. Barfield is just 20 and leads the minors in hits and RBIs, but Weeks projects to be a better hitter, is a better athlete and has a better chance to stay at second base. After going 2-for-4 in a Rookie-level Arizona League game, Weeks has hit .341/.492/.568 in his first 14 low Class A Midwest League contests. In the MWL, he has 12 walks and just four strikeouts. Weeks, the all-time leading hitter in NCAA history, is far more advanced with the bat than with the glove. He dabbled at shortstop and played mostly center field in his first two years at Southern, then spent 2003 at second base. He's going to need more time to get acclimated at second, where he has made seven errors in 13 games as a pro. Don Money, his manager at Beloit, reports that Weeks has a plus arm and good hands. He needs to work on his double-play pivot, and most of his errors have come on errant throws, which Money attributes to Weeks' two-month layoff. We keep touting the vastly improved Brewers system. With all the talent they've brought in over the last few years, I'd still rank Weeks as their best prospect ahead of first basemen Prince Fielder and Brad Nelson, shortstop J.J. Hardy, righthander Mike Jones, lefty Manny Parra and outfielder Dave Krynzel."

ARZ's top draft pick the MVP of the Northwest League :

" ... Outfielder Conor Jackson, the Diamondbacks' top pick in the June amateur draft, was named MVP of the Northwest League. Jackson set a league record with 32 doubles while batting .312 with six home runs and 55 RBIs for Class-A short-season Yakima." (Arizona Republic)

Big changes at the top of the DET prospect list in Chris Reed's update at Prospect Report.  Chris likes the recently activated Joel Zumaya as the top dog :

" ... Zumaya has burst onto the scene this year after adding significant "oomph" to his fastball and dominating the Midwest League. He's been bothered by his oblique muscle, but when healthy, he is one of the top young pitchers in the minors."

OAK starter named the PCL's Pitcher of the Year :

" ... Justin Duchscherer ... has helped the River Cats to the PCL’s best record by leading the League in victories and serving as the ace of the circuit’s second best pitching staff. Duchscherer ...  is atop the PCL with 13 wins, the first pitcher to win that many games since Denny Stark had 14 for Tacoma in 2001, and is a perfect 9-0 at Sacramento’s Raley Field. He has also paced the River Cats to a playoff berth by winning his last 10 decisions dating back to June 13th. In addition to winning games, Duchscherer has also exhibited masterful control, walking just 17 batters in 148.1 innings of work. After arriving in the Oakland Athletics organization in a trade with Texas for Luis Vizcaino last year, Duchscherer endured an injury plagued 2002 season in Sacramento before finally getting healthy and excelling for the River Cats in 2003, becoming the next in a long line of talented, young Oakland starters. Originally drafted by Boston in 1996, Duchscherer spent five-plus years in the Red Sox system before being traded to the Rangers mid-way through the 2001 campaign." (PCL Press Release)

Another top dog shut down :

" ... Greg Miller, an 18-year-old left-handed starter, said the Dodgers have shut him down for the rest of the season due to tendinitis in his pitching shoulder. Miller (1-1, 1.01 ERA) had 40 strikeouts and issued seven walks in 26.2 innings. In Vero Beach, he was 11-4 with a 2.49 ERA. He accomplished that in 115.2 innings, along the way issuing only 41 walks and striking out 111. He turns 19 on Nov. 3. "I've had a blast this season," Miller said. "It's been great everywhere I've been so far." The Dodgers have been impressed, including minor-league pitching co-coordinator Rick Honeycutt. The Dodgers drafted Miller in the first round as a supplemental pick in 2002. He is from Orange County, Calif. They want him to enhance his curveball. "As far as I'm concerned, he's well advanced for his age," Honeycutt said. "I think he's improved tremendously this year on some of the things we identified he needed to work on, like the running game. He was below average in the early part of the season. But about early May he started concentrating on that and he's been very adequate. All his pitches are above average." (Jackson Sun)

John Sickels,, on BJ Upton TB :

" ... The D-Rays were happy to get Upton at the time. They are simply ecstatic now, for he's quickly developed into one of the top all-around prospects in baseball. Upton can do just about everything on the field, and do it well ... Upton is a five-tool shortstop, a rare bird ... About his only major flaw at this point is reliability: he still makes too many errors. But that is common for players his age, and will likely ease with time ...  has a quick stroke and hits for average. He controls the strike zone very well. His power is mainly to the gaps now, but he should develop more home run power as he matures physically. He runs very well, and needs only additional experience to be a solid basestealer. He has the arm and range for shortstop. He also has a good work ethic, and exudes confidence on the field. Upton is a complete package, needing only experience to refine his skills."

" ... Conceivably, Upton could be starting for Tampa Bay at shortstop this time next year. His early Double-A numbers don't do much to dispel that idea. He's lighting it up, though of course the sample size is small. My guess is that he'll be ready offensively before he is ready defensively, and that the D-Rays will want him to get more Double-A/Triple-A time under his belt before pushing him to The Show. In any event, whether he shows up in Tropicana Field in '04 or '05, Upton is possibly the best long-term shortstop prospect in the game right now."

Bobby Crosby OAK, the PCL's top rookie :

" ... Crosby has been named 2003 Pacific Coast League Rookie of the Year ... ranks among the PCL’s top five in runs scored (83), extra-base hits (57), and slugging percentage (.532), while compiling a .303 batting average. The multi-faceted Crosby has also displayed the ability to hit the long-ball, drive in runs, and steal bases, ranking in the top three on the River Cats with 20 home runs, 84 RBI, and 22 stolen bases. The shortstop also leads his team with 31 doubles. Crosby, considered one of the top prospects in the Oakland Athletics organization, has advanced through the system rapidly since he was named Big West Conference Player of the Year at Long Beach State in 2001, beginning his professional career that year by hitting .395 for Single-A Modesto of the California League. In 2002, Crosby began the season hitting .307 for Modesto in 73 games before earning promotion to Double-A Midland of the Texas League, where he scored and drove in 31 runs in 59 games." (PCL Press Release)

The BA is Mendoza-like, but the Mets' #1 pick wins some fans with his pro debut :

" ... The long-awaited pro debut of the Mets' No. 1 draft choice, outfielder Lastings Milledge, occurred this past week and he made a favorable impression. It wasn't that Milledge hit anything like his .412 batting average as a senior in high school in Bradenton, Fla., but those in the organization who saw him still liked the way he carried himself in his first four games for Kingston of the Appalachian Rookie League. He managed only four hits in his first 22 at-bats (.182), but he stole four bases and showed that he has a chance to be a good one. "I think he's everything they say he is," Kingston manager Mookie Wilson said. "When is he going to show all those tools? I can't tell you. But I do believe you will see them." Milledge, 18, was baseball's 12th overall selection this past June and the Mets signed him to a $2.075 million bonus after an exhaustive investigation into accusations of sexual misconduct in high school. When they were satisfied with the results, Milledge was signed. With Kingston's season over as of yesterday, Milledge will probably be sent to Brooklyn to finish his season with the Class-A New York-Penn League team." (Newark Star-Ledger)

Josh Hamilton?  Remember him?  

" ... ``He's not out of our plans, believe me,'' Piniella said Tuesday, a day after the Rays announced Hamilton was joining Triple-A Durham for workouts when the Bulls are at home. ``We've just got to get him back on the field playing.'' Hamilton left the team in spring training for personal reasons and after returning six weeks later, he was placed on the inactive list and returned home to North Carolina. Piniella was encouraged to hear Hamilton resumed baseball activities. ``He's a talented young man,'' Piniella said. ``He's been set back basically the whole year. He's a kid that could come very, very quick. It's a shame really, because you look at our situation, he probably would have gotten himself some big-league time this summer." (Tampa Tribune)

29 August, 2003

No major surprise here ... Prince as MVP :

" ... Class A Beloit first baseman Prince Fielder, the Brewers' first-round draft pick in 2002, was named most valuable player of the Midwest League in voting by managers. Fielder also was named the league's prospect of the year as well as the first baseman on the post-season all-star team. With six games remaining in the season, Fielder was batting .313 with 27 home runs and a club-record 109 RBI. "That's a credit to our scouting and player development staff," said Melvin. "I think it also shows that it's good to keep a player at one level. I think it's better that way; it lets him get recognized. "Now, there's no question that he has to go to the next level, whether it be high (Class) A or Double-A." (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

Check the names.  In the months ahead, several will crack the top prospect lists. The Pioneer League All-Stars.  CIN placed a pair of infielders -- shortstop Luis Bolivar and second sacker Habelito Hernandez :

" ...  Bolivar joined the Mustangs on July 7 and had a .360 average through Tuesday. He has nine homers and has driven in 38 runs. Hernandez batted .377, hit eight home runs and collected 32 RBIs before being injured on July 29.

The league MVP award went to Helena catcher Lou Palmisano. Palmisano, who underwent ankle surgery that ended his season, carried .391 average with six homers and 43 RBIs in 47 games.

Provo righthander Abel Moreno earned Pitcher of the Year honors by going 10-0 with a 2.38 earned run average.

SEA phenom Felix Hernandez an easy pick for the NorthWest All-Stars :

" ... Chosen as the league’s All-Star right-handed starting pitcher, Hernandez, just 17-years old, led the NWL in ERA and wins for the majority of the season. He was recently promoted to the Seattle Mariners’ Midwest League affiliate and left Everett with a 7-2 record and 2.29 ERA (55.0 IP, 14 ER). He accumulated 73 strikeouts and though no longer with the NWL, it is still enough to currently rank him fourth in the league in that category ... Hernandez, from Valencia, Venezuela, signed with the Mariners in 2003 as a non-drafted free-agent."  (NW Press Release)

Joe Barbieri,SportsTicker, on Fausto Carmona CLE :

" ... Exhibiting impeccable control, Carmona has done an excellent job of staying out of trouble. He has issued just 14 walks in 148 2/3 innings this season and one walk or fewer in all but three of his starts. "He throws strikes," Captains pitching coach Tony Arnold said. "He's got a 94 miles per hour fastball, but his ability to move the ball around in the strike zone and throw strikes with more than one pitch has helped him get to where he is today." Control has been a trademark for Carmona, but keeping batters from hitting his strikes had not been until this season. Last year, the native of the Dominican Republic allowed a rookie-level Appalachian League-high 89 hits in 76 1/3 innings. He's turned that around this year to the tune of a .212 average against - good for 10th in the National Association through August 25."

" ... Coming into the year, he had a good feel for his changeup," said Arnold, who was also Carmona's pitching coach in Burlington last season. "Now he's starting to gain better feel and command of his breaking ball. You put the three-pitch mix together, and it's really helped him out this season." Also a positive for Carmona has been his advanced maturity on the mound. It was that makeup that convinced the Indians he could contribute, at least for a start, at the Class AA level ... Against much more experienced competition, he responded with six quality innings in a no-decision, an eventual 7-6 victory. "He's very focused on what he wants to get accomplished," Arnold said. "If he gives up a run or two, it doesn't rattle him. He doesn't he mad, he tries to get better."

" ... Despite closing in on 150 innings for the season, Carmona likely will get an opportunity to improve even further in the instructional league over the winter. "Really he just needs to continue to improve his breaking ball so that he can put hitters away with it," Arnold said. "Other than that it's just maturing as a pitcher and learning exactly what he can do."

30 Auguust, 2003

MIL and LA kids cop top awards in the Southern League :

" ... Corey Hart ... Hart was named the 2003 Southern League Most Valuable Player for his outstanding season. With four games remaining in the season, Hart has been the dominate force on an outstanding Stars’ team ...currently leads the Southern League in RBI (90) hits (144), and doubles (36). The big third baseman ranks third in the league in extra-base hits (50) and fifth in batting (.303). The 21-year-old was named as a Western Division starter in the 2003 Southern League All-Star Game."

" ... Joel Hanrahan ... named the 2003 Southern League Most Outstanding Pitcher...  The honor comes almost three weeks after the Los Angeles Dodgers promoted the starting pitcher to AAA Las Vegas. Hanrahan currently ranks second in the Southern League in ERA (2.43), ranks third in wins (10), and ranks fifth in strikeouts (130). Prior to his promotion, the 21-year-old pitched 133.1 innings, surrendering only 36 earned runs on 117 hits. Hanrahan was masterful on the road in 2003 going 7-2 in visiting ballparks."

John Sickels,, on  Jason Bay, a new Pirate :

" ...  originally Expos property, drafted in the 22nd round out of Gonzaga in 2000. He hit .362 in A-ball in '01, but was traded to the Mets in the spring of '02. He then went to the Padres last July as part of the Steve Reed/Bobby Jones deal. Bay has played well at every level, showing power, speed, and good strike zone judgment. He hit .303 with 20 homers and 23 steals this year at Triple-A Portland. He missed six weeks after being hit by an Elmer Dessens pitch, but seems to have recovered fully. Bay has solid skills in all aspects of diamond play, and it's a bit of a puzzle how he lasted to the 22nd round."

Matthew Pouliot, RotoWorld, with reviews on a speedy TB OF and a guy who could be a big part of the MIN pen :

" ... Joey Gathright  ... blazing speed and impressive on-base ability is getting the 2001 32nd-round pick a lot of attention recently. As a 21-year-old, Gathright hit .324 with 0 HR, 23 RBI, 54/41 K/BB and 57 SB in 340 AB for Single-A Bakersfield this season. He did just as well after moving up to Double-A, batting .376 with 0 HR, 5 RBI, 15/5 K/BB and 12 SB in 85 AB. The Rays were considering calling him up in September until a dislocated shoulder ended his season. Gathright might be Juan Pierre if everything breaks right, but I’m not particularly optimistic. He has absolutely no power, delivering just 10 extra-base hits in 425 at-bats. Slap hitters like Gathright tend not to have normal development curves, often peaking young and stalling against advanced pitching and improved defenses. A little power can go a long way toward keeping the opposition honest. On the other hand, Gathright does seem to realize the value of working the count. Gathright just might find himself with a spot in the Tampa Bay outfield late next year."

" ... Jesse Crain  ... With his mid-90s fastball and great slider, Crain is probably the top relief prospect in the American League. The 2002 second-round pick has a 1.70 ERA since being drafted, striking out 142 in 111 innings. He could be a big part of the Minnesota bullpen as soon as May or June of next year and might take over as a closer in 2005."

31 August, 2003

Now that's likely something you didn't know -- Melvin Emanuel Upton :

" ... Rays Manager Charlie Montoya admits it's a little eerie how Upton carries himself beyond his years. Noting his quiet demeanor and effortless style, Devils Rays veteran Greg Vaughn nicknamed Upton "Easy" during spring training. Upton's real name is Melvin Emanuel, and the B.J. stands for "Bossman Junior." His dad, Manny, was the original "Bossman."

" ... The Rays, who have gone through three shortstops this season, can see their A-Rod -- once the 180-pound Upton fills out his 6-foot-3 frame. The Rays' season ends Monday, but fall ball is on Upton's schedule. He'll report to the Arizona Instructional League for more work, chiefly taking grounders. Cam Bonifay, the Devils Rays' director of scouting, said Upton probably will start off in Class AA next season. Prized draft picks have been rushed to the big leagues before. But Bonifay insists the Rays will take their time with Upton and allow him to progress naturally. "B.J.'s ability level is unquestioned," Bonifay said. "We're very pleased with how he's doing at such a young age. I don't think he's been overwhelmed. He needs more experience and more work on techniques every day. "A lot of young shortstops make errors; it's just part of the game for young shortstops. The speed of the game changes from high school. Everything happens so quickly and they have to adjust. And most of them haven't spent as much time working on defense. They don't have the same concentration as they do on offense."  (Orlando Sentinel)

Jim Keller, SportsTicker, with ST's review of the top prospects in the SP category. Keller lists nine righty "names you should know" :

1 -- Erwin Santana ANA " ... could be the best pitching prospect in the minors when considering his age, projection and current and past accomplishments. The 19-year-old is long and lean with a mid-90s heater with life, and he has excellent command. He dominated in the hitter-crazy Class A California League (10-2, 2.53 ERA) and was faring well in Class AA until a tender elbow slowed him down in early August."

2 -- Zack Greinke KC, 3-- Gavin Floyd PHI, 4 -- Edwin Jackson LA and 5 -- Bobby Jenks ANA., 6-- Joe Blanton OAK, 7 -- David Bush TOR, 8 -- Dustin McGowan TOR, 9 -- John Maine BAL.

LA's Greg Miller tops the chart of the lefty starters with SEA's Travis Blackley as the runnerup and Sean Burnett PIT as #3.  

4 -- Cole Hamels PHI " ... Despite working on a strict pitch-count, Hamels still put together six double-digit strikeout performances in his first 17 games, and he leads all minor league starters with a 13.10 SO/9 IP ratio. He hasn't been as dominant in his first five starts at high Class A Clearwater (0-2, 2.73 ERA), but he held South Atlantic League hitters to a .136 average and fanned 38 of the 81 southpaws faced. Hamels, who hasn't allowed a home run all season, throws a 90+ mph heater but it's a devastating changeup that sets him apart from other youngsters."

5 -- Scott Kazmir NYN " ... Featuring a mid-90s fastball, Kazmir showed overpowering stuff in the South Atlantic League before a mid-July promotion to St. Lucie. A strict pitch count early in the season prevented the 2002 first-rounder from pitching long enough to earn a victory, but he still managed to limit opposing hitters to a .185 average and fan 12.38 per nine innings at Capital City."

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