I thought I'd take a look at the farm and see who's gotten off to a hot start. I'll go down by level beginning with Reno all the way through to South Bend and point out the players who're doing the best in the minors. After the jump, I'll go over the hitters first, then the pitchers. Edit:I combined my hatchling report with Ihatesouthbends.
Jeff Bailey 1B/OF .364/.429/.591 (16 for 44) 4 doubles, 2 homeruns, stolen base 5 BB: 6 Ks
Sean Coughlin C/1b 333/400/611 (6 for 18) 2 doubles, 1 homerun, stolen base 2 BB, 1 K
Konrad Schmidt C 385/442/667 (15 for 39) 2 doubles, 3 homeruns, 3 stolen bases 3 BB, 4 Ks
Evan Frey OF 364/417/477 (16 for 44) 1 double, 2 triples, 3 stolen bases, 4 BB, 3 Ks\
Collin Cowgill OF 326/383/465 (14 for 43) 4 doubles, 1 triple, 2 stolen bases, 4bb, 6 Ks
Marc Krauss OF 385/467/590 (15 for 39) 1 double, 2 triples, 1 Homerun 6 BB, 8 SO
Paul Goldschmidt 1B .333/385/625 (16 for 48) 5 Doubles, 3 Homeruns, Stolen Base, 4 BB, 10 Ks
Mid-A South Bend
No hitter has an OPS above 800, so no one makes the list.
Jason Urquidez 9.1 IP 1 run (1 ER) 1.93 ERA 12 Ks, 2 BB
Daniel Stange 6.2 IP,1 R (1 ER), 1.35 ERA, 7 Ks, 0 BB , 1 HR
Matt Torra 2 GS, 11.0IP 2 Rs (2 ER) 1.64 ERA, 6 SO, 3BB, 0 HR
TJ Beam 6.1 IP, 0 Rs, 0.00 ERA, 3 SO, 1 BB, 0 HR
Cesar Valdez 3 GS, 16.2 IP, 7 Rs(7 ER), 3.78 ERA, 21 SO, 4 BB, 2 HB, 2 HRs
Outside of Abe Woody, Pac McAnaney, and Jeff Dietz the entire Baybears pitching staff has posted ERAs of 3.00 or lower.
Wes Roemer: 3 GS, 21.1 IP, 5 R (4 ER), 1.71 ERA, 14 K, 2 BB, 2 HR,
Tom Layne: 2 GS, 12.1 IP, 3 R (1 ER), 0.73 ERA, 7 K, 3 BB, 0 HR
Barry Enright: 2 GS, 12.0 IP, 4 R (4 ER), 3.00 ERA, 8 K, 1 BB, 0 HR,
Roque Mercedes 6 IP, 2 ER, 3.00 ERA, 8 SO, 2 BB, 1 HR
Kyler Newby 6.1 IP 1 ER, 1.42 ERA, 7 SO, 2 BB, 0 HR
Two position players, Jacob Elmore and Chris Rahl have thrown 3.0 IP and did not give up any hit, runs, or walks, and struck out one
Taylor Sinclair 2 GS, 11.0 IP, 3 ER, 2.45 ERA
Bryan Woodall 8.0 IP, 0 ER, 0.00 ERA, 11 Ks(!!!), 2 BBs
Josh Collmenter 2GS, 10 IP, 4 ER, 3.60 ERA, 12 Ks, 2 BBs, 2 HRS
Mid A South Bend
Eric Smith 2GS, 11.0 IP 3 Runs (2ER), 1.64 ERA, 6 Ks, 1 BB, 1HR
Michael Belfiore 3 GS, 12.2 IP, 10 Rs (4 ER), 2.84 ERA, 14 KS, 7 BB, 2 HRs
Charles Brewer 3 GS, 15.2 IP, 7 Runs (6 ER), 3.45 ERA, 18 Ks, 2 BB(!!!!), 0 HRs
Now that we're a few weeks into the season I felt it's time to start keeping track of some of the prospects in the minor-league system that have performed well in the early-going, who to keep an eye on to move up levels in the early stages of the season, and who needs to pick up their game quickly. After the break, a look at a bunch prospects whose names could be in the news soon.
On Josh Byrnes' Speed-Dial (possible major-league call-ups):
RHP Daniel Stange / RHP Jason Urquidez / RHP T.J. Beam - AAA Reno - For all of the commotion about what starters we're going to tab from the Reno rotation throughout the season to fill the back end of the major-league rotation, Reno's got a pretty solid bullpen that we could tap into as well. Leading the group at the moment is Stange due to his 7:0 K:BB rate and god-like 0.30 WHIP in 6.2 innings of work, having allowed just two hits and one base-runner all season, with a solo home run accounting for his 1.35 ERA. Also working to Stange's advantage is the fact that he's already on the 40-man Roster. Next is Urquidez, who has struck out an alarming 12 batters in 9.1 innings, but has walked two and been surprisingly hittable, scattering 10 hits across those innings. He has kept the ball in the park though, and only given up two runs for a 1.93 ERA. Finally, Beam has allowed no runs in his 6.1 innings, but has seen his fair share of fortune, having only struck out three batters to go with one walk and five hits. If the problems in the bullpen aren't simply a matter of fatigue from the recent extra-innings workloads, expect to see at least one of these names in the big leagues this season.
RHP Cesar Valdez / RHP Kevin Mulvey - AAA Reno - Even after Kris Benson's promotion to the majors, Reno's rotation is still throwing well with the exception of Bryan Augenstein, who has struggled to a 7.59 ERA in two starts (Billy Buckner is listed in the next section). The current best of the bunch is probably Valdez, who, despite allowing two home runs, has struck out a ridiculous 21 batters in just 16.2 innings (11.34 K/9, 28% K-Rate)(!) and has a 1.78 GO/AO ratio, suggesting that he is keeping the ball on the ground, and that his HR/FB ratio is probably a little out of wack. Mulvey has thus far been the next best in the group, though walks bit him in the rear in his most recent start, in which he went just 4.2 innings and gave up 4 earned runs after having pitched just 3 innings in the start prior. I have no clue as to why Mulvey's getting such a short leash, but it's something to pay attention to. Also, while not really a candidate to reach the majors in '10, recent call-upMatt Torra threw 6 innings in his first AAA start since '08, giving up 2 earned runs despite some rates that leave something to be desired.
OF/1B Jeff Bailey / OF Cole Gillespie - AAA Reno - 1.019 OPS. That's about all you need to know about Bailey. He's hitting for power, drawing walks, limiting his strikeouts, and even freaking stole a base on his only attempt. When the bullpen finally gets settled down and rested, and Esmerling Vasquez returns to Reno, Jeff Bailey is the guy who should be promoted purely in terms of production, although a lack of 40-man Roster spots may keep him banished in Reno in favor of Gillespie, who is certainly playing well (.867 OPS) and is more versatile than Bailey defensively, but CY is planted in CF and Gillespie is not hitting at nearly the level of Bailey. Good news for Bailey is that Zach Kroenke is currently throwing suck in Reno, so if Clay Zavada comes back from his injury in better form than he entered it in, if Jordan Norberto manages to at least stick in the high minors, and if Leyson Septimo's control and luck don't desert him again, then Kroenke could become very expendable.
IF Ryan Roberts - AAA Reno - We all know Roberts, and it appears as if he's digging himself out of the slide he was in both during Spring Training and the first few games of the minor-league season, now possessing an OPS of .838, with 7 of his 14 hits going for extra-bases. If anAugie Ojeda trade ever happens, it'll probably be Roberts who comes back up.
SS Pedro Ciriaco - AAA Reno - It's odd to list a guy who hasn't played a game yet this year, as Ciriaco has been on the DL to start the season. So although the phrase "On Speed Dial" is probably inappropriate, Ciriaco is almost guaranteed to be a September call-up as a pinch-runner and defensive substitute. Further, if he comes back from his injury strong at the plate and a SS is needed due to injury, we could see him sooner, as he's already on the 40-man Roster.
Nostradamus Says... (guys we could see as early as 2011):
C/1B Sean Coughlin - AAA Reno - A guy who left a mighty good impression in Spring Training by smacking the ball all over the place, Coughlin quickly replaced the 1.232 OPS that John Hester left in Reno with a 1.011 OPS of his own. Not too bad from the catcher position, eh? A big time bat at a highly-valued position if he can stick defensively at catcher, a position that the Diamondbacks suddenly seem to be loaded at from the majors to Hi-A (see Snyder, Chris; Montero, Miguel; Hester, John; below; and way below). While the idea of a catcher trade seems nauseating now that Montero is out for a while, I'd bet that we'll find ourselves dangling Snyder around in front of any team in need of catching help once again at the trade deadline.
C Konrad Schmidt - AA Mobile - Another guy who was in big-league camp for part of Spring Training, Schmidt took complete control of the starting catcher's job in Mobile when Coughlin was promoted to Reno with current backup and former Sandwich-round pick Ed Easley continuing to suck (one hit in 14 ABs). Thankfully, Schmidt has been great, playing sterling defense and having already whacked three homers and posting a 1.109 OPS to continue the theme of above-1.000 OPS's from our catchers in the minors. It's a slight long-shot that we see Schmidt in the bigs in 2011, but trades and injuries do happen. And with it still looking as if Chris Snyder will eventually be dealt, and Schmidt appearing capable, September 2011 seems reasonable as a cameo date for Schmidt.
IF Mark Hallberg - AAA Reno - If the aforementioned Augie trade happens and RyRo returns to the major league squad, it'll be Hallberg who reaps the benefits of a consistent position in Reno. He has played well to start the season, with a 4:4 K:BB ratio to go with a solid OPS and great defense. He has little to no power, though, and is probably a utility defensive sub type, like, well, Augie Ojeda.
CF Evan Frey - AA Mobile - I just can't figure this guy out. He raked in '08 at Visalia, raked the following ST, sucked in '09 at Mobile, sucked at ST this year, and now is on fire at Mobile. Alrighty, then. He's put up an .894 OPS so far, getting on-base at over a .400 clip due largely to his 3:4 K:BB ratio while playing his trademark good defense. Frey needed a rebound year to re-establish his prospect status, and after a discouraging Spring Training it looks like he's finally on-pace to do just that. 2011 is probably optimistic for Frey, but he should at least function as a September call-up next year to run and play defense.
Starters #1-4 - AA Mobile - Wow, Mobile's rotation is off to a fantastic start. Suffice it to say that if we're in need of back-end starters at this time next year like we were this year, we'll have plenty of candidates. Wes Roemer has struck out 14 in 21 innings while walking just two batters, and carries a phenomenal 1.71 ERA. He has been a little fly-ball happy this season, with a 0.84 GO/AO ratio, and two homers allowed in three starts. However, he had a 1.91 GO/AO ratio at Visalia and 1.03 GO/AO ratio at Mobile last year, so if his current number improves, we can expect that home run rate to decrease. Tom Layne is building off a breakout year last year at Visalia in Mobile's rotation, having allowed just one earned run (though two additional unearned runs) in 12.1 innings over two starts. He has a decent 7:3 K:BB ratio aiding his cause, but the biggest factor of his success is that he's keeping the ball firmly planted on the ground with an astounding 3.17 GO/AO ratio. He had similar rates around 3 at both Visalia and Mobile last year as well, so it's not unprecedented or due to regress. I'm a big fan of Layne, and think he's a guy who could get promoted to Reno at some point this year, especially if that GO/AO ratio continues to be stable, and the type of pitcher who could eventually be perfectly suited for pitching at Chase Field. Barry Enright has been his usual self, keeping the ball in the park (despite being a fly ball pitcher) and refusing to give free passes with an 8:1 K:BB ratio in 12 innings pitched. His fly ball tendencies can land him in some trouble, but he is a quality start machine. Some believe he may end up being a reliever in the majors, and he does carry a significant RHB/LHB split. Bryan Shaw is a reliever-turned-starter who currently boasts an 11:1 K:BB ratio in 11 innings, and a 1.50 GO/AO ratio, with a 1.64 ERA as evidence of his dominance. Shaw will probably get a full season in Mobile in '10, and probably isn't someone to expect in 2011, but was lumped in here as a Mobile starter and has a lot of promise as a second-round pick from 2008.
RHP Kyler Newby - AA Mobile - It's not a secret that Newby's goal going into 2010 was regaining his amazing K-Rate from 2008 at Visalia, which was nearly cut in half last year at Mobile. So far? 7 K's in 6.1 innings. The result? A 1.42 ERA. He's a guy who could be called up very quickly to replace one of the many lagging relief arms at Reno (Jose Marte and Billy Spottiswood come to mind). If he then can perform throughout the rest of the season at Reno behind a plethora of relief arms, he could be in the mix for a big-league roster spot next year, especially if the team ships off Chad Qualls as his arbitration costs rise and Aaron Heilman and Bob Howry depart in free agency.
Elevator, Going Up (lower-level/raw prospects on the rise):
OF Collin Cowgill - AA Mobile - It's true that he may be a bit of a 'tweener, but he's off to a hot start with a line of .326/.383/.465. He'll probably always be more of a doubles hitter than anything else, especially given that his size likely means that filling out and adding extra strength probably isn't in his future, but he could have value at the major-league level. Our outfield logjam does appear to be a problem for him though, and Cowgill could become trade bait, especially as one of the organization's top-10 prospects. He could be seen as a 2011 September call-up bat, but doesn't have the type of speed or defensive ability that would guarantee this on a down year offensively.
LHP Leyson Septimo / RHP Roque Mercedes - AA Mobile - I continue to lump these two guys together since they continue to be on similar tracks towards the majors. Both are strikeout pitchers with occasional control problems who are old for their level and new to relief pitching, and both are off to solid starts. Septimo has allowed just one hit and no runs in 4.2 innings with eight strikeouts and three walks. If he can keep this up, it may help ease the tensions within the organization about the left-handed relief situation, and allow us to jettison Zach Kroenke from the 40-man Roster in favor of Jeff Bailey, who is tearing through the PCL. Mercedes has been more hittable than Septimo, giving up seven hits and two earned runs in six innings, including a home run, but sports a slightly better 8:2 K:BB ratio. I personally expect both guys, particularly Septimo, to take a couple seasons to get to the majors, though Mercedes has demonstrated last year that he could pitch at AA and could be moved up to AAA at some point this season, where success could put him on a faster track to the majors.
1B Paul Goldschmidt - Hi-A Visalia - Rest assured, if Paul Goldschmidt keeps this up, he will make the highest jump on my 2011 top prospects list. Holy crap, Paul, give pitchers a chance, eh? He's already clubbed three homers after skipping both short-season Yakima andMid-A South Bend, where guys like Bobby Borchering, Keon Broxton, and Bobby Stone are currently left struggling, and has jumped out to a 1.010 OPS. Goldschmidt's accomplishments have been even more impressive than teammate Marc Krauss' 1.056 OPS because Goldschmidt is working against a .110 BABIP gap between him and Krauss. And with Mobile trotting Bryan Byrne out at 1B every day, count on Goldschmidt to be promoted like, yesterday.
LF/1B Marc Krauss / 3B Kyle Greene - Hi-A Visalia - I lump Krauss and Greene together because they're carrying respective OPS's of 1.056 and .970, but both are doing it with the help of some massively inflated BABIP numbers. Krauss' BABIP is .452 and Greene's BABIP is .471. Neither of those numbers are sustainable, and as they regress, both of those OPS numbers will take huge hits downward. Both players are having good seasons, but their accomplishments need to be taken with the necessary piles of salt.
1B/3B Ryan Wheeler - Hi-A Visalia - I kept Wheeler separate because his overall OPS isn't as high as Goldschmidt, Krauss, or Greene, at .795, and even though Wheeler's BABIP is still clearly inflated, though to a lesser extent, at .390. Why Wheeler is here is because, according to reports I've read, his defense at third base has been far better than expected. This is huge news, as it could help to free up the mess of first-basemen within the D'backs' system. Further, as Wheeler becomes more acclimated to his new position, I expect that his offensive rates will begin to rebound as he can re-adjust his focus back to his plate approach. Mainly, Wheeler needs to rediscover his plate patience, as his golden 32:42 K:BB rate from across two levels a year ago has stumbled to 10:4 thus far. Granted, with just eight regular-season games in South Bend, this isn't exactly unexpected or unprecedented. After all, what Paul Goldschmidt shouldn't be our standard for level-jumps.
C Rossmel Perez - Hi-A Visalia - Remember when I said to see "way below" during the Coughlin paragraph? That's here. Perez is also off to a great start, batting .313 with a 3:3 K:BB ratio in 32 ABs. While he has very little power to speak of, he is patient and a tough out, and has a reputation for being great behind the plate. And while this can be evidenced by his throwing out 5 of 12 base-stealers, he also has had his share of struggles defensively with six passed balls in nine games. But for a kid who won't be legally allowed to drink until August and is at Hi-A ball, that's pretty darned good.
RHP Joshua Collmenter - Hi-A Visalia - Collmenter was stuck repeating Hi-A this year due simply to the bevy of depth the D'backs suddenly have in their minor-league rotations after posting the highest strikeout total of the entire system at Visalia in '09. He's done much of the same so far this year, with a 12:2 K:BB rate through 10 innings. Two home runs allowed have been a problem, and he's been far more fly-ball happy than last season, but that's not a significant enough problem that he really belongs in Hi-A. There's simply going to be no spots for him in Mobile until an injury necessitates call-ups.
RHP Bryan Woodall - Hi-A Visalia - Has been nearly un-hittable in his eight innings of relief work so far, striking out eleven, walking just two, allowing three hits and no runs. His WHIP stands at 0.63. Top that off with the fact that three of his outings have been for at least two innings of work, and you've got yourself a guy due for a promotion, pronto.
RHP Charles Brewer / RHP Eric Smith / LHP Mike Belfiore - Mid-A South Bend - It's been a grim season so far in South Bend, but there are a few pitchers from the 2009 draft class throwing particularly well, headlined by Brewer, though you may not think so at first. Of the three pitchers listed here, Brewer actually has the highest ERA, 3.45. However, in 15.2 innings of work, Brewer has struck out 18 batters and walked just two, all while giving up no home runs, for an astounding 1.29 FIP. Regardless of what you think of the stat, that's exceptional. Unfortunately, these numbers were skewed by BABIP, as Brewer has mysteriously allowed 17 hits (.354 BABIP). Smith has struck out six in eleven innings of work, and has a scary-good 0.55 WHIP and 1.64 ERA, but has given up a homer despite his typical ground-ball nature and been exceedingly fortunate on balls in play. Looking at Belfiore's numbers as a whole is confusing, because of how dramatically different each of his starts has gone. He hasn't allowed a run since his first start, in which he served up two home run balls and only struck out one batter in 3.2 innings. He walked five batters (striking out seven) in his following game, which a friend of mine attended, but didn't allow a run. His most recent start was the best of all, as he struck out six batters in five shutout innings, while walking none.
Currently Unhappy With Statistical Variance (guys whose numbers look worse than they are):
1B/OF Brandon Allen - AAA Reno - Allen's power is certainly not out, as three of his eight hits are home runs, and his ISO sits at a pleasant .233. Further, he continues to demonstrate good patience, drawing seven walks in 50 PAs. However, Allen has just five hits in 33 balls put in play, for a .152 BABIP, which has crushed his batting average, which sits at .186. A number that absurdly low demonstrates that sample size has decided to shaft Allen in the early-going, and as his BABIP begins to climb upwards, Allen's mediocre .739 OPS will skyrocket to the levels we're used to seeing.
RHP Billy Buckner - AAA Reno - Despite his horrid first start (5.0 IP, 7 ER), he has a 2.17 GO/AO ratio and a 12:3 K:BB ratio in 10.2 total innings, so luck has not been kind to him, especially his HR/FB ratio with those two home runs he has allowed. He also had a no-hitter in his last start through five innings, but wound up not getting through the sixth inning, being pulled with two outs after giving up a home run to A's stud prospect Chris Carter - not a bad guy to give up a homer to if you're going to give one up. Something tells me that we'll see Billy start to return to his end-of-'09 form as the season progresses, and that we'll see him in the majors at some point.
LHP Patrick McAnaney - AA Mobile - After a mediocre start to begin the season with Visalia, McAnaney was called up to Mobile mostly on the basis of his 2009 season and good raw stuff. His first start in Mobile was deceiving, as McAnaney pitched far better than a glancing-over of the bottom line would suggest. He allowed four earned runs in 5.2 innings, but had 7 K's, just 1 BB, and a 3.0 GO/AO ratio. Yet, he gave up eight hits despite those awesome metrics. If he can keep those numbers up, McAnaney will not sport a 6.35 ERA this season.
RHP Trevor Harden - Hi-A Visalia - Harden has thrown nine innings this season, striking out seven and allowing just one walk. Yet, he has an 8.00 ERA. Why, you ask? He has already coughed up four home runs. Now, even for a guy with a 0.73 GO/AO ratio, that's an absurd HR/FB ratio. If Harden's other metrics can stay the same, his numbers will begin to start reaching normality, and it'll be easier to see that he's a much better pitcher than those home runs have made it seem.
There's AutoZone For Stalled Cars, But What About Stalled Prospects? (guys who are straight-up struggling):
RHP Bryan Augenstein - AAA Reno - As mentioned near the beginning of the article, Augenstein isn't doing well. He has gone away from all of the things that make him successful as a pitcher. His GO/AO ratio through two starts, both of which were equally mediocre, is just 1.08, unacceptable for a ground-ball pitcher. He has served up two home runs already, as many as he'd allowed in eight Reno appearances last year (and even those appearances weren't that great). His K:BB ratio is 7:5, which is too many walks for a control specialist. Pure and simple, Augenstein's metrics have exploded on him, and he needs to put them back together if he thinks he's going to reach his back-end starter ceiling.
LHP Zach Kroenke - AAA Reno - It's been mentioned a couple times that Kroenke is "throwing suck" and may be jettisoned if he can't change this. To explain, he's struck out two batters in 6.1 innings while walking four, and coughing up eleven hits and a home run. The end results are an unsightly 11.37 ERA and 2.37 WHIP. After losing a major-league job to a guy who hadn't had success above Hi-A with a poor Spring Training, Kroenke's time with the Diamondbacks may be coming to a very early close.
SS Taylor Harbin - AA Mobile - He's hitting .313, I know, but the offensive metrics combined with three errors defensively (errors suck, but I don't have UZR for minor league guys and defense has never been his specialty) drastically outweigh that batting average. His BABIP is .375, ISO is .041, and he's drawn two walks in 50 PA's. He really needs to bring the walk and strikeout numbers closer together, as an 8:2 K:BB isn't going to cut it unless you can crush the ball, and Harbin cannot do that. Shortstop is generally a thin position in the system once you get past Ciriaco at AAA until you reach Owings at Mid-A, and many still question whether or not Owings'll stick there.
LHP Wade Miley - Hi-A Visalia - "Stalled" is an unfair distinction for Miley, who was the Opening Day starter for Visalia and currently has a 4.02 ERA, but that number is deceiving, as Miley has walked more batters than he has struck out. For a guy who had a 102:33 K:BB ratio last season, 6:9 isn't going to cut it. He's managed to get through it with a spike in his GO/AO ratio and a .255 BABIP, but those aren't going to be there for him forever. A guy who people thought would be going through the system towards the majors faster than he has so far, he needs to get his control back and start striking guys out again to keep progressing if he wants to make it to the bigs at all.
3B/1B Bobby Borchering / CF Keon Broxton / RF/1B Bobby Stone - Pretty much nobody is doing well for South Bend, but these three are doing the worst when compared with expectations. Borchering, Broxton, and Stone sport respective OPS's of .599, .561, and .438. Ouch. For a team that came into the season with such high expectations, having just one win is a tremendous disappointment. There really isn't much that can be said that's good news for these guys other than that they're all young and have time. Of the group, I'm probably the most optimistic about Borchering, as he was hitless through his first three games, and had just one hit through his first five, before starting an 8-28 stretch, so he appears to simply be getting used to the new environment. Broxton has been just generally awful, though thankfully not to the extent as Stone (we'll get there in a sec). 18 strikeouts in 45 at-bats is terrible, and the 3 walks to go with them is also awful. He has two triples and a double, but no homers, and his .111 ISO is underwhelming. Basically, a .561 OPS is bad. Worse, though, is a .438 OPS. That is what Bobby Stone has. And after two years at Rookie-level Missoula, you'd expect the 20-year-old Stone to be a little more adjusted to professional baseball and off-speed pitching than he has demonstrated. His swing is still incredibly long, and he simply cannot make contact. 15 strikeouts in 36 at-bats, even with four walks, is not going to keep him in the system for long, whatever his raw power potential is.
So there it is, an afternoon I had to waste completely taken up before tonight's game. The depth in the upper part of the system looks surprisingly good this year, especially in terms of pitching, but yet the lower-level bat depth we were supposed to have hasn't left as good of an impression as we'd hoped for. And such is the mysterious world of baseball.