Been a while since I've posted one of these. Fortunately, our major league team continues to compete in the division, which means people can (rightfully so) be less concerned about the farm. Going to do things a little differently this time, as instead of talking about risers and fallers, I'll just write a short blurb and go into a little bit about each of the prospects that matter the most (in my opinion) at Visalia and Reno. Part of this is because I just want to talk about all of these guys. The other part is it's faster and easier for me, which is a necessity right now since work is killing me.
Adam Eaton - I love this guy. You just can't help but be impressed by what he's accomplished. Overshadowed some by the success Paul Goldschmidt and Tyler Skaggs have been having, Eaton has been quietly putting up a stellar season at Visalia. A recent slump has sent his OPS "diving" to .947, but considering his background, that number is mighty impressive. Eaton was an unheralded prospect, drafted in the 20th round, out of college. Yeah, in other words, nobody liked him. He doesn't impress scouts too much, and there's definitely some legit concern. His power will always be limited, as he's currently sporting an ISO of around 142 in a very ISO-friendly league. Because the power is limited, the 36 strikeouts in 205 AB, while normally quite impressive, needs to be further shaved down some to around 15%. Still, he's got a great eye at the plate, with 36 BB so far this year. Most likely will be a quintessential 4th outfielder in the majors, but has the upside to also turn into a David DeJesus type, and I don't really see how he's that much of a different prospect than A.J. Pollock. Looking forward to see if he can prove himself even more next year in Double A.
Tyler Skaggs - Honestly, I could just write "still a beast" here and that'd easily sum up Tyler Skaggs. What can I say? This guy is just amazing. He's currently sitting at 102 K in only 83 IP. The fastball sits 89-93 mph (very awesome for a 20-year-old), and his curveball is already a major league plus pitch. As of now, he's easily a Top 50 prospect in baseball. He's regularly pitching into the 6th and 7th innings, which is fairly remarkable for a 20-year-old, and he's generating plenty of groundballs. Be excited my friends. Be excited. Have I mentioned yet he's only a 20-year-old?
Bobby Borchering/Matt Davidson - It's starting to get kind of eerie how similar these two prospects are. After today, their batting averages sit at .272 and .276 respectively. Their OPS are .792 and .787 respectively. They've both been alternating back and forth between 3B and 1B. Scouts have always believed Borchering has more raw power than Davidson, and it's starting to show in the Cal League, as his ISO is over 20 points higher. But what Davidson lacks (relatively speaking) in power he makes up for with better plate discipline and an eye at the plate, as both his walk rates and strikeout rates are better than Borchering. Both their OPS aren't exactly eye-popping, but it's important to remember they are two of the younger guys in the league, and are performing at around the same level as (or better than) other similarly young prospects. Both of our prospects are performing better (offensively) than guys like Jean Segura, Nolan Arenado, and Nick Franklin, all of whom are highly touted prospects and considered Top 100 type prospects at the beginning of the year. Granted, the big question marks with both of our prospects (as opposed to the other three more well-regarded prospects) comes down to defensive value and positional value. However, their performance to date has definitely been encouraging. Point a gun at my head and force me to choose between the two, and at this point I still go with Davidson. But having two valuable farm pieces in Borchering and Davidson sure gives us a lot of flexibility in the future with regard to trades.
Chris Owings - The kid's been slumping. No getting around that. But I mean, he's still a kid. As in, not even twenty-years-old yet. At this point, Owings will almost definitely be repeating this level next year, and then we will have a clear idea of what we have in him. Talented prospects like Owings should be dominating a level they have to repeat. I will be expecting no less from him next year. As it is, right now, the strikeout rates are going up, the walk rates are still abysmal, but it does seem like he will be able to stick at shortstop. Combined with the fact that it seems very likely he'll have 15-20 HR power at the major league level, the floor is very high for him as a prospect. He definitely need to cut down on the strikeout rates (I don't understand why this is a problem. He's supposed to be a line drive hitter who makes great contact), but even if he never ends up with an amazing walk rate, I'll still take it. Looking around the minors, and there are just way too few true SS prospects out there, for me not to appreciate Chris Owings.
Collin Cowgill - Has the "Free Collin Cowgill!" campaign kicked into gear yet? What is it going to take to get this guy some major league at bats? When it comes to evaluating Cowgill, one stat stands above all others: his strikeout rate. This is why I find it hilarious that the mainstream media heaped so much love on Anthony Rizzo earlier this year. Will he be a pretty decent starting 1B down the road? Probably. Is he the next Adrian Gonzalez? Unlikely. Is he going to have a very rough year this year with the Padres? Assuredly. The reason I know this, is because Rizzo has tons of holes in his swing. The scouts recognize it. The stats reflect it. And now the early returns on demonstrating this fact in the majors. The PCL is completely broken. But one thing that remains exceedingly difficult to hide in the PCL is the holes in your swing. That's why Brandon Allen has had so much trouble in the majors. Prospects like Allen oftentimes never end up having to close the holes in their swing in the PCL (why would you, when you can OPS over 1.000 anyway?) and then when they get called up the majors, they get pwned. So back to Cowgill. Why is Cowgill awesome? Because not only is he sporting a higher power rating than Allen currently (measured by ISO), but he's also got an incredibly low 37 K in 264 AB. That's a very pretty 14%. Not directly comparable, but bear in mind Gerardo Parra has a 19% K rate, which is already slightly better than league average. He can play defense. He can play any outfield position. He doesn't ever strikeout. He gets on base by walks. He has enough power to spray line drive doubles and more HR power than Parra. Bring him up now. Please.
Wily Mo Pena - Not really a prospect. But just wanted to throw out, that his 1.173 OPS leads the PCL. If we refuse to bring up Collin Cowgill, can we at least bring this guy up to DH against the AL? Pretty please?
Barry Enright - Man, what are we going to do with you? Enright seems like a great person. A very hard-working guy who understands his own shortcomings and does his best to fix it. The problem is, sometimes your best just isn't good enough. It makes me really sad to see that. I'm probably being too melodramatic about Enright, but there's really just nothing exciting about his numbers in the PCL right now. Yeah, it's a tough league for pitchers, I get it. But that's what makes it so much easier for us to evaluate pitchers at this level. His walk rate isn't stellar, and the strikeout rates have tanked from last year's minor league rates. And it's not like scouts have ever truly been blown away by his abilities. A very ugh combination. I really want him to succeed. But I have to admit that at this rate, I'd be pretty excited if he could manage to be a back-end of the rotation option for us next year.
Kam Mickolio - The Kra-Kam has been okay-ish for a reliever. Still racking up a strikeout per inning, and keeping his walk rates pretty low. I wish he'd be able to strikeout just a little more, and making keep his walk rate down a little less. But honestly, I think there are much worse options in the current manifestation of our bullpen than Kra-Kam. Another guy who gets a hearty "Call him up!" from me.