The Angels’ first round pick from 2010, Cowart is enjoying his first year in full-season ball. He’s currently hitting .294 with 24 extra base hits in 57 games. The third baseman started the year with average numbers in April but he heated up in May with 16 extra base hits, including six homers, and a .310 batting average. He also walked 11 times, compared to just four free passes in April. Cowart, 20, has seen his wRC+ jump to 138. A switch-hitter, he’s hitting for average against both right-handers and left-handers but his slugging percentage is .100 higher as a left-handed batter. Cowart is looking like a future impact hitter at the hot corner.
Drury was one of the top breakout players of 2011. Playing in short-season ball for the second year, he produced a 137 wRC+ in 63 games. Moved up to full-season ball in 2012, the 19-year-old infielder has struggled mightily. He’s hitting just .178 and his strikeout rate has jumped up significantly to 18.5 K%. Always an aggressive hitter, he’s found that better pitchers will prey on that and he’s going to have to improve upon his 4% walk rate. He’s showing a little bit of life in June so far but he could be headed back to short-season ball when it opens in a couple of weeks. The 2012 season could very well be a lost year for Drury but he’s still very young so there is no need to panic.
The Arizona Diamondbacks system keeps getting above-average returns from its pitching prospects. Holmberg is in the second tier of Arizona’s pitching prospects and projects to develop into a No. 3 or 4 starter but he’s absolutely blown away hitters in the California League – a league that typically chews up and spits out pitchers. Holmberg, 20, has struck out 81 batters in 78.1 innings of work (9.88 K/9) and has walked just 14 batters (1.61 BB/9). Interestingly, he’s performed better against right-handed batters (.199) than left-handed hitters (.257). Age is on his side and the organization can afford to be patient with the lefty but he may force the organization’s hand with a mid-season promotion to double-A.
In recent years the Toronto organization has become known for rolling the dice on high-ceiling amateur talent when it comes to the annual draft. The club has at times, though, has attempted to hedge its bets with some “safe” college arms. Unfortunately, the team has been snake-bitten while trying to develop highly-drafted college pitchers, such as Chad Jenkins and McGuire. The Georgia Tech ace was selected 11th overall in 2010 but has hit a wall at double-A. He currently sports a 6.83 ERA and has allowed 65 hits and eight home runs in 59.1 innings. His control has been OK this year but his command has been noticeably off. His strikeout rate is just 5.96 K/9, down about 3 Ks per nine innings over 2011. McGuire, 23, doesn’t have the most dynamic stuff and projects to develop into a No. 3 starter at best, but things are looking bleak even for that outlook. This is definitely not the type of return that you hope for from a top college pitcher who was handed more than $2 million to go pro.
The retirement of Boston’s Tim Wakefield has left a void at the MLB level for fans of the knuckleball. New York Mets hurler R.A. Dickey still throws the knuckler and he could receive some company if Cleveland prospect Steven Wright keeps pitching well. The right-hander converted himself into a knuckleball pitcher last year and has been battling through the system for the past six years after being selected in the second round of the 2007 amateur draft out of the University of Hawaii. Wright, 27, currently has a 1.67 ERA in 59.1 innings of work. He’s allowed just 38 hits with 28 free passes. His 54 strikeouts are good for the second-highest strikeout rate of his career. He’s also producing above-average ground-ball rates. Keep an eye on Wright. He’s a fun story to follow but could also develop into a solid big league starter.
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