Another week, another update on the prospects worth knowing — for both good and bad reasons — from around Minor League Baseball…
Tim Berry, LHP, Baltimore: You can’t get drafted any later than the 50th round… in fact, the amateur draft doesn’t even go that long anymore. But that’s where the Orioles found Berry, an up-and-coming prospect in Baltimore’s system. Prior to the 2013 season, I ranked the southpaw as the 12th best prospect in the system and he’s working hard to ascend that ranking.
Berry, 22, has made four starts at the high-A ball level and has accumulated 27 strikeouts in 22.0 innings of work. He’s also walked just four batters and allowed 16 hits. He has solid control and improving command of a repertoire that includes a fastball with average velocity, a solid changeup and a curveball with plus potential. He’s a prospect that definitely deserves some attention.
Chad Bettis, RHP, Colorado: A second round draft pick of the Rockies in 2010, Bettis is off to a hot start to the year despite missing all of 2012 due to a shoulder injury. After allowing four runs in his first start of the season, the Texas native has give up just one run in each of his last three appearances. Bettis, 24, was dominant on April 24 when he struck out 11 batters in 6.2 innings of work. He worked with Mark-Buehrle-like quickness, pounding the strike zone thanks to above-average fastball command.
The pitching prospect has made strides polishing his repertoire. He has a fastball that can touch the mid-90s. His slider flashed plus potential during his last start and his changeup should be at least average. Bettis is one of the more promising upper-level arms in the system and is a step or two ahead of the likes of Eddie Butler, Tyler Matzek and Tyler Anderson.
Zack Cox, 3B, Miami: The 25th overall selection by the Cardinals during the 2010 draft, Cox’s professional career has been a disappointment to date. The Kentucky native was traded to Miami last year for reliever Edward Mujica and even found himself going unclaimed through the waiver wire earlier this year — which speaks volumes about his perceived prospect value. Cox doesn’t generate much over-the-fence pop and his defense at the hot corner is nothing special; a move to first base is likely.
All is not lost for the prospect, though. Previous expectations certainly need to be tempered but the left-handed hitter still beats up right-handed pitching, as witnessed by his 1.002 OPS versus right-handers, and he’s showing an improved eye at the plate with a BB/K rate of 1.22. Despite the negatives, Cox could develop into a solid pinch-hitter and part-time player in the Eric Hinske mold.
Courtney Hawkins, OF, Chicago (AL): Hawkins was selected 13th overall out of a Texas high school in 2012 and played at three different levels during his pro debut. The 19-year-old prospect was given a very aggressive assignment to high-A ball in 2013 but it’s been a struggle for him. Hawkins has struck out in an alarming 60% of his plate appearances and has just nine hits in 16 games.
Almost a month into the minor league season, Hawkins has yet to make the necessary adjustments and the organization may have to eat a little crow and shift the promising prospect down to low-A ball or even extended spring training so he can regain his footing.
Stolmy Pimentel, RHP, Pittsburgh: Pimentel was acquired from the Boston Red Sox last December as part of the Joel Hanrahan deal. An under-performing talent in the Red Sox system, the Dominican native is off to a hot start in his new system. Repeating double-A, he has allowed just one run over a four-start span (23.1 innings). The 23-year-old pitcher still has work to do, though, and his control remains a work-in-progress; he walked four batters on April 18 and five batters on 24, totaling nine free passes in his last 11.0 innings.
Pimentel has solid stuff with a low-to-mid-90s fastball and a potentially-plus changeup — although he struggled with his release of the pitch early on in his last appearance. His breaking ball is slurvy and still needs some work to become a reliable big-league pitch. The lack of a third pitch could prevent him from figuring into the Pirates’ long-terms plan in the starting rotation but he could become an intriguing option in the bullpen.