The lessons from week three on the farm.
In 2008, Peguero and Clemens were both sent to High-A for the first time as 21 year olds. After a modest cumulative line of .283/.345/.451, the Mariners and Astros respectively opted to return them to High-A in 2009. This time both in the California League, they were among the hitter haven league’s most dangerous players, Peguero hitting .271/.335/.560 while Clemens posted a career-best .345/.419/.636 batting line. However, neither was given much publicity this winter as an offensive prospect, as the assumption was that both had seen inflation effects due to playing in High Desert and Lancaster.
In the last week, Peguero accumulated a hit in every game (dropping his average to .378, somehow), and hit six home runs to join Mike Stanton atop the minor league home run leaderboard (with 9 total). Clemens wasn’t as prolific, but with two more homers, he’s leading the Texas League with seven jacks through 19 games. Now scouts and prospect analysts alike are being forced to retrace our steps, and make sure the initial opinions of these players were fair. I think it was with Clemens, certainly, who has now been relegated to first base and strikes out too often. His patience was always slightly above-average, but not enough to handle the offense needed to stay at first base. I’m now guessing he eventually spends time in the Major Leagues, a testament to a lot of improvement in 2-3 years, but I’d be surprised if he spent much time starting.
Peguero, on the other hand, might be something. Strikeouts have always been his problem, but the whiffs are down significantly this season. The power has always been there, but there is nothing untapped about it anymore. A team like the Mariners, low on power and in a field beneficial to left-handed pull hitters, might be able to get something out of a guy like this.
Ethan Hollingsworth has a good FIP.
Zero home runs. One walk, two HBP’s. Twenty-five strikeouts. 26 innings in four starts. All told, we’re talking about a FIP of 1.62 for the Colorado Rockies fourth-round pick in the 2008 Amateur Draft. In the California League.
Last season had to be considered a disappointment for the 22-year-old Western Michigan product, as he posted a 4.37 ERA between Low- and High-A. But taken in context, and things look a little better. First, half his season was in Asheville, the South Atlantic League’s most hitter-friendly environment. His ERA splits in that league were telling: 6.07 ERA at home, 2.06 on the road. Then he went to the California League, an environment death on pitchers and fielders alike. While plagued by 77 hits allowed in 59.3 innings there, the .392 BABIP certainly seemed a little high.
Back in Modesto to start this season, Hollingsworth isn’t giving his fielders much to work with. He’s a pretty traditional low-90s, 4-pitch guy, but there’s something to be said for those pitchers that have the confidence to attack the zone with their stuff. I always go back to a guy like Joe Mays when thinking about pitchers like Hollingsworth, and if Mays can have middling success in the Majors, I don’t see why Hollingsworth can’t, too.
The Salem Red Sox have a good middle of the order.
Three players on the High-A Salem Red Sox roster are responsible for 13 of the team’s 19 home runs. These three are batting .365 and slugging .630, while the rest of the team is hitting .247 with a .365 SLG. There is just no denying that the 14-6 Red Sox owe their winning record to the performances of Ryan Lavarnway, Will Middlebrooks and Oscar Tejeda.
Lavarnway is the elder statesman of the group, as he will turn 23 in August. A sixth-round pick in 2008 out of Yale, Lavarnway was a guy that hit .467/.531/.873 as a sophomore, and followed it up with an injury-shortened .398/.541/.824 junior season. While his catching abilities are debateable, as he’s fairly green at the position, and is still only splitting time there this season. But the bat will play, as he’s now at .360/.407/.667. I’d like to see Boston commit to turning him into a catcher while challenging his bat, so we can really see what’s here.
Middlebrooks was a guy the Red Sox bought away from a two-sport scholarship at Texas A&M on the signing deadline in 2007, and has looked very raw ever since. But things seem to be coming together a bit for Middlebrooks this year, and he’s now showing some consistent patience and gap power. He’s hitting .353/.421/.559 in the earlygoing, and continuing to show off a rocket arm at the hot corner.
Finally, there is Tejeda, the youngest of the sluggers at just 20 years old. You can sort of tell as much, what with his 17-1 K/BB ratio through 78 plate appearances. But he’s also growing up quickly, as his five home runs are already the highest he’s hit in a single-season. Anytime a 20-year-old middle infield is hitting .382/.385/.658 in High-A, it’s big time news. While I’m not as quick to anoint him as a breakout prospect as I am Lavarnway and Middlebrooks, he might just be the one with the biggest potential of all.