Every Thursday throughout the season, Minor Impacts takes a look at some of the hottest minor league players that could have impacts at the Major League Level in the near future. With the end to the minor league season less than a month away, many of the players we’re looking at now will be making their impacts in early-to-mid 2010. Some of the players we’ve educated you on before their promotions include: Vince Mazzaro, Andrew McCutchen, Gordon Beckham, Alex Avila, Brian Matusz, Marc Rzepczynski, Jake Fox, Nolan Reimold, Daniel Bard, Bud Norris, and Mat Latos.
Chris Carter: Oakland’s Chris Carter is an interesting prospect. A look at his numbers show massive potential with a double-A line of .334/.433/.567 in 485 at-bats. He had 40 doubles and 23 homers, as well as 106 runs driven in – the second time he’s topped 100 in as many years. Carter also maintains a solid walk rate (14.3 BB% in ’09) and he trimmed his strikeout rate by six percent over last year (30.8 to 24.3 K%). The 22-year-old first baseman also stole 13 bases in 18 attempts and recently earned a late-season promotion to triple-A. On the downside, Carter had a .404 BABIP in double-A, which is highly unsustainable. As well, scouts have questions about how well his swing will work in the Majors and he has a lot of trouble hitting breaking balls. Carter also does not have a defensive home. Despite a strong arm, he is average at best at first base due to poor hands. He’s also been tried at third base and right field, with little success. Carter is basically a designated hitter who should hit a bunch of homers and take his fair share of walks while hitting .260-.280 and piling up the Ks in the Majors.
David Lough: It’s been another depressing year in KCville. Top hitting prospects like Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer have underwhelmed. However, the Royals have seen a few players step forward, such as Jeff Bianchi, Jordan Parraz, and Lough. An 11th-round selection out of tiny Mercyhurst College in 2007, Lough has really played well this year after a so-so first full season in pro ball in 2008. Beginning 2009 in high-A, the left-handed hitter posted a line of .320/.370/.473 in 222 at-bats. Since moving up to double-A, Lough has continued to hit well with a line of .332/.371/.537 in 190 at-bats. The Ohio native has enough speed to steal 15-20 bases and gap power that could produce 10-15 homers. He does a nice job making contact and has the chance to be a .300 hitter in the Majors. Unfortunately, he does not walk nearly enough (5 BB% in 2009) but he keeps the strikeouts to a respectable level (14 K% in ’09). With a .119 average versus left-handers in double-A, Lough has a lot of work to do if he wants to avoid being platooned at the MLB level.
Chris Pettit: This Angels prospect has shown solid skills over the past few seasons but he just can’t stay healthy. Signed as a college senior out of Loyal Marymount University, Pettit has made the most of his solid-average abilities and he now projects to be a solid fourth outfielder and occasional starter. The right-handed hitter is a lefty killer with a line of .400/.509/.670 against them in 100 at-bats in 2009 at triple-A. Overall, Pettit has a line of .325/.383/.488 with 26 doubles and 16 steals in 326 at-bats. He does a nice job of keeping the strikeouts at bay with a rate of 15.4 K%, but his walk rates have decreased as he’s moved up the ladder (7.3 BB% in ’09). Defensively, Pettit can play all three outfield positions.
Jaime Garcia: The Cardinals organization has been absolutely snake-bitten when it comes to developing pitching prospects over the past 10 years. Southpaw Garcia was on the cusp of securing a big-league role in 2008 when he blew out his elbow and required Tommy John surgery. Control was never a huge strength of Garcia’s, but it’s looked pretty good in seven post-surgery appearances – especially considering that command and control usually suffer afterward. Still just 23, the Mexico native has plenty of time to re-firm-up his plus breaking ball. He could find himself back in the Majors by mid-2010 with the potential to be a No. 2 or 3 starter for St. Louis.
Jeremy Hellickson: This right-hander has officially passed both Jacob McGee and Wade Davis as the top pitching prospect in the Rays system. It took a little while for scouts to warm up to Hellickson because he’s not as flashy as the other two pitching prospects but he is a better all-around pitcher and far more consistent. The 22-year-old hurler began the year in double-A and allowed 41 hits in 56.2 innings of work, while posting a walk rate of 2.22 BB/9 and a strikeout rate of 9.85 K/9. Since a promotion to triple-A, he’s allowed 24 hits in 35.1 innings. He also has a 3.06 BB/9 walk rate and a 9.93 K/9 strikeout rate. Hellickson has a low-90s fastball that can touch 95 mph, as well as a curveball and changeup. He has the ceiling of a No. 2 starter. Pitching is still a strength in the organization with Matthew Moore, Nick Barnese, and Kyle Lobstein also blazing through the system.
Trystan Magnuson: Magnuson was a bit of a surprise supplemental first round draft pick in the 2007 draft, as a fifth-year senior at the University of Louisville. With multiple picks in the first few rounds, though, the Jays organization needed to save some money and it felt Magnuson would move quickly through the system. Shifted to the starting rotation in 2008 at low-A, the right-hander struggled mightily. Moved back to the ‘pen in 2009, Magnuson pitched pretty well in high-A and received a late-season promotion to double-A, which is where he should begin the 2010 season. At the rate that the Jays organization goes through pitchers, he should get a MLB shot next year if he continues to improve. Magnuson, 24, has a fastball that can touch 94 mph out of the bullpen, as well as a good (but inconsistent) slider. He also gets his fair share of worm-burning outs, and Toronto loves its ground-ball pitchers.
Robbie Weinhardt: Toronto loves ground-ball pitchers and Detroit loves its flame-throwing relievers. The organization grabbed five college relievers in the first 10 rounds of the 2008 draft with the hopes that they would provide quick relief in a system that significantly lacked pitching depth. Ryan Perry (1st round) has established himself in the Majors, while Brett Jacobson (fourth round) was used to acquire Aubrey Huff in a recent trade with Baltimore. Weinhardt, the fifth reliever taken by the Tigers (10th round), has been perhaps the second most impressive reliever taken by the Tigers in the ’08 draft. Beginning 2009 in high-A, he allowed 24 hits in 31.2 innings of work, while posting a walk rate of 2.85 BB/9 and a strikeout rate of 11.37 K/9. Moved up to double-A, the right-hander has allowed 20 hits in 25 innings of work, while allowing a walk rate of 3.96 BB/9 and a strikeout rate of 9.36 K/9. Weinhardt has a low-90s fastball that can touch 94 mph, as well as a changeup and slider. He looks like a future set-up man.