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.
Tyler Colvin: You have to give a break to this former (surprise) No. 1 draft pick by the Cubs. He had a pretty lousy approach at the plate, which resulted in walk rates of 6.0% and 3.0% early on in his career. After a lousy double-A season in 2008, the organization demoted him to high-A to begin the year. Still only 23, the outfielder changed his ways to a degree and increased his walk rate to 10.4%, although he hit just .250/.326/.357 with just one homer in 112 at-bats. Colvin was rewarded with a trip back to double-A, where he is hitting .319/.342/.652 with six homers in 69 at-bats. The bad news, though, is that he’s reverted to his old ways and has a walk rate of 4.2%. Toronto’s catching prospect J.P. Arencibia should be paying attention.
Kila Ka’aihue: Despite breaking out in a big way in 2008, Ka’aihue failed to impress the Royals’ management, which went out and acquired Mike Jacobs from the Marlins, who is now hitting .231/.314/.431 with 10 homers in 216 at-bats. And he’s doing it for $3.5 million. Ka’aihue, on the other hand, hit 38 homers last year in the minors and has a triple-A line of .273/.417/.498 with 10 homers in 227 at-bats and could be doing that in the Majors at the league minimum. The 25-year-old first baseman has also posted an ISO above .200 for the past three years. Right now, he’s a wasted resource. As of late, you don’t hear quite as much love expressed for Royals’ GM Dayton Moore as you did this past off-season.
Chris Carter (Oakland): Another powerful first baseman, Carter (not to be confused with the one in Boston) has made a lot of improvements to his game over last year – and that’s saying a lot considering he hit 39 homers with 104 walks. Although he’s not hitting for as much power, Carter has reduced his strikeout rate, while also increasing his batting average over last year when he hit .259 in high-A. This year in double-A, he has a line of .292/.396/.496 with 11 homers and 23 doubles in 284 at-bats. The 22-year-old prospect is probably less than a year away from helping out at the MLB level.
Michael Taylor: The Phillies organization has to be ecstatic with the development that Taylor has made over the past two seasons. A good, but not great, player at Stanford University, Taylor exploded in 2008 and hit .341/.408/.553 with 19 homers combined between two A-ball affiliates. In double-A in 2009, the 6’6” 250 lbs outfielder is hitting .340/.399/.579 with 13 homers in 247 at-bats, proving last year was no fluke. He’s even stolen 11 bases in 15 attempts. The 23 year old is a bit of an unusual prospect – not unlike San Diego’s Kyle Blanks.
Jarrod Parker: Another first-round prep pitching gem from the 2007 draft, had a nice debut season in 2008. His stuff has been even crisper in 2009 and he was promoted to double-A from high-A after just four starts (0.95 ERA, 12 hits in 19 IP). At double-A, the right-hander has been a little more hittable with 51 hits allowed in 47.1 innings of work. He also has a walk rate of 4.18 BB/9 and a strikeout rate of 9.32 K/9. Only 20, Parker is holding his own at a level dominated by 23 year olds. With a fastball that can touch the upper 90s and improvements being made on the secondary pitches, Parker could develop into a No. 2 starter, if not a No. 1, which will be good news for the Arizona organization if ace Brandon Webb has to undergo shoulder surgery.
Marc Rzepczynski: A senior draft pick out of UC Riverside in 2007, this southpaw has improved with each minor league step he’s taken. Not only does Rzepczynski strike out his fair share of batters (almost 10.0 K/9 in his three-year career), the hurler also gets a mind-boggling number of groundball outs (career 64.6 GB%). His fastball is more like a bowling ball that can touch 92 mph and he also has a good slider and sinking (of course) changeup. With all the pitching injuries in Toronto, Rzepczynski could be up before the end of the season. His ultimate ceiling is probably that of a No. 3 starter.
Travis Wood: Wood is a perfect example of why you never give up on a good arm. The left-hander is a former second-round pick out of high school from 2005. He’s battled injuries and inconsistencies. Last year in 17 double-A starts, Wood posted a 7.09 ERA and allowed 91 hits and 48 walks in just 80 innings. This year, though, things have clicked again and he’s leading the minors in ERA with a 1.27 mark (2.82 FIP) in 15 starts. He’s allowed just 62 hits in 92 innings, along with a walk rate of 3.33 BB/9 and a strikeout rate of 7.63 K/9. Only 22, Wood has allowed just one homer this year.
Kasey Kiker: The club’s first-round selection out of high school in the 2006 draft, Kiker sometimes gets lost in the shuffle with all the other great prospects in the Rangers’ system. The left-hander is having another solid year, this time in double-A, with a 3.25 ERA (4.21 FIP) and 64 hits allowed in 72 innings. He also has a walk rate of 4.63 BB/9 and 8.25 K/9. Only 5’11” 185 lbs, Kiker could eventually move to the bullpen, where his fastball has hit 95-97 mph in shorter stints.
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