Rotoprofessor’s Prospect Report: Hitters Edition

Apr 30, 2009

Written by Eric Stashin the Rotoprofessor

It’s time to once again take a look at how some of the top hitting prospects in the game are performing thus far this season.  If there are any players you want added, just let me know.

Lars Anderson – Boston Red Sox – First Baseman
2009 Statistics (Double-A): .303 (20-66), 2 HR, 14 RBI, 11 R, 0 SB (through 4/28)

He had a huge game earlier this week, driving in five, which certainly helped to skew his totals slightly.  Still, the last time we checked in on him he was yet to collect an extra base hit (5 games).  In the past 11, he’s had five doubles and two home runs, so things are definitely moving in the right direction.

Alcides Escobar – Milwaukee Brewers – Shortstop
2009 Statistics (Triple-A): .265 (22-83), 1 HR, 6 RBI, 13 R, 11 SB (through 4/28)

Speed is the name of the game, with seven stolen bases in his last ten games, but it is his inability to get on base via the walk that is extremely disturbing.  He’s walked just six times this season, a walk rate of 6.7%.  That’s far from prototypical for a leadoff hitter.  He’s also struggled mightily against righties, hitting just .222.  With Rickie Weeks playing well, it’s hard to imagine him pushing for playing time, at least for now.  Definitely monitor his progress, but he seems to be a ways away at this point.

Mat Gamel – Milwaukee Brewers – Third Baseman
2009 Statistics (Triple-A): .394 (28-71), 7 HR, 26 RBI, 18 R, 0 SB (through 4/28)

This start brings back memories of last season’s first half romp through Double-A, before injuries significantly slowed him down.  Over his past 10 games, he’s hit five of his home runs with 15 RBI.  I know his detractors point to his .447 BABIP, which is a fair point.  There’s no way he maintains that in the major leagues, but he’s shown at every level the ability to hit for a shockingly high number.  I’m not about to suggest he can keep it up, but the guy has proven that he can flat out hit and is worth eyeing in all formats.  All that stands in his way is Bill Hall, for what that’s worth.

Jason Heyward – Atlanta Braves – Outfielder
2009 Statistics (Single-A): .279 (27-61), 3 HR, 10 RBI, 11 R, 0 SB (through 4/26)

He needs more time to develop, there’s no questioning that.  He’s been playing better in recent weeks, hitting .306 over his past ten games.  He may be the future for the Braves, but he certainly is not the present.  Only long-term keeper league owners should be considering him.

Austin Jackson – New York Yankees – Outfielder
2009 Statistics (Triple-A): .357 (20-56), 0 HR, 10 RBI, 11 R, 5 SB (through 4/28)

As the Yankees continue to struggle in the major leagues, Jackson’s success in Triple-A has some clamoring for is recall.  There are some red flags, however, which bring cause concern.  His BABIP is a staggering .500, obviously a number that cannot go anywhere but down.  He’s also struck out 28.6% of the time, a number that easily can get pushed even further against major league pitching.  Four extra base hits?  Not really what we’re looking for.  He could get his chance, but I wouldn’t expect a Dexter Fowler type impact.

Matt LaPorta – Cleveland Indians – Outfielder
2009 Statistics (Triple-A): .368 (25-68), 5 HR, 14 RBI, 20 R, 0 SB (through 4/28)

The scary thing about LaPorta’s performance thus far is that he’s been even better over the past ten games.  He’s hitting .405 with 3 HR, 9 RBI and 12 R over that span.  Overall he’s struck out just seven times, versus seven walks.  It’s just staggering how impressive he’s been and it’s only a matter of time before he is slotted into the Indians outfield (could Travis Hafner’s injury accelerate his time table?).  He was the focal point of the C.C. Sabathia trade last season, so the Indians are going to want to show off what the acquired.

Fernando Martinez – New York Mets – Outfielder
2009 Statistics (Triple-A): .233 (17-73), 1 HR, 8 RBI, 5 R, 0 SB (through 4/29)

At 20-years old, Martinez continues to look over matched against upper level competition.  Last time we checked in he had six extra base hits, and he’s now up to ten (8 doubles, 1 triple, 1 home run), so he continues to shine there.  Unfortunately he has just seventeen hits and is struggling overall.  He’s got a ton of potential, but he’s far from reaching it.  Considering that the Mets are loaded with outfielders already, don’t expect him to reach the majors this season.  A full season at Triple-A certainly would be good for him.

Andrew McCutchen – Pittsburgh Pirates – Outfielder
2009 Statistics (Triple-A): .282 (22-78), 1 HR, 6 RBI, 17 R, 4 SB (through 4/28)

Outside of the runs scored, he has brought very little to the table to date.  Granted, he’s only struck out nine times, but he’s also only walked five times.  His stolen bases, which were promising early on, have waned recently, with just one in his past ten games.  With Nyjer Morgan excelling in the early going, it’s likely going to take a lot for McCutchen to break through this season.  I think he’s going to see time for the Pirates, but he needs to improve significantly on these numbers first.  He had 34 SB last season at Triple-A, so we know the speed is there.

Mike Moustakas – Kansas City Royals – Shortstop
2009 Statistics (Single-A): .288 (19-66), 4 HR, 15 RBI, 17 R, 1 SB (through 4/28)

His slow start is a thing of the past, hitting .306 over his past ten games.  He scored runs in eight consecutive games (11 runs), a streak that was broken on April 28.  The 2007 First Round Draft Pick is still a ways away, but this is a good sign for things to come.

Carlos Santana – Cleveland Indians – Catcher
2009 Statistics (Double-A): .218 (12-55), 5 HR, 15 RBI, 11 R, 0 SB (through 4/28)

He has tremendous upside and is one of the top catching prospects in the game, but it’s obvious from the numbers that he has gotten off to a tremendously slow start.  It’s not just a bad patch either, as the struggles have been early and often.  Over his past ten games (33 AB) he’s hitting just .212.  He hit .326 last season, mostly at Single-A, so just give him time to adjust to level before reading too much into it.

Justin Smoak – Texas Rangers – First Baseman
2009 Statistics (Double-A): .313 (21-67), 3 HR, 12 RBI, 9 R, 0 SB (through 4/28)

The power has not yet come around, but his bat has certainly come alive.  When we first checked in on him he was struggling to a .250 average, having gone 1-9 against left-handers.  He’s certainly improved there, going four for his last thirteen, while he continues to demolish righties, at a .356 clip.  He’s done a great job of putting the ball in play, striking out just 10 times, which puts him in a great position to hit for a high average.  His BABIP is currently at .333, an extremely believable number.  He’s going to be a stud hitter in the not too distant future, so keep a close eye on him.  It is not impossible to see him make an impact as soon as 2009.

Dayan Viciedo – Chicago White Sox – Third Baseman
2009 Statistics (Double-A): .235 (16-68), 1 HR, 7 RBI, 6 R, 2 SB (through 4/29)

Last time we checked, Viciedo had gotten off to a good start, hitting .350 with 4 RBI and 3 R over his first 20 AB.  Since then, things obviously hadn’t gone quite as well, until the past four games that is.  He’s on a 4-game hitting streak, going 7-16 with 1 HR, 3 RBI and 3 R.  That should tell you how bad he was in those middle AB’s (2-32).  He’s extremely young, so the inconsistency should not be so surprising.  Hopefully, in time, he can get things straightened out and contribute on a regular basis.

Brett Wallace – St. Louis Cardinals – Third Baseman
2009 Statistics (Double-A): .286 (20-70), 4 HR, 11 RBI, 16 R, 0 SB (through 4/28)

The left-handed hitter is owning southpaws in the early going, at the tune of a 5-14 clip, though all of his power has come against right-handed hitters.  He is striking out nearly 25% of the team (17 times in 70 at bats).  We mentioned that early on, and it continues to be a slight problem for him.  Continue monitoring it.

What does everyone think of these prospects?  Who has the highest upside?  Who will be the first to hold value in 2009?

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