This Week's Guy to Grab
Did you notice catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, 22, up with the Braves over the weekend? The team's best position prospect, Salty Dawg is stuck behind Brian McCann. Regardless, da Dawg remains an excellent, excellent young player. He was batting .309/.404/.617 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) at Double-A Mississippi before the call-up. He had seven doubles and six homers in 81 at-bats, and a 17-13 K/BB ratio. Salty's OPS was second in the Southern League. Cesar Nicolas leads the league, but Nicolas is three years older. If you are in a keeper league, Salty is a great guy for the bench. His throwing arm is very nice (his defense is much-improved this season), and Salty could end up starting right away if the Braves trade him, or if something happens to McCann. He has Mike Piazza upside.
• Cardinals outfielder Joe Mather, 24, was so unheralded that he didn't make Baseball America's Prospect Handbook this spring (i.e., he wasn't one of St. Louis' top 30 prospects). Time to reconsider: He's batting .320/.374/.732 with 11 homers and a solid 12-8 K/BB ratio in a mere 97 at-bats for Double-A Springfield in the Texas League. Mather's 1.106 OPS leads the Texas League, and he is probably ready for promotion to Triple-A. He could be up by the All-Star break if the Cards are desperate for offense.
• I figure that the Padres' Chase Headley, 23, is going to move to Triple-A soon, as well. He's batting .376/.452/.624, with 10 doubles, a triple and five homers in 109 Texas League at-bats. His K/BB ratio is a solid 23-15, and it should get better, as he has a superb batting eye. This is one guy who could run the Crushin' Russian (Kevin Kouzmanoff) off third base even after Kouz starts hitting.
• Uberathlete Cameron Maybin is going strong in the high-A Florida State League. He's batting .307 for Lakeland with 11 extra-base hits in 101 at-bats and a 36-22 K/BB ratio and 10 steals. His OBP is .435 and he's slugging .525, excellent marks for a 20-year-old kid in a pitcher's league. I expect he'll be at Double-A by midseason, and he could get a major league cameo in September. He's one of the best, folks, one of the best.
• The Reds' Jay Bruce is also raking in the FSL. He has a superb .595 slugging percentage (eight doubles, four triples and six homers in 126 at-bats) and is batting .325. Things aren't perfect: He has been caught in three of five stolen-base attempts and his K/BB ratio is 34-10. Still, Bruce is only 20, and he should continue to get better.
• Another FSL product, Wade Davis, threw his second career no-hitter on May 4. A 6-foot-5, 220-pounder, Davis is (I'm sorry, I'm sorry) a right-hander in the Devil Rays' chain. Seriously, folks, if you can grab AL pitching prospects, you could do far worse than grabbing the cream of the Tampa Bay crop (if you've got a couple hundred gallon jugs, that is). Davis' fastball peaks at 98 mph and he has three fine secondary pitches in his curveball, slider and changeup. He was consistently at 91-94 during the no-no, except the seventh inning, when he averaged 93-94 and topped out at 95. In Davis' last three starts, he has allowed five hits (!) and one run in 21 innings, with a 23-3 K/BB ratio. Overall, Davis has a 1.73 ERA in 36 1/3 innings, allowing 21 hits (one homer) with a 34-8 K/BB ratio. Davis could be battling Scott Kazmir for staff ace duties in 2009.
• Did I mention that Tampa Bay's pitching riches are ridiculous? Right-hander Joshua Butler, 22, is starring for low-A Columbus -- where Wade Townsend (I mentioned him last week) pitches. Butler doesn't have Townsend's power game, but Butler is better at inducing grounders, and he is harder to hit. Butler is 2-0 with a 1.36 ERA in 33 innings, allowing 23 hits (one homer) with a 27-9 K/BB ratio. The Sally League is batting a mere .197 versus Butler, and Butler's ground-out/fly-out ratio is an impressive 2.65-1. Butler is big, 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, and he has good stuff, a low-90s fastball with excellent life, a solid changeup and a nice curveball and slider. This guy could be one of the top pitching prospects in baseball by season's end.
• Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw, 19, looks superb for the low-A Great Lakes Loons, a team that is near and dear to the Srinivasan heart. Not because I'm a nut, but because this Midwest League team's ballpark is near my old stomping grounds: Saginaw, Mich. My mom lives a stone's throw from the Looney Bin (or whatever they call the stadium). More important to you fine folks is that Kershaw is a stud-in-training. He's 2-0 with a 1.08 ERA in 25 innings, allowing 16 hits (one homer) with a 35-15 K/BB ratio. Kershaw is 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, and he has a low-90s fastball that peaks at 96 mph. He has a plus curveball and his changeup shows plenty of promise. He looks like a future staff ace.
• Right-hander Jeff Manship's name has been a running joke in my keeper league for three to four years now. A star in high school and at Notre Dame, Manship, 22, has a low-90s fastball, a plus curveball and a usable slider and changeup. There are some concerns because Manship is only 6-feet, 165 pounds, but he has been dazzling in the Midwest League, going 3-0 with a 0.92 ERA for Beloit. In 39 innings he has allowed 20 hits (one homer) and has a 45-3 K/BB ratio. His command is something special, and I expect him to zoom through the minors like a rocket. Oh, and his ground-out/fly-out ratio is 4.36-1.
• Lefty Brett Anderson, 19, is looking good for South Bend in the Midwest League. A touch-feel guy, Anderson is the son of Oklahoma State baseball coach Frank Anderson and has a reputation as a thinking man's pitcher with superb command. Anderson lacks agility and reportedly isn't much of a fielder, and his fastball merely touches 90 mph, but he has two solid breaking balls and a superb changeup. He's 3-3 with a 2.10 ERA in 34 1/3 innings, allowing 31 hits (zero homers). He has a 40-5 K/BB ratio and has a ground-out/fly-out ratio of 2.41-1.
Rawnsley's Prep Picks
Here is this week's prep prospect from David Rawnsley of ESPN partner Perfect Game. David is the scout's scout, and he has seen just about every pro prospect worth a glance over the last few years.
Blake Beavan RHP, Irving (Texas) High School
Says Mr. Rawnsley: "Beavan is a tall, lanky and athletic right-hander who is 6-foot-7 and 210 pounds. He is near the top of the 2007 prep pitching list, using a deceptive mid-three-quarters release point to deliver a live fastball in the 92-96 mph range. His out pitch is a big-breaking mid-80s slider, and he has very good command. Beavan is intense and has a flawless record on the mound, including a shutout of Cuba last summer with the USA National Junior Team.
Beavan's 7-1 with a 0.13 ERA and a 103-2 K/BB ratio in 53 innings. He has allowed only 19 hits. Baseball America projects Beavan to go in the first 15 picks this year.
Comparable to: Roy Halladay.
David Srinivasan writes about statistics and the minors for TalentedMrRoto.com and ESPN.COM. If you have questions or want David to write up a minor leaguer you're interested in, please e-mail him at Srini@TalentedMrRoto.com.