THIS WEEK'S GUY TO GRAB
Carlos Gomez, OF, Mets -- Gomez, 21, was called up Sunday and promptly went 2-for-4 with a double, a single, two runs and a stolen base. Expect more of the same from our man. He was 17-for-21 on steal attempts at Triple-A New Orleans, and he was batting .286-.363-.414 with a strong 23-15 K/BB ratio in the Pacific Coast League. Gomez could easily steal 30 bases this season if he starts the rest of the way. His bat is a work in progress, but he is so young and athletic that he could turn into a 30-homer, 50-steal player in his prime. His value is going to depend on his playing time, but he is an excellent guy to have on the bench in deeper leagues, especially with Moises Alou on the DL.
Brandon Moss and David Murphy, OFs, Red Sox -- Moss is 23, Murphy is 25, and both are at Triple-A Pawtucket in the International League. Moss has an .884 OPS, batting .272-.372-.512 (nine doubles, seven homers and a 33-19 K/BB ratio). Murphy has an .878 OPS, batting .307-.405-.472 (nine doubles, three triples, two homers and a 34-20 K/BB ratio). Moss and Murphy could battle each other for playing time in Boston, and they must fight off Jacoby Ellsbury (recently promoted to Triple-A). Still, Moss is a true right fielder, and Murphy is more of a center fielder, so they could play alongside each other. Coco Crisp and J.D. Drew aren't exactly durable, so Boston's M&M boys could become solid pickups by the second half. Moss' youth gives him more upside, but both look pretty good in deeper leagues.
Matthew Tolbert, MIF, Orioles -- Considered the best defensive second baseman in the 2003 draft, Tolbert plugged away in nondescript fashion for a few years in the Twins chain before jumping to Bal'mer. He is currently batting .391-.466-.609 with his trademark plate discipline (11 walks, 10 strikeouts). He doesn't have great power (five doubles, four triples, two homers), but with his ability to work the strike zone, he should be OK. Tolbert is in his prime at age 25, and he can help AL-only owners if the O's need some middle-infield help.
Ryan Raburn, OF, Tigers -- Raburn recently moved from the infield to the outfield, and his relaxed approach at the plate and new attitude in the field impressed manager Jim Leyland during spring training. Raburn's bat has really turned around, too. Coming into this season, his career K/BB ratio was 548-240. Currently, he's batting .271-.373-.534 (11 doubles, eight homers and a very solid 28-21 K/BB ratio). Raburn also has nine steals in 10 attempts. Keep him on your watch list.
Virgil Vasquez, RHP, Tigers -- He pitched Sunday for the Tigers, getting slapped in his big league debut. At Triple-A Toledo, Vasquez was 4-0 with a 2.88 ERA in 40.2 innings. He allowed 40 hits (four homers), but had a 50-10 K/BB ratio. He's a big guy (6-foot-3, 205 pounds), but his stuff isn't incredible. He tops out in the low 90s and has a decent slider. Virgil's command is brilliant, but the key will be if he can show improvement versus left-handers. They hit all four homers against him in the minors and went 6-for-8 against him in his big league debut versus the Twins. Vasquez was promptly demoted to Triple-A after the clobbering. He's someone to follow, but his hits-allowed rate scares me.
Kevin Slowey, RHP, Twins -- Everyone wants to compare Slowey to Brad Radke. Let the jury note that Radke was 30-35 with a 3.21 ERA in the minors. He had a 1.15 WHIP in 581.1 innings and averaged 6.99 strikeouts and 2.04 walks. Mr. Slowey currently has a 1.51 ERA in 41.2 innings with a 0.62 WHIP (24 hits allowed, including two homers) and an unearthly 38-2 K/BB ratio at Triple-A Rochester. Oh, it's not unearthly for Slowey, however: His career K/BB ratio is now 273-32 in 261.1 innings! His career WHIP is 0.773, and his career ERA is 1.89. I started comparing Slowey to Maddux last year. I might be crazy, but with his high-80s fastball (it tickles the low 90s), a good change and Eck-like command, who else can you compare Slowey to? Superb.
Ryan Braun, 3B, Brewers -- Braun raked like a grounds crew in spring training (five homers in four Cactus League games), but he made a throwing error in each game, too. So Braun was sent packing to Triple-A Nashville, and two of the "all-time greats," Craig Counsell and Tony Graffanino, are currently platooning at third base for Milwaukee. The "greats" are batting a combined .223 with a homer and 15 RBIs in 148 at-bats. Braun? He's batting .358-.426-.716 (10 doubles, eight homers and an excellent 9-11 K/BB ratio) in 95 at-bats. Braun has 22 runs, the "ATGs" have scored 15. More important: Braun has committed only two errors in 28 games. If his defense has indeed turned around, look for Braun to come up as soon as the Brewers start sliding. Milwaukee is way ahead in the standings right now. But if they hit a skid, Braun is instant offense waiting for an opportunity.
Greg Reynolds, RHP, Rockies -- It is with great regret that I note the best pitcher in the Double-A Texas League, heck, one of the best pitchers in the minors, is property of the Rox. The No. 2 pick in the 2006 draft, Reynolds is huge (6-foot-7, 225 pounds), has a low-90s fastball, a good curve and change, and superb command. He was hittable last season, but is currently holding the TL to a .180 average with fine overall numbers: a 1.66 ERA in 38 innings (24 hits allowed, including two homers) and a 31-7 K/BB ratio. Reynolds could be in the majors after the All-Star break, which will allow us to see if he can succeed in Coors. One thing to like: He has a decent 1.63 groundout/fly-out ratio.
RAWNSLEY'S PREP PICKS
Here is this week's 2007 amateur draft prospect from David Rawnsley of ESPN partner Perfect Game. David is the scout's scout and has seen just about every worthy pro prospect over the last few years.
OF Jason Heyward (Henry County High School, McDonough, Ga.)
Says Mr. Rawnsley: "Heyward is a left-handed hitter whose chiseled physique makes him stand out (he's 6-foot-5, 220 pounds). Heyward has surprising speed for his size (running the 60 in 6.8 seconds), and he is an outstanding baserunner. He also hits 90-plus mph from the mound. Heyward's raw power rivals that of any prospect in the country, although his consistency and approach at the plate are still developing. His combination of size, strength and athletic ability is unrivaled in this draft class. Older fans could compare him to a young Willie McCovey. Present-day fans might think about what Ryan Howard looked like at age 17. He has signed with UCLA."
Heyward has moved past Tampa outfielder Michael Burgess to be considered the No. 1 outfielder in the draft. The usual caveats apply when dealing with amateur hitters, but this kid could be a great one.
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.