SOON TO BE PLAYING AGAIN(!)
Kevin Melillo, 2B, OAK: OK, he hit the majors (and my radar screen) then was demoted almost as quickly. A fifth-round pick out of the University of South Carolina in 2004, Melillo came to everyone's attention in 2005 by batting .306-24-93 with 79 walks and 81 strikeouts in 501 at-bats between low Class A and Double-A. Melillo isn't a stellar fielder, and he wasn't dominating Triple-A Sacramento this season, but he was hitting .267-.368-.465 with 21 doubles, six triples, seven homers and a 75/44 K/BB rate. He came up a few days ago, but he was promptly sent back to Triple-A. I expect him to return before season's end. He's 25, so he has a bit of upside, though he's unlikely to be a star. I suspect he'd be helpful to AL-only owners if he gets playing time in the second half.
IN THE HIGH MINORS
Daric Barton, 3B, OAK: Strike that position listing, Barton is playing third at Triple-A Sacramento, but is making errors like crazy. I'd expect him to move back to first base, a position he switched to after initially being drafted as a catcher by the Cardinals. Still, we love Barton because he is only 21 this season, and he is at Triple-A Sacramento, batting .333/.426/.496. He has 25 doubles, two triples and five homers in 270 at-bats to go with a stellar 32/41 K/BB rate. I think Barton's power will come on big time in the next two seasons, and his ability to hit for average and control the strike zone could make him a huge player.
Nick Blackburn, RHP, MIN: I'd like to thank a kind reader, Gus Villageliu, for bringing Blackburn to my attention earlier this week. I am somewhat skeptical of Blackburn because of his poor strikeout rate (more on this later), but I read a note in Baseball America saying that Blackburn has overcome an injury issue and is again peaking at 95 mph or so. You've got to like that, but I don't like the fact he allowed 36 hits in 38 innings at Double-A New Britain with a weak 18/7 K/BB rate. His walk rate is certainly favorable, but his whiff rate is a pathetic 4.26 per nine. He has been outstanding at Triple-A, going 4-1 with a 1.79 ERA. In 50.1 innings, he has allowed 41 hits (two homers) with a 26/5 K/BB rate. He keeps the ball down and has superb command, but his whiff rate is only 4.65 per nine innings in Triple-A. I just don't know if Blackburn can succeed in the majors, but keep following him, perhaps he can be the next Bob Tewksbury.
Joba Chamberlain, RHP, NYY: A 6-foot-3, 225-pounder, Chamberlain is a 2006 draft pick who fell to the 44th overall pick last season because many teams were concerned about his physique and health. He has a pretty amazing story to tell. Putting it bluntly, Chamberlain was a chunky kid in high school, who didn't play a lick of baseball until his senior year. He got serious about conditioning, went to a junior college and went 3-6 with a 5.23 ERA. The coaches at the University of Nebraska got a look at his fastball and recruited him. He then developed into a monster, leading the Huskers to the College World Series in 2005 with teammate Alex Gordon (Royals). This season, Chamberlain has been clocked at 98 mph, and he demolished the Florida State League to get a quick promotion to Double-A. Chamberlain also has a plus slider, a solid curve, and an improving changeup. The Yankees laud his work ethic and competitiveness. Let's look at the numbers: He had a 2.03 ERA in high Class A, allowing 25 hits (no homers) in 40 innings with a 51/11 K/BB rate. Since moving to Double-A, Chamberlain has a 26/6 K/BB rate in 16.2 innings, allowing 11 hits (one homer) with a 3.24 ERA. Chamberlain could be better than Philip Hughes. I expect Hughes and Chamberlain to be battling for Yankees ace honors in a year or three.
Manny Parra, LHP, MIL: A 6-foot-3, 200-pound southpaw, Parra was slowed by shoulder surgery in 2005, though he did pitch well in a limited role last season. This year, Parra has been free to work without restraint, and he has gone 8-4 with a 2.45 ERA in 95.2 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. He has allowed 77 hits (three homers) and has a 98/30 K/BB rate. Parra threw the eighth perfect game in Pacific Coast League history on June 25, beating Round Rock, 3-0. He needed only 107 pitches to whiff 11 batters, and he was hitting 95 mph in the ninth inning. Parra has very good secondary stuff, and he could be working his way into Milwaukee's rotation picture by season's end.
IN THE LOWER MINORS
Taylor Teagarden, C, TEX: Mr. James Decker wrote in to ask for a write up of Teagarden. I've been aching to do so for a few weeks, so this is a perfect excuse. Teagarden is a young backstop who is batting .321-.458-.604 at Class A Bakersfield in the California League. In 187 at-bats, Teagarden has 17 doubles and 12 homers with a 43/51 K/BB rate. Teagarden isn't young for the league at 23, but at his current clip, you should expect him to hit Double-A very soon. He has had major injury problems (Tommy John surgery, and serious back trouble) in the past. He had some more elbow trouble this season, but has stayed healthy enough to hit like a demon. If he can stay in one piece, he has the potential to be a superb defender with a good arm and fine agility (the questions were always about the bat.) There will still be questions about his hitting until he hits Double-A, but this kid is a serious sleeper.
DRAFT PART III
In my previous two columns, I started looking at prospects taken in the first round this year. Let's continue. …
11. Phillippe Aumont, RHP Ecole Du Versant (Gatineau, Quebec) HS (SEA): Aumont is similar to Madison Bumgarner (see last week's column), the difference is Aumont is a righty. He is imposing at 6-foot-7, 225 pounds, and he has a 96-mph fastball that meshes nicely with a low-80s slider. He's a good athlete, but is a long-term project because he hasn't pitched much, and his mechanics are raw. He has had a difficult life (he lives with guardians, not his parents -- though he hasn't discussed his life much publicly), so he's someone I'm rooting for a bit more than some kids whose backgrounds are a bit more traditional.
12. Matt Dominguez, 3B, Chatsworth (Calif.) HS (FLA): At the beginning of the year, Dominguez was the stud, and Chatsworth teammate Mike Moustakas was the talented supporting cast member. Cut to June, and Moustakas went with the No. 2 pick (to KC), and Dominguez was left for the Marlins to grab. Dominguez has a pretty swing, excellent power potential, a superb arm and he is very athletic at third base. This guy could be something very nice, indeed, and the Baseball America staff compares him to Ryan Zimmerman. Since he's a high school player, you have to figure he has more upside than Zimmerman, but his chances of developing into a plus big-leaguer are far more remote.
13. Beau Mills, IF, Lewis-Clark (Idaho) State (CLE): Mills isn't a great athlete, but he is an ox with a fine swing and a fine work ethic. He needs that ethic because has been weakened since he underwent shoulder injury, and he is probably headed to first base. If he can continue mashing as he did in college, no one will care. Oh, what did he do in college? How about: .458/.556/1.033? In 240 at-bats, he belted 22 doubles, a triple and 38 homers with a 43/22 K/BB rate. Yes, this was NAIA ball, and he was facing mediocre competition, but that kind of plate discipline and power is enough to make me weep (yep, someone else took him in my keeper league.)
David Srinivasan writes about statistics and the minors for TalentedMrRoto.com and 10. ESPN.COM. If you have questions or want David to write up a minor leaguer you're interested in, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.