Friday, February 11, 2011

BD Hot Stove: AL Central Prospects | Baseball Digest

Is 2011 the arrival date for Mike Moustakas?

BD Hot Stove: AL Central Prospects | Baseball Digest

This is it. Are you excited? Are you ready to go? You do know what I am talking about right? It’s the last Friday before pitchers and catchers report! It’s finally here…spring training! It also means this is the last edition of the Baseball Digest Hot Stove. It’s been a great pleasure to have brought you all the hot stove news, rumors, and transactions this off-season, as well some in-depth analysis of the best players in the game right now and those who are on the horizon.

But have no fear! Beginning Monday we’ll be bringing you a daily spring training report with news from all the camps. And of course we will still let you know about any rumors we hear about and any transactions that unfold right up until opening day.

Today though we take a look at the top prospects on each team in the AL Central.

Twins: Minnesota has developed what seems like an endless number of good young pitchers over the years so it’s no surprise that their #1 prospect is a pitcher. Kyle Gibson passed when the Phillies selected him in the 36th round of the 2006 draft and attended the University of Missouri instead. The move helped Gibson become the 22nd overall selection by the Twins in the 2009 draft. He would have gone even higher if not for a stress fracture in his elbow.

Gibson made his professional debut last season and made appearances at three different levels. The 6’6″ right-hander was 4-1, 1.87 in the Florida State League (High ‘A’), which earned him a quick promotion to Double-A New Britain. He put up solid numbers there as well, allowing 91 hits in 93 innings, and struck out 77 while walking just 22 hitters. That success earned him a three game look at Triple-A Rochester late in the season. His command wasn’t as good (five walks, nine K’s), but he allowed just three earned runs in 15.2 IP.

ESPN’s scouting report had this to say about Gibson: “He’s tall and projectable, already showing a solid-average fastball at 89-93 mph with good downhill plane. His changeup is ahead of his slider, although both project as above-average pitches; he turns the changeup over well and gets good fading action on it, while the slider is less consistent, at times showing good bite and tilt but at others going a little soft. On days when he has the sharp slider, he’ll miss plenty of bats. His command and control have always been above-average.”

Gibson has received an invite to the Twins spring training camp and will start the season in Triple-A. With the back end of the Minnesota rotation on somewhat shaky ground, an impressive start to the season could land Gibson in the Twin-Cities in the second half of the season.

Indians: Like Gibson, Lonnie Chisenhall didn’t sign after being drafted in ’06 (Pirates, 11th rd), and instead played JUCO ball in North Carolina. The Indians then selected him with the 29th overall pick in the 2008 draft. Chisenhall immediately made a solid impression with his bat in rookie ball (NYPL), hitting .290 with 45 RBI in 68 games. He followed that up with a good season at High ‘A’ Kinston in ’09, producing 18 HR and 79 RBI with an .838 OPS. It earned him a 24 game stint at Double-A Akron, but it was too much too soon as Chisenhall hit below .200 and struck out at a high rate.

Last season Chisenhall returned to Akron and showed improved hitting skills. He cut down on his strikeouts (90-77) from the previous season, and produced similiar numbers from his prior season in ‘A’ ball (.278-17-84, .801 OPS). Chisenhall’s defense is another matter though. While scouts all like Chisenhall’s bat, he’ll need to improve his skills at the hot corner where he’s averaged 20 errors per season.

Tigers: Just like Rick Porcello, #15 prospect ( Jacob Turner would like to make the trip to Detroit’s Comerica Park a quick one. Turner was the 9th pick in the 2009 draft out Westminster Christian Academy in St. Louis, but didn’t make his professional debut until this past season. had this to say about the 6’5″ Turner prior to the 2010 season: “Turner is what you look for in a high school right-hander — big, strong and projectable. Thought to be one of the better prep arms in the class, it was unclear whether he’d live up to advanced billing. He has a good arm and there’s likely to be more velocity, especially if he can correct some delivery flaws. His secondary pitches lag behind somewhat and his command can be inconsistent as he sometimes elevates his pitches.”

Turner split his 24 appearances last season almost exactly in half between ‘A’ and Advanced ‘A’ ball. Combined he was 6-5, 3.28, 102 K in 115.1 IP, and walked just 23 batters. Baseball Analyst Jonathan Mayo had this to say after the season, “He’s got the stuff, a feel for pitching and the mound presence to keep moving quickly. Once just a hard thrower, he’s much more of a pitcher now, having made significant progress with his secondary stuff.”

Royals: Kansas City fans have been hearing about Mike Moustakas for a long time. The former shortstop turned 3rd baseman was the 2nd player drafted (behind David Price) in the 2007 amateur draft out of Chatsworth (CA) HS. There were some doubts about whether it was a valid selection after a mediocre offensive season in 2009. A .250 average, 16 home runs, 90 strikeouts, and a .718 OPS saw Moustakas drop from the 13th rated prospect by Baseball American to #80 prior to the 2010 season.

But 2010 saw Moustakas destroy Double-A and Triple-A pitching to re-establish himself as one of the top prospects in the game. The 22-yr old tore up the Midwest League to the tune of an 1.100 OPS, 21 HR, and 76 RBI in 66 games. That earned him a promotion to Omaha (PCL) where he added another 15 HR and 48 RBI in 52 games. Overall, Moustakas’ split was .322/.369/.630 with 36 HR, 124 RBI. It’s the type of numbers that has the KC front office wondering if it’s time for Moustakas to play Major League Baseball or have him get a little more experience under his belt. It will probably be the latter, but with Mike Aviles and Wilson Betemit currently sharing the hot corner, Moustakas’ time could come very soon.

White Sox: Pitcher Chris Sale is the top talent in the organization; he was the 13th pick in last June’s draft and was promoted to the majors after just 11 appearance in the minors. He’s assured of a spot either as a starter or reliever this season after his 21 appearances in the bigs last year. That makes our #1 minor leaguer shortstop Eduardo Escobar, who has been in the organization since 2006 when he was signed out of Venezuela.

Baseball analyst Kevin Goldstein: “Shortstop prospects who really are shortstops are a rarity, and it’s surprising the Escobar doesn’t warrant more attention. The 21 year-old Venezuelan has above-average range and a plus-plus arm, and his bat started to show some signs of life in 2010, as Escobar showed a surprising ability to drive balls into the gap. In a system desperate for prospects, as a good defender with some offensive value, Escobar is the real deal.”

The now 22-yr old played 87 games in High ‘A’ ball before a 49 game promotion to Double-A. With his bat stilling needing work, Escobar will probably start the 2011 season in Double-A. Especially since current White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez recently signed a new deal that would take him through 2015.

Rumors, News, and Transactions

The Dodgers signed reliever Juan Rincon to a minor league deal.

Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday has volunteered to defer some of his salary to help the team sign Albert Pujols to a new deal. So far the two sides are far apart.

Jeremy Guthrie and the Orioles avoided arbitration by agreeing on a one year, $5.75M deal.

Michael Bourn is the latest player to hire Scott Boras as his agent. Nick Swisher was rumored to be considering switching to Boras as well, but instead hired Dan Lozano. Swisher could become a free agent after the 2011 season if the Yankees don't pick up his club option for 2012.

The Mariners have signed reliever Manny Delcarmen to a minor league deal.

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