Tuesday, February 8, 2011

BD Hot Stove: NL East Prospects | Baseball Digest

Mets prospect Wilmer Flores hopes his bat can live up to the Miguel Cabrera comparisons.

BD Hot Stove: NL East Prospects | Baseball Digest

It’s time for the Hot Stove to wrap up the top prospect look in the National League by concentrating on the NL East.

Phillies: Ever since the Phillies drafted outfielder Domonic Brown in the 2006 amateur draft (20th round) they’ve waited excitedly and patiently for his presence on the big league roster. Phillies fans got a taste last year when injuries caused a call up for Brown in late July. Brown doubled, drove in two runs and scored twice in his major league debut, but things weren’t so easy after that. Brown’s splits (.210/.257/.335) showed he wasn’t ready for prime time yet after just 28 games at the Triple-A level. But his time in the minors in 2010 did show he’s getting very close.

Brown is a tremendous athlete (He turned down a football scholarship to the U of Miami) and it showed in his game last year. The 23-yr old hit 15 HR and drove in 47 runs in just 65 games at Double-A Reading before a promotion to Lehigh Valley of the Int’l League. There he added another five home runs and 21 RBI in 28 games. He also stole 17 bases between the two levels and played all three outfield positions. With Jayson Werth gone, he’ll get a chance to battle Ben Francisco for playing time in the Phillies outfield.

Mets: Pitcher Jenrry Mejia was the most talked about player in the Mets organization last year and is still ranked as their top prospect in some circles. But we’re going with shortstop Wilmer Flores as the top youngster in the Mets organization. The now 19-yr old was signed as a 16-yr old out of his native Venezuela in 2007. He made an immediate impression in rookie ball when he slugged eight home runs and drove in 42 runs and has already drawn comparisons to his fellow countrymen Miguel Cabrera.

Flores struggled mightily in ‘A’ ball in 2009, but bounce back last year, splitting his season of 133 games nearly in half between Savannah (‘A’) and Port St. Lucie (‘A+’). Flores hit 11 home runs, drove in 84 runs, and recorded a decent .758 OPS. Flores is a contact hitter who needs to learn to show more patience at the plate (He drew just 32 walks last season.). Listed as 6’3″, 175 lbs, Flores won’t last at shortstop much longer as he gets bigger and stronger. The only question is where will he go, to the outfield or to a corner position?

Marlins: Florida has had some pretty good hitting 3rd baseman in their 18 year history. Mike Lowell, Miguel Cabrera, Bobby Bonilla, Gary Sheffield (the latter two saw limited time there.)…Lowell provided Gold Glove defense to boot (or in this case should it be “not to boot”?). Could Matt Dominguez be next in line? He’s shown the glove so far, but he’ll hit have to improve offensively to stick in the major leagues. Dominguez was the Marlins 1st round pick (12th overall) in the 2007 amateur draft out of Chatsworth (CA) High School. Power came quickly to Dominguez in the minors- he hit 18 home runs as an 18-yr old at Single-A Greensboro in 2008. He added 16 doubles, a .296 average, and an impressive .853 OPS. But Dominguez took a step back the last two years to the type of player the scouts feel is the truer picture. A .250 hitter with 15 home run power and a decent run producer (81 RBI, 61 runs at Double-A Jacksonville last season).

Marlins hitting instructor John Mallee had this assessment of Dominguez early last year. “(Dominguez is) a hitter whose swing had gotten long, who was chasing balls out of the zone with two strikes and who was not staying behind the ball. But he was encouraged that Dominguez still had good pitch recognition. He’s getting better and better at staying behind the ball and when he does that he’s really going to hit. He’s coming. I think he’s going to be legitimate.”

With Wes Helms manning the hot corner this season for Florida, Dominguez will have an excellent shot at taking over the job in 2012.

Braves: It would be hard to top the splash Jason Heyward made on Major League Baseball last season, but right-handed pitcher Julio Teheran may not be too far away from creating a commotion of his own. Teheran was signed as a 16-yr old by the Braves out of his native Colombia after impressing scouts with a low 90′s fastball. After playing rookie ball for two years, Teheran spent 2010 at three different levels last season, making an impression at each stop. All told, Teheran struck out 159 hitters in 142 2/3 IP (10.0 per 9 innings) and had a 4:1 strikeout to walk ratio.

Braves GM Frank Wren had this to say about Teheran: “The first time I saw him, I thought of Pedro — a little taller Pedro. I still see that. He’s live-bodied. When you watched Pedro, you could see by the way he carried himself that he knew he was good and knew he was going to get you out. He exuded that, and Julio is kind of that way.”

Teheran has a consistent mid-90′s fastball, a good curve that breaks low in the zone, and an even better changeup. He’s received an invite to the big league camp, but will start the season in Triple-A. He definitely has a great shot to get a pre-September call up in 2011 and an even better shot at being in the rotation in 2012.

Nationals: I’ll give you one guess who the Nationals top prospect is. If you didn’t say Bryce Harper, go directly to jail and don’t collect $200 (Haven’t seen any new Monopoly boards lately, is it still just $200?). Harper is of course the teen phenom that (along with his parents) ticked off people by skipping out of high school two years (he did get his GED) early to play ball at the JUCO level. The 18-yr old was the #1 selection in last year’s amateur draft. Right at the signing deadline, he inked a five year, $9.9M deal that included a $6.25M signing bonus

Harper’s first professional exposure came in the Arizona Fall League, where he torn things up in a nine game stint for the Scottsdale Scorpions. A .410 (12-35) average included three doubles, two triples, and a home run. Harper drove in seven runs and posted a 1.039 OPS. There’s no question Harper can hit, but the organization has not decided yet whether to have him play outfield or to catch, the latter of which would slow his progression to the major leagues.

Rumors, News, and Transactions

Michael Young is mad as hell and isn’t going to take it any more. He may not throw a television out the window, but Young wants out of Texas..NOW! Feeling disrespected and misled by the Rangers front office, Young has demanded a trade. And Texas is happy to oblige, though it may not happen too quickly because of the $48M still owed the 3rd baseman.

Indians outfielder Grady Sizemore hopes to begin playing spring training games by mid-March as he continues his recovery from microfracture surgery on his knee. His teammate, catcher Carlos Santana, is making an even quicker recovery from his knee injury and has been cleared to hit and catch bullpen sessions.

Needing room on the 40-man roster for Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez, the Rays designated outfielder Justin Ruggiano for assignment.

White Sox pitcher Jake Peavy continues his way back from shoulder surgery and threw off of a mound earlier today.

Free agent catcher Bengie Molina has still not decided whether to play or not in 2011.

It’s not risky or even risque, but the Orioles have signed pitcher David Riske to a minor league deal. The Dodgers have done the same with infielder Aaron Miles.

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