Monday, February 7, 2011

BD Hot Stove: NL West Prospects | Baseball Digest

Dee Gordon hopes to follow in the footsteps of his dad, Tom "Flash" Gordon, and become a big leaguer in 2012.

BD Hot Stove: NL West Prospects | Baseball Digest

Last Friday the Hot Stove began looking at the top prospect on each team in Major League Baseball by showcasing the NL Central. Today let’s take a look at the highly competitive NL West.

Giants: San Francisco got to celebrate their first championship in 56 years thanks to the young pitching they had developed. Starting pitchers Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, and Madison Bumgarner were drafted (all but Sanchez were first round picks) and developed by the Giants farm system. Now the Giants can turn their attention to developing some offense- 1st baseman Brandon Belt is the top prospect in the organization. Belt was actually a three time draftee. He passed on the Red Sox (11th round) in 2006 and the Braves (11th round) in 2007. It took a 5th round selection by the Giants in 2009 for Belt to leave the University of Texas and sign a major league contract. Last season he played at three different levels of the minors, including 13 games at Triple-A. Combined he posted a 1.056 OPS, belted 23 home runs and drove in 112 runs. He also stole 22 bases and drew 93 walks. He will need to keep his strikeouts under control, though 99 whiffs isn’t bad considering the numbers he put up.

Baseball analyst John Sickels had this to say about Belt, ranked as the 26th prospect in baseball by, “One of Belt’s advantages is that he has an uncanny way of keeping his bat in the zone for pitches, making him able to turn on fastballs but do a good job of hitting the other way. His speed is not going to be a big part of his game. He himself said that when pitchers start getting wise, the stolen bases will stop.”

Belt will begin the season in Triple-A after destroying Single- and Double-A pitching. He won’t join the Giants until 2012 unless injuries should strike or Aubrey Huff struggles, or the Giants perform poorly, which is not likely to happen.

Dodgers: Current LA shortsop Rafael Furcal is always a stolen base threat and has a little bit of pop to boot (though not as much as when he played for the Braves). His eventual replacement looks to be even more of a threat on the bases and still has time to develop some power. But right now Devaris “Dee” Gordon is content to be a table setter and base thief. Since being drafted in the fourth round out of Seminole (FL) Community College in 2008, Gordon has played at one level in each of his three seasons in the minors. He swiped 73 bases in ‘A’ ball in 2009, posting a .362 OPS. His number dropped last season at Double-A Chattanooga, but he still got on base at a .332 clip and stole 53 bags.All told, Gordon has swiped 144 bases in 194 attempts (74%) in his three seasons in the minors. He’s ranked 44th on’s Top 50 prospect list.

The son of former big league pitcher Tom “Flash” Gordon didn’t start playing baseball until his senior year of high school and at times it shows. But new Dodgers manager Don Mattingly had this time say about him. “He reminds me of a young [Omar] Vizquel. You look at him and think you can knock the bat out of his hands, but he just gets better and better. You see the tools, but he has to go out and play and continue to get better so he’ll be ready to play when he gets here.” With the guaranteed portion of Furcal’s deal up after the 2011 season, Mattingly could very well be managing Gordon next year.

Rockies: Colorado set a club record ($3.9M) to sign high schooler Tyler Matzek, their first round pick (11th overall) in the 2009 draft. The two sides didn’t come to term until mid-August so Matzek didn’t make his professional debut untl 2010. Playing for Asheville (SAL), Matzek struck out 88 batters in 89.1 innings while posting a 2.92 ERA. On the downside he walked 62 hitters, walked four more, threw seven wild pitches, and committed three balks. In other words, Matzek’s season was the life of a young pitcher in a nutshell.

Rockies player development director Marc Gustafson had this to stay about his prospect: “He can get up to 97 mph on his fastball, but his comfort zone is 92-93. With the slider, curve and changeup that he has, those can complement his fastball. He doesn’t need all that velocity, but he can go get it if he needs it.” Scouts like Matzek’s mound presence and feel he has the make up to be a legitimate major league starter.’s #33 prospect will start the year in Double-A Modesto of the California League.

Padres: San Diego’s top prospect wasn’t even in their system when the 2010 season ended, but Casey Kelly was part of the package sent to the left coast by Boston to acquire 1st baseman Adrian Gonzalez in December. Kelly was the 30th overall pick in the 2008 amateur draft, plucked out of Sarasota (FL) High School. This past year was the first full season in the minors as a pitcher for Kelly, who strictly played shortsop in 2008 and split his time between the two positions in 2009. He had previously put up solid pitching numbers between ‘A’ and advanced-’A’ ball, but regressed a bit last year at Double-A Portland as his full focus was on pitching.

Kelly throws his fastball consistently in the low 90′s and he can reach the mid 90′s as well. The command of his fastball and curve is something he needs to work on, but scouts are impressed with his changeup and his composure on the mound. It’s why he’s been projected as a top of the rotation starter. The destination for the #22 prospect in baseball, per, will be determined during spring training. The thinking here is that the Padres won’t be as aggressive with Kelly as the Red Sox were and will have him start the season once again in Double-A at their affiliate in San Antonio.

Diamondbacks: Despite missing all of the 2010 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, Jarrod Parker finds himself in the #1 position among Arizona’s prospects. Parker made 16 of his 20 starts at Double-A in 2009, putting up very respectable numbers, including 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings. The former 9th pick in the 2007 amateur draft (Norwell HS in Indiana), had four pitches he could throw for strikes prior to having surgery. Whether he can still hit his targets remains to be seen.

Parker’s surgery and rehab have gone well. He threw in some instructional league games in the fall and began bullpen sessions in late Janaury. Diamondbacks’ GM Jerry DiPoto told Paolo Bovin of the Arizona Republic, “We do want to make sure we’re doing the right thing for his future. We’ll bring him along a little more slowly than would normally be the case, but . . . “. By not finishing his thought, DiPoto intimated that if Parker is healthy the team might be a little more aggressive than originally planned. That being said Parker will most likely pick up where he left off in Double-A Mobile.

Rumors, News, and Transactions

In case you missed it over the weekend, the Baltimore Orioles came to terms with Vladimir Guerrero on a one year, $8M deal ($3M of which is deferred). The O’s were hoping to pay about half of that, but Guerrero’s representatives won out in the end. Francisco Liriano and the Twins avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one year, $4.3M contract.

ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that the Cardinals and Albert Pujols are at a standstill in discussing a new contract.

Former Pirate pitcher Ian Snell has inked a minor league deal with the Cardinals that includes an invite to the big league camp.

Talks broke down between the Rockies and Rangers regarding Michael Young, but the Rangers still expect to deal the 3rd baseman within the next few weeks. How much of Young’s contract the Rangers are willing to pick up will help determine how quickly a deal gets done. The Rockies wanted Texas to pay out $20M of the $48M owed Young.

The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo hears the Red Sox are interested in former Yankee reliever/spot starter Alfredo Aceves.

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