Top 50 Prospects: April Checkup (Part Two)

With a month of baseball just about in the books, it’s time to check in on my top 50 prospects to see how they’re doing so far in 2004. Yesterday I looked at the top 25 and today I’ll cover prospects 26-50.

The Top 50 Prospects of 2004 (1-25)
The Top 50 Prospects of 2004 (26-50)

26) Dustin McGowan, Toronto Blue Jays

Dustin McGowan spent the first part of last season at Single-A and then moved up to Double-A in the second half of the year. He did extremely well there, posting a 3.17 ERA in 76.2 innings. He’s back at Double-A to start this season and so far he’s doing even better. Through four starts, McGowan is 2-0 with a miniscule 1.21 ERA and he has 21 strikeouts in 22.1 innings. As usual, he is very stingy with homers (just one allowed) and batters are hitting .154 off him. I’ll be surprised if his stay at Double-A lasts much longer.

2-0 with a 1.21 ERA and 21/7 K/BB ratio in 22.1 AA innings

27) Guillermo Quiroz, Toronto Blue Jays

After dominating at Double-A last season, Guillermo Quiroz has moved up to Triple-A this year and he’s doing pretty well. He’s only hitting .255 through his first 51 at-bats, but he’s got two homers and three doubles, as well as eight walks. Quiroz is definitely still Toronto’s “Catcher of the Future,” but their “Catcher of the Present and Near Future” is Kevin Cash and he’s actually doing very well so far this year (.266/.324/.453 in 19 games).

.255/.350/.431 with 6 RBIs and 6 runs in 17 AAA games

28) Scott Hairston, Arizona Diamondbacks

Scott Hairston actually played some outfield for the Diamondbacks this spring and there was a little talk that he might make the team as a bench player. That quickly died down and he’s now at Triple-A Tucson, playing back at second base. His numbers so far are good, but not great. He’s batting .289 with two homers, five doubles and two triples in 76 at-bats, which is good, but his strikeout/walk ratio of 18/4 is pretty horrible. Tucson is a good park for hitting, so I expect Hairston to have a very good year.

.289/.325/.487 with 9 RBIs and 15 runs in 18 AAA games

29) J.J. Hardy, Milwaukee Brewers

He won’t turn 22 until August, but J.J. Hardy is already playing at Triple-A, waiting for his double-play partner of the future, Rickie Weeks, to join him there. Hardy is off to a very good start in the power department, with three homers and eight doubles in 71 at-bats, but he’s hitting just .254 and has only two walks all year. Hardy walked quite a bit last year, but not much in 2001 or 2002, so this will be something to keep an eye on this season. The power is great to see and I like that he’s only struck out in 7% of his at-bats.

.254/.270/.493 with 14 RBIs and 11 runs in 16 AAA games

30) Delmon Young, Tampa Bay Devil Rays

I’ll admit it, I’ve been checking on Delmon Young just about every day this season, simply because of how curious I was as to how he would hit this year. Despite zero pro experience, I ranked Young, last year’s #1 pick, as my #30 prospect and was more than a little gun shy about including him at all. Well, Young is off to a very rough start so far. He’s hitting .250 and has struck out in 24% of his at-bats, while drawing a total of just one walk. He has some extra-base hits — two homers, four doubles — but his .125 Isolated Power isn’t very impressive. It’s still very early, obviously, but he’s not going to take Single-A by storm like he did the Arizona Fall League.

A Hardball Times Update
Goodbye for now.

.250/.259/.375 with 11 RBIs and 9 runs in 19 A games

31) Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals

So far this year, Adam Wainwright is doing what he always does. He’s 2-0 through four starts at Triple-A Memphis, with a 2.35 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 23 innings. Opponents are hitting .218 off him and he has yet to allow a homer. The strikeouts are especially nice to see, because, as I talked about in ranking him #31, his K rate has been falling the last couple years.

2-0 with a 2.35 ERA and 23/6 K/BB ratio in 23.0 AAA innings

32) Khalil Greene, San Diego Padres

So good in spring training that he made Rey Ordonez quit the team, Khalil Greene has continued his good play into the regular season as San Diego’s starting shortstop. Greene hasn’t hit a homer yet in 72 at-bats, but a lot of Padres are having trouble going deep in their new ballpark. He’s doing most everything else well, including smacking seven doubles and two triples while playing solid defense.

.278/.342/.431 with 8 RBIs and 9 runs in 21 MLB games

33) Josh Barfield, San Diego Padres

Josh Barfield is making the big jump to Double-A this year, and the results so far aren’t very good. Barfield is hitting just .250 in 68 at-bats, with zero homers and four doubles. This after he led all of minor league baseball in extra-base hits last year with 68. Barfield has also struck out in 28% of his at-bats, while drawing just five non-intentional walks. The good news is that he has yet to make an error in 18 games at second base.

.250/.299/.309 with 10 RBIs and 6 runs in 18 AA games

34) Jesse Crain, Minnesota Twins

Jesse Crain impressed just about everyone in the Twins’ organization this spring and there was a lot of talk about him starting the season in their bullpen. The Twins decided to send him back to Triple-A for a little more seasoning and so far he’s been good, but not the totally unhittable monster he was last year. Crain has 13 strikeouts in 11.1 innings, but batters are hitting .262 off him and he’s already given up two homers, after not serving up any in his first two years (and 111.2 innings) as a pro.

2-1 with a 3.97 ERA and 13/3 K/BB ratio in 11.1 AAA innings

35) Michael Aubrey, Cleveland Indians

Michael Aubrey is off to a solid start at Single-A Kinston, hitting .279 with seven walks, six hit by pitches and a .400 on-base percentage. He hasn’t hit for much power yet, with just two homers and four total extra-base hits in 61 at-bats. After not stealing a single base last year, Aubrey already has two steals (without being caught) this year.

.279/.400/.426 with 12 RBIs and 10 runs in 17 A games

36) Travis Blackley, Seattle Mariners

After posting a 2.61 ERA at Double-A last season, Travis Blackley made the move to Triple-A this year. He has struggled so far, giving up 33 hits in 22.2 innings (.351 batting average against), although just one has been a homer. Blackley’s strikeout rates have never been huge (7.8/9 last year), but he has just 11 strikeouts this year, to go along with seven walks (and five wild pitches).

1-2 with a 4.76 ERA and 11/7 K/BB ratio in 22.2 AAA innings

37) James Loney, Los Angeles Dodgers

James Loney went to spring training with the Dodgers this year and was one of the most impressive prospects in Florida, hitting .343 with a homer and five doubles in 35 at-bats. Loney is currently at Double-A Jacksonville, where he has missed time with a broken fingertip. In the six games he has played, Loney is hitting an even .300, with six singles in 20 at-bats.

.300/.364/.300 with 3 RBIs and 2 runs in 6 AA games

38) David DeJesus, Kansas City Royals

David DeJesus started the season at Triple-A Omaha, hitting .351 in 14 games before the Royals called him up. He was expected to take over in left field, but the Royals have actually been playing him in both outfield corners thus far. Through his first five games, he is 1-for-13 (.077). He got a late start, but if he keeps getting playing time, I think DeJesus is a darkhorse Rookie of the Year candidate.

.351/.422/.474 with 2 RBIs and 10 runs in 14 AAA games; .077/.250/.077 with 1 RBI and 2 runs in 5 MLB games

39) Clint Nageotte, Seattle Mariners

In ranking Clint Nageotte #39, I expressed a little concern about his declining strikeout/walk ratios, which have gone from 3.74 to 3.15 to 2.34 in the past three years. So far this season, Nageotte is once again striking plenty of guys out, but his K/BB ratio is down to 1.42. Nageotte has 12 walks, five wild pitches and two hit batsmen in 20 innings. The good news is that he’s holding hitters to a .191 batting average and he’s 3-1 with a 3.60 ERA.

3-1 with a 3.60 ERA and 17/12 K/BB ratio in 20.0 AAA innings

40) Kevin Youkilis, Boston Red Sox

After posting huge walk rates and massive on-base percentages at Single-A and Double-A, Kevin Youkilis struggled mightily at Triple-A last year. Youkilis is back at Triple-A this season and he’s off to a very good start, but the funny thing about his success is that he isn’t walking nearly as much. Youkilis’ walk rate isn’t bad, of course, as he has drawn nine walks in 19 games. That’s a rate of .47 per game. Last year, between Double-A and Triple-A, he drew nearly twice that many walks, at .83 per game. What Youkilis is doing so far is hitting for more power, with three homers and three doubles in 74 at-bats.

.284/.372/.446 with 9 RBIs and 15 runs in 19 AAA games

41) Franklin Gutierrez, Cleveland Indians

Franklin Gutierrez was sent from the Dodgers to the Indians in the deal that brought Milton Bradley to LA. Gutierrez has started his Indians career at Double-A Akron, where he’s hitting .277. He is walking a little more than he did last year, but he is continuing to strike out a ton — 35% of his at-bats. He only has one homer, but has hit five doubles.

.277/.342/.400 with 5 RBIs with 11 runs in 17 AA games

42) David Bush, Toronto Blue Jays

After winning 14 games with a 2.69 ERA between Single-A and Double-A last year, David Bush starts this season at Triple-A Syracuse, where he’s 2-2 with a 4.63 ERA in four starts. He peripheral numbers are a lot better than his ERA. Bush has 17 strikeouts in 23.1 innings, along with seven walks, and he’s allowed just one homer.

2-2 with a 4.63 ERA and 17/7 K/BB ratio in 23.1 AAA innings

43) Gavin Floyd, Philadelphia Phillies

After two good, nearly identical seasons at Single-A, Gavin Floyd makes the leap to Double-A this year. So far, so good. He’s 2-0 in four starts and hasn’t allowed a run, earned or otherwise, in 17 innings. Floyd has 14 strikeouts and batters are hitting a measly .119 off him, going 7-for-59.

2-0 with a 0.00 ERA and 14/6 K/BB ratio in 17.0 AA innings

44) Justin Huber, New York Mets

Despite holding his own in extended time at Double-A last season (he hit .264/.350/.425 in 193 at-bats), Justin Huber began this year back at Single-A. He hit just .250 in 13 games there, but was promoted to Double-A recently. Overall, he has hit .250 with two homers and three doubles in 60 at-bats this year.

.250/.333/.417 with 8 RBIs and 10 runs in 13 A games; .250/.500/.333 with 0 RBIs and 6 runs in 4 AA games

45) Jose Lopez, Seattle Mariners

After struggling offensively for much of last season at Double-A, Jose Lopez is off to a very nice start at Triple-A Tacoma this year. He’s batting .294 in 68 at-bats, with four homers and three doubles. He hit just 13 homers in 538 at-bats all of last season. Even with his hot start, the more interesting news with Lopez is probably that he is not playing shortstop on a regular basis. He has started just one game at shortstop this year, while playing 10 games at third base and five games at second base. Ramon Santiago, acquired from Detroit this off-season, is Tacoma’s regular shortstop.

.294/.351/.515 with 10 RBIs and 9 runs in 17 AAA games

46) Gabe Gross, Toronto Blue Jays

After struggling at Double-A in 2002, Gabe Gross did very well between Double-A and Triple-A last season. So far this year, he’s back to struggling, this time at Triple-A. Gross is hitting .250, but he has just three walks in 19 games, after walking a total of 83 times last season. He also hasn’t hit for any power, with one homer and three total extra-base hits in 68 at-bats.

.250/.282/.324 with 8 RBIs and 6 runs in 19 AAA games

47) Jason Stokes, Florida Marlins

I really debated not including Jason Stokes in my top 50 because of how disappointing his 2003 season was, but in the end I stuck him at #47 due almost entirely to his power-hitting potential. So far this year, he’s done better than he did last season, but not nearly as well as he did in 2002. Stokes is hitting .275 with four homers and three doubles in 69 at-bats. He continues to strike out a ton, whiffing in 41% of his at-bats, up from 29% last year.

.275/.359/.493 with 19 RBIs and 11 runs in 19 AA games

48) Matt Riley, Baltimore Orioles

Matt Riley started the season in Baltimore’s rotation and had two very nice starts right off the bat, going 1-0 with a 1.35 ERA in 13.1 innings. He’s been roughed up in his next two starts, including giving up seven runs (all earned) against the Devil Rays on April 21. Riley has done a nice job with strikeouts thus far and has limited opponents to a .265 batting average, but he has struggled a ton with his control, walking 14 batters in 20.2 innings.

1-1 with a 5.66 ERA and 19/14 K/BB ratio in 20.2 MLB innings

49) Joel Zumaya, Detroit Tigers

Probably the biggest sleeper in my top 50, Joel Zumaya has started this season at Single-A Lakeland of the Florida State League. Through his first four starts, he has a 5.40 ERA and opponents are hitting .268 off him. The good news is that he has 20 strikeouts, but Zumaya has also walked 11 batters and hit three more.

2-1 with a 5.40 ERA and 20/11 K/BB ratio in 20.0 A innings

50) Adam LaRoche, Atlanta Braves

Adam LaRoche began the year as Atlanta’s starting first baseman, platooning with the ageless Julio Franco. LaRoche started his career 2-for-5 with 2 RBIs, but hasn’t hit much since that first game. With just four at-bats against left-handed pitchers all year (versus 52 against righties) LaRoche is in a strict platoon, first with Franco and most recently with Mike Hessman (while Franco recovers from an ear infection).

.214/.254/.339 with 8 RBIs and 8 runs in 18 MLB games

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