Results tagged ‘ American League Central ’
By Brendon Desrochers
We just wrote about Bubba Starling in this space, focusing on his fantastic defense in anticipation of his first full season of Minor League ball. In doing research for his piece on Starling, Andrew Pentis learned from a Royals official that “Bubba has respectfully decided to go silent this spring in order to concentrate on the field.” What’s surprising about his silence, though, is that it has translated to his bat in the first week of the 2013 season.
Starling is now 2-for-26 on the young season with 11 strikeouts after his 1-for-4, two-strikeout performance in Lexington’s 6-1 defeat to Asheville on Wednesday morning. He also committed his second error of the season, a throwing error in the top of the second.
A high strikeout rate should not come as a surprise to folks who followed Starling last season in Burlington. The center fielder, who turned 20 during his short-season campaign, fanned in 30.2 percent of his 232 plate appearances. This season, in a notably small sample, Starling has struck out in 39.3 percent of his 28 PAs. Two things he did show with the B-Royals were pop (eight doubles, two triples, 10 home runs) and patience (12.1 percent walk rate), but through seven games in 2013, Starling has no extra-base hits and two walks (7.1 percent walk rate).
“Small-sample size” should be flashing through your brain right as now as you read, particularly with a player who won’t turn 21 until August, but the early-season performance does back up the scouting consensus that his swing is too long and flat and the statistical consensus that he strikes out too much.
Baseball America noted in its prospect handbook that Starling was just one of three high schoolers drafted in the 2011 first round who did not advance to a full-season club in 2012. He was always going to be a project, and the path was always going to be a long one — particularly for his hit tool — so hopefully Starling and Royals fans can take these early issues in stride.
For as long as he stays in Lexington (likely at least a few more months and perhaps for all of 2013), Royals fans can see all of Starling’s home games and a good chunk of his road games on MiLB.TV.
Prospect Q&A: Royals Righty Yordano Ventura — MLB.com’s No. 59 Farmhand — on Being Pequeño Pedro, Más
Yordano Ventura sat at home in Samana, his town in the baseball-crazy Dominican Republic, and watched every start made by Pedro Martinez, the countryman gone on to fame and Cy Young awards. So it’s no wonder Ventura, a Royals farmhand and MLB.com’s No. 59 overall prospect (bio, stats here) entering the 2013 season, welcomed the moniker Pequeño Pedro.
Now that Ventura has filled out his 5-foot-11 frame and throws a fastball that hits triple digits on the radar gun, however, he implies that you can alter his nickname to Grande Pedro. Simply Yordano will do fine, too. The way he pitches at age 21, he could be one of the few ballplayers who goes by one name only. That’s what happened with his idol anyway.
I caught up with Ventura on Thursday afternoon. He is in Arizona, on the Major League side of Spring Training, getting ready for his fifth pro season. Here’s what he had to say his native language. (Thanks to the Royals’ multilingual Bruce Chen, one part veteran left-hander one part stand-up comic, for interpreting Ventura’s Spanish.)
On his Spring Training highlights so far: “The quality of the players that I have been facing, and the older, experienced players that I have learned from and been around. I have been watching the older pitchers, [Ervin] Santana and Bruce Chen., and learning from the way they have been pitching.”
On his mindset competing for a spot /ending up at Double-A Northwest Arkansas: “I just want to keep working hard so that when the Royals when give me the opportunity to be in the big leagues, I can a very good job.”
On his two scoreless innings last Sunday: “I was very happy because I got to face some really good hitters, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, and that gave me a lot of confidence to keep working hard to keep getting better. When I got on the mound, the first batter I faced was Joey Votto, so I said to myself, ‘God help me.’”
On the development of his pitches in camp: “I feel like my repertoire has been very good. I have been trying to keep the ball down. My breaking ball has been very good, and I’m working on a sinker, which I think is coming along very well.”
On how long he’s been learning the sinker: “I have been throwing the sinker for two months now. Whenever the batter is waiting for a four-seam fastball and throw it, I can get the batter to break his bat, [induce] a ground ball or get him out instead of going all four-seamers.”
Interview Outtakes: White Sox Prospect Carlos Sanchez Answers Nine Questions about Playing Three Infield Positions
MiLB.com will publish the fifth part of my nine-part series on top-ranked prospects who are also top-rated defenders on Tuesday morning. The piece will focus on versatile White Sox infielder Carlos Sanchez (bio, stats here), the fifth-ranked second base prospect in all of baseball. In terms of interview extras — answers that didn’t make it into the story but are significant nonetheless — see below. Enjoy.
- On what position he played growing up: “I was always a shortstop.”
On his best skill as an infielder: “I feel like turning a double play — the turn — has always been my strongest skill playing the infield.”
- On what he is improving upon in big league camp: “Now playing third base, I have had to learn some things to help me with my range, help me with my reaction time. I have learned how to stand up taller when playing the position and how to work on my range. I have had to work on the last couple weeks some mechanics.”
- On how he has improved as a defender: “I just try to be really attentive to the direction and advice that coaches give me. But more than anything, it’s the experience that I have had at every level and now the experience playing behind a guy like Brent Morel and seeing how they go about their business and play the position — more so than anything, that experience is what has helped me get better.”
Prospect Q&A: White Sox SS Marcus Semien on Going to Birmingham, Playing with Carlos Sanchez, Hitting off Alex Meyer
Pre: 45 G — .245/.316/.410 — 45 Ks in 173 ABS — 1 SB
Post: 62 G — .290/.392/.514 — 52 Ks in 245 ABS — 10 SB
I caught up with Semien — a 2011 sixth-round draftee and now a 22-year-old shortstop that’s a non-40-man roster invitee rubbing elbows with Chicago’s mainstays in Arizona — this afternoon over the phone. Here is some of our quick conversation.
On his first big league camp: “It’s been awesome. It’s great to be around guys I grew up watching play. I have always loved watching baseball since I was a little kid, and it’s pretty awesome to be around them. I’ve been here about 10 days now, and I’m feeling more comfortable. And on the Minor League season, I’m just trying to get my work in, getting ready for the season and also watch these big league guys and learn everything I can. The first couple days, I was taking ground balls at short with Angel Sanchez and literally just watching him has helped me. I haven’t gotten a chance to be on the same field as Alexei [Ramirez] or [Gordon] Beckham yet, but Angel has been really helpful. He’s played a lot of years, so he’s got a lot of knowledge. I’m just trying to be more of a sponge.”
On what he’s using Spring Training to work on: “I want to put the ball in play a little bit more and use my speed, steal more bases. Second half of last year, I started running more, and I’d like to carry that on to this year. In general, the second half [of 2012] was a lot better than the first half for, so I want to keep that going.”
On his goals this season: “First goal is to make the [Double-A] Birmingham team. Secondly, just cut down the errors wherever I can [24 in 107 games in '12] and make sure that my pitchers feel very confident with me behind them. Offensively, I want to continue what I did in the second half, drive the ball more.”
On No. 4 White Sox prospect Carlos Sanchez, whom Semien has shared SS/2B duties the past two seasons: “What I love about him on defense is he’s got great feet. He keeps his feet moving, and also another thing: A ball that is a tougher ball to read [where] you might have to drive, he usually catches it. It’s real tough as an infielder to make those diving plays and actually secure the catch. A lot of times, I’ll dive and just miss it, or it will pop out of my glove or something. I’ve noticed I’ve had some — not issues — but I need to practice more on that, and he’s very good at that.”
On playing with Sanchez at Class A Advanced Winston-Salem in 2012: “Shoot, he was awesome at both [shortstop and second base]. I had a little injury, and he was playing short full-time, and I got a chance to sit back on watch him play short, and he was awesome: great range, great arm, great instincts — pretty much everything you want in a middle infielder. When you can have two guys up the middle who are interchangeable, it’s always a plus. We try to push each other to get the best out of each other. Whether I am playing short and he’s at second, or I’m at second and he’s at short, we try to play as best as we can together when the game starts.”
On the best pitcher he’s faced in the Minor Leagues: “Last year, I had a pretty tough game [0-for-3 with three strikeouts] against Alex Meyer from [Class A Advanced] Potomac [on Aug. 12]. He’s probably one of the better ones I have seen. [With Meyer's height, 6'9''], I was not able to pick up the ball. One of worst games of the year was against him. He throws hard and has a good slider.”
Prospect Q&A: White Sox Outfielder Courtney Hawkins on His Breakout First Summer in Pro Ball, Other Stuff
Courtney Hawkins talks like you might think he would. At 6-foot-3, 235 pounds, he has a deep, sure-sounding voice. And at 19 years old, he’s prone to talking like a teen — or at least like a top prospect who has been around the interview circuit. You may notice below his use of “Like I said,” on his first mention of topics, almost like he’s answered the same questions all winter long.
Here’s why I and others want to learn more about Hawkins (aside from his back-flip ability, which he explains below): The Texan was the 13th overall pick in the 2012 Draft and, after a very good first pro season (stats here), he is already MLB.com’s No. 68 prospect and the top-ranked farmhand in the White Sox’s system. (It could be argued that he had the best summer debut of any ’12 draftee this side of the A’s Addison Russell.)
I caught up with Hawkins last week, just after he completed a month-plus of working out in Florida and was driving from his home in Corpus Christi, Texas to Houston — the burly slugger leaves for Minor League camp on Tuesday, Feb. 19. And I heard that deep, sure-sounding voice, or a muffled version of it on his speaker phone, but we talked a lot about listening. Turns out, Hawkins did a lot of that last summer.
“Don’t rush stuff. Take it day by day,” he says of the constant advice from fellow Chicago farmhand Jared Mitchell, who just happened to be Prospect Uniformed earlier today. “I’ll say something like, ‘Man, I’m ready to go.’ And he’ll say, ‘You just need to relax and play the game.’”
Mitchell, of course, was in 2009 where Hawkins is today: highly-touted outfielder with loads of potential yet to be realized.
On his Draft-day back flip: ”Everyone always asks me this, and I love telling the real story: I was sitting there, celebrating with my friends and, I forgot her name, but the lady who was there [interviewing me] came up to me and asked, ‘Can you do a back flip?’ I was like, ‘Whaaat?’ She was like, ‘If I ask you to do a back-flip [on-air], can you do it?’ I was like, ‘Uhhh, I guess. Really?’ It wasn’t me just doing it. It was her asking, and I was like, ‘Sure, no problem.’”
On his offseason: “It’s different. Like I said, normally, it’s year-round baseball for me, and now I’ve finally got a chance for a little break. I have been lifting hard, and working out hard. I’m in a lot better shape than when [the winter] started. The goal is to get bigger, better, stronger, faster — that’s everything. I got stronger. I toned up. I lost some bad weight and put on some good weight. I was 225 [pounds]. I’m about 235 now. I’m still able to move pretty good.”
Prospect Uniformed: White Sox Outfielder Jared Mitchell in His Every MiLB Jersey, Plus More on His Strikeouts
Jared Mitchell is fast, so naturally people expected him to move fast … through the White Sox’s system. That hasn’t happened due to injuries and stunted development. Mitchell, the 23rd overall pick in the 2009 Draft, is now 24 and Chicago’s fifth-ranked prospect entering his fifth season of pro ball, what he hopes will be his third full season of pro ball.
The sheer speed and athleticism that helped Mitchell (bio, stats here) excel as a college football receiver has shown up in Mitchell’s outfield defense, baserunning ability and, occasionally, his gap-to-gap power at the plate. He remains a mystery as a hitter, however. In 259 games spread over three clubs — Class A Advanced Winston-Salem, Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte — the last two seasons, he has batted .230 and struck out a whopping 362 times. Those are not ingredients of an everyday Major League outfielder.
Mitchell is too good at too many things, however, to not ultimately reach and contribute in the bigs. If the Sox think his bat will never fully develop, they could make him a fourth or fifth outfielder as early as Opening Day. Could he have already played his last day in the Minors?
Here is a gallery of Mitchell in every uni he’s donned to date. Click on any picture to begin the slideshow. For all past editions of Prospect Uniformed, head here.
(On a related note: Ashley Marshall, my MiLB.com colleague, has been teasing his LSU baseball products-turned prospects story — a story that involves Mitchell — over @AshMarshallMLB. Look for it on MLB.com next Wednesday, Feb. 20).
Prospect Uniformed: Indians’ Trevor Bauer in His Every MiLB Jersey, Plus More on The Montero Kerfuffle
Like or dislike him, Trevor Bauer is his own man. He’s shown that with his pitches, his preparation and his preaching. Since being the third overall pick in the 2011 Draft, whether he’s been at Class A Advanced Visalia or Double-A Mobile or Triple-A Reno, Bauer has been, well, himself.
The 21-year-old right-hander (bio, stats here) was also authentic in his first try at the Majors — a four-start stint in Arizona last summer. Which explains why he didn’t exactly get along with everyone in the D-backs clubhouse. In case your Spring Training coverage hasn’t included the Bauer-Miguel Montero duel, this story ought to send you down the worm-hole.
I covered Montero on a near-daily basis in 2010 and found him to be a smart, genial interviewee as well as a fiery, not-always-aware competitor. (He also had a run-in with the even-keeled Ian Kennedy that season.) I’ve also interviewed Bauer nearly a dozen times and have found him to be highly intelligent and, yeah, ultra-competitive and perhaps a little stubborn.
So that’s what I chalk the former battery mates’ battle up to: two guys who both want to be the best at what they do but have different ideas about how to do it. Luckily, they’re now in opposite leagues and no longer teammates. With the offseason deal that sent Bauer from the D-backs to the Indians, the unique if not eccentric righty could begin the season in Cleveland. Triple-A Columbus is also a possibility. In case he’s gone from the Minors for good…
Here is a gallery of Bauer in every uni he’s donned to date. Click on any picture to begin the slideshow. For all past editions of Prospect Uniformed, head here.