Hit-And-Run, June 20, 2009
**Everyone with a modicum of sabermetric knowledge knows that batting average is a traditionally overrated stat, but I still find something aesthetically pleasing about a .300 average. A guy to watch in his regard is Tim Smith of the Rangers, drafted in the seventh round in 2007 out of Arizona State. Considered a pure hitter but with marginal power for a corner guy, Smith hit .300/.359/.450 in the Midwest League last year (+17 percent OPS), and has continued that in 2009. He began the year with a .333/.413/.475 mark in 35 games for Class A Bakersfield, and has continued to rake with a .386/.422/.474 line in 15 games after being promoted to Double-A Frisco. He has good plate discipline, and despite just-decent running speed he can swipe a base, being 11 for 12 this year in steals. Smith projects as a left fielder, but doesn't have the ideal home run power you want from that position. Nevertheless, if he can maintain the strike zone judgment and good contact rate, it's possible he could eventually tap into more power given his 6-3, 225 frame. He's worth keeping an eye on.
**Smith's teammate at Frisco, outfielder Mitch Moreland, is another Ranger bat to watch. Also a 2007 draft product (17th round, Mississippi State), Moreland hit .324/.400/.536 in the Midwest League last year. Like Smith, he raked at Bakersfield (.341/.421/.594 in 43 games) earlier this season, and has continued to bash the ball in the Texas League (.323/.363/.469 in 23 games). Moreland has more current power than Smith and also controls the strike zone well. A first baseman/right fielder, he's bulkier at 6-2, 230 and doesn't run as well as Smith.
**Since moving up to Double-A Jacksonville two weeks ago, Marlins phenom Mike Stanton is hitting just .244/.314/.311 with a 3/14 BB/K in 45 at-bats. Given his previous problems with strikeouts, this is hardly surprising. But given his age (still just 19), and the performance he was showing in the Florida State League (.294/.390/.578 in 50 games), it is way too early to be concerned; he's shown the ability to make adjustments in the past, and is likely to do so again once his experience builds up. He's been pushed, but I don't really have a problem with this promotion: he didn't have a lot left to learn in A-ball, as his natural ability is so great it was overriding his weaknesses. Nevertheless, the Marlins would be well-advised to be patient and avoid further pushing until he gets his dominance back. I'd leave him in Double-A the rest of the year.
**The Mets are another team that loves to rush prospects, and right now things are going well with RHP Jenry Mejia. He began the year going 4-1, 1.97 with a 44/16 K/BB in 50 innings for St. Lucie, with a 2.21 GO/AO ratio in nine starts. Promoted to Double-A Binghamton earlier this month, he's 0-2 in three starts, but with a 2.25 ERA and a 17/7 K/BB in 16 innings, with 17 hits allowed. I like the fact that he's maintained his strong GO/AO, with a 2.22 mark so far in the Eastern League. Mejia is just 19 years old, and skipped low Class A, having pitched in the New York-Penn League last year. He posted a 3.49 ERA in 57 innings for Brooklyn, with a 52/23 K/BB. In 66 combined this year, he has a 2.04 ERA with a 61/23 K/BB. The fact that he's maintained virtually identical ratios at a higher level of competition is a really good sign, especially given his age. As with Stanton, I'd leave him in Double-A the rest of the season. I gave him a Grade C+ "but with a very high ceiling" rating in the book. I'm jumping that up to Grade B+ now, and he could be a Grade A- or perhaps even a Grade A by the end of this season.
**You young whippersnappers probably don't remember Vida Blue, but he was one hell of a pitcher. I'd love to know what his minor league pitch counts were:
1968, 2.49 ERA, 231/80 K/BB in 152 innings, 102 hits for Class A Burlington at age 18.
1969: 3.20 ERA, 112/52 K/BB in 104 innings, 80 hits for Double-A Birmingham;
6.64 ERA with 24/18 K/BB in 42 innings for the Athletics, 49 hits.
1970: 2.17 ERA, 165/55 K/BB in 133 innings, 88 hits for Triple-A Iowa;
2.10 ERA with 35/12 K/BB in 39 innings for the Athletics, 20 hits.
He threw 312 innings with a 301/88 K/BB and a mere 209 hits allowed in 1971 for Oakland at age 21. He threw just 151 innings in 1972, but rebounded with 264 in 1973. He lasted until age 36, and at his best he was one of the most dominating lefties I ever saw, but seems to be pretty much forgotten these days. He didn't quite live up to his early potential, but he still won 209 games.