Hit and Run, June 29, 2009
**When the Astros drafted Jordan Lyles in the supplemental first round in '08, a lot of people said "huh?" as he didn't get much pre-draft hype. Most scouts saw him as a projectable but raw high school arm with signability issues, expected to attend the University of South Carolina. But the Astros had a good read on his signability, and he impressed them greatly in a pre-draft workout. It certainly looks like an inspired pick right now, as Lyles has been excellent in the Sally League so far: 3.27 ERA, 103/18 K/BB in 83 innings, 75 hits allowed. He threw 86-89 MPH in high school, but has his heater well into the 90s now, has improved his curveball and changeup, and is showing considerable polish. All the standard caveats apply of course. . .can he stay healthy, etc., but right now Lyles is one of the top pitching prospects in A-ball, and a good bit of scouting by the Astros.
**A second round pick out of Howard JC in 2008, Twins prospect Tyler Ladendorf was a major disappointment in rookie ball, hitting just .204/.308/.293 for the GCL Twins last summer. He did steal six bases in six attempts and flash the tools to remain at shortstop, but he didn't nearly hit as well as expected after a superstar spring campaign. So far, 2009 has been different. He's 8-for-19 (.421) with a double and two homers in his first six games for the Elizabethton Twins, with six walks and just one strikeout. Yes, yes, small sample size. This could turn on a dime. But he's already exceeded his home run output from last year, and is controlling the strike zone extremely well. My guess is that he'll continue to play very well in the Appy League and move up to Beloit in August, at which time we'll get a better read on how much progress is for real.
**Ike Davis Update: Davis found his power stroke in May at St. Lucie, bringing his numbers there up to .288/.376/.486, very nice numbers for the Florida State League. Promoted to Double-A last week, he's hitting .400/.538/.550 through six games at Binghamton. He's 8-for-20 with three doubles, five strikeouts, and six walks so far. The fact that he's maintained the walk rate at the higher level is a good sign. He will likely need some consolidation time at this level and if I were the Mets I wouldn't consider a promotion to Triple-A until August at the earliest, if he's hitting well. Nevertheless, he's exceeded the expectations I had for him in the book and has calmed concerns about his bat.
**Jeremy Hefner was a fifth round pick in 2007 out of Oral Roberts by the Padres. Quoting from the 2009 book: "He has a solid low-90s fastball, and a curveball, slider, and changeup that all rate as, well, solid. His command is solid, and he has a solid pitcher's build. See a theme here? He's solid." So far his performance has been, pardon the expression, solid. He's 7-6, 4.01 in 14 starts for Lake Elsinore in the Cal League, with an 80/17 K/BB in 74 innings, 86 hits allowed. I'll forgive the hit rate given the environment and his excellent other numbers. He made an emergency start for Triple-A Portland earlier this month and pitched 5.1 innings, allowing two runs on seven hits, with five strikeouts. I expect he'll see Double-A later this spring and we'll get a read on his solidness against Texas League competition then.
**Michael Montgomery and Tim Melville at Class A Burlington are symptomatic of the increased investments the Royals have made in the draft the last two years. Since being activated in May, Montgomery has been more impressive: 1.93 ERA with a 35/15 K/BB in 37 innings, just 26 hits allowed and a 2.04 GO/AO. Melville has a 4.00 mark with a 25/15 K/BB in 36 innings, 36 hits allowed. Reports from Midwest League observers back up what you'd expect from these numbers, Montgomery is showing better stuff than Melville at this point, even though Melville had more pre-draft hype in '08. I'm going to get to Burlington in July and hope to see both in action.
**The Vin Mazzaro stuff is getting old, guys. It's too early to tell anything about him either way yet. Let's see how he looks after 15 starts.
**Off-Topic: My favorite domestic car brand is Buick, a fact for which my less stodgy friends tease me constantly. My least-favorite domestic car brand is Chrysler. I have a love/hate deal with Fords....my college car was a Mustang II, which constantly broke down but looked cool. For imports, I like Toyota (our ‘00 Sienna is super reliable) and have always, for some reason, been partial to Mitsubishi. I don't like BMWs or other German cars.
**Favorite Neil Young songs: "Cortez the Killer," "Like a Hurricane," "Broken Arrow," "Down to the Wire," "A Man Needs a Maid," "Campaigner," and "After the Gold Rush."