World Futures All-Star Alex Liddi of the Seattle Mariners goes for the catch during the 2010 XM All-Star Futures Game at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 11 2010 in Anaheim California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Double-A Transition Monitor
Alex Liddi, 3B, Mariners: Alex Liddi hit .345/.411/.594 in 2009, with 23 homers, 44 doubles, 53 walks, and 122 strikeouts in 493 at-bats. The caveat, of course, was that he did this at High Desert in the California League, where my dachshund dog could hit .300. This made Liddi's Double-A transition in 2010 critical for his future. He passed it just fine, hitting .281/.353/.476 with 37 doubles, 15 homers, 50 walks, and 145 strikeouts in 502 at-bats for West Tennessee. On the negative side, he struck out more often and his walk rate dipped, but overall he held his own. Indeed, if you look closely at it, he actually had a better year this season in some ways.
His OPS was +14 percent compared to the Southern League average, not spectacular but credible for a 21 year-old making his debut at that level. In 2009, his OPS was +32 percent compared to the Cal League. . .however, a lot of that was because of High Desert, where he posted a 1.158 OPS. On the road last year, he posted an .849 OPS, which was +12 percent compared to the Cal League average. If we discard the High Desert numbers due to the conditions there, he actually "produced" just as much this year as last year, at least by that measure.
Liddi is still working on his defense and made 27 errors at third base this year for an inadequate .909 fielding percentage. He also spent some time at first base, although despite the Es his glovework is considered promising at third by many scouts due to his arm strength and hands. I'd leave him there for now and see if his reliability improves as he gains experience.
Overall, while Liddi still needs work with contact and fielding reliability, I like what he did this year enough to raise him from a Grade B- to a Grade b.
Conor Gillaspie, 3B, Giants: Another player making the move from the Cal League to more difficult competition is Giants third sacker Conor Gillaspie. He hit .286/.364/.386 last year for San Jose, regarded as disappointing especially in the power department. His OPS was league-average. Jumped up to Double-A Richmond this year, he hit .287/.335/.420, which doesn't look much better on the surface. His OPS improved a bit to +3 percent. However, Richmond is sort of the opposite of High Desert: it's a tough environment. He hit just .253/.303/.378 at home, but a much more impressive .320/.365/.460 on the road, which as more like what the Giants were looking for when they drafted him out of Wichita State.
He made some progress on defense, lowering his error rate significantly (.908 FP last year, .946 this year), and reportedly improving his range and reactions at least slightly. His range factor improved for what that's worth. Total Zone isn't out yet, but it will be interesting to see if that jives with the other data.
I still don't know if Gillaspie will have enough of a bat to be a regular third baseman, but he made enough progress to go from a Grade C to a C+.