Minor League Notes, April 20, 2011
**The Washington Nationals and San Diego Padres made a little-noticed trade in late March. The Nationals traded infielder Alberto Gonzalez to the Padres for right-handed pitcher Erik Davis. Davis is an interesting guy. A 13th-round pick in 2008 out of Stanford, Davis has a good pitcher's build at 6-4, 200 pounds. His fastball is so-so for a right-hander in the upper-80s, sometimes low-90s, and he mixes in an average breaking ball. He has a very good changeup, throws strikes, changes speeds well, and knows how to pitch. He entered 2011 with a career 3.49 ERA with a 278/99 K/BB in 294 innings, 264 hits allowed, including seven strong starts in Double-A last year. He's now with Harrisburg in the Eastern League (starting today as a matter of fact) and has a 7/3 K/BB in his first five innings with zero runs allowed so far. He's a fifth starter or long relief type, but he strikes me as a pitcher who could surprise.
**Cincinnati Reds outfield prospect Ryan LaMarre is off to a slow start for High-A Bakersfield in the California League, hitting just .205/.321/.273 so far in 44 at-bats, with 16 strikeouts. He's stolen three bases in four attempts, but his approach at the plate has been raw so far in the early going. A second-round pick in '10 out of the University of Michigan, LaMarre has average or better tools in all departments, with running speed and power potential standing out. His performance in college was erratic, due at least in part to injury issues. Scouting reports pre-season indicated that he was more polished than his college performance indicated, but so far that hasn't been true. He has a high physical ceiling and a good work ethic, but doesn't look to be on the fast track right now.
**Another outfielder with excellent tools but spotty skills is New York Yankees prospect Melky Mesa. He's hitting .178/.245/.356 through12 games for Double-A Trenton, with four walks and 16 strikeouts in 45 at-bats. Mesa nails fastballs but has problems with breaking stuff, and so far Double-A pitchers have been able to expose this. He's 8-for-45 but five of those eight hits have gone for extra bases (three doubles, a triple, a homer), which fits the scouting reports that he's dangerous if you make a mistake. But if you avoid mistakes, his threat is containable. Mesa is 24 and while his ceiling keeps scouts interested, he's got a huge amount of work to do if he wants to get to New York, or even interest other teams as trade bait.
**Oakland Athletics third base prospect Steve Parker has the opposite problem of LaMarre and Mesa. He has a polished approach at the plate and good plate discipline, but his physical tools are average and don't excite scouts. He parlayed his smooth swing and knowledge of hitting into a .296/.392/.508 mark last year in the California League and continued hitting well in the Arizona Fall League, but so far his performance for Double-A Midland has been mediocre: .225/.326/.425. The positive news is that he's maintained a solid BB/K/AB ratio (6/8/40), and if he keeps the zone under control the rest of his numbers have a good chance to pick up as the season progresses. His third base defense is nothing special, so he has to hit to force his way into the lineup. He was originally a fifth round pick in 2009 out of Brigham Young.