Kirk Nieuwenhuis of the New York Mets (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
**New York Mets outfield prospect Kirk Nieuwenhuis is off to a fast start for Triple-A Buffalo: .344/.452/.574 in 18 games, with a 12/16 BB/K in 61 at-bats, including a .400 mark in his last 10 games. This is in stark contrast to his struggles at Buffalo in the second half last year (.225/295/.358 in 120 at-bats). His strikeout rate is still rather high, but he's already drawn more walks in 18 games this year than he did in 30 games in Triple-A last year, so progress with the strike zone is evident. Angel Pagan isn't exactly tearing things up this year, and I don't see Willie Harris as a long-term deterrent to playing time for Nieuwenhuis. If he remains hot, he'll get a chance in New York fairly soon. I've seen him as more of a fourth outfielder than a future regular, but he could end up being a very solid player who contributes in multiple departments.
**Arizona Diamondbacks outfield prospect Marc Krauss had a strong 2010 season in the California League, hitting .302/.371/.509 with 25 homers for Visalia. But it was the California League, scouts aren't wild about his tools, and some questioned whether his swing would work at higher levels, making his trip to Double-A this year very important. So far, the results for Mobile are solid: .259/.368/.466 with 10 walks and 16 strikeouts in 68 plate appearances. He's continuing to draw walks at a good clip, the strikeout rate is about the same as last year, and his Isolated Power is identical. Of note is a strong platoon split: .308/.413/.590 against right-handers, but .158//273/.211 against lefties.
**Seattle Mariners third base prospect Alex Liddi is having significant problems in his first look at Triple-A pitching. Through 18 games for Tacoma, he's hitting just .185/.240/.308 with six walks and 28 strikeouts in 75 plate appearances. Reports from a Pacific Coast League observer indicate that he's been totally overmatched by breaking balls. I was an optimist about Liddi pre-season so I'm disappointed in this, although it's just 18 games and he's only 22; it is too soon to conclude he can't adjust. He's playing very well defensively so far, with just one error in 17 games and a strong range factor.
**Tampa Bay Rays pitching prospect Matthew Moore pitched five innings for Double-A Montgomery yesterday, allowing two runs on five hits and two walks, fanning six, taking a loss against Mississippi. On the season, he has a 5.89 ERA in four starts, but that's deceptive: he gave up six runs and 10 hits in four innings on April 13th, but his other three starts have been better. His K/BB ratio is 24/3 in 18 innings, and the K/IP and K/BB are the things to watch closely this year. A lefty with a low-to-mid-90s power sinker, strong curve, and a 24/3 K/BB ratio is something special.