Minor League Notes: May 21st, 2011
**It has been a strange Triple-A season for Red Sox prospect Lars Anderson. He's running a .273/.400/.374 line, showing lots of patience at the plate with 29 walks so far. But up until recently, his power stroke had vanished: he hit just four doubles and zero homers in April for a lethargic .338 slugging percentage. That's changed a bit lately; he's hit three doubles and two homers in his last 10 games, giving him a .528 SLG in that stretch, without loss of strike zone judgment or batting average.
Anderson has never developed the power you would expect given his size and physical strength, but he's still just 23 years old. If he keeps the strike zone under control the power may unlock eventually. I used to think he was a future star, but barring a sudden surge he is more probably a future contributing bat rather than a lineup fixture. He had serious platoon splits in past seasons, but has done a good job against lefties so far in 2011, hitting .324/.442/.441 against them. The sample is small but it could be a sign of genuine progress in his approach.
**The 12th overall pick in the 2010 draft, Cincinnati Reds prospect Yasmani Grandal is off to a solid start for Bakersfield in the High-A California League, hitting .286/.418/.519 with 30 walks and 37 strikeouts in 165 plate appearances. This is exactly the sort of power/patience combination the Reds anticipated when they drafted him out of the University of Miami, so things look good with the bat. Grandal isn't the best thrower in the world, with a long release that hurts his ability to nail runners. He's caught 29% so far this year. Other than the throwing, his defensive reputation in college was quite good, with scouts praising his blocking and receiving skills and leadership acumen. He's coughed up eight passed balls and four errors in 28 defensive games this year, which is sloppier defense than I'd expect given his reputation.
**Tampa Bay Rays outfield prospect Desmond Jennings has hit three homers in his last ten games, giving him six on the year. His overall line is now .289/.398/.487 with 23 walks and nine steals in nine attempts. A wrist injury sapped his power last year, resulting in a .393 SLG for Durham, but returning to the same level with a healthy wrist in '11 has resulted in much better numbers. I don't see Jennings as a consistent home run guy in the majors, but he should provide plenty of doubles and his walk/steal combination will make him potent at the top of the order. We should see him in Tampa Bay later this year. Between Jennings and Brandon Guyer (who we will profile on Monday) the Rays have good options to reinforce the outfield.
**Jonathan Villar was acquired by the Houston Astros in the Roy Oswalt trade with the Phillies last summer. The Astros are trying to bring more athletes into the system, and the Dominican shortstop certainly qualifies in that department: his raw tools are excellent, and scouts who like him project that he'll be above average on both offense and defense as he matures. His glove is especially well-regarded; some believe he could win Gold Gloves someday due to his range and arm strength. However, he's very error-prone at this point, with 11 miscues in his first 36 games for High-A Lancaster this year resulting in a .925 fielding percentage. At age 20, he has plenty of time to reduce the error rate.
Villar appears to be making progress on offense: he hit just .225/.294/.372 at Lancaster after last summer's trade, but is hitting .267/.365/.382 this year, along with 19 steals in 24 attempts. Lancaster is a great place to hit and his OPS (.779) is 72 points higher at home than on the road this year. Villar has one of the highest physical ceilings in the Astros system, but I would be leery about promoting him too quickly, and I think a full year in High-A would be beneficial for him given his youth and remaining rawness.