Minor League Notes, May 28th, 2011
**San Diego Padres first base prospect Anthony Rizzo is on a tear for Triple-A Tucson, hitting .361/.465/.889 in his last 10 games including five homers and four doubles. On the year, he has a .370/.448/.728 line, with 24 walks and 43 strikeouts in 173 at-bats. Some of this is PCL stat inflation from his friendly home park at Tucson, where he's hitting .408/.494/.816, but even in the road he's at .340/.411/.660. Scouting reports from PCL observers indicate that Rizzo is showing outstanding bat speed and has the strike zone well under control right now. He's even improved against left-handed pitching, which was a problem for him in the Red Sox system.
Defense needs work: although he is mobile around the bag and is good at scooping throws, he's error-prone, committing eight gaffes already this year for a .980 fielding percentage, not good for a first baseman. Nevertheless, the Padres won't worry too much about the glove if he keeps hitting like this. They will need to find him a spot in the lineup soon.
**Baltimore Orioles infield prospect Jonathan Schoop has been in a slump for Low-A Delmarva lately, hitting just .227 in his last 10 games, though he does have a homer and five doubles in that span. Overall he's having a very impressive year, hitting .307/.363/.495 with 16 walks and 28 strikeouts in 192 at-bats. Signed out of Curacao in 2008, Schoop was raw when signed, but the Orioles have worked diligently to craft a swing that should provide both batting average and power. His walk rate isn't impressive, but he keeps his strikeouts under control, and I'm impressed with the offensive progress he's made this year.
A natural shortstop with enough range and arm strength for the position, Schoop has split '11 between shortstop (25 games) and third base (20 games) due to the presence of Manny Machado on the Delmarva roster. Schoop has shown excellent range, but struggled with errors at third base, making eight there already. He's looked more comfortable at shortstop subbing for the injured Machado, but when Manny returns from his knee injury, Schoop will probably end up back at third base. Machado gets most of the attention, but Schoop is a fine prospect as well. I had him as a C+ sleeper in the book, and am raising that to a Grade B now. He can be a B+ by the end of the year if he keeps hitting.
**New York Yankees relief prospect Chase Whitley is having a solid year for High-A Tampa in the Florida State League, with a 2.03 ERA and a 27/5 K/BB in 31 innings with 25 hits allowed. Drafted in the 15th round last year from Troy University, Whitley was primarily an infielder in college (and a good hitter, knocking 10 homers and hitting .364 last year), but the Yankees preferred him on the mound, where he shows a low-90s fastball and a terrific changeup. His slider, below average in college, has improved as a pro, and he has an aggressive, attack-the-hitter mentality that works well in the pen. He also has very good overall athleticism, and looks like a sleeper to me.
**The Florida Marlins drafted Rob Rasmussen in the second round last year out of UCLA, expecting the southpaw to move through the system fairly quickly following his excellent junior year (11-3, 2.72, 128/35 K/BB in 109 innings) for the Bruins. The initial returns from 2011 are mediocre: 4-3, 4.38 in 10 starts for High-A Jupiter, with an unattractive 35/34 K/BB in 49 innings, with 54 hits allowed. Rasmussen is picking up plenty of grounders with his 90 MPH sinker, above-average slider, curveball, cutter, and changeup, and he's given up just one home run. But his walk rate is simply too high, traced to mechanics that he has trouble consistently repeating.
There was talk when he was drafted that Rasmussen might slot best in the bullpen, and his statistical splits this year make that look plausible: right-handers are hitting him at a .326 clip, but lefties are just managing .196. My take is that his stuff is good enough that he won't have to be confined to a pure LOOGY role, but without better command he will be hard-pressed as a starter.