Minor League Notes, June 20, 2011
**New York Mets pitching prospect Armando Rodriguez is off to a good start for High-A St. Lucie. Since being activated from extended spring training in late May, he's made four starts and pitched 17 innings, allowing five earned runs for a 2.65 ERA, with 16 hits allowed and a 21/6 K/BB ratio. 10 of those strikeouts were over five innings in his last start. The 23-year-old right-hander is one of the more interesting prospects in the Mets system. Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2007, he had a fine year in 2010, posting a 152/46 K/BB in 146 innings for Low-A Savannah, with just 116 hits allowed. He entered '11 with 322 career strikeouts and just 225 hits allowed in 306 IP.
Despite his excellent component ratios, scouts are lukewarm on him, pointing to mediocre right-handed velocity (87-90, hitting 92 on his best days) and a fringy slider and changeup. He does have a decent cutter, but his success is primarily reliant on sharp control and deceptive mechanics. Scouts admit this works in A-ball, but there is a lot of skepticism about how it will translate to higher levels. Rodriguez has definitely earned to chance to show us, however, and continued quality pitching at St. Lucie could/should result in a Double-A trial later this year.
**Pittsburgh Pirates outfield prospect Starling Marte is on a hot streak for Double-A Altoona, hitting .395 in his last 10 games and .364/.407/.509 overall in June. Actually he's been hot all year, hitting .326/.363/.453 in April and .331/.355/.475 in May, giving him an overall .336/.369/.475 line, with 14 steals. A Dominican signed in 2007, Marte is a terrific athlete with 70-75 speed, and he's making increasingly good use of it in the bases and in the outfield, where he projects as an excellent center fielder with a strong arm and superb range.
The question is his bat. He's always hit for a high batting average, but his swing didn't translate his strength into power, and he had serious issues with strike zone judgment. He's taken a step forward with the power this year but the plate discipline is still an issue. Marte draws raves for his makeup and attitude. He could be a late-season call-up but is more likely to see Pittsburgh sometime in 2012.
**Baltimore Orioles pitching prospect Parker Bridwell made his debut for short-season Aberdeen in the New York-Penn League on June 17th, throwing five shutout innings, allowing four hits for no walks, fanning nine and picking up the victory. He made two starts for Low-A Delmarva earlier in the year with shaky results over 5.2 innings (seven strikeouts, but seven hits and six runs allowed), but the NY-P is an appropriate level for him given that he's just 19.
Bridwell was drafted in the ninth round last year out of high school in Hereford, Texas. He could have gone as high as the third round but had a Texas Tech commitment, which cost the Orioles $625,000 to buy out. In exchange they get a strong 6-4, 190 pound athlete with a low-90s fastball and more velocity possible as he matures (NOTE: Rumors indicate that he actually hit 100 MPH in the Aberdeen game, but I haven't confirmed this. See comment thread for details). His curveball, slider, and changeup are all works in progress, but he's done a good job throwing strikes so far, granted the sample is small. Put him on your list of short-season players to watch closely.
**One of my favorite pre-season sleepers was Texas Rangers right-hander Luke Jackson, drafted in the supplemental first round last year out of high school in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Granted, the term "sleeper" isn't normally associated with a supplemental first round pick, but I don't think he got as much attention as he deserved pre-season and was overshadowed by bigger names. That's a mistake; he's got a 90-94 MPH fastball, with very good movement, and his hard curveball and changeup are also promising, if inconsistent.
He had a fine start for Low-A Hickory on June 16th, allowing one run in five innings on three hits and two walks, fanning 10. Overall, he's 2-1, 3.20 in six starts with a 29/12 K/BB in 25 innings and 22 hits allowed. The walk rate is a bit high but the strikeouts reflect his strong stuff.