Minor League Notes, June 3rd, 2011
**Oakland Athletics prospect Adrian Cardenas is having a good year for Triple-A Sacramento so far, hitting .335/.400/.436 with 19 walks and 19 strikeouts in 188 at-bats over 49 games. This is an improvement over the .267/.320/.329 mark he posted in 210 at-bats over 58 games at the same level last year, however I don't think his skills have changed that much. He's showing slightly more isolated power, slightly more walks, and a slightly reduced strikeout rate, however the changes are enough to be random fluctuation, and the biggest difference this year may just be better luck with BABIP.
Cardenas remains a skilled contact hitter, but his lack of power remains an issue, especially given his shift in positions this year. He's spent the majority of his time at left field and DH, and in nine games at third base he's made four errors. His natural position is second base, but he hasn't played there this year out of deference to Jemile Weeks, who is a superior prospect at this point. Cardenas simply doesn't have enough power to profile well as a major league starter at a corner position, and in the end he may end up as a utility player.
**A sleeper pitching prospect to watch is Austin Adams of the Cleveland Indians, currently pitching for Double-A Akron in the Eastern League. Adams has a 2.51 ERA in 10 starts with a 51/26 K/BB in 47 innings, with 43 hits allowed. Tight pitch counts and a couple of rough outings have kept his innings numbers down, and in the long run he may profile best as a reliever, but there are things to watch here. He's got a strong fastball at 92-96 MPH, hitting 97-98 at times, and has made consistent progress with a hard curveball and changeup. His two biggest problems are spotty control and the fact that he's a 5-foot-11 right-hander, which generates the skepticism of scouts. But he's a fine overall athlete, has good arm strength, and the K/IP ratio means he bears watching. A fifth-round pick in 2009 out of Faulkner College in Alabama, he played shortstop as an amateur, testifying to his athleticism.
**Another Double-A right-hander to track closely is Paul Clemens of the Atlanta Braves, currently 4-1, 2.08 in 10 starts for Mississippi, with a 53/25 K/BB in 61 innings and just 41 hits allowed. A seventh-round pick in 2008 from Louisburg Junior College in North Carolina, Clemens has some command issues to work through, but has good stuff, including a fastball that hits 95 on his best days and a very good curve. Development of a better changeup will determine if he is a starter or reliever in the long run. He has been very consistent this year, allowing two runs or less in eight of his ten starts.
**San Diego Padres relief prospect Brad Brach has been devastatingly effective for Double-A San Antonio: 2.79 ERA so far, but with a 43/4 K/BB in 29 innings, with 23 hits allowed, collecting 14 saves already. The K/IP and K/BB marks are off-the-charts good. Brach was just a 42nd round pick in 2008 out of Monmouth, and was excellent in A-ball in '09 and '10. Many scouts were skeptical however, pointing out that while he had a solid low-90s fastball, his slider and splitter were nothing special. Some disagreed and felt the splitter was a solid second pitch. He's sure doing something right; the K/IP and K/BB don't lie. He's already 25 and we need to see him in Triple-A, but he could end up being a nice relief asset. Right-handers are hitting .169 against him.
**I mentioned Matt Dominguez's slow start yesterday for Triple-A New Orleans. It must have made him angry: he went 4-for-4 last night, with two homers and a double, boosting his line to .255/.356/.510 overall. This shows how quickly things can change with such small sample sizes.