Minor League Notes, June 30th, 2011

Houston Astros pitching prospect Xavier Cedeno (Photo courtesy of Corpus Christi Hooks)

Minor League Notes, June 30th, 2011

**In today's came-out-of-nowhere department, we have Houston Astros pitching prospect Xavier Cedeno. He had a great game on June 27th for Double-A Corpus Christi, going 6.2 innings, allowing one hit, zero runs, walking nobody, while fanning 14. On the year, he has a 3.54 ERA in 84 innings, with a 93/36 K/BB and 81 hits allowed. He also has a very pleasant 2.19 GO/AO ratio, and the combination of grounders and a strong strikeout rate is something I really like. Who is this guy?

Cedeno is a 24-year-old lefty originally drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the 31st round in 2004 out of high school in Puerto Rico. He didn't sign right away, went off to college at Miami-Dade CC North, then joined the organization under the old draft-and-follow rule in the spring of '05. He moved through the system slowly and was never especially effective. He didn't pitch in 2010, but the Astros picked him up as a free agent this past January and the results have been excellent.

Cedeno works with an 88-92 MPH sinker. He has a diverse arsenal including a curveball, cutter, and changeup. The curve is the best of his secondary pitches and was especially good on Monday night according to Corpus Christi sources. He's benefitted from his friendly home park (2.84 ERA at home, 4.62 on the road) though even on the road he's maintained a solid strikeout rate and plenty of grounders. Cedeno is not a spectacular prospect but he is definitely worth watching, and another example of how interesting players can be picked off the scrapheap by alert organizations.

**We will be taking a look at my pre-season sleeper list soon, but one player on the list who has performed well is Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Drew Hutchison. He went 6-2, 2.63 in 14 starts for Low-A Lansing in the Midwest League with an 84/19 K/BB in 72 innings. This got him a promotion to High-A Dunedin, where he pitched six strong innings on June 26th, allowing a single unearned run on five hits, fanning five. Drafted in the 15th round in 2009 from high school in Lakeland, Florida, Hutchison has a very good slider and changeup, throws strikes, and has seen his velocity tick up this year. He keeps the ball down and has allowed just one homer all season.

**Detroit Tigers relief prospect Chance Ruffin continues to mow hitters down at Double-A Erie. He has 10 saves, a 2.12 ERA, and a 43/16 K/BB ratio in 34 innings with just 23 hits allowed. Drafted in the supplemental first round from the University of Texas last year, Ruffin was expected to reach the majors quickly on the basis of his polish, 90-95 MPH fastball, and wicked slider. He's pitched 13.2 scoreless innings this month with a 17/4 K/BB and just five hits allowed, and a promotion to Triple-A could come any time.

**Another 2010 draftee expected to advance quickly is New York Mets outfield prospect Matt Den Dekker, selected in the fifth round last year from the University of Florida. He was a senior and is already 23, so it is wise for the Mets to be aggressive about promoting him if his performance warrants. It was warranted following his .296/.362/.494 first half for St. Lucie in the High-A Florida State League, and he moved up to Double-A Binghamton 10 days ago. The results there are much less impressive: .194/.256/.278 in 36 at-bats, with 14 strikeouts, but the sample is small, of course. Den Dekker is an exceptional defensive outfielder with above average speed. He has some pop in his bat, but his hitting approach is inconsistent and he has problems with pitch recognition which Double-A pitchers have been able to expose in the early going.  

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