Minor League Notes, July 13, 2011
**The 16th-overall pick in the 2009 draft, Arizona Diamondbacks prospect Bobby Borchering hasn't lived up to the potential scouts saw in his bat when he was a Florida high school player. He was supposed to be one of the most advanced bats in the '09 class, but it hasn't quite worked out that way. He hit .270/.341/.423 with 15 homers last year in the Midwest League, which wasn't terrible for the context but wasn't outstanding either. This year, he's shown more isolated power with 16 homers for Visalia in the California League in 84 games, with an overall line of .262/.316/.468, but his BB/K ratio is a big red flag: 26 walks, 107 strikeouts in 344 at-bats.
Reports indicate trouble with his swing mechanics and strike zone judgment, especially hitting from the left side. A switch-hitter, he's hitting a robust .313/.392/.625 with an 8/19 BB/K in 64 at-bats against lefties, but just .250/.298/.432 with an 18/88 BB/K in 280 at-bats against right-handers. His third base defense is below average and he'll likely end up at first base in the long run. Borchering is still just 20 years old, and his power potential remains impressive, but he's got significant adjustments to make. I think slow progress is more likely than a big sudden breakthrough.
**Another NL West prospect with big power potential but major strikeout issues is Kyle Russell of the Los Angeles Dodgers, currently hitting .266/.343/.522 in 84 games for Double-A Chattanooga. He's hit 16 homers and 25 doubles, but he also has 105 strikeouts in 301 at-bats. Over the last year, he's played 160 games in Double-A, with a composite line of .256/.332/.493, with 48 doubles, 26 homers, 61 walks, and 218 strikeouts.
A third round pick from the University of Texas in 2008, Russell is an intriguing mixture of strengths and weaknesses. He has some of the best raw power in the minor leagues, and he'll make an effort to work the count, looking for fastballs to drive. If he gets a mistake fastball in the wrong place, he'll crush it. But he also has serious problems with breaking balls and changeups, his swing is long, and he'll never hit for average at higher levels.
Russell is a decent athlete with a strong throwing arm, and is a solid defender in right field. He has more defensive value than Borchering, but is also five years older and has a lot less time on the clock to improve.
**20-year-old Venezuelan outfielder Avisail Garcia is one of the tooliest players in the Detroit Tigers farm system. Scouts praise his bat speed and project that he'll hit for power, although it hasn't happened yet: he hit .281/.313/.356 with just four homers last year in 125 games in the Midwest League, and is hitting .258/.299/.363 with five homers in 80 games this year in the Florida State League for Lakeland. Strike zone judgment is his biggest problem at this point; his BB/K is 13/88 (20/113 last year), which matches scouting reports that he struggles to recognize anything with a squiggle in it. He runs well, stole 20 bases last year and has nine swipes this year, but is still learning the nuances of defensive play. Garcia's youth and physicality stand out, but so far the performance hasn't lived up to the potential.
**The Yankees promoted prospect J.R. Murphy to High-A Tampa in late June, and the results have been decent so far: .273/.288/.438 in 15 games, but this includes a 3-for-22 start. In his last 10 games he's hitting .351/.359/.568 with five doubles. He hit .297/.343/.457 in 63 games for Low-A Charleston before his promotion, giving him an overall line of .293/.333/.453 on the year, with 21 walks and 43 strikeouts in 311 at-bats including 29 doubles. Although Murphy doesn't draw many walks and hasn't fully tapped into his raw power yet, he has a much better feel for contact than the other players we've discussed today, and I'm fairly optimistic about his bat long-term.
The big question here remains defense. He's got a decent arm but his work behind the plate is mediocre, and observers outside the organization aren't convinced he can remain a catcher. He's thrown out 23% of runners both this year and last year, but he remains prone to errors and passed balls. He's also played 11 games at third base this year with adequate results, but in the end he may end up as a left fielder or first baseman, increasing the pressure on his bat.