Minor League Notes, April 21st, 2012
**There were two key questions for Arizona Diamondbacks prospect Matt Davidson entering 2012: would he make sufficient contact and show adequate plate discipline against Double-A pitching, and can he settle down defensively at third base? The bad news is on defense: he's made five errors already in 16 games, for a poor .891 fielding percentage. He has a good arm, but his range is just average, so he's still got to make significant improvements with his reliability to stick at third in the long run.
The good news, however, is very good: he's hitting the snot out of the ball for Mobile in the Southern League, hitting .397/.507/.621 in the early going, with 12 walks and 11 strikeouts in 58 at-bats. He's reduced his strikeouts compared to last year while doubling his walk rate without any loss in power production. At age 21, I think this is likely a sign of genuine improvement in his approach, granted the caveats of sample size at this point in the season.
**Colorado Rockies third base prospect Nolan Arenado is adapting easily to Double-A, hitting .353/.450/.529 so far in 14 games for the Tulsa Drillers, with six walks and eight strikeouts in 51 at-bats. He's also played well with the glove, making just one error so far while impressing observers with his continually improving defense at third. A month younger than Davidson, Arenado is already showing that his 2011 performances in the California League and Arizona Fall League were not just environment-induced statistical illusions.
**Another young third base prospect with star potential is Nick Castellanos of the Detroit Tigers, currently hitting .388/.436/.551 in 13 games for High-A Lakeland in the Florida State League. His BB/K ratio isn't great: four walks, 12 strikeouts in 49 at-bats, but even with an impatient approach he's hitting for average and moderate power, testifying to his bat speed. Like Davidson, he is still working on his defense and has already made four errors. He has sufficient range and arm strength for third base but is still settling down his footwork. I think Castellanos will need a full year in High-A but the Tigers are often imprudently aggressive with promoting prospects (in my opinion) and he may move up sooner rather than later if his superficial performance numbers remain strong.
**Kansas City Royals fans are expressing unease over Cheslor Curthbert's slow start at High-A Wilmington. I think it is way too soon to be worried. He's hitting .182/.315/.227 through 12 games, but he's drawn nine walks against nine strikeouts, so he's kept the strike zone under some semblance of control. Keep in mind that he's only 19 years old and that the Carolina League is a tough assignment, especially for a guy who didn't play great competition as an amateur. The bat should heat up eventually and I'm not concerned yet.