Double-A Transition Monitor
*RHP Jake Dittler at Double-A Akron in the Cleveland system. 4-5, 3.44 in 14 starts, with a 48/32 K/BB in 89 innings, 96 hits allowed. Dittler is repeating the league, having gone 5-12, 5.02 in 20 starts last year for Akron, so technically I'm cheating by including him in this report. But heck, I want to write about him, so I will. On the surface, it appears that Dittler is making major progress this year, cutting his ERA by one and a half runs. However, his K/IP ratio is actually significantly WORSE this year: 4.85 K/9IP compared to 7.08 K/9IP last season. His walk rates and H/IP have not improved, so it looks to me like the improvement in his ERA is due to luck more than anything else. I used to like him a lot as a prospect, but the strikeout decline is very worrisome.
*OF Jeff Francoeur at Double-A Mississippi in the Atlanta system. Scouts love Francoeur's tools, and Baseball America even rated him ahead of Andy Marte on the list of Top Braves Prospects this year. Francoeur certainly has superior athleticism and a lot of raw power, but his plate discipline at lower levels was mediocre at best. Francoeur is at .264/.319/.462 through 70 games at Mississippi, with 23 doubles, 10 homers, 13 steals, 20 walks, and 67 strikeouts in 277 at-bats. Isolated Discipline is .055. The power and speed production numbers are solid, but as it was in the lower minors his OBP is an issue. His current line is approximately equivalent to .230/.285/.400 at the Major League level, inadequate for a starting outfielder. At age 21, he has plenty of time to improve. He doesn't have to become a walk machine, of course, but to get the most out of his ability better strike zone judgment is a must. Francoeur is a solid prospect, but he is not in the Delmon Young category.
*OF Elijah Dukes at Double-A Montgomery in the Tampa Bay system. Dukes is even toolsier than Francoeur and is one of the best pure athletes in baseball. He is currently hitting .303/.362/.513, 13 doubles, 10 homers, 11 steals, 21 walks, 47 strikeouts in 234 at-bats. His numbers are similar to what he did in A-ball, with little or no deterioration. His walk rate is slightly higher than Francoeur's and his strikeout rate slightly slower, his Isolated Discipline coming out a notch higher at .059. That's OK but a lot of his OBP is tied up in his batting average, and if he goes below .275 or so his OBP will be inadequate. Dukes is five months younger than Francoeur, so his performance this year is certainly appropriate on an age/level basis. Frankly I think Dukes is a slightly better prospect on his own terms, but he has a lot of emotional baggage in his background and questions about his makeup. If those are resolved in a positive way, he could be/should be an excellent player.
*OF Paul McAnulty at Double-A Mobile in the San Diego system. Hitting .300/.372/.490 with 10 homers, 26 walks, and 57 strikeouts in 66 games, 253 at-bats. McAnulty is the opposite of guys like Dukes or Francoeur. He isn't a great athlete, was just a 12th-round pick (out of Long Beach State in 2002), and is already 24 years old. But he hit well in A-ball, and has made a successful transition to Double-A this year. His walk rate is down compared to what he did in the low minors (he drew 88 walks last year but is on course for just over half that this year). Isolated Discipline is .072, compared to .107 last year. But Mobile isn't an easy place to hit, so overall I think the Padres have to be pleased. His defensive limitations and lack of speed are a limiting factor in his ability to get playing time, but I can see him becoming a successful "have bat, will travel"guy.