Three National League Prospect Sleepers
Here is an early update on three personal favorite sleeper prospects to watch in the NL in 2006.
Chris Carter, DH-1B-OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
As you well know, the Arizona system is loaded with hitters. As a result, Chris Carter is often overlooked when Diamondback prospects are discussed. Yet he entered 2006 with a career mark of .311/.395/.552, and is currently 11-for-37 (.297) with three doubles in nine games at Triple-A Tucson. He hit 31 homers last year between Lancaster and Tennessee. Carter was a 17th round pick in 2004 out of Stanford. His bat is legitimate: he has plus bat speed, power, and adequate plate discipline. I think he'll do fine in the PCL.
What he does not have is a glove. He is slow and has bad hands. His arm strength is decent, but he doesn't have the mobility for the outfield, or the quickness for third base, and he's barely adequate at first. A born DH in other words, not someone that Arizona will be able to get a lot of use out of, except in a pinch-hitting role. But his bat is good enough that he could make a strong DH someday, if he gets the opportunity.
Michael Brantley, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers drafted Michael Brantley in the seventh round last year, out of high school in Florida. He is the son of former major league outfielder Mickey Brantley. Michael is fast, athletic, and has an interesting bat from the left side. He hit .343/.426/.377 last year in rookie ball, with 16 steals in 21 attempts. He runs well and has the plate discipline to make that speed meaningful in a leadoff role if he continues to develop offensively. The main question is power; he might not have much, although his father had some decent pop in his bat.
Brantley is off to a slow start this year, going 4-for-26 (.154) for the West Virginia Power in the Sally League, though he's stolen two bases and has struck out only two times (at least he is making contact). Given his age (18), his bloodlines, and his debut last year, I think he's worth keeping an eye on.
Justin Towles, C, Houston Astros
Towles was picked in the 20th round in 2004, out of North Central Texas Junior College. He hasn't received a lot of attention yet, but that will change. Towles came into 2006 with a career mark of .304/.410/.447 at the short-season and A-ball levels. The sample is just 84 games, but his production has been impressive thus far. He also stole 15 bases, and has unusual athleticism and mobility for a catcher. His defensive reputation is improving, and his bat is obviously interesting.
2006 is going well so far: Towles is 10-for-21 (.476) for Lexington in the Sally League, with two doubles, a triple, a homer, and two steals. He hasn't drawn a walk yet and has six strikeouts, but strike zone judgment was not a problem for him in the past and probably won't be once the sample gets larger this year. He is already 22 years old, not an ideal age for the Sally League, but the Astros tend to be patient with their prospects and advance them slowly.
I will be spending Easter with family, so this will be my last post until Monday morning. Everyone have a safe weekend, please. Drive carefully.