What Is Wrong With These Prospects?
A look at five players who are not living up to expectations so far.
John Danks, LHP, Texas Rangers:
Current Numbers: 2-4, 5.45 ERA for Double-A Frisco, 44/14 K/BB ratio in 35 innings, 48 hits allowed, seven homers.
What is Wrong? Danks struggled when promoted to Double-A last year, and this looks like a continuation. He has good stuff, but seems quite hittable despite the fact that he throws hard for a lefty. Righthanded hitters seem to pick up his curveball pretty well, but this year he is getting killed by lefties, too (.364/.451/.727). Reports are that he is leaving too many pitches up in the strike zone. The good news is that his K/IP ratio remains very good, but he obviously has some adjustments to make.
Is There Hope? He is just 21 years old, so as long as he is healthy, yes there is hope. But Danks' timetable has to be pushed back. He won't see Texas this year, and unless he turns things around soon, a refresher course in A-ball should be on the table.
Andy Marte, 3B, Cleveland Indians
Current Numbers: .238/.327/.331 for Triple-A Buffalo, one homer, 8 RBI, 18 walks, 38 strikeouts in 130 at-bats.
What is Wrong?: He played well early but fell into a slump when the calendar turned over to May. No word about any hidden injury, although that's possible. It's also possible he is simply discouraged about not making the team in spring training. Given his age (22), the fact that he is still controlling the strike zone reasonably well, and his previous track record, I am not overly concerned about him long-term. His strikeout rate is up this year, possibly a sign of excessive power-consciousness. . . he may be trying too hard to hit for power in an attempt to get back to the majors. He is hitting much better on the road (.309) than at home (.207). He's also hitting just .115 with runners in scoring position. These are all signs of a player who is "playing tight."
Is There Hope?: Of course. I think he's just pressing right now.
Troy Patton, LHP, Houston Astros
Current Numbers: 0-4, 4.36 for Class A Salem, with a 39/16 K/BB in 33 innings, 34 hits allowed, two homers.
What is Wrong?: He posted a 2.63 ERA in 41 innings for Salem last summer, so his numbers this year represent a comedown, although he's looked better lately and the W-L is a bit deceptive. K/IP remains very strong. His control has been erratic due to mechanical inconsistency, which keeps him from having consistent touch on his curveball and changeup. At this point, the best news is that he has been healthy, without recurrence of shoulder soreness that dogged him at times last year.
Is There Hope?: Absolutely, given his age (20) and past track record. This is the first time he's really been challenged in pro ball. As long as his strikeout rate remains strong and his shoulder isn't sore, he still has a good chance to succeed.
Cliff Pennington, INF, Oakland Athletics
Current Numbers: .158/.274/.178 for Class A Stockton, two doubles, eight RBI, 15 walks, 24 strikeouts in 101 at-bats. Six steals in seven attempts.
What is Wrong? A good question! Pennington held his own in the Midwest League last year, jumping directly from the Big 12. But he has been overmatched this year. Positive sign is the fact that he is still drawing walks, but unless he starts to hit with more authority, that won't matter. There is probably some bad luck BIBIP here, and I really can't believe, given his college track record and what he did in the Midwest League, that he's a .158 hitter. His statistical splits don't show much.
Is There Hope? My guess is that he will pull out of this by the middle of June, but that the slow start will suppress his season statistics in a major way. If he can get his numbers back up to around .250 with a good OBP and some doubles, he should be happy.
Marcus Sanders, 2B, San Francisco Giants
Current Numbers: .194/.286/.272 for Class A San Jose, six doubles, eight RBI, 13 walks, 22 strikeouts in 103 at-bats. 12 steals in 14 attempts.
What is Wrong? Like Pennington (although not as extreme), Sanders is still drawing a decent amount of walks but just isn't hitting the ball with much authority. He seems to be having a hard time against righthanders, hitting just .162 against them but .273 against lefties. His home/road split is also extreme, hitting just .130 in road games. His strikeout rate is identical to last year's, which I take as a good sign: he's making the same amount of contact he made last year, but isn't having the hits fall in the same way.
Is There Hope? He's only 20 years old. Like Pennington, I expect Sanders will pull out of it. His hole isn't as deep as Pennington's, and by the end of the year I think his numbers will be pretty solid.