Afternoon Notes, May 18, 2010
**Pirates outfield prospect Starling Marte is undergoing surgery today to remove a broken hamate bone in his left hand. He's expected to be out until sometime in August. Before the injury, he was hitting .283/.371/.391 with nine steals, seven walks, and 26 strikeouts in 92 at-bats for Low-A Bradenton. He's one of the toolsiest players in the Pirates system, but his power hasn't developed yet and his plate discipline remains sketchy. Hamate issues often stall power, but since it wasn't a big part of his game yet, I doubt this will have any long-term effect.
**Mariners shortstop prospect Nick Franklin is off to an excellent start for Clinton in the Low-A Midwest League, hitting .318/.346/.597 through his first 37 games. A negative is his poor 7/32 BB/K ratio, and plate discipline will have to be addressed at higher levels, but you can't argue with a .597 SLG from a shortstop at age 19. On the other hand, there are some oddities in his splits: he's unstoppable at home (.408/.432/.842) but weak on the road (.231/.259/.359). He kills right-handers (.350/.373/.625) but has some issues with lefties (.206/.250/.500, good power but horrible discipline). The strong power development is interesting: last year at this time, he was considered to be a good fielder and athlete who should hit for average, but most scouts doubted about his power potential. The Mariners were sold on him and drafted him 27th overall. Although he has some weaknesses, his fast start is very encouraging and the power is good to see.
**Rockies outfielder Tim Wheeler was drafted in the supplemental first round last June, 32nd overall. The Sacramento State product was considered polished, with solid-if-unspectacular tools across the board. So far, that scouting report seems about right given his performance with Modesto in the California League: .258/.372/.371 with seven steals in 10 attempts, 22 walks in 132 at-bats. He's showing good plate discipline and getting on base, and is fairly dangerous once there, but his power hasn't blossomed yet and his overall production does not stand out. Although a 33 game sample is not huge, he put up very similar numbers in the Northwest League last summer: .256/.332/.381 with 10 steals in 68 games. His walk rate is higher this year, but otherwise things haven't changed much. Wheeler has exceeded expectations before, but right now it looks like pre-draft concerns that he could be a tweener were justified.
**A year ago, Garrett Richards was a struggling college pitcher at the University of Oklahoma, with a 6.00 ERA. He fanned 85 guys in 75 innings, but walked 38 and gave up 78 hits somehow, despite a blistering fastball that could hit 95 MPH and a breaking ball with plus movement. This was not an exception: he had a 6.97 ERA in 2008 and a 6.30 ERA in 2007, with worse peripherals. The Angels made him a supplemental pick anyway due to his arm strength, and he blossomed in rookie ball, posting a 1.53 ERA and a 30/4 K/BB in 35 innings for Orem, showing dramatically improved control.
Richards has come back to Earth a little bit for Class A Cedar Rapids this year, with a 3.96 ERA and a 48/18 K/BB in 50 innings, 47 hits allowed. This isn't bad performance and is certainly much better than college, but his walk rate has crept back up against better competition. He's still showing plus stuff and a nice 2.24 GO/AO ratio. It will be interesting to see how aggressive the Angels are about promoting him. I would leave him in the Midwest League to work on his command more, but they haven't asked me.