Minor League Notes, May 28, 2010
Continuing yesterday's look at the batting title leaders through May 27th.
**Leading the California League in hitting is San Jose first baseman Brandon Belt, hitting a robust .384/.477/.560 thus far, with 29 walks and 30 strikeouts in 159 at-bats. The 2009 fifth round pick from the University of Texas is certainly having few problems adjusting to A-ball pitching, showing strong plate discipline. He's a good athlete for a first baseman and has even stolen 10 bases. The main issue remains home run power: he's only knocked three so far, and until we see how much power he'll have against better pitching, he won't rank among the super-elite first base prospects in the game. But he's done enough so far to justify pre-season expectations that he was a sleeper.
**Eric Hosmer has cooled off a bit, but still leads the Carolina League in hitting at .370/.439/.534, with 22 walks and just 15 strikeouts in 173 at-bats for Wilmington. The laser eye surgery story is well known and it seems pretty clear that vision problems were the main thing holding him back last year. On the other hand, he's even stolen seven bases in seven attempts, and reports I have from Carolina League observers indicate that he seems a bit quicker about the bag and in the field this year. One of the complaints last season was that he was less athletic than advertised. I can't see how a vision issue would have impacted his speed and mobility, so ultimately I wonder if there was something else going on in addition to the eyesight in '09. In any event, Hosmer just looks a lot better this year in multiple ways. On the negative side, he's hit just two homers so far, and if I were the Royals I would leave him at Wilmington until August.
**The current Florida State League batting leader is Lakeland's Alden Carrithers, hitting .364/.467/.417 in 151 at-bats with 29 walks and 21 strikeouts. A 15th round pick out of UCLA in 2008, Carrithers is an undersized (5-9, 165) second baseman with a short stroke from the left side and a polished approach. He hit .307 in 45 games in the Midwest League last year, and .316 in rookie ball in '08, so the high averages are no fluke for him. On the other hand, he lacks power and at age 25 is old for the Florida State League. He's not a great prospect, but his performance is good enough to keep him on the radar as a possible role player. Let's see what he can do in Double-A.
**The Midwest League batting hunt is led by Jerry Sands of Great Lakes, currently hitting .366/.443/.720 with 22 walks and 40 strikeouts in 175 at-bats. He's also stolen nine bases in ten attempts. A 25th round pick from Catawba College in 2008, Sands is a big guy at 6-4, 225, hitting from the right side, but scouts say he has some athleticism, a decent outfield glove, and isn't just a slug on the field. He is a bit old for the Midwest League at age 22, and his plate discipline needs some work, but there is enough here for Sands to rate as a legitimate prospect worth tracking.
**Rounding out the full-season leagues, we find J.D. Martinez of Lexington on top of the South Atlantic League list with a .364/.421/.579 line, with 16 walks and 35 strikeouts in 195 at-bats. A 6-3, 175 pound right-handed hitting outfielder, Martinez was a 20th round pick last year from Nova Southeastern University, where he dominated. He hit .348/.399/.598 last year in rookie ball, so his performance this year is in line with his career in college and the lower minors. He turns 23 in August so he's an older player at this level, but Martinez has destroyed every level of baseball he's played at. His tools are rated as decent, but his small college background hurt his stock in the draft last year.