Minor League Notes, April 27, 2011
**Los Angeles Angels infield prospect Jean Segura is off to a fast start for High-A Inland Empire in the California League, hitting .352/.410/.465 through 17 games, with six steals and a 6/9 BB/K ratio in 78 plate appearances. The offense is very much in line with what he did last year in the Midwest League (.313/.365/.464), and I'm confident that he'll keep hitting as he moves up.
The big question for this year is defense: he played second base at the lower levels but moved over to shortstop this year. So far, the results aren't bad in terms of reliability: he's made just one error. Scouts report a strong throwing arm, but not everyone believes he'll have the range for shortstop at higher levels, though the Angels decided to see if it would work. His range factor in the early going isn't bad, but the sample is small of course.
**Mixed results so far for Cincinnati Reds shortstop prospect Billy Hamilton with Low-A Dayton in the Midwest League. He's hitting .243/.321/.343 through 18 games, with an 8/18 BB/K in 79 plate appearances. He's stolen 16 bases in 20 attempts, which gives him 78 swipes in 130 games in his minor league career overall. However, he hasn't shown much power this year and is having some issues with contact.
His defense has also been shaky so far, with eight errors in 18 games leading to an .881 fielding percentage, plus a very poor range factor so far. As with Segura, it is too early for the range factors to mean much, and that's a problematic stat in the minors anyway. He was more effective at second base than at shortstop last year in the Pioneer League, and that may end up being his long-term position.
**Seattle Mariners shortstop prospect Nick Franklin is off to a good start in the California League, hitting .295/.434/.475 through 17 games. I especially like his 14/13 BB/K ratio in 78 plate appearances. Although he's made five errors, his range factor at shortstop is strong at an even 5.00 thus far, greatly improved over last year in the Midwest League...though as stated with Segura and Hamilton, we have to let the sample size build up and get some scouting reports.
The thing that stands out for me is the greatly improved plate discipline compared to last year. I had him as a strong Grade B pre-season but that looks low now and I would move that up to B+.
**Another fast starter is Tampa Bay Rays shortstop prospect Hak-Ju Lee, hitting .447/.523/.763 in his first nine games for High-A Charlotte in the Florida State League. Scouts have always loved his glove but questioned his bat, particularly power, but he's already doubled his home run total compared to last year while showing strong strike zone judgment. Again, the sample is tiny, but it is great to see this.
In the book this year, I wrote that "I am optimistic about Lee's chances to develop into a more potent hitter than people currently anticipate. I have nothing objective to back that up, but I'm not going to back down on that feeling yet." Therefore, for ego reasons, I'm rooting for his hot start to continue.
A note on the human ego. Don't kid yourself: people's egos do get involve in matters like this, even for the most objective and self-aware analysts.. I'm really freaking happy that Jed Lowrie is hitting .400/.424/.636 for the Red Sox this year, and that he's hitting .314 with 12 homers, 18 doubles, 28 walks, and 32 strikeouts in his last 256 plate appearances since getting healthy.