Minor League Notes, April 29th, 2011
**Chicago Cubs prospect Austin Kirk had a strong start for Low-A Peoria on April 26th, throwing six strong innings against Clinton, allowing one run on four hits, fanning six. On the season, he's now 2-1, 2.00 with a 18/6 K/BB in 18 innings with 10 hits allowed. A third round pick in 2009 from high school in Owasso, Oklahoma, Kirk works in the 88-90 range, mixing in a very good curveball and a workable changeup. His control is solid and he has a good feel for pitching. As always at this point in the year, the sample is small, but Kirk showed pitching skill in the short-season leagues and has brought that forward to full-season ball. He's a sleeper who needs to be watched, just the equivalent of a college sophomore right now.
**Another intriguing Midwest League southpaw sleeper is Mariners prospect Anthony Fernandez, a 6-4, 180 pounder pitching for Low-A Clinton. His stats aren't great to look at this far: 4.82 ERA, 13/9 K/BB in 19 innings, 20 hits. What's interesting about him is a power sinker that's given him a 2.70 GO/AO thus far, and he's given up just two homers in 156 career innings. His slider has potential, and at age 20 he's got considerable projection left. He was on my pre-season sleeper list, and while he hasn't really woken up yet, there are things to like here.
**A possible relief sleeper in the next year or two is Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Marquis Fleming. A 25th round pick in 2008 from Cal State Stanislaus, he's got a 3.24 ERA in nine outings for Double-A Montgomery, but with an excellent strikeout rate: 23/7 K/BB in 17 innings so far. He fanned 96 in 72 innings last year in High-A. Fleming doesn't show up on prospect lists due to a mediocre fastball, but he's got a terrific changeup. He's a possible middle reliever, but I like it when 25th round picks show potential.
**Colorado Rockies lefty Christian Friedrich has made four starts for Double-A Tulsa. Two of them (April 8th, April 19th) have gone well, while two (April 14th and April 27th) have been weak (he gave up 10 hits and seven runs in four innings on the 27th). Overall he has a 7.65 ERA with a 16/8 K/BB in 20 innings with 26 hits allowed. Given the caveats of sample size, we can't draw broad conclusions from this even though he struggled last year at the same level. He's reportedly in good health after a winter of rehab work, and that was the main concern following two years of elbow woes. His mechanics were reportedly in better condition this spring after he struggled with them last year.