Minor League Notes, June 18th, 2011
**Los Angeles Dodgers prospect Garrett Gould has quietly had an excellent season in the Midwest League, outpitching more-heralded teammate Zach Lee for the Great Lakes Loons. Gould is 7-2, 1.54 in 13 starts, with a 65/21 K/BB in 70 innings and just 47 hits allowed. Gould was a second round pick in 2009 out of high school in Maize, Kansas. The Dodgers spent $900,000 to keep him away from college ball at Wichita State. He threw in the mid-90s in high school but was down to just 88-91 last year in the Pioneer League.
Midwest League sources say he's back in the low-90s this year, and is showing an outstanding curveball and steadily improving changeup. Gould has also lowered his walk rate compared to last year, and has been especially dominant against right-handed hitters, holding them to a .148 mark. Although he appears to be in the midst of a genuine breakout season, he's given up an unusually large number of unearned runs and his ERA likely overstates his progress. Indeed, his FIP of 3.36 is virtually the same as last year's 3.39 mark in the Pioneer League. It will be interesting to see how aggressive the Dodgers are about promoting him.
**Another young pitcher dominating the Midwest League is Seattle Mariners right-hander Taijuan Walker. He had an excellent start last night for Clinton, fanning 11 in seven innings, allowing two walks, two hits, and one run, though he got no offensive support and ended up taking the loss. He's 2-3 on the year, but with a 2.40 ERA and an impressive 56/16 K/BB in 45 innings with 36 hits allowed. I also like his 2.43 GO/AO ratio; the strikeout/grounder combination is excellent, and he's given up just one homer. Walker was a supplemental first round pick from high school in Yucaipa, California. He was supposed to be raw when drafted, but has shown more polish than anticipated. His stuff is terrific (mid-90s sinker, plus curve, improving change) and he definitely ranks as one of the top RHP prospect in the game, probably already in the Top 20.
**A third impressive Midwest League arm is Wisconsin right-hander Tyler Thornburg, drafted in the third round by the Brewers last year out of Charleston Southern. He's 7-0 in 12 starts, with a 1.57 ERA and a 76/25 K/BB in 69 innings with just 49 hits allowed. Thornburg isn't big at 5-11, 185, but he generates good arm speed and can hit 95. His curveball is a plus pitch, but the development of his changeup, as well as his sometimes-wobbly command, will determine whether he starts or relieves at higher levels. He's too good for the Midwest League right now and as a college pitcher he should move up sometime in the second half.
**Oakland Athletics prospect A.J Griffin doesn't have the draft pedigree of Gould, Walker, or Thornburg. He was a 13th round draft pick in 2010 from the University of San Diego, but he's off to a great start in '11. He began with Burlington in the Midwest League, going 4-0, 1.56 in eight starts with a 46/5 K/BB in 52 innings. Promoted to High-A Stockton, he's 2-2, 2.93 in 31 innings so far with a 32/6 K/BB. He also made one emergency spot start for Triple-A Sacramento earlier this month, and did quite well, allowing three runs in six innings with eight strikeouts. Griffin has an average fastball in the 88-92 range, but both his slider and changeup have above-average moments. He's mowing down A-ball competition due to his superior command. Although scouts project him as a fourth starter or long relief type, he bears close watching as a sleeper.