Minor League Notes, April 19, 2012
**A slow start from San Francisco Giants outfield prospect Gary Brown: .208/.316/.229 in 48 at-bats for Double-A Richmond, with four walks and 10 strikeouts. He's hit just one double and has failed in two of his three steal attempts. Brown was all the rage in the California League last year, where he hit .336/.407/.519 while stealing 53 bases. However, he didn't hit well in the Arizona Fall League, and he's not hitting now, with a disturbing lack of power. The sample is too small to generate serious concern as yet, but the situation bears close watching.
**New York Yankees outfield prospect Mason Williams made a lot of noise last summer by hitting .349/.395/.468 for the Staten Island Yankees in the New York-Penn League, hitting excellently while also showing a superior center field glove. He entered 2012 with lofty expectations, and so far he is off to another fine start, hitting .315/.339/.463 through 12 games for Low-A Charleston in the South Atlantic League. He's stolen six bases in seven attempts, and he's only struck out twice in 54 at-bats. On the other hand, he's only drawn one walk, but at this point of his career the extremely low strikeout ratio stands out as a huge positive. Williams has made good progress learning to use his speed on the bases, and it looks like he has a shot at living up to the pre-season hype.
**Another fast starter: outfielder Jiwan James in the Philadelphia Phillies system, currently hitting .310/.326/.595 in 13 games for Double-A Reading. One of the best athletes in baseball, James posted mediocre numbers in both 2010 (.270/.321/.365 in Low-A) and 2011 (.268/.327/.363 in High-A), failing to live up to expectations generated by his tools. In the early going this year he has been driving the ball more effectively and showing more power, but his strike zone judgment remains weak (two walks, 14 strikeouts in 42 at-bats) and he has to prove that this is more than just a hot streak.
**Another member of the tools brigade is Texas Rangers outfield prospect Jordan Akins. He has star-level athleticism with 20/20 potential, but he isn't a very good baseball player yet, hitting .243/.282/.432 with three steals, one walk, and 12 strikeouts so far in 37 at-bats for Low-A Hickory. He hit .283/.312/.428 with six walks and 42 strikeouts in 180 at-bats last year in the Arizona Rookie League, so shaky strike zone judgment is an obvious thread in his tapestry. He turns 20 today and has lots of time to develop the skills to make his tools meaningful, but it may take some time. Upside: Matt Kemp. Downside: some guy who fizzles in Double-A.