Minor League Notes, May 12, 2012
**Houston Astros outfield prospect George Springer had a tremendous game Friday, hitting three homers for High-A Lancaster in the California League, bringing his season line to .310/.356/.572 overall with eight homers. He's also stolen eight bases in nine attempts, and the power/speed combination that made him a first-round pick last June is clear for all to see.
The University of Connecticut product still has caution signs in his profile, particularly with an aggressive approach that leads to a high strikeout rate, 44 whiffs in 145 at-bats over 35 games so far. He drew a lot of walks in college but has been less patient and more aggressive in pro ball, granted it hasn't harmed his production yet, on the surface anyway. He has a sharp home/road split (1.084 OPS in his friendly home park, .747 on the road). It will be very interesting to see how soon the Astros are willing to move him up to Double-A, and it may take some time for Springer to adapt against better pitching.
**The Chicago Cubs have high hopes for High-A outfielder Matt "Scrabble" Szczur, one of the best pure athletes in baseball. He made a lot of noise by hitting .314/.366/.431 with 17 steals in 66 games in the Midwest League last year, but his hitting tailed off after being promoted to High-A, with a .260/.283/.410 mark. Returning to Daytona this year, he's still not showing a lot of pop with an overall line of .250/.353/.348, although his plate discipline has improved a great deal (17/22 BB/K in 132 AB, compared to 5/20 BB/K in 173 last year). He's stolen 16 bases in 21 attempts and has the kind of defensive ability you'd expect with those wheels, but he's got to do more with the stick. Szczur has now played 76 games in High-A with a .256/.315/.384 mark, and that won't cut it at higher levels.
**Sticking with the toolsy outfielder theme, Boston Red Sox prospect Brandon Jacobs is having an OK season in the Carolina League, hitting .284/.333/.405 for Salem with 11 doubles and nine steals in 11 attempts. On the negative side, he's having plate discipline/contact issues (which seems a common problem for tools types), with an 8/35 BB/K thus far in 116 at-bats. He posted a 43/123 mark in 442 at-bats for Low-A Greenville last year, although his erratic plate discipline certainly didn't harm his production (.303/.375/.505 with 17 homers and 30 steals). Jacobs has been devastating against left-handed pitching (1.076 OPS) but has struggled against right-handed pitchers (.250/.302/.330) amidst reports of continued problems with breaking balls and swing mechanics. His upside remains very high and at age 21 there's no need to rush him.
**Another Carolina League outfielder of interest is Kansas City Royals prospect Brett Eibner, who has some of the best raw power in the minors but struggles making contact. He's hitting .209/.314/.462 with six doubles and five homers, but has fanned 37 times in just 91 at-bats. Eibner is actually fairly patient and draws his share of walks (14 so far) but he simply swings and misses too often and has done so since his days back at the University of Arkansas. Many scouts preferred him as a pitcher in college and he could return to that role if he can't make the necessary adjustments in his approach.