Colorado Springs: L 9-13
Joe Koshansky got a couple steps closer to having a 30-30-.300 season by hitting his 27th homer and going two for two to reach that .300 BA. Koshansky's likely going to get another shot in September to show that his bat isn't too slow for the MLB, I'm actually hoping he gets used a lot to give him as much opportunity to do so as possible. Doug Bernier also hit a grand slam in the loss. Franklin Morales' outing wasn't nearly as discouraging as his last one despite getting hit around a bit in five innings plus. I keep on getting the premonition that he's either going to get shut down for a year with a major surgery over the winter or come back in 2009 with an ace like vengeance for the Sky Sox. Don't ask me why, and you'd definitely be wise to just ignore that statement if you're looking for actual analysis, I'm just putting it out there.
Tulsa: W 7-4, L 6-7
The Drillers split a doubleheader, Tony Blanco had a pair of homeruns and four RBI in game one, while Daniel Carte had a pair of hits, a walk and scored twice in game two. I'm still trying to decide what to do with Brandon Hynick who won game one with six and two thirds innings and four runs allowed on six hits and three walks. There are a couple of reasons to be somewhat terrified of the prospects of him pitching at Coors, and a few that make it seem like a reasonable projection. The key points are first of all that he's clearly still pretty far from being ready to pitch at the MLB level, and that there's a decent chance that he won't get much closer than he is now, but second he's shown a fairly clear line of progress from the point where he entered the minors with Casper to now, and there's not necessarily any reason to think that progress is ready to stop. His K% is back up near 20% this month, and his ERA down to 2.49 even with yesterday's mediocre start. I think it's pretty clear he'll be starting in Tulsa again in 2009, but a couple of months like this out of the gate could get him a call to Colorado Spings by next June or July, and from there it's just a relatively short drive up the freeway to the big leagues.
"Chacin just knows how to fiddle, just because you own a Stradivarius doesn't mean you can play the violin."
A scout told me that recently when I asked about whether he likes Jimenez or Chacin as the ace of the Rockies rotation in five years. This was a mixed response that was both encouraging for the Machine, but sort of discouraging with the implication that he feels U-ball might not ever reach his full potential. At any rate, Chacin fiddled his way to another standout performance in a duel of top pitching prospects last night. Bakersfield stacked their lineup with left-handers against him, but as has been the case so often this season, it made absolutely no difference and might have actually been counterproductive. The five lefthanded hitters went zero for nine with four K's and a walk. The rest of Bakersfield's lineup went three for eight with a strikeout and a GIDP. A grand total of one out of eleven balls put into play left the infield in the air, a line drive single in the fifth. The other two hits were both off grounders.
Michael McKenry homered for one run and Nick Haley more or less manufactured the other two by himself off of smart baserunning and taking advantage of Bakersfield mistakes. Michael Paulk and Nelson Robledo both had a pair of hits in the win.
Asheville: W 8-5
Cory Riordan bookended two solo homeruns at the beginning and end of an otherwise strong seven inning performance to pick up this win. In a rebuilding year for the system, Riordan's performance is good enough to keep him around in my top 30, probably just outside the top 20, in fact. While I thought he might have been trailing off earlier this month, it's looking more like that was just random noise after he's peeled off a couple of solid starts. He's keeping a +20% K rate and sub 5% BB rate, which is actually pretty good for a pitcher of Riordan's type in the Rockies system where contact is king.
Kevin Clark homered, his 16th, which ties him for the team lead. It was an opposite field shot, and the fact that he can hit it to all fields is a good thing. The fact that he's been striking out nearly 40% of the time this month is definitely not.
Guys who have their K numbers go the wrong direction while staying at the same level can probably be put way on the back-burner when it comes to considering who's going to make the majors. In contrast, I rag on Brian Rike a little in the Tri-City blip and the comments, but at least his sub 20% K rate this month shows a solid effort at trying to fix what had become an apparent issue, and it's stuff like that which might very well keep him in my top 30. And in case any friends or family members of Kevin's are reading this, I'm not saying Clark's not trying or not progressing, I'm not saying he's a hopeless cause, I'm just saying that I can't see where the progression's taking place so I've got to go with what I have. Rike, for his part, had three hits yesterday including a double.
Tri-City: W 5-4
Charlie Blackmon remains a player that I just don't know enough about yet to determine how solid a prospect he is. His draft position and scouting reports say he should be considered a solid prospect. His performance thus far in the Northwest League doesn't do anything to dissuade from that, but unfortunately it doesn't certify it either. After a three extra base hit night in yesterday's win, Blackmon is now tied for third in the league in batting average and tied for first in doubles hit. The guy he's tied with on both counts, Josh Vitters, is easily considered a prospect, but then again, Vitters was the best hitter in the 2007 draft and is just 18 years old compared to Blackmon's 21. In Blackmon's defense, because of the way the two players' home parks skew the numbers he's actually hitting better than Vitters this season, but not nearly enough to make up for the three year gap in their ages.
Diamondbacks prospect Cyle Hankerd (Fight on, Cyle!) in 2006 for Yakima hit .384/.426/.519 in exactly as many at bats as Blackmon has had up to this point for Tri-City before Cyle got called up to Lancaster to use that wind aided launching pad to further pad his first season stats. In the two seasons since, Cyle's shown himself to be little more than an MLB fourth outfielder at best, and is sputtering along in Mobile this season to a .616 OPS that says he's going to repeat AA. With an adjustment made to a luck driven high BABIP for Hankerd, he and Blackmon would appear to be very similar players at this point in their careers. Blackmon has a couple of advantages, however. First, he's left handed, Hankerd's right, meaning Blackmon should be helped by facing more RHP's. Second, Blackmon's contact rates, which have been dipping to close to that 10% K line, already show that he's taken a step that Hankerd had yet to show in the NWL and are more encouraging to me than Brian Rike's walk heavy OBP numbers in 2007. Usually OBP is a good thing, but for college players just entering a rookie league, with all the erratic high school and Latin American pitchers, it can be very misleading, which is a lesson Rike's reinforced to me this year.
Less encouraging is a dramatic home/road split for Blackmon, which I've noticed in the last couple of seasons appear relatively frequently for hitters at Gesa Stadium, and I'm not entirely certain why, since the park factors for Tri-City shouldn't favor hitters. Maybe the Rockies need to check that the exhaust from their busses isn't entering the cabin. At any rate, solid consistency at all parks would be a much better indicator that he'll be able to carry the success to higher levels. As was the case with Rike last season, I'll probably include Blackmon in my top twenty prospects, but I'm not at all convinced that he's the real deal yet.
Parker Frazier this season is becoming more convincing that he'll become an MLB caliber talent, but not giving much reason to expect him to become more than a #4 starter. He's still at a stage of development where progress with his pitches could raise that ceiling, but right now that's where it seems to sit. Frazier went five innings last night, struck out five, and walked four.
Casper: Postponed again, somebody in Wyoming must have angered the baseball gods.
Missing the rest of your Pebble Report? Sorry, I took a long time looking stuff up on Blackmon and have to do my weekly grocery shopping now. I'll try and have the rest edited in later.