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Thursday Pebble Report:

Colorado Springs: Off

Tulsa: L 3-5

Arkansas just nibbled away at Alan Johnson over the course of his eight inning start, and although he wound up taking the loss, there's not much to be down on him for. Six strikeouts, just one walk and seven hits, one a solo homerun, two others went for doubles and a 14/4 GO/AO rate, and the efficiency to limit himself to just 93 pitches. Over eight innings from a contact pitcher, there's not much more we could ask for. Tony Blanco, Jeff Kindel, Daniel Carte and Rick Guarno all had two hits in the loss.

Modesto: W 5-4

Nick Haley scored two runs, the first after walking and being tripled in by Daniel Mayora to start Modesto's big three run fifth inning rally, the second via another walk, a stolen base and a catcher's throwing error to get to third, and a wild pitch to score the game winner in the bottom of the eleventh.

I had a chance to see Angel Cabrera play earlier this season in Dayton, and I know Modesto pitchers will be grateful for the defense he provides and Modesto coaches will be grateful for his energy and clear passion for the game. So far they've also been grateful for the bat, which has been a little surprising in a very small sample, as he had two more hits last night. While not quite a major steal by the Rockies, it was a smart move to pick up a player whose reputation was probably unfairly smeared by his association with one of minor league baseball's uglier incidents this year. The link Russ provided yesterday to Brian VanderBeek's blog can fill in on the details, I just forgot to mention my endorsement of this particular dumpster dive.

Asheville: W 7-2

Connor Graham allowed just one single and four walks in five and two-thirds innings. He did not get a "quality start"  therefore, because of that last out. Clearly he's a loser. I kid Graham will be in my top 20 at the end of the season. Bo Bowman's eight game hitting streak  continued with a three for five night. Over those eight games, 15 for 28 isn't too bad...


Shut up, inner Goldstein, I'm really actually kind of impressed with Bowman this season...

Park effects! Age relative to league!

Yeah, yeah, so seven of those eight games were at Asheville,and West Virginia's field isn't exactly PETCO in its proportions. The fact is, actually, I'm still liking how Bowman's doing exactly what we'd want from an older player, that is to say, hitting like he doesn't belong where he's at. I'm not going to be ranking him, but there's no reason not to like the year he's put together and at least be a little optimistic for his chances. David Christensen and Mike Mitchell both also had a pair of hits each.

Tri-City: W 9-5

In yesterday's comments I talked about the relatively high number of sleepers in Casper despite the fact that several of them are putting up some rather bland averages in a hitter's environment. In Tri-City, I'm not nearly as sanguine with the position players. Charlie Blackmon (two runs on a walk and single last night) and Scott Robinson (two singles, two runs) are clearly prospects (of course we had that debate Sunday about how good of a prospect Blackmon is, but there's no doubt that he's someone to watch closely and be hopeful for). I think it's too early to call on Leonardo Reyes, and he has the tools to be a lot better than what he's shown this season. Other than Reyes, however, I think the only player that I really look to as a sleeper anymore is Thomas Field.

Two players that have sort of dropped off my radar this season, Austin Rauch and Jordan Pacheco, each had quality nights at the plate, with both tallying two hits and a walk. For me, they fall into a category just below Field and Reyes, where I wouldn't be surprised if they came back into play as potential prospects, but as of right now, there's not much reason to suspect that they will. Both switched positions this year, and the adjustments to a new position may be carrying over to their ability to hit somehow/ This is a possibility I find more likely with Pacheco who's taken up the challenge of being a catcher, but there's not a whole lot of growth in his bat left and with Iannetta in the MLB, McKenry doing well in Modesto, the higher ceiling Lars Davis in Asheville and the phenom Rosario in Casper, Pacheco will need to boost his performance considerably to elevate his position on the depth chart.

At 20, Rauch has a bit more potential, the power evident in the better than 1 out of 3 ratio he has of hits going for extra bases is a good sign, but he's also got the kind of contact issues characteristic of several players the two levels ahead of him that I think will ultimately stall him. If he has to sacrifice some power to make better contact, what will we be left with? This is where despite his youth, his position limitation has me a bit more pessimistic than I would normally be.

Casper: L 1-8

LSU-Eunice has been a tremendous feeder program for LSU's main campus in baseball, and a highly regarded junior college program for quite some time. The 2008 team won a NJCAA Div-II national championship largely thanks to two players on opposite sides of last night's Casper/Great Falls tilt, unfortunately Great Falls' former Bengal, pitcher Joshua Billeaud (18th round pick by the White Sox), came out on the winning end over Casper's LSUE player, Delta Cleary, and the Ghosts. Orlando Sandoval was the only Ghost with two hits, Zack Murry the only Ghost with an extra base hit, and Wilin Rosario the only Ghost with a run. I've documented Rosario's plate blocking struggles before, something that's not really showing up on scouting reports even though we have numerous eyewitness accounts out of Casper, and numbers like last night's two passed ball, four wild pitch night to back up the claim. Like I've been saying, though, this isn't a worry at this stage of his development yet; it's just something to take note of and watch for improvement in as he moves forward through the system. His bat alone would make him a top ten prospect in our system this season. His bat plus his arm plus his potential for improvement behind the plate would make him top ten worthy in any season.