From the sensational bat of Jason Kipnis to the absolute domination of Chris Archer, let’s take a quick tour of AA ball. Who will get the promotion to AAA and more importantly how long until they make it the big leagues?
Beau Mills, 1B, Cleveland
AA Line: .231, 8 HR, 61 RBI
The No. 13 overall selection in the 2007 draft has regressed badly in his second season at AA.
Mills, 24, hit .293 with 21 homers and 90 RBI in at the same level in '09, drastically ahead of his current pace. He's hitting an inferior .189 in August, marking his third sub-.200 month. He also posted a .169 April and .162 June.
The left-handed swinging Mills has faced significant struggles against southpaws, batting .203 with only seven extra base hits (one HR) and a 7:25 BB:K ratio. The above splits are staggering coming from a line-drive hitter with a professional approach.
Outside of a .320, five HR, 23 RBI July, he's been downright disappointing.
Jason Kipnis, 2B, Cleveland
AA Line: .339, 9 HR, 34 RBI
Mills' teammate in Akron has confronted no such challenges.
Kipnis has been nothing short of sensational since being promoted from the Advanced A Carolina League, raising his batting average .039 points and OPS over .100 points in the Eastern League.
He's batting .377 in August with three HR and 13 RBI. He's an impossible out with runners in scoring position, hitting .417 with a 1.226 OPS. Kipnis has yet to display a weakness at the plate through two minor league seasons and continues to raise the bar at each level of competition.
He's on the fast track to the show, especially as his power continues to develop.
Devin Mesoraco, C, Cincinnati
AA Line: .294, 13 HR, 31 RBI
Mesoraco is the portrait of growth as a ball player in a short period of time.
A year ago he was sputtering in the Florida State League, hitting .228 with limited pop. In 99 games between Advanced A and AA ball in 2010, he has quickly turned the corner.
He's batting .313 with 23 HR and 62 RBI, with an OPS .300 points higher than last season. Mesoraco is torturing left-handed pitching with a .365 BA and five HR in 52 plate appearances. His weaknesses have come with ducks on the pond, hitting just .204 with RISP, a figure that he will need to elevate with experience.
It's time to take notice that Mesoraco is a legitimate catching prospect.
Adam Loewen, OF, Toronto
AA Line: .254, 12 HR, 62 RBI
Questioning Loewen's athletic prowess would be an exercise in futility.
The former No. 4 pick in the 2002 draft had his pitching career ripped away by arm injuries, but his future as a position player appears filled with promise.
In his second minor league campaign as a full-time outfielder, the 26-year-old has made massive strides, adding .018 points to his batting average, eight HR and 31 RBI from last season's final totals in Advanced A. He's been wearing out the gaps, hitting 22 doubles in '09 and 27 this season.
As expected, he's still quite raw at the dish. His strikeout total is an exorbitant 119 and his .237 BA against LHP is a work in progress. But Loewen's batting eye and plate discipline give him a solid foundation to work with, already drawing 53 BB. Oh yeah, he's got wheels too, swiping 14 bags.
Can you say a more talented Rick Ankiel?
Chris Archer, RH SP, Chicago Cubs
AA Line: 7-1, 1.26, 49 K
And to think Archer's numbers in the FSL looked impressive. Holy moley!
His performance through nine AA starts has been, in a word, FREAKISH.
Apparently the step up in class hasn't rattled his cage. I know his ERA is tough to see, but it's there somewhere. He's allowed 32 hits in 50 innings of work for a .185 batting average against, and his groundout-to-airout ratio is 1.66.
The one chink in his armor has been command, walking a whopping 32. When you're that tough to square up, just throw strikes. Nevertheless, despite putting base runners on, he's done a superb job pitching out of trouble.
Archer was stuck on the lower levels for four years, but is still only 21 and it's coming together fast. His fastball sits in the low-mid 90's and his sharp curve is "the pitch".
The Cubs acquired Archer from the Indians as part of the package for Mark DeRosa in '08.
Deolis Guerra, RH SP, Minnesota
AA Line: 2-9, 5.99 ERA, 61 K
Guerra's pitching line is not a misprint.
The once highly-touted Mets farmhand, and centerpiece of the Johan Santana deal, has fallen on rough times.
After a mediocre-at-best '09 season in AA, the Twins moved him up to AAA for the start of '10. He did not reward the team's faith in him, getting hammered in four starts to the tune of a 6.84 ERA and .337 BAA.
The demotion has not aided matters, as he seems flat out lost at sea right now. Opponents in AA are once again hitting over .300 against him and he's surrendered 114 hits in 94-and-two-thirds innings. His lack of confidence is readily apparent in RISP situations, where batters are hitting .364. Escaping trouble is not his forte.
Unfortunately, the positive signs are few and far between. The best news of all is he's only 21, but a young pitcher can only take so much battering.
Jeremy Jeffress, RH SP/RP, Milwaukee
AA Line: 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 9 K
After serving a 100-game suspension for failing a second drug test, Jeffress is back pitching in the minors, and back with a bang.
During his first stop in the Midwest League (A) he pitched eight hitless innings, striking out 14 in the process.
He faced some adversity during his eight-game stretch in the FSL, finishing with a 5.40 ERA, but once again whiffed 14 batters in 10 innings. Through nine innings of work in the Southern League, he's yet to surrender a run, allowing four hits and striking out nine.
There was never any denying his talent or rare power arm (upwards of 100 MPH), but his head has always held him back. Has Jeffress turned the page, or is another blip waiting right around the corner?
For baseball's sake, let's hope he's focused on pitching. He's a special one and can be a real quick riser.
Recent Promotions to AA
Danny Espinosa, 2B, Washington; Xavier Avery, OF, Baltimore; Julio Teheran, SP, Atlanta; and Randall Delgado, SP, Atlanta.