Every MLB Team's Worst-Performing "Stud" Prospect This Year
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For every top prospect who had a great year, the Bryce Harpers, Mike Trouts and Matt Moores of the world, there were even more players who came into the season with grand expectations only to suffer gigantic letdowns.
Leading this bandwagon were a couple of very high profile Kansas City prospects, OF Wil Myers and LHP Mike Montgomery. Myers, who enjoyed one of the finest breakout seasons ever produced by a player as young as he was, stumbled out of the gate and ended the 2011 campaign with fewer home runs and RBI, and took a 60-point hit to his batting average. His .254/.353/.393 line was not exactly what the Royals expected from the 10-ranked prospect in the minor leagues, according to Baseball America.
Montgomery's failure was more epic...and you'll read about it in a few slides.
Myers and Montgomery weren't alone in their sorrow. In fact, their fate was shared by some of the top prospects from the Cubs', Rockies' and Twins' systems. Only one player from each organization made this list and while the reasons surrounding their struggles can be argued away in some cases (too young, too inexperienced, etc.) everyone on this list didn't live up to expectations this season.
Justin Bianco, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
Two rounds after the D-Backs selected both Trevor Bauer and Archie Bradley, they pounced on outfielder Justin Bianco from Peters Township High School in Venetia, Penn.
As one of the youngest players taken by Arizona, it's no surprise that Bianco struggled in his first exposure to pro-ball, but the level to which he has taken his struggles has been astounding.
In 199 at-bats, Bianco struck out a whopping 81 times. His average of .206 was the lowest on his rookie Pioneer League squad among any player who had more than 11 games worth of experience. On the rare occasion that Bianco actually got on base, he wasn't very effective, getting caught stealing close to 60 percent of the time.
On the bright side, more than a quarter of Bianco's hits went for extra bases, he has 20 RBI and 24 run scored, plus he drew 22 walks. None of those offset the terrible start at the plate, but the thing that is most in his favor is the fact that he just turned 19 years old last month.
Carlos Perez, LHP, Atlanta Braves
Many people, including myself, had tabbed Perez as a potential breakout star for the 2011 season. The lefty's season could have gone a lot worse, but overall, it was less than inspiring.
For starters, he averaged less than five innings per outing. Granted, five of his "outings" were in fact not starts, bringing down the average a bit, but more often than not he was off the mound by the time the fifth inning rolled around.
In addition to the stamina issue, Perez (4-10) was horribly inconsistent. For example, he threw three hitless innings on August 22, but preceded that outing with a six-hit, three-run affair in which he walked four batters in just three innings. And after his scoreless appearance, he was shellacked to the tune of nine runs, nine hits and three walks in 2.2 innings.
His walk total (66 in 125 innings) was clearly another issue
That kind of performance is the exact opposite of what fellow international hurlers Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado showed in their debuts in the South Atlantic League.
Still, let's not lump too much criticism on Perez. After all, he is just 19-years old and aside from two starts late last season, this was his first exposure to full-season ball.
Matt Hobgood, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
The Hobgood Experiment continues to haunt the Orioles.
The former fifth overall selection, who was widely regarded as a safe "money pick," has been anything but safe or anything resembling a decent pitcher. In fact, it's hard to believe this is the same guy who won Gatorade National Player of the Year honors back in 2009.
It's even crazier to think of the names the O's passed on that season: Mike Minor, Mike Leake, Jacob Turner, Drew Storen, Aaron Crow and Alex White, all of whom have already appeared in the big leagues.
To put Hobgood's epic failure in proportion, while all of these guys (including Turner, who was also a high school pick that year), were plying their trade in the Majors, Hobgood was sucking it up in the Gulf Coast League, approximately six or seven levels below the big leagues, depending on the organization.
A couple other players Baltimore passed on that year include Grant Green, Shelby Miller, Nick Franklin, Brett Jackson and of course, the ultimate kicker...Mike Trout.
Just in case you wanted to know the bloody details of the now 21-year old right-hander, here's his line:
0-6, 8.76 ERA, 13 games, 12 started, 37 innings, 51 hits, 36 earned runs, 22 strikeouts, 26 walks, .331 average against, 3 home runs allowed
The majority of the damage against him came in the New York-Penn League, where batters hit .360 off of him.
Can we get a mulligan?
Drake Britton, LHP, Boston Red Sox
No player in all of baseball, save for maybe Adam Dunn, is wishing harder for a mulligan than Britton, who went from Top Five prospect before the season to gigantic question mark after it.
That's what a 1-13 record and a 6.91 ERA will do for you.
What might be the most amazing thing about Britton's season is that he stayed healthy and made 26 starts. In most other organizations a player with those kind of results would have been put on the DL to simply give him a rest. Instead, Britton gutted through a terrible campaign, in which he lasted only an average of 3.2 innings per start.
In addition to being hit very hard (.285 average against and 12 homers allowed), Britton was also saddled with some bad luck. Even when he pitched well he still ended up on the losing end of things.
Britton is still undeniably talented, and I highly doubt his 2012 campaign will be as ugly as this year's.
Trey McNutt, RHP, Chicago Cubs
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The Cubs thinned out their farm system this past offseason, dealing two of their top prospects (Chris Archer and Hak-Ju Lee) to Tampa in exchange for Matt Garza. The trade left right-hander Trey McNutt as the placeholder among the pitching ranks, and coming off of a break-out season in 2010, there was no reason to think that he wouldn't eventually crack the big-league rotation.
However, upon further examination of his 2010 campaign, it's clear that the 22-year old hit a major roadblock when he was promoted to Double-A for the final couple weeks of the season. He began this year back in the Southern League, and for a while he looked like he had made the necessary adjustments to succeed against Double-A hitters, posting sub-2.40 ERAs in both April and May.
The wheels came off in June, however, and aside from a decent stretch in August he struggled for the remainder of the season. He made three starts in June, but lasted only a combined five innings, walking eight batters and striking out none. He was finally forced to take some time off to let some blisters heal, an issue that plagued him all season. When he returned he was again hit hard (7.16 ERA in five starts).
His final start of the year perfectly summed up his 2011 campaign: four innings, six hits, four runs, five walks and two strikeouts.
More importantly, McNutt didn't pitch well enough to warrant a late-season look with the Cubs, and he didn't even get a look from their Triple-A squad.
Keenyn Walker, OF, Chicago White Sox
The White Sox have been widely panned for their drafting efforts the past few seasons, and interestingly enough, the most stinging barbs have come from inside their own organization as manager Ozzie Guillen and his son have had biting words for upper management.
You can make the case that both sides are right on the team's first selection from this year's draft, Keenyn Walker.
On the surface, Walker had a pretty solid year, hitting .257 over two levels, culminating with a 39-game trial with the Low-A Kannapolis Intimidators. He stole 21 bases and legged out three triples.
However, Walker is going to have to do more than show above-average speed to rise through the ranks in Chicago.
For starters, he needs help getting on base. While he had a solid OBP of .431 in the Pioneer League, that number dropped to .296 in the South Atlantic League.
To make matters worse, he racked up 81 strikeouts in just 54 games and nearly 40 percent of his plate appearances!
And thanks to his speedy nature, the White Sox are likely going to want him to be a top of the lineup presence, but you can bet they'll expect better than his .184 average with the bases empty from their table-setter.
Juan Duran, OF, Cincinnati Reds
Since signing as one of the top international position player prospects back in 2008, Juan Duran has made a relatively quiet climb through the lower levels of Cincinnati's system.
The 6'7" 210-pound giant started in the Dominican Summer League, progressed to the Gulf Coast League, spent last year on the Midwest circuit and this year he finally made his full-season debut here in the states with Low-A Dayton.
Several parts of Duran's game were scintillating. He showed good pop, swatting 16 home runs and driving in 71 runs for the Dragons in 104 games, but the fact that he struck out 152 times in that many games is hard to overlook.
He does get some credit for being relatively young (he turned 20 earlier this month), but striking out in 41 percent of one's at-bats doesn't bode well for any young player
Nick Weglarz, OF, Cleveland Indians
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Not too many years ago, Weglarz was considered one of the top hitting prospects in the Indians' organization. Back in 2007 he hit 24 home runs, walked 83 times and registered a .274 average.
Since that breakout season, however, the former third-round pick has slowly regressed. His average dropped to .272 in 2008, and then to .227 in 2009, his first full-season in Double-A. He had somewhat of a bounce-back season in 2010, but fell apart completely this year.
Back in Double-A, for the third time, Weglarz struggled to keep his head above water. He batted .179 in 41 games and missed the first two months due to a torn MCL suffered in spring training.
Heading into the offseason, Weglarz is now 23 years old and apparently incapable of getting out of Double-A.
Tyler Matzek, LHP, Colorado Rockies
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Probably no top prospect had as terrible a season as Matzek, the former first rounder who was selected 11th overall by the Rockies back in 2009.
Not only did he get destroyed in 10 starts in the High-A Cal League (0-3, 9.82 ERA, 37-to-46 K:BB), but he also got roughed up in the South Atlantic League, a step below the CAL. The results weren't as bad (4.36 ERA, 74-to-50 K:BB), but it wasn't enough to save him from an ugly season line that looked like this: 5-7, 6.22 ERA, 111-to-96 K:BB in 97 IP.
That's practically a walk an inning.
And the worst part was that Matzek had to ask permission to step away after his disastrous start with Modesto, to head back to his hometown to get some tips from his high-school pitching coach. The pep talks helped a bit, but you have to wonder if the lefty will ever recover from a season like this.
Cale Iorg, SS, Detroit Tigers
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Like a couple of other guys on this list, Iorg's star appears to be on the decline. A career that seemed so promising just a few years ago has now hit quite the roadblock.
Lorg appeared to be the team's shortstop of the future back in 2008, the same year that he hit 10 home runs and stole 22 bases in less than 100 games. Unfortunately, he didn't continue to progress, putting up worse numbers each time he rose another level higher.
He seemingly bottomed out last year, hitting a paltry .215 with a career-high 159 strikeouts. The power was still there (11 home runs), but his plate discipline (just 19 walks in 429 plate appearances) is still incredibly below average.
The now 26-year old infielder has spent a good chunk of the past two seasons in Triple-A, where his bat has actually looked a touch better than in Double-A, but it seems like he's destined to be a AAAA player.
Tom Koehler and Elih Villanueva, RHP, Florida Marlins
Both Koehler and Villanueva pitched over their heads last season, racking up a combined 30 victories, while they both posted sub-2.62 ERAs.
This season, things returned to normal, for both pitchers.
Koehler still racked up the wins, 12 to be exact, but struggled greatly with the long ball serving up 18 home runs in 150.1 innings. His ERA nearly doubled, from 2.61 in 2010 to 4.97 this year. Not pretty in any sense of the word, but at least he pitched well enough to warrant a look next year with the big league club.
Villanueva did not, getting saddled with 11 losses, after losing just four last year. His ERA of 5.35 bested Koehler's, but not in a good way. He too was hit hard, serving up 24 home runs in just 165 innings. His K/9 rate went down, while his BB/9 rate nearly doubled.
Delino DeShields Jr., 2B, Houston Astros
Despite making just 18 appearances and logging fewer than 80 at-bats last year, the Astros felt confident enough about DeShields' all-around abilities that they sent him straight to Low-A ball, allowing him to bypass rookie ball almost altogether.
While he likely learned many lessons playing the entire year in the South Atlantic League, DeShields no doubt experiences some major growing pains, struggling to make consistent contact while trying to refine his technique on the base paths.
For a player who was widely considered one of the top speedsters in the 2010 class, logging only 30 steals seems like quite a disappointment, as did his .220 average and 25 percent strikeout rate.
Granted, DeShields is still just 19 years old and already light years ahead of most other players his age, but the team has to hope they haven't killed his confidence like they have so many others over the years.
Mike Montgomery, LHP, Kansas City Royals
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After the fantastic season that the Kansas City farm system had in 2010, there were bound to be some letdowns, but not even the most pessimistic critics could have predicted the unfortunate series of events that would plague them in 2011.
For starters, John Lamb, the true breakout Royal of 2010, hurt his elbow and was forced into Tommy John surgery. Mike Moustakas started off slowly, Eric Hosmer was promoted, thinning out their minor league system and Wil Myers followed up his sensational campaign with a dud.
The worst performance, however, has to belong to highly-touted lefty Mike Montgomery.
Give him credit for making 27 starts, especially with how hard he got hit in Triple-A. Batters slugged 15 homers off of the 22-year-old, more than triple the number he served up last year, and combined to hit .271 against him. He walked a career-high 69 batters, two fewer than he gave up during his previous two seasons (2009-10), and finished with a dreadful 5.32 ERA.
He also came out the loser in 11 contests.
Montgomery was especially bad against lefty batters, serving up just three home runs, but allowing opponents to hit .304 off of him.
No doubt, the experience gained by him will prove invaluable to his big league career, but it's hardly the kind of season you want to see from your top pitching prospect.
Hank Conger, C, Los Angeles Angels
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The 2011 season began with so much promise for Conger.
After languishing in the minors for five seasons, all of which were incredibly productive campaigns, he finally appeared to have the inside track on the big league catching job. He looked so solid in spring training that he actually did begin the season with the Angels, and early on he looked great, notching hits in six of his first eight games.
Then the wheels came off. He mustered only 12 hits in the month of May, seven in June and he found himself shuttling back and forth from Triple-A to Anaheim for the remainder of the season. The split time didn't serve him well. He finished the minor league campaign with a .300 average, but in the Majors he struggled to hit above .200.
He struck out more than double the number of walks he drew and slugged just six home runs in nearly 200 at-bats.
Ethan Martin, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
You just knew things might not turn out for the best for Martin when he was named to the Dodger's High-A California League affiliate to start the 2011 season.
The Cal League has a way of turning great players into barely good ones, and good ones into garbage. While it will still likely be years before we know which kind of player Martin is, it's clear that his early season struggles in the CAL plagued him for the remainder of the season, even after he got clear of the circuit.
In 16 appearances (nine starts), the 22-year-old got hit hard and often, serving up 65 hits in 55 innings. He allowed 45 earned runs and issued nearly one walk per inning. He gave up eight home runs, threw five wild pitches and plunked another five batters. By the time the Dodgers graciously allowed him to go to Double-A, Martin's ERA was up to 7.36.
His performance in the Southern League was much more impressive. He dropped his ERA more than three full runs, cut down on his walks and became more stingy with the long ball. The key to his success, however, may have been that he was moved to the bullpen almost full-time with the move to Chattanooga. He made only three starts in 21 appearances.
Martin was drafted out of a Georgia high school (15th overall in 2008) with very high expectations, but so far he's failed to live up to them, and has fallen into the middle of the pack among Dodgers' pitching prospects.
Kyle Heckathorn, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers supplemental first-round pick back in 2009, Heckathorn was, like so many players on this list, coming off of a career year. He won 10 games, posted a sub-3.00 ERA and had a solid K:BB ratio last year, reaching High-A ball.
This year he began back in the Florida State League and looked like an entirely different pitcher than the one who went 4-0 with a 3.00 ERA in eight starts last season. He did manage to up his win-total by one, but his ERA jumped to 3.95 and he gave up a startling number of hits in 15 starts.
Still, he showed great control and didn't let his troubles change his style. He earned a promotion to Double-A late in the season and was destroyed by Southern League hitters. He picked up the loss in four of his seven starts and couldn't keep his ERA under 7.00. He gave up 45 hits in 36.1 innings, seven home runs and issued nearly as many walks as strikeouts.
Heckathorn will likely stick with his cycle and start the 2012 campaign back in Double-A. Hopefully the results buck the trend he's established and he performs better instead of worse the second time around.
Aaron Hicks, OF, Minnesota Twins
Aaron Hicks took a lot of flak for having to spend all of last year back in the Midwest League, repeating the same circuit that he played in the year before, to pretty much the same results.
He finally earned his way out of the MWL this year, and into the Florida State League, although it didn't take long to figure out that the almost 22-year old was in over his head. He hit .211 in April and could never fully recover, stumbling to a dismal finish with sub-.200 averages in both July and August.
Hicks' average dropped to .242, a career-low and 37 points below the number he posted last year. He only managed five home runs and drove in just 38 runs in 122 games. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find a worse stat-line from a player who made as many appearances as Hicks did.
He did do some things well, however. He rapped a career-best 31 doubles, scored 79 runs (just seven fewer than 2010) and continued to show excellent plate discipline (78-to-110 BB:K).
All things considered, though, time may be running out on the outfielder with tantalizing talent.
Matt den Dekker, OF, New York Mets
Den Dekker was another player that I tabbed before the season as a likely break-out candidate, but just as with Carlos Perez, den Dekker let me down.
Don't get me wrong, there was plenty to like about the 23-year old's season. He was an extra-base hit machine, cranking out 32 doubles, 11 triples and 17 home runs. He also showed some excellent speed (24 steals) and his average (.265) was acceptable.
The one thing I didn't see coming, however, was the incredible number of strikeouts. At Florida, Dekker never struck out more than 49 times in a season and during his sophomore campaign actually logged more walks than Ks. This season, though, he struck out an astounding 156 times in 539 at-bats.
Nearly one-third of his at-bats ended in strikeouts, something that usually portends a significant problem and a major obstacle of prolonged success as a professional baseball player.
Andrew Brackman, RHP, New York Yankees
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Oh Andrew Brackman!
So much talent, so little control.
Brackman has become probably the only member of the Yankee organization more frustrating to watch than A.J. Burnett. At least Burnett has some past success, not to mention a no-hitter, to his name. Brackman, on the other hand, continues to underwhelm despite being one of the most intimidating prospects in all of baseball.
At 6'10" and 230 pounds, there's no wonder the Yankees haven't given up on him. Especially when you consider how good he has the potential to be. For some reason, however, consistency has never been Brackman's strong suit. This year he regressed even further. His issues on the mound were so bad that he was eventually squeezed out of the rotation and moved to the pen.
That did nothing to solve his issues, and he ended the season with one of the worst lines in the system: a .333 winning percentage, an ERA of 6.00 and as many walks (75) as strikeouts.
Pitching in Triple-A for the first time didn't agree with him, as he also served up 10 home runs (a career-high), hit 14 batters (also a career-best) and threw 19 wild-pitches, seven short of a new personal high.
Despite his immense potential, Brackman's career line now looks like this: 15-29, 5.11 ERA, 304-to-190 K:BB ratio in 343.1 innings.
Max Stassi, C, Oakland Athletics
Drafted the same year and one round after Wil Myers, Max Stassi was supposed to be the Athletics' catcher of the future.A player with serviceable-to-solid defensive skills and the tools to be an offensive juggernaut at the plate.
Three years into his career, however, Stassi has shown little if any reason for the A's to remain excited about the now 20-year-old.
After a dismal campaign in the Midwest League in 2010 (.229, 141 Ks in 411 ABs), Stassi continued to climb the ladder, up to the High-A Cal League, where team officials hoped the more offensive nature of the league would jump start his bat. For 31 games, the move failed to pay off.
In that amount of time, Stassi hit a meager .231 with just two home runs and 22 strikeouts. Then he was sidelined for the rest of the year with a shoulder ailment that required surgery.
He'll return next season at age 21, the same as Myers who already has 99 games of experience in Double-A, likely back to the Cal League.
Domonic Brown, OF, Philadelphia Phillies
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The once-upon-a-time super-prospect has had much more hype than production over the past three seasons, in both the majors and minors.
Just like last season, Brown fought hard for a job out of spring training, but was again denied (this time by a broken hamate bone in his hand), the opportunity, relegating him again to the minor leagues. He performed well, but not exceptionally in Triple-A, hitting .261 with just three home runs in 41 games.
His big league production wasn't much better. When finally given the chance to play, he responded with a .246 average and just five long balls.
His final stat-line was enhanced by a five-game stint he had during rehab with High-A Clearwater. There he looked like the uber-prospect everyone once thought, hitting .368 with a home run every 9.5 at-bats.
Zack Von Rosenberg, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Rosenberg ended the season on the most unlikely of high notes.
After struggling through a sensationally brutal campaign in Low-A ball, the 20-year-old right-hander tossed six no-hit innings, striking out six and picking up the victory.
Unfortunately, that start was just one of too few where Rosenberg allowed no runs. He allowed 80 on the season on an astounding 143 hits, in just 125.2 innings. He ranked near the top of the Sally League leaderboard with 19 home runs allowed, and his ERA (5.73) and loss total (nine) also ranked among the worst in the circuit.
It's hard to believe, but his season actually could have been a lot worse. While he was hit harder than arguably any pitcher in the league, he continued to show amazing poise and control on the mound. He issued just 19 walks the entire season, while striking out 114 batters. He never issued more than eight walks in any given month.
Somehow, Rosenberg continued to head to the mound every five or six days, 25 times to be exact, despite getting rocked. He went 0-3 with a 8.49 ERA in May and 1-3 with a 6.15 mark during July.
Donovan Tate, OF, San Diego Padres
The title of this slideshow is "worst performing," which in Tate's case is kind of a misnomer, considering he took the field only 39 times this season.
In fact, if you look at the stats, Tate actually performed very well, hitting .316 in six Midwest League contests, and .283 in the Northwest League. But the fact that the former No. 3 overall pick has played in only 64 regular season games since signing back in 2009, and is now nearly 21 years old, has to be disconcerting for the Padres, who shelled out a pretty penny to get him to forgo a football scholarship.
Furthermore, it hasn't just been injuries that have sidelined Tate, although he has suffered more than his fair share of those. He also has a 50-game suspension to his name for getting caught using a "drug of abuse," according to NBCSports.com.
Tate ended the season on a tear, and more importantly fully healthy. I'm sure both team and player are hopeful that he can make it through the offseason without incident and look forward to a productive 2012 season.
Chris Dominguez, 3B, San Francisco Giants
Dominguez hit home runs at a prolific rate during his sterling collegiate career at Louisville.
So it was no surprise when he went deep 11 times in just 56 games in his debut, and 21 times last year. This year, playing in the uber-offensive Cal League, the potential for the 24-year-old seemed incredibly promising. And for the most part, it was.
In 63 games with San Jose, Dominguez homered 11 times and drove in 40 runs while maintaining a solid .291 average. All very good numbers. Unfortunately, he also struck out 73 times and walked just 18 times.
After earning a promotion to Double-A, Dominguez's weakness became more glaring. His average dropped to .244, he homered just seven times and he struck out another 78 times in just 78 games. The worst part was that he earned just nine free passes, giving him a combined 27-to-151 BB:K ratio for the entire season.
The 151 whiffs trumped the mark he set last year, at 133, and his on-base percentage fell to a career-low .302.
Seth Blair, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals dipped into the Arizona State well twice in the first two rounds last year, taking right-hander Seth Blair with the 47th overall pick and going after righty Jordan Swagerty 29 picks later.
Both made their debuts this season, but the results could not have been less similar.
Swagerty blossomed, jumping from Low-A all the way to Double-A Springfield, needing just 27 appearances to accomplish it. He finished the season 5-3 with a 1.83 ERA and 89 strikeouts in 93.2 innings.
Blair, on the other hand, remained at Low-A Quad Cities the entire year and struggled in the rotation. He made 21 starts, but pitched just 81.2 innings. He allowed 79 hits and 48 runs, good (or bad) for a 5.29 ERA. He had terrible control issues, issuing 62 walks (compared to only 70 strikeouts), plunking 14 batters and recording 11 wild pitches. He also served up nine long balls.
In the field he wasn't much better, committing three errors and finishing with a .769 fielding percentage.
That's what we call an all-around bad year.
Nick Franklin, SS, Seattle Mariners
After the kind of breakout season he had last year, the Mariners were expecting a big year out of their shortstop sensation Nick Franklin.
Instead they only got 88 games and seven homers out of the 20-year-old, who went deep 23 times last season, playing in a less homer-happy league no less. That's right, Franklin began the year in the Cal League, the same circuit that turns career .230 hitters with no power into .330 hitters with career-high homer totals. And in 64 games in the CAL, Franklin hit just five homers.
But that wasn't even the worst part of his season. Shortly after the M's promoted him to Double-A to try to jumpstart his bat he suffered a freak injury. During batting practice he was hit in the jaw by the bat of a teammate who was mid-swing. He was taken to the hospital and diagnosed with a concussion. Just as he was ready to return to action, he was hit with some sort of illness that caused him to lose weight and a good amount of his power.
When he eventually returned to the field it was just to sharpen his skills for an extended look in the Arizona Fall League, where he'll be seeing action from October 4 through November 17.
Josh Sale, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
Josh Sale was widely regarded as the top high school power hitter available in last year's draft class, so it was somewhat of a shock when he slipped all the way to the 17th pick in the draft, where Tampa happily scooped him up.
Since he signed too late to get any significant playing time in, the Rays decided to hold off on his pro debut and sent him to the rookie Appalachian League to start the 2011 season this summer. Sale looked hot early, homering in his first game, but soon cooled. He finished the shortened season (just 60 games) with just four long balls in 239 at-bats, a far cry from the high totals that everyone in and outside of the organization was expecting.
Even more disconcerting was the fact that Sale had a hard time getting his bat on the ball. He didn't strike out an extraordinary amount, but only mustered a .210 average.
Engel Beltre, OF, Texas Rangers
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Not only did Beltre enter the season as one of the Rangers top position prospects, but he also heard his name come up several times as a potential trade chip, a player that several teams were looking to acquire.
He put up great numbers in 2010, but began the '11 campaign incredibly on the wrong foot. Just a handful of games into the new season, Beltre inexplicably lost his temper during a game and proceeded to throw items into the stands, including a trash can. He was eventually suspended for 15 games.
When he returned, he wasn't very good. His average dropped from .300 in 2010, all the way to .231. He was never a homer-happy kind of hitter, but slugged just one long ball in 437 at-bats, and drove in a mere 28 runs. His plate discipline was awful and he struck out 103 times, compared to just 28 walks.
He still showed some flashes, especially on the base paths, where he legged out six triples and stole 16 bases, but overall it was a lost season for the soon to be 22-year-old.
Asher Wojciechowski, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays drafted Wojciechowski in the supplemental first round of last year's draft with the expectation that he would move quickly through their farm system. As such, they were more than perplexed when the 22-year-old struggled to maintain any kind of consistency in the High-A Florida State League.
Some months, he was brilliant. In August he went 5-0 with a 2.48 ERA and posted a sterling 21-to-0 K:BB ratio in 29 innings. Other months, he was brutal. In June he lost four of his five starts, compiling a 10.62 ERA and serving up six home runs in just 20.1 innings.
Things ended on a positive note for the Citadel alum, but overall the season was nowhere near as successful as the Jays, and Wojciechowski had hoped it would be.
Instead of working his way to Double-A in-season, he might return to the FSL in 2012.
Derek Norris, C, Washington Nationals
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As Norris has continued to climb through the minors the biggest question mark about his game has been whether or not he'll ever hit for a high enough average to be a consistent contributor.
His power is there, no doubt, as his 20-homer season proves, but the higher he climbs the lower his average gets. It dipped to a career-low .210 this year, with his on-base percentage falling below .400 for the first time since his debut campaign back in 2007. He also struck out a career-high 117 times.
In three individual months at Double-A Harrisburg, his average sat below .200 and in at one point he hit .208. Surprisingly, he still showed a good eye at the plate, drawing 77 walks.
Norris isn't an excellent defensive catcher, so his bat is going to have to carry him.