Mid-Week Minor League Round-up

Evan Brunell@evanbrunellFeatured ColumnistApril 29, 2009

BOSTON - JULY 17:  David Ortiz #34 playing for the AAA Pawtucket Red Sox during a rehab assignment prepares to bat against the Toledo Mud Hens at the McCoy Stadium on July 17, 2008 in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Continuing the mid-week minor league round-up, I've decided to add a new aspect in this weekly series. Along with giving the weeks top performers, I'm also going to add in the guys that have not quite lived up to expectations. You could assume I'm doing so because there's a few guys that fall under this category, and I wouldn't have a compelling counter to that assumption. Not to discourage some of you that like following some of these kids coming up through the system as the majority of the top prospects have lived up to expectations, but of course, there are a few that have not. We'll start off with the good:

The Impressing:

Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Greenville: The leading position player in wOBA at .434 and RC at 16.9, Rizzo has picked up straight where he left off at this time in 2008, pushing his double slash totals to .319/.412/.514 with 10 XBH's in 72 AB's. He's maintained his linedrive stroke into this season, mashing at a 23.4% clip. The home run power has slowly increased as well and should continue to do so as long as he gets more leverage in his swing. It's important to note this improvement, because in 83 AB's last year, he was hitting the ball on the ground at a 51.6% rate, and this year, he's elevated the ball much better, grounding the ball at a 33.9% pace. 
Felix Doubront, LHP, Portland: An oft-overlooked pitcher, "Prince Felix" continues to miss bats at a impressive rate in which he struck out 118 (walking 24) Sally League hitters in 114 IP last year by posting a solid 11.93 K/9 in 14 innings this year. He's only 21 years old and pitching against far more advanced hitters in AA than last year, and he hasn't missed a beat. Perhaps it's his stuff is what has kept him a secret thus far, as he features a 88-91 mph fastball, above average curveball, improving slider, and a developing change-up with good deceptive movement. He's always going to be the prototypical finesse southpaw, but his advanced pitchability and deception continues to be a problem for opposing hitters. Definitely keep an eye on this young man.
Ryan Kalish, OF, Salem: Ever wonder how much a wrist injury affects a hitter? No? Well, just ask Kalish. After battling part of 2007 and most of 2008 with a broken hamate bone, Ryan has quickly moved up the prospect rankings by combining his strong quick wrists and implementing his new-found plate discipline into arguably the most well-rounded game in the system. At first glance, his .291/.474/.418 line may not seem all that gaudy. But, take a look at that OBP! He leads the system in walks by a long shot. Power is typically one of the last parts of a hitters game to develop, and with his speed, build, quick bat, and eventual spot in the line-up (lead-off), I wouldn't be concerned with his power. He should still rack up the XBH's at a solid rate. 
The Struggling:
Che-Hsuan Lin, OF, Salem: Came into the year as a must follow for most, Lin has arguably been the biggest disappointment as far as hitters go in the 2009 season. Hitting .160/.246/.200, this is a case opposite of Kalish, where it's bad to have an slugging percentage lower than your OBP. Yet, they're actually pretty similar players excluding the short sample size this season. Both have very quick wrists and share similarities in that power is definitely the weak spot in their game. The differ in that Lin has never posted great contact rates. He's probably seen nothing but breaking pitches, and for good reason. He struggles in pitch recognition with his big timing step. It's a huge stepping stone to cross in order to reach his high ceiling. Until this improves, he'll continue to struggle. 
Kyle Weiland, RHP, Salem: Weiland came into this season with high expectations after holding NYPL hitters to a.473 OPSa and posting a 68 K/10 BB ratio in 60 IP last year. Weiland has subsequently taken a complete 180, giving up 22 hits in 12 IP, flashing a 12.00 ERA and 1.082 OPSa this year. Drafted out of Notre Dame last June, he skipped A-ball and has struggled against more age-appropriate competition. His biggest caveat coming into the season were his off-speed pitches. Reportedly, they've looked quite flat and hitters have laid off them by attacking his low-mid 90's fastball. He relied heavily on his fastball last year and will need to learn to mix in his off-speed pitches better before he'll show some results against more advanced hitters.
Stolmy Pimentel, RHP, Greenville: Similar situation as Weiland, Stolmy came into the 2009 under enormous and probably unfair expectations after impressing in the NYPL. However, he's the complete opposite of Weiland in terms of why he's struggling. The main reason Pimentel was highly regarded coming into the year was because of the polished arsenal, particularly his off-speed, at such a young age, reminiscent of Pedro Martinez. Here's a few numbers to throw your way to give you an idea of his struggles, regardless of a fluky ERA: .833 OPSa; 12.77 H/9; and only a 5.89 K/9. He tends to overthrow at times in order to compensate for his low-90's fastball instead of trusting it and hitting his spots. Currently, he has well-below average command, and he's been getting hit pretty hard as a result. At a .400 BABIP though, I'd expect a normalized rate to lower the contact rates. However, until he improves his command, he won't fool many advanced hitters.

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