Friday, July 01, 2011

A.L. Minor Leaguers: Digging Deeper

Alex asks:
any A.L. minor leaguers have rest-of-season value besides Dayan Viciedo, Desmond Jennings, or Brett Lawrie?
Here is a list of five American League minor leaguers who are on my mind for one reason or another. It's certainly not an all-inclusive list, so if you're interested in someone I didn't list here, feel free to ask and I'll be glad to offer my two cents.

Jason Kipnis 285 AB, 58 R, 11 HR, 48 RBI, 37 BB, 57 K, 10 SB, 0 CS, 302/383/526.

As you can see, there aren't any issues with Kipnis' bat. He could probably slide right into the Indians line-up as a 15/15, .280 hitter with relative ease. The problems are apparently with his defense. I follow a number of Indians beat writers and bloggers on Twitter and they all have similar things to say about Kipnis. His defense at second lacks polish (they say). The Indians have spent a lot of time working with him on this, and I haven't heard anything about a "eureka" moment where the team says he's ready. The bat is there; the team just has to decide if Kipnis' defensive flaws are something they can live with this year or not.

Brandon Guyer 259 AB, 51 R, 10 HR, 44 RBI, 21 BB, 59 K, 12 SB, 4 CS, 317/385/517. (minor league numbers only)

Everyone falls over himself over Jennings, but Guyer is quietly putting together the stronger season at Triple-A. Jennings probably has the higher long-term ceiling, but Guyer looks similar to Kipnis: a guy who could peak at 15/15 with a .280 batting average in the Majors. The knock on Guyer was always his plate discipline, but even that has improved this year. I wouldn't be surprised if Guyer made it up before Jennings in 2011, but then I wouldn't count on either one of them being up before September.

Tyler Flowers 190 AB, 30 R, 11 HR, 24 RBI, 36 BB, 69 K, 2 SB, 0 CS, 242/385/447.

At one point this past off-season, it looked like the White Sox were going to let A.J. Pierzynski walk and give Flowers a shot at the job. That doesn't look like it would have been such a great decision, despite the impressive power numbers. Flowers looks like he's taken the "keep the bat on my shoulder unless I'm swinging for the fences" approach. I dig the walks, but that whiff rate cannot stand. Pierzynski's signed through 2012, so Flowers needs a trade. At this point, though, he looks more like a future MLB back up.

Lorenzo Cain 264 AB, 43 R, 8 HR, 42 RBI, 20 BB, 62 K, 7 SB, 3 CS, 299/365/500.

There was a great deal of excitement in the fantasy community about Cain this spring but I haven't heard much about him since. Those home runs and that 500 SLG are really what catch your eye; Cain has never hit more than four home runs above AA in a single season. The strikeouts look bad, but aren't out his line with his prior career numbers. The steals are down, which is odd. I can't find any explanation as to why he's not running as much this year. Will Cain get a look for the Royals in August? The smart money says yes, with the caveat that the Royals are sometimes playing with fools’ gold. Jeff Francoeur is a trade candidate next month and so is Melky Cabrera, but that doesn't mean that they'll get moved.

Johnny Giavotella 325 AB, 44 R, 5 HR, 53 RBI, 27 BB, 44 K, 9 SB, 3 CS, 323/377/443.

Giavotella is one of those players who have never been viewed as a top prospect yet always put up super strong numbers. His lack of size (5'8”, 185 lbs.) makes it seem like Giavotella has to perform that much better than everyone else at every level to keep getting chances. Unlike Cain, it seems to me like the Royals are going to be patient with Giavotella and let him play out 2011 in the minors. Chris Getz has been somewhat adequate, and Giavotella has the similar issues with his defensive fundamentals that Kipnis does.

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