Join me on the Jared Mitchell bandwagon - seats are available (Photo Credit: Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE)

2012 Fish Watch: AL Central - May Edition

The first thing you need to know about The Fish Watch is that it’s not a list of sleepers. It is instead a list of players at various points in their respective minor league journeys that for one reason or another have piqued my interest enough that I am watching their development more closely than the bulk of prospects out there. To read more about this project, check out the introduction and master list.

Today we cover the players representing the AL Central for the first time.

Chicago White Sox (S2S 2012 White Sox Team Prospect List)

C – Kevan Smith (23) – White Sox 2011 7th Round Pick

Reasoning – Smith was the best catcher in the Pioneer League last season hands down and fared even better in the Appalachian League. All in all you’d be hard pressed to find a better professional debut.

2011 – Great Falls/Bristol (Rk): 0.355/.448/.626, 22 2B, 3 3B, 9 HR, 2 SB, 28 BB and 30 SO in 239 PA
2012 – Kannapolis (A): 0.254/.314/.337, 11 2B, 1 HR, 8 BB and 36 SO in 186

Notes – It was going to be near impossible for Smith to produce at the level he did in 2011 while transitioning to full-season ball, but I have a hard time tempering expectations. It’s not fair to him but color me disappointed so far. Like many others on this list, his numbers in April and May tell completely different stories. In April Smith hit 0.289/.340/.361 with a 17-6 SO-to-BB which looks great when stacked up next to his 0.208/.278/.306 performance in May. His 19 SO and just 2 BB in 19 games this month is not helping matters.

OF – Jared Mitchell (23) – White Sox 2009 1st Round Pick

Reasoning – I’ve been a huge fan of Mitchell going back to his days at LSU and after his pro debut in 2009 I had a lot of company on the bandwagon. Then he tore up his ankle in spring training two years ago, lost the entire 2010 season and struggled in the Carolina League when he returned last year. This offseason there were plenty of seats available but I continued to believe and took to driving the bus. There is no prospect that former S2S Editor Nathaniel  Stoltz and I disagreed on more than Mitchell (maybe Brian Dozier) and I was very angry that Jared was left off the S2S White Sox TPL.

2011 – Winston-Salem (A+): 0.222/.304/.377, 48 XBH, 14 SB, 52 BB and 183 SO in 541 PA
2012 – Birmingham (AA): 0.273/.385/.455, 8 2B, 7 3B, 2 HR, 10 SB, 26 BB and 50 SO in 185

Notes – Mitchell started off blazing hot and finished April at 0.341/.471/.561 but most impressive was his 21-19 SO-to-BB mark given his plate discipline and approach was the biggest thing holding him back in the eyes of most talent evaluators. May has been a different story (0.194/.275/.333) and his discipline has regressed a bit with 29 SO and just 7 BB in 21 games this month. Still he’s clearly made strides and is much closer to the dynamic player Chicago drafted than what we saw from him last year.

SS – Tyler Saladino (22) – White Sox 2010 7th Round Pick

Reasoning – Middle infielders that can slug over 0.500 for a full season aren’t exactly commonplace and Saladino sticks out even more given the generally lackluster state of the White Sox system.

2011 – Winston-Salem: 0.270/.363/.501, 26 2B, 9 3B, 16 HR, 7 SB, 51 BB and 90 SO in 464 PA
2012 – Birmingham: 0.230/.385/.317, 5 2B, 3 3B, 1 HR, 18 SB, 38 BB and 32 SO in 207 PA

Notes – There must be something to the change in months that is impacting White Sox minor leaguers. Like Smith and Mitchell, Saladino’s numbers have fallen off in May. After hitting 0.259/.406/.376 in April, Tyler has hit 0.197/.364/.250 this month. The power has gone from stand-out to non-existent and he’s suddenly stealing bases having already more than doubled his career high. Even though he’s hitting below 0.200 this month he’s drawn 20 BB in 22 G while striking out only 12 times.

Cleveland Indians (S2S 2012 Indians Team Prospect List)

1B – Jesus Aguilar (21) – Signed out of Venezuela as a NDFA on November 13th, 2007

Reasoning – He’s one of the players that stood out to me when I wrote up the Indians TPL in January. My notes on Aguilar for that piece included the following, “At 6’3″ and 241 lbs he’s an imposing presence at the plate and as you’d expect given his size he can absolutely mash. Aguilar easily has the most power potential of anyone in this system. His plate discipline and defense are suspect but he did show some improvement with respect to the first item in the Carolina League as he drew 11 BB against 28 SO in 31 games. He carried those improvements into the AFL (11 BB/18 SO) and the Venezuelan Winter League (10 BB/16 SO).”

2011 – Lake County (A)/Kinston (A+): 0.284/.359/.506, 30 2B, 23 HR, 2 SB, 46 BB and 126 SO in 521 PA
2012 – Carolina (A+): 0.299/.384/.476, 11 2B, 5 HR, 18 BB and 42 SO in 172 PA

Notes – Aguilar started off the season with a good April (0.286/.364/.442) and has picked up his game in May (0.314/.405/.514). He’s been hitting fairly consistently for a power bat and has reached safely in 9 of his last 10 games. His 23.7 SO% is right in line with his mark last year and he’s bumped his BB rate from 8.9% last year to 10.7% this year. The signs are generally positive but his GB% bears watching as it has increased from 32.5% to 46.7%.

OF – Bryson Myles (22) – Indians 2011 6th Round Pick

Reasoning – Borrowing from my Indians TPL write up, “Though he’s built like a linebacker (5’11″ and 230 lbs), and had a chance to play that position for TCU, Myles instead opted to play JC baseball for 2 seasons before heading to Stephen F. Austin where he led all of Division I in SB with 50. Myles combines excellent speed with a solid approach at the plate, good strength and great instincts. He’s off the radar on most prospect lists but that could, and likely will, change quickly after the 2012 season wraps up.”

2011 -Mahoning Valley (A-): 0.302/.394/.401, 14 XBH, 20 SB, 24 BB and 32 SO in 222 PA
2012 – Lake County (A): 0.269/.328/.389, 6 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 11 SB, 10 BB and 23 SO in 125 PA

Notes – Things were looking a lot better earlier in the season but Myles has slipped into a 4-29 slump with no XBH in his last 10 games. He hit 0.294/.324/.456 in April and started off May 5-11 before his recent cold spell.

C – Jake Lowery (21) – Indians 2011 4th Round Pick

Reasoning – I love the position of catcher and liked what Lowery showed in the NYPL after signing last summer. From the TPL, “He put up some prodigious power numbers at James Madison University and has already shown the pop in his bat will carry over to professional baseball. His plate discipline is for real and with at least average power and above average arm strength he has a good chance to be at least a backup major league catcher.”

2011 – Mahoning Valley: 0.245/.377/.415, 30 XBH, 54 BB and 56 SO in 310 PA
2012 – Carolina: 0.250/.318/.364, 10 2B, 2 HR, 14 BB and 47 SO in 154 PA

Notes – His 0.304/.375/.430 April has been offset by a 0.180/.242/.279 month of May though he has started to pick things back up at the plate recently – at least a little bit. Catchers often follow weird developmental paths but a 30.5 SO% and 9.1 BB% is alarming given his profile and performance last season. He did skip over Lake County which needs to be factored in here.

Detroit Tigers (S2S 2012 Tigers Team Prospect List)

3B – Jason King (22) – Tigers 2011 4th Round Pick

Reasoning – Not only is Jason a K-State product, I also had the pleasure of watching his younger brother Jared – a 2013 draft prospect – when I was in Manhattan for a Kansas-Kansas State game this month.

2011 – Connecticut (A-): 0.251/.341/.415, 16 XBH, 6 SB, 20 BB and 39 SO in 227 PA
2012 – West Michigan (A): 0.160/.190/.253, 4 2B, 1 HR, 2 BB and 16 SO in 80 PA

Notes – Things did not start out so well this season and up until the 18th he was just 4-53. Since that time he’s cobbled together a five game hit streak (8-22) with his last three games being of the multi-hit variety. The SO-to-BB numbers are a concern and even though he’s started to heat up at the plate, he’s still whiffing at a high rate with 6 of his 16 SO coming during his streak.

OF – Danry Vasquez (18) – Signed out of Venezuela as a NDFA on July 2nd, 2010

Reasoning – I was encouraged by what he did as a 17-year old in the GCL last season and I rated him as Detroit’s Top-OF prospect in my Tigers TPL. Definitely a long-term project but he has a chance to develop into something special.

2011 – GCL Tigers (Rk): 0.272/.306/.350, 11 XBH, 3 SB, 7 BB and 34 SO in 224 PA
2012 – West Michigan (A): 0.162/.218/.222, 3 2B, 1 HR, 7 BB and 20 SO in 112 PA

Notes – King’s Whitecaps teammate, Vasquez was also scuffling to start this season but in this case that’s not a surprise since he’s only 18 with 54 games of professional ball under his belt. Patience is required here but it’s worth noting that he already equaled last year’s walk total in 25 fewer games and has also cut down on his SO. He played his last game in the Midwest League on the 10th and was assigned to extended spring training. He will likely pick back up with Connecticut when the NYPL gets underway on June 18th.

SS – Eugenio Suarez (20) – Signed out of Venezuela as a NDFA on October 9th, 2008

Reasoning – I’m going to pull directly from my TPL write-up here, “Like several other SS in Tigers system, Suarez is an excellent defensive player and is almost a lock to stay at the position as he advances. The thing that sets him apart from his SS-peers in the organization is that he has some offensive potential both in terms of his ability to make contact and also to hit for some power as he matures. Suarez also has good speed and could develop into an excellent all around major league player.”

2011 – GCL Tigers/Connecticut: 0.266/.338/.464, 30 XBH, 11 SB, 21 BB and 47 SO in 279 PA
2012 – West Michigan: 0.283/.380/.405, 13 2B, 2 HR, 5 SB, 24 BB and 44 SO in 206 PA

Notes – Unlike the two above, Suarez got out of the gates in great shape. He hit 0.348/.438/.506 in April, but has slipped of late and is hitting just 0.214/.320/.298 in May. Both his SO and BB rates are up 4% over last year.

Kansas City Royals (S2S 2012 Royals Team Prospect List)

OF – Bubba Starling (19) – Royals 2011 1st Round Pick

Reasoning – A supremely gifted athlete, Starling may be the the most talented prospect to ever come out of the state of Kansas. Commitments to other sports in high school (basketball and football) have left him a little more raw than he otherwise could be, but he’s a true five tool talent with a chance to be a franchise cornerstone.

2011 – High School (KS)
2012 – Not Yet Assigned

Notes – Royals fans everywhere continue to patiently wait for the rookie ball seasons to start up and by extension for Starling to make his debut as a professional.

2B/3B – Daniel Mateo (20) – Signed out of the Dominican Republic as a NDFA on February 25th, 2008

Reasoning – After two seasons of so-so results, Mateo was a nothing short of a revelation in the Pioneer League. He certainly got my attention as I dedicated a column to him over on Kings of Kauffman at the end of July last year. Baseball America tabbed him as the 20th best prospect in the Pioneer League after the 2011 season was over.

2011 – Idaho Falls (Rk): 0.348/.389/.478, 17 XBH, 17 BB and 43 SO in 244 PA
2012 – Kane County (A): 0.301/.372/.426, 15 XBH, 19 BB and 30 SO in 197 PA

Notes – Since Mateo’s 2011 performance was out of line with his 2009 and 2010 seasons it was reasonable to be a bit skeptical that he could carry it forward especially since it was propped up by a 0.412 BABIP. So far, however, he’s been up to the challenge of the Midwest League and has shown improvements in both his BB and SO rates and is well on his way to setting career highs in a number of categories. Mateo has cooled off a little in May but is still hitting 0.271/.340/.353 for the month.

RHP – Kyle Smith (19) – Royals 2011 4th Round Pick

Reasoning – At 6’0″ and 180 lbs (at best) Smith doesn’t have the ideal frame of a starting pitcher but he reaches the mid-90s on his fastball and also mixes in a power curve. Couple that with excellent athleticism, instincts and competitiveness and there’s plenty of reason to be excited about him.

2011 – High School (FL)
2012 – Not Yet Assigned

Notes – As with Starling, we are left to wait for rookie ball to get underway before he makes his pro debut.

Minnesota Twins (S2S 2012 Twins Prospect List)

RHP – Angel Mata (19) – Signed out of Venezuela as a NDFA on January 12th, 2010

Reasoning – I tabbed Mata as one of my 2012 sleeper picks in the Twins TPL back in February so it was a simple decision to include him. He’s handled the DSL and GCL rather easily and his mid-90s fastball with good life makes him somewhat atypical in the Twins system.

2011 – GCL Twins (Rk): 1.46 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 23 H, 19 BB and 30 SO in 37.0 IP
2012 – Not Yet Assigned

SS – Levi Michael (21) – Twins 2011 1st Round Pick

Reasoning – Michael battled through multiple injuries in his final season at UNC and was very underrated heading into the draft. By my estimation, landing Levi 30th overall was an absolute steal.

2011 – College
2012 – Fort Myers (A+): 0.208/.314/.271, 5 XBH, 1 SB, 22 BB and 30 SO in 171 PA

Notes – I was a bit surprised that the Twins pushed him to the FSL instead of playing between Rosario and Sano with the Beloit Snappers. Michael held his own in April (0.250/.348/.316) but has really been scuffling in May (0.162/.275/.221) with just 5 hits in his last 10 games. His strikeouts are up this month as well but he continues to draw walks at a good pace.

C/OF – Chris Herrmann (24) – Twins 2009 6th Round Pick

Reasoning – Herrmann is really the only viable catching prospect in the Twins system at this point in time. He has below average power potential but offsets that with an advanced approach at the plate, average speed and good athleticism.

2011 – Fort Myers/New Britain: 0.269/.385/.399, 33 XBH, 10 SB, 79 BB and 74 SO in 512 PA
2012 – New Britain (AA): 0.275/.316/.438, 14 2B, 4 HR, 1 SB, 10 BB and 32 SO in 173 PA

Notes – Given the dearth of options I expected he’d open the year in Triple-A Rochester, but with his limited experience behind the plate it’s understandable that the team kept him in New Britain. He just turned in back-to-back four-hit games to help elevate his May slash line to 0.278/.303/.444 which is a positive. However, his 32-10 SO-to-BB rate this season is by far the worst of his career and especially alarming since he had a 68-64 mark in 97 games with the Rock Cats in 2011.

Tags: Angel Mata Bryson Myles Bubba Starling Chicago White Sox Chris Herrmann Cleveland Indians Daniel Mateo Danry Vasquez Detroit Tigers Eugenio Suarez Jake Lowery Jared Mitchell Jason King Jesus Aguilar Kansas City Royals Kevan Smith Kyle Smith Levi Michael Minnesota Twins Tyler Saladino