Hak-Ju Lee is back in action (credit: Jim Donten www.pbase.com/jwdonten)
We're still dealing with small sample sizes, of course, but here's a look at a few prospects who have gotten off to a fast start.
(All stats are through Sunday except where noted)
Tim Beckham, SS - The former #1 pick is off to a .308/.357/.538 start for the Biscuits including two home runs in his first ten games. He's benefited from a .400 BABIP, though, and has struck out twelve times already. The main culprit? Called third strikes. Beckham struck out looking in 7.5% of ABs last year, but it's over 14% early on. His swinging strikeout percentage is roughly the same as 2010. Small sample size, of course, and we'll have to see how things stabilize. Will the BABIP regression be cancelled out by an increase in balls in play? Mostly, I'd think. His power and walk rate are the bigger questions.
Desmond Jennings, OF - After bit of a disappointing 2010 season, Jennings has started hot this year in Durham, doing everything he was supposed to do last year. Through 11 games he's hitting .314, has drawn nine walks, hit two home runs, and stole four bases. The strikeouts (nine) are a tad high but a minor flaw on his early-season success. He's currently blocked in the majors, but should reach St. Pete over the summer, either when Sam Fuld exhausts his magic bean supply, B.J. Upton is traded, or any of the outfielders require a trip to the DL.Alex Cobb, RHP - Through two starts, Cobb has allowed just one run while striking out 17 and walking 2 in 11 innings. His strikeout rate has risen every year since 2008 and shows no signs of slowing down at triple-A. He's flown under the radar throughout his career, but people will notice quickly with the numbers he's put up early. He doesn't have the stuff to profile as a top-of-the-rotation guy, but there's obviously value in what he brings to the table. I figured his future as a reliever (given the Rays packed rotation), a Dan Wheeler type with fewer home runs, but a big triple-A season could change that. Amazingly, he doesn't have the best start for a guy named "Alex" in the Durham rotation. That honor would go to...
Alex Torres, LHP - The short lefty has matched Cobb's 17/2 K/BB in 10.1 innings and has yet to be scored upon. He led the Southern League in both strikeouts and walks last season, and while his command is still rough around the edges, the low walks total is excellent to see. He worked some deep counts in his last start against Norfolk, but then threw just five pitches to retire the side in the 5th inning. Torres and Cobb both throw quality change-ups, but Torres' fastball and curveball are better from a pure stuff standpoint. Obviously a 1.7 BB/9 from Torres is a bit much to expect from Torres going forward (career mark: 4.9; last year: 4.5), but anything under 3.5 would be a big win.
Luke Bailey, C - The Rays' fourth-round pick in 2009, Bailey made the jump up to Bowling Green from the Gulf Coast League and so far it looks like he belongs there. He's hitting .333/.419/.593 which includes four doubles and a home run. Defensively, he's thrown out a healthy (if not eye-popping) 31% of basestealers, and it's worth noting that he had to deal with Billy Hamilton, perhaps the fastest player in the minor leagues, in the Hot Rods' first series. The Midwest League is a tough place to hit, especially early on (just ask Ty Morrison or Todd Glaesmann), so it's very encouraging to see Bailey get off to a quick start.
Injuries - They hit the minor league ranks pretty hard in the spring, so here are some updates: Hak-Ju Lee is back from his bout with chicken pox, and went 2-5 in his first game with the Stone Crabs. Jake Thompson missed a start for Charlotte but was much crisper in his return (4 ip 0 r 6 so) than his opening-day start. Albert Suarez (knee), Kyle Lobstein (?), Wilking Rodriguez (shoulder), Kirby Yates (?), Will Kline (perpetually injured) remain out.
Some quick hits:
Matt Moore, LHP - 9.1 IP, 12 H, 7 ER, 0 BB, 12 SO. Walks are nice. .417 BABIP. Isn't it crazy that 12 strikeouts in 9.1 innings is kind of disappointing?
Alex Koronis, RHP - 11 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 15 SO. University of Tampa product looking great as a starter after striking out 100 as a reliever last season.
Jose Lobaton, C - .478/.536/.913. I guarantee that Lobaton would produce these exact numbers at the major-league level or your money back.
Enny Romero, LHP - (includes Monday start) 13.1 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 7 BB, 19 SO. Located his fastball extremely well in his first start, has shown some command problems since. Still a lot of swings and misses.