Minor League Stock Report

Tim Beckham had a big May for the Biscuits via web.minorleaguebaseball.com

Before we assault you with all-out draft coverage (get ready for pieces from rglass, myself, and perhaps one or two others this week!) and introduce you to potential future prospects, I wanted to give a quick stock update on current prospects. Here are three risers and three fallers based on what's happened through May (stats are through Sunday or Monday):

Stock Going Up
Tim Beckham, SS - Bolstered by a strong month of May (.333/.400/.490 through Sunday), Beckham's in the midst of shedding the "disappointment" label. For the season, he's hitting .305/.367/.444, an OPS more than .100 higher than last season. His range is still nothing special, but he's done a good job of cutting down on his errors and, given his solid athleticism, it's looking more and more like he'll be able to stick at the position.

His improvement at the plate is good to see on its own, but doubly or triply so taking into account his defensive prognosis and his age (just 21 in the Southern League). My arguments against Beckham entering the season were based on my opinion that being somewhat above league-average for the position wasn't anything special when there's a good chance he has to move off the position. But now? I think he'll be fine at shortstop, even if he won't dazzle.

I still have a few reservations with Beckham, but these are obviously less of an issue when he's hitting .300 than when he's hitting .256. His strikeout rate -- 42 in 47 games -- is still high, though a slight improvement on last season. He's athletic but not particularly fleet of foot; or at least that tool from his box doesn't manifest itself in the stolen base department, with only three steals on the year (and three times caught stealing). One weird note: Beckham is pretty much crushing lefties this year (.971 OPS) after being a reverse-splits guy previously in his career.

Brandon Guyer, OF - He hit .347 in the second half of 2009 and .344 last season, but given his previous track record, he was going to have to prove it in triple-A. And so he has, hitting .316/.394/.535 through Sunday, and adding his ninth home run yesterday. Add that to his one in the majors and, with ten, he's already approaching his career high of 14. His walk rate is at a career high, but when that number is 8.2% you can pretty much guess that aggression is his game.

Perhaps related to the increased power production is a jump in his strikeout rate. It resided in the teens throughout his Cubs career and was 13.8% last season, but it's up to 22.3% this year. It's not a huge problem, but given his aggressiveness, I'd guess that that number won't fall too much against advanced pitching (side note: Guyer has taken a called strike three in 0.6% of his ABs, which is to say one in 155). It certainly seems that whatever adjustment Guyer made midway through 2009 has stuck, and he projects as at least a league-average starting outfielder.

Alex Cobb, RHP - He makes his second start in the majors tonight, and should he come anywhere close to the success he's at at Durham, he'll likely be in the rotation to stay (unless there's some weird loyalty to Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann). His numbers have improved virtually all the way across the board every year since 2007. He currently leads all of the minor leagues in ERA at 1.14, and his 5.00 K/BB rate trails only Matt Moore among Rays' minor-league starters.

Since being sent down after his May 1st spot-start, he's allowed just one earned run in 25.1 innings with the Bulls. Because of his proximity to the majors, surely you know about the good (his split-change, his numbers) and the bad (average-at-best fastball). I put him on the "risers" list not because his ceiling has gone up to a top-of-the-rotation pitcher, but because he seems more likely to come closer to that than his floor.

Stock Going Down
Chris Archer, RHP - Thought of as the top prospect received for Matt Garza, Archer has a good case as the system's biggest disappointment so far given his pre-season hype (BaseballAmerica rated him #4 in the system). His walk rate is right back in line with his career average (over 5.0 per 9 innings) after showing some improvement last season. His strikeouts per 9 isn't too bad, 8.3, but his K% is at a career-worst. A .385 BABIP hasn't helped matters, especially considering it was under .290 the past two seasons.

With Archer, I think it is as simple as throwing more (quality) strikes. He's made some strides since his earlier years, but hasn't been able to maintain even average control for an extended period of time. His BABIP will come down, but that won't solve his biggest problem.

Jake McGee, LHP - Pretty much everybody assumed he would be closing games for the big-league team at this point, but instead he finds himself back in Durham. His numbers since returning to the Bulls are better than they were in the majors (14 strikeouts, three walks in 13.2 innings for Durham) but his velocity has still been up and down. He still has 95 mph in his arm, but he's in the 90-93 range far too often. He still has fewer than 40 career appearances as a reliever, so the Rays are hoping it's just a bump in the road and he needs a little bit more time to master the art of relieving.

Braulio Lara, LHP - He and Enny Romero breezed through the Appalachian League this year and were expected to be one of the Midwest League's top 1-2 punches this season. It hasn't exactly worked out that way, but Romero can at least point to his strikeouts (49 in 39 innings) and age (20). Lara is 22 years old and has struggled with just about everything. He walked 25 hitters in 66 innings last season with Princeton. He's matched that number in just 43 innings this year. His season-high strikeout total in one game is just six, while Romero has had two games of eight and one of seven. Lara is going to need to take a big step forward to get back on top 30 lists for next year.

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