The Double-A Southern League is well represented this week in Future Rookies with a southpaw who piles up strikeouts from the Rays organization and a first baseman clearing the fences with regularity from the Diamondbacks organization. In addition to the Double-A representation, an injury to Brandon Beachy frees a rotation spot and allows a second crack at major league hitters for a Braves 20-year-old farmhand.
Matthew Moore, SP, Tampa Bay Rays, 21 years old
Can it be yet another Rays minor league arm coming down the pipeline? Yes it can. Rated the second best prospect in the Rays organization by both Baseball America and John Sickels this year, Matthew Moore is living up to his top shelf prospect billing in his first turn in Double-A with the Montgomery Biscuits. His strikeout ability and stuff have never come into question, but his ability to harness it and limit his walks have. Since the first half of last year, Moore has cut down on his walks significantly, and sits at 2.55 BB/9 this year despite moving up and facing more disciplined hitters. Impressively, Moore has maintained his strikeout rate in spite of the step up in competition and the drop in walks.
The Rays have historically handled their prospects carefully, not being overly aggressive and allowing them time to properly develop. That said, should multiple things break just right, Moore could find himself in the majors in the late summer. One reason to dream on an earlier than expected promotion is the Rays success thus far, as they are leading the American League East and may look for in-house boosts to the squad should they continue to find themselves near the top of the standings and in the playoff mix as the postseason approaches. Other reasons for optimism in regard to Moore starting some games in Tampa this season are Jeff Niemann’s health and general ineffectiveness when healthy, Wade Davis outperforming his peripherals, and Jeremy Hellickson likely having his innings capped. There are some guys who would likely get a crack at starting before Moore, namely Alex Cobb, Alex Torres and current fill-in starter Andy Sonnanstine, but none offer the Rays his upside.
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks, 23 years old
The Arizona Diamondbacks appear to have “struck gold” with their 2009 eighth-round selection, Paul Goldschmidt. Since joining the system the same year he was drafted, he has done nothing but show off his power — oh, and strikeout at a prodigious rate as well. Last year, Goldschmidt was the epitome of an all-or-nothing hitter, slugging 35 home runs but also striking out in 30.7 percent of his at bats. As you’d guess, some questioned whether he’d be able to keep his head above water as he faced more advanced pitching. Goldschmidt has done better than that, reducing his strikeout rate to just 19.2 percent this year, by far the best mark of his young career, while also seeing his walk rate improve to a career best 19.6 percent. Perhaps most impressively, he has continued to hit the ball with authority even while paring down the whiffs.
The Diamondbacks have trotted out a trio of players at first base that have collectively underwhelmed. Two of the players making up the trifecta, Juan Miranda and Russell Branyan, are flirting with the Mendoza line, and Nady is hitting just .268 himself. Between the three, they have also collected just four round trippers. The most immediate threat to their playing time may be Brandon Allen, who himself lost out on the first base competition in the spring. Considering he isn’t posting eye-popping numbers in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League, and he has experience playing the outfield, Goldschmidt should have a chance to overtake the “Three Stooges” at first base this summer if he’s able to continue to perform at a high rate.
Julio Teheran, SP, Atlanta Braves, 20 years old
Julio Teheran has boarded the express train to the big leagues, starting 2010 in Lo-A and finding his way to the majors pitching against the Phillies early this season. An injury to Brandon Beachy appears to have opened the door for him to get another crack at major league hitters. Beachy is expected to miss approximately a month while shelved with an oblique strain, but if Teheran struggles in his May 18 tilt against the Diamondbacks, the Braves may opt to turn to either Mike Minor or Rodrigo Lopez the next time that rotation spot comes up.
Teheran has pitched brilliantly in the minors, but there are some indications that he may have a bumpy transition to the majors as a 20-year-old. The first, and most obvious, red flag is his limited experience above Single-A ball, with just 82.1 innings in Double-A, Triple-A and the majors combined. Further dissecting his numbers, you’ll notice a decrease in his strikeout rate with each step up the ladder, something that could pose problems against major league hitters. At such a young age, it is safe to say Teheran is well ahead of schedule, making him a dynasty owner’s dream. Those in re-draft leagues need to be more conservative in their valuation of the youngster, and understand his value largely lies with those playing in large mixed leagues and NL-only formats, and only still if the matchup is right until he proves himself.
Josh is a recent college graduate from SUNY Cortland where he majored in Sport Management. You can catch up with Josh in the Cafe Forums where he posts as B-Chad.
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