April is almost over, and Deep Dynasty Fishing is back. It's been about a year since the likes of Michael Stanton, Logan Morrison, Jhoulys Chacin and others were the first wave of DDF'ers. Since then, there's been some good times, and some bad times, but as long as baseball is around, there will be prospects. And as long as there are prospects, there will be Deep Dynasty Fishing.
Josh Bell, 2B/3B - 11/13/1986, AA, Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers selected Bell in the 4th round of the 2005 draft, and he has since been a solid hitter at all stops. Bell started off great in rookie ball in 2006 (.380 wOBA) and was strong in the Midwest league the next year (.355 wOBA). He had initial success in 2008 (.362 wOBA) but had preventative knee surgery in May which caused him to miss the rest of the season. The switch-hitter will look to get back on track in 2009, and so far he has been productive. Through 52 plate appearances, Bell has walked 25.0% of the time, and more importantly, cut down on his strikeouts (19.2%). Bell has struck out at least 24.0% at every stop in the minor leagues previous to his start this season. If he can continue to limit his whiffs while maintaining solid power (.154 isoP), Bell could be a successful player going forward, especially if he sticks at second base.
Luis Exposito, C - 1/20/1987, A+, Boston Red Sox: With Jason Varitek’s remaining years limited, Exposito has a chance to claim the title of “Red Sox catcher of the future”. A 31st round pick in 2005, the 6-foot-3 catcher has steadily improved since his professional debut. Exposito’s debut went as you would expect from a late round pick (2005 31st rounder; .280 wOBA). his playing time was limited in 2007, but he spent 2008 between Low and High-A where he combined for a .357 wOBA. Exposito also exhibited big-time power, with a .215 isoP in 2008, although half of his at-bats came in the hitter haven known as Lancaster. Patience at the plate has been the major knock against Exposito, as he walked only 4.7% of the time in 2008. Exposito began 2009 in High-A once again - this time the Carolina League – and has picked up right where he left off. Through 39 PA, Exposito has a .372 wOBA, but more impressively, has a 12.8% walk rate and is only striking out 10.3%mof the time. With great tools behind the plate, Exposito could realistically be the heir to Varitek in the near future.
J.J. Hoover, SP – 8/13/1987, High-A, Atlanta Braves: One of the best Junior College pitchers from the 2008 draft (176 K in 101 IP at Calhoun Community College in 2008), Hoover gives Atlanta a few options with his right arm. The 10th rounder who signed for $400,000 features four pitches, including a mid-90’s fastball. Hoover could eventually give the Braves help in either the bullpen or as a starter. The 6-foot-3, 215 pound righthander has only a few professional innings in his name, but he could quickly ascend the minors if he puts up big numbers. In his first pro start, he did just that – 4.1 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 9 K for Low-A Rome. Hoover was immediately promoted to High-A Myrtle Beach following this start, and so far has only pitched 2.0 innings there (3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 0 K). Plenty of uncertainty surrounds Hoover, but he has the arm and junior college statistics that rival Derek Holland's.
Alex Liddi, 3B - 8/14/1988, High-A, Seattle Mariners: Liddi knows exactly what the Midwest League can do to a hitter. Following a successful stint in rookie ball in 2006 (.368 wOBA), Liddi spent his next 983 plate appearances in the tundra of Wisconsin. The results weren’t pretty: a combined .292 wOBA. Liddi flashed power, and although strikeouts were a big issue (27.4% in 2007) he cut that number to 23.1% last year. In 2009, Liddi finally has escaped Wisconsin, and is now in a slightly different environment – High Desert of the California League. It may be premature, but Liddi is having a grand old time so far at his new, hitter-friendly home. Through 53 PA, Liddi is raking to the tune of a .491 wOBA. He has a .380 isoP, and although his .471 BABIP is obviously unsustainable, his strikeouts are down slightly (22.6%). Time will tell if this is smoke and mirrors or an actual breakout, But the 21-years-old remains an intriguing third base prospect with power potential.
Derek Norris, C - 2/14/1989, Low-A, Washington Nationals: Selected out of high school in the 4th round of the 2007 draft, Norris features an exciting combination of power and discipline for a catcher. Norris’ debut in the GCL wasn’t great – he posted a .336 wOBA and struck out 24.5% of the time. It was in the New York-Penn League last year that Norris first successfully displayed his talents on the pro level. While walking a diesel 20.8% of the time, Norris swung with some power (.185 isoP) resulting in a .395 wOBA. His strikeout percentage dipped to 18.8%, and his exceptional patience resulted in an on-base percentage that was .166 points higher than his batting average. Norris has gotten off to a hot start in his first stint in full-season ball. Through 47 PA in Low-A, Norris has a .410 wOBA, .300 isoP and 14.9 BB%. Strikeouts may hold him back, as he has tallied 14 so far (29.8%). Norris looks like a hitter in the mold of Tyler Flowers, and if he can stick at catcher, he could be a valuable fantasy contributor when his time comes.
Anthony Rizzo, 1B - 8/8/1989, Low-A, Boston Red Sox: A 6th round pick in 2007, Rizzo got off to a great start to his pro career in his first full season. In April of 2008, Rizzo posted a .378 wOBA as an 18-year-old. Soon after, Rizzo would learn that he had Limited Stage Classical Hodgkin's Lymphoma. A promising career had to be put on hold as Rizzo spent the entire season recovering. Back on the field in 2009, Rizzo hasn’t skipped a beat. Through 66 PA, the 6-foot-3 lefthanded first baseman has a .419 wOBA. He is displaying great patience (17.9 BB%, 19.4 K%), as well as power (.222 isoP). So far, Rizzo has shown to be capable of providing many facets that you look for in a young first base prospect, and he could potentially break out in a similar fashion as Freddie Freeman and Logan Morrison last season.
Moises Sierra, OF - 9/24/1988, High-A, Toronto Blue Jays: Signed out of the Dominican, Sierra hasn’t been very productive so far, but his skills allow him to be an interesting prospect. Besides possessing one of the strongest arms in the minor leagues, Sierra has power potential. A .117 isoP in 2008 may seem poor, but considering it came from a 19-year-old in the Midwest league, it should not be overlooked. Discipline is also an issue for Sierra, as he walked only 5.3% while striking out 23.4% of the time last season. Though it is early, Sierra is looking like he has improved several aspects of his game in 2009. Through 57 PA, Sierra has a .380 wOBA to go with a .200 isoP in the Florida State League. He has also struck out only 15.7% to this point. There are plenty of questions surrounding Sierra, but by continuing to improve his power and discipline, he could become a player.
Matthew Sweeney, 3B, 4/4/1988, High-A, Los Angeles Angels: Taken in the 8th round of the 2006 draft, Sweeney had a strong pro debut in the Midwest League in 2007. He showed pop (.198 isoP) while limiting his strikeouts (18.1 K%) and drawing a decent share of walks (7.8%) as a 19-year-old. His 19 home runs stand as the 7th most all-time by a teenager in the Midwest league. During the off-season, Sweeney had ankle surgery and missed the entire 2008 season. Now in the California League, Sweeney has begun 2009 with a bang. Through 65 PA, Sweeney has a .429 wOBA and.290 isoP. Though he has only walked 1.6% of the time, he has only struck out 12.5% as well. Sweeney could stick at the hot corner, and his power should definitely play there. The lefthanded hitter’s stock could drastically rise if he continues the torrid pace he is currently on.
Eric Thames, LF, 11/10/1986, High-A, Toronto Blue Jays: Often overlooked due to his draft position (7th round in 2008), Thames has been and continues to be a hitter. Thames posted a 1.301 OPS (217 PA) before going down with a quad injury during his senior year at Pepperdine. Thames’ transition to the pros has been a smooth one. In the Florida State League, known as a pitchers league, Thames has been on a tear through his first 53 PA. To go along with his .438 wOBA, Thames has shown power (.170 isoP), and discipline (9.4 BB%, 17.0 K%). The 6-foot lefthanded hitting outfielder may soon be in for a promotion, as he is already 22 and showing that he is too advanced for High-A. Although the Blue Jays have plenty of outfield depth within their organization, Thames bat should eventually earn its share of at bats in Toronto.
Alexander Torres, SP, 12/08/1987, High-A, Los Angeles Angels: Signed out of Venezuela, Torres has been nothing short of dominant since making his professional debut last season. The 5-foot-11 lefthander began the year in the AZL where he struck out 28.9% of opposing batters (83 TBF). Despite a high number of walks (12.0%), Torres induced an exceptional number of ground balls (67%). Torres was promoted all the way to the California League where he continued his excellent work (26.6 K%, 12.4 BB%, 53 GB%). Torres has begun 2009 in the California League once again, and has been even better than his stint last season. Through three starts (15.0 IP, 62 TBF), Torres has struck out 37.1% of opposing hitters while cutting his walks down to 9.7%. The grounders remain there as well (63%). If Torres can continue to make progress on his command, there is no reason why he shouldn’t soar up the prospect charts and become an impact young arm in the Angels organization.
Brett Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com.