Future Forty Updated for July
The monthly Future Forty update has been uploaded to the site. Yes, I know, the date still says 4/30/07 for last update, but you’ll just have to trust me that the new file is online.
This is a pretty big update. Lots of changes stemming from additions, subtractions, promotions, and injuries, as well as getting better scouting info on a good number of players, leading to some revised risk and reward rankings, as well as a few guys bouncing from one category to the other. The draft, obviously, occurred since the last update, and the team’s top two selections – Phillipe Aumont and Matt Mangini – both find their way onto the Future Forty. I’m planning a longer draft review post for later on, so I won’t focus on either of those two, or the other draftees, that much in this post.
Also debuting is 18-year-old RHP Juan Ramirez, who we’ve talked about in the past as the guy you want to see when you take a road trip up to Everett. With Ramirez and Aumont, the M’s have added two more high ceiling pitchers to the low levels of the farm system. Speaking of high ceiling arms, I speculated during last month’s post that I believed Tony Butler was pitching through an injury, and sure enough, he hit the DL a few days later. He’s had a year to forget, battling reduced velocity, “dead arm”, back problems, shoulder pain, and a complete lack of command. We’ll wait to see how the M’s handle him going forward, but it may be in his best interest to just sit out the rest of the season and try to get back on track during the Fall Instructional League.
Also, the Chris Tillman to High Desert experiment has predictably been a disaster. I’m sure the Mariners and their make-prospects-fail philosophy see this as an opportunity for the kid to overcome adversity, but he just has no business in the Cal League. We’ll see how he responds, but I’m still of the opinion that throwing a kid in the pool and making him learn how to swim in order to save his own life is bad parenting, and this is the baseball equivalent of that.
Moving on to happier news, Adam Jones!
Speaking of Tacoma, Wladimir Balentien’s performance in June was probably the most impressive he’s had as a professional. We talked about his sliding scale abilities last year, where he showed he could hit for power and show an improved approach at the plate, but just not at the same time. Well, that carried over to April and May, where he torched the ball early in the season but didn’t walk, then saw his average fall apart as he got more patient in May. In June, for the first time, he finally put the whole package together – high contact rate (for him, anyways), high walk rate, and power. There’s still some work to do, but it appears that he has made The Leap, and he’s on the doorstep of being a bonafide major league player. A scout friend of mine last week talked about how much Balentien reminded him of Magglio Ordonez, and that comparison actually holds up pretty well. As long as he keeps working hard, he looks like he’s going to become a cross between Carlos Lee and Magglio, which is a better player than I ever expected Balentien to turn into. He deserves a lot of credit for his significant improvement this year.
Matt Tuiasasopo’s strikeout rate by month: 15.0%. 19.8%, 26.7%. I think pitchers in the Southern League have made their adjustments. Now it’s time for Tui to make his.
One name we probably haven’t talked about enough is Kameron Mickolio. He was an 18th round pick last summer and is looking like an absolute steal a year later. At 6’9 with long arms, he’s an intimidating presence on the mound, and he can get his fastball up to the plate at 94-96 consistently. He’s mixing in a cut fastball to keep left-handers off balance and, after a rough debut, has settled in to blowing away PCL hitters after his promotion from West Tennessee to Tacoma. Mickolio is basically Brandon Morrow with better command right now. With Morrow proving more and more with every appearance that he simply isn’t a major league pitcher and can’t be counted on in any kind of high leverage situation, the M’s may give Mickolio a serious look before the end of the year. A lot of people are hoping Mark Lowe can come back and give the M’s another devastating right-handed setup man, but if I was going to pick a guy from the organization who could help the bullpen in the second half, it’d be Mickolio. And he was an 18th round pick just 13 months ago. This is why we love Bob Fontaine.
Oh, and I guess I should mention that Michael Saunders will join Wladimir Balentien in playing the outfield for the World Team in the Futures Game next week. I’m still not very impressed with Saunders. He gets high marks for his athleticism, but I don’t think he has the bat to carry himself as a corner outfielder or the glove to play center. He’s only 20, and I’ve been wrong about plenty of guys before, so feel free to keep an eye on him, but I’m just not very excited about his skillset.
As always, feel free to use this thread for any prospect/minor league questions you may have.