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Triple-A report: Pacific Coast League
Following up on Ryan Fowler’s report on the International League, today’s feature examines the prospects of the Pacific Coast League. Utilizing the analysis and observations of Mike Feigen, Media Relations Manager of the Omaha Storm Chasers with experience in the Texas, Pacific Coast and Arizona Fall Leagues, here are seven players making noise down on the farm.
Mike Montgomery LHP Omaha/Kansas City
Montgomery was one of five fledgling Royals to land inside the top 20 in Baseball America’s distinguished Top 100 Prospects list, joining Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Wil Myers and John Lamb. And with good reason: Montgomery posted a cumulative 2.61 ERA in 93 innings at three minor league stops in 2010.
A former first-round pick, Montgomery has struggled with his command at times in 2011, correlating to a 4.62 BB/9 ratio. A rough May and June tempered expectations on Montgomery, but the 6’4 southpaw submitted three solid starts to begin July, owning a 2.04 ERA in 17.2 innings with 17 strikeouts.
“Right now, his changeup is slightly better than his curve,” said Feigen. “Once he develops that third pitch, he will be something special.”
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Montgomery was roughed up in his latest outing, with three walks serving as a stimulus for five earned runs. However, if Montgomery can start getting ahead in counts, Feigen believes the lefty will be on the right track.
Brett Lawrie 3B Las Vegas/Toronto
This name might ring a bell to fantasy aficionados, as Lawrie’s promotion to Toronto seemed imminent in late May. Alas, a fastball to the wrist caused a fracture, forcing the third baseman to the sidelines.
Lawrie and the Las Vegas 51s came through Omaha earlier in the season when the third baseman was healthy, and Feigen testifies the Blue Jays basher is the real deal. “He’s very intense and plays the game hard,” said Feigen. “He has power to all fields, and is faster than you think.” The stats attest to this sentiment, as Lawrie has 11 swipes in 12 tries this season.
After a short rehab stint at Single-A Dunedin, Lawrie is back with the 51s. In 55 games at the Triple-A level this season, Lawrie is hitting .349 with 15 home runs, 51 RBI and 54 runs. The only concern for Lawrie is his defense, as the 2008 first-round pick has 13 errors on the year, as well as 25 fielding blunders in 2010.
Johnny Giavotella 2B Omaha/Kansas City
Not as heralded as some of the other prospects in the Royals pipeline, Giavotella has made his name known in 2011, hitting .340 with nine homers and 65 RBI in 96 games for the Storm Chasers. According to Feigen, this hitting aptitude derives from Giavotella’s ability to recognize pitches, stating, “He hits just as well behind in the count as he does when he’s ahead.”
Possessing decent speed and an improving glove, Giavotella’s performance earned the second baseman a start in the Triple-A All-Star Game. This, along with Giavotella’s offensive onslaught, has fans in Kansas City clamoring for a call-up. So will we be seeing Giavotella in Royal blue anytime soon?
“I think Kansas City is mindful of not rushing him,” said Feigen. “He is probably ready, but the Royals have an influx of infielders.”
While he has the capacity to make phenomenal plays in the field, the coaching staff is continually working with Giavotella on his defense. But with a .401 average since June 1, Giavotella might be in Kauffman Stadium sooner than expected.
Trayvon Robinson OF Albuquerque/LA Dodgers
Robinson submitted a fine season with Double-A Chattanooga in 2010, finishing with a line of .300/.404/.438 to go along with nine jacks, 57 RBI and 80 runs. (In a related note, the Chattanooga Lookouts own the best cap in the minors, with their insignia illustrating two eyeballs in-between a block “C.” Definitely worth the purchase. ) While these figures were solid, they certainly didn’t convey a player possessing a ton of power. Yet Robinson’s 2011 output would dispute that notion, as the Dodger prospect has bashed 25 bombs for Triple-A Albuquerque.
However, the PCL is infamous as a launching-pad league, and Albuquerque’s Isotopes Park is notorious for its hitter-friendly accommodations. Is this environment serving as a catalyst for Robinson’s robust figures?
“He has the power, but the league is definitely contributing to those numbers,” said Feigen. Dodger Stadium is ranked 25th in homers allowed this season, and Feigen is not sure Robinson’s approach will translate in Chavez Ravine.
While Feigen believes Robinson needs to cut down on his strikeout propensity, he does mention that the Isotope outfielder owns a sweet swing that would work on any level. It’s also worth noting that Robinson is batting .304 on the season, impressive for someone swinging for the fences.
Matt Dominguez 3B New Orleans/Florida
The 12th overall pick in the 2007 Draft, Dominguez has yet to display the type of proficiency at the plate needed at the Major League level. In five seasons in the minors, Dominguez has a career .253 average, albeit with a respectable .325 OBP. Dominguez has displayed some pop, launching 14 long balls in 2010 with 81 RBIs. Feigen is well aware of Dominguez’s strength.
“He killed us,” said Feigen, as Dominguez submitted a 4-for-4 performance earlier this season against the Storm Chasers with two bombs and five ribbies. In fact, four of Dominguez’s eight homers on the year have come against Omaha.
But we would be remiss if evaluating Dominguez strictly on his offensive output, for his inherent value lies in the field. With a cannon for an arm and owning unbelievable range, Dominguez is one of the premier defenders in the league. As baseball continues to gravitate toward a more defensive-oriented mindset, Dominguez is projected to man Florida’s hot corner for years to come.
Martin Perez LHP Round Rock/Texas
At just 20-years-old, Perez recently became the youngest player to appear in a PCL game this season, surrendering just one run in five innings to win his league-debut last week. Perez has routinely been compared to Johan Santana thanks to their similar stature and appearance, appraisals that have led to a paramount projection by Baseball America, ranking inside their top 25 the last two seasons. While Feigen mentions these might be lazy comparisons, he understands the association. “He doesn’t quite have the fastball Santana had, but his curve ball is pretty solid and his changeup is what will get him to the majors.”
Feigen was impressed by Perez’s poise and notes the left-hander is a quick worker on the mound. Although Perez will occasionally leave a pitch up and over the plate, Feigen believes the tools are all there. “The difference will be if he can get some cut or movement on his fastball. Once he gets that, he’s going to be great.”
Clint Robinson DH Omaha/Kansas City
Most baseball fans haven’t heard of Robinson, which is a shame since he captured the Texas League Triple Crown in 2010 with a .335 average, 29 home runs and 98 RBI at Double-A Northwest Arkansas. He has continued his batting barrage in 2011, smacking 18 homers and 63 RBI.
“Clint is one of the leaders of the team,” said Feigen. “A professional in every sense of the word.” Robinson was rewarded for his first-half exploits with a selection to the Triple-A All-Star Game.
Unfortunately for Robinson, there’s somewhat of a logjam at the Major League level with Hosmer and Billy Butler occupying the same positions. Worse, Robinson’s lack of speed and defensive dexterity limits him to first base and the DH role. However, Feigen thinks Robinson will ultimately get a shot with Kansas City. “Just a matter of time before an opportunity will arise.”
And that’s all a minor-leaguer can ask for: an opportunity to show they belong.
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