2011 MiLB Farm Report, Sticks Of Gold: Anthony Rizzo & Other Red Hot Bats of AA & AAA
Few players ever reach cult hero status in the minor leagues, but the 2008 non-hodgkins lymphoma survivor has accomplished just that.
An integral piece in the trade that sent Adrian Gonzalez to Boston, Rizzo is currently making a mockery of the Pacific Coast League. Through 163 at bats he's hitting .368 with 14 doubles, 14 HR and 56 RBI. He's sporting a 1.165 OPS, batting .466 with runners in scoring position and has 13 HR in 133 AB against right-handed pitching.
While the former sixth round selection showed glimpses in AA last season (.260/25/100), he's now operating in a whole different stratosphere. Rizzo shows good patience and plate discipline (21 BB), but does have a tendency to swing and miss (41 K in 41 games, 132 K last season). His .427 BABIP tells the tale: when he puts lumber on the ball, the result is pain for the pitcher.
The 6'2 left-hander has quiet hands and explosive bat speed. Power potential is significant, with the approach to hit for a solid average as well. Whether he's ready for the show or not has yet to be determined, but there's nothing left for him to prove in AAA. The Padres little league roster is certainly not standing in his path. Rizzo will turn 22 in August.
Word of caution: Petco Park is a far cry from the thin air in PCL ballparks. His Tucson club has scored 278 runs in 45 games.
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B Arizona
To steal a title from Faith No More, Goldschmidt has come "from out of nowhere". An 8th round pick out of Texas State in 2009, there were serious concerns over his bat speed, length of swing and ability to identify to breaking pitches.
His numbers in the CAL last year were massive (.314, 42 doubles, 35 HR and 108 RBI), but his 162 strikeouts lent credence to the aforementioned flaws at the dish.
Thus far in 2011, however, Goldschmidt has silenced even the harshest critics. In the AA Southern League he's tearing the cover off the baseball to the tune of .333, 15 HR and 43 RBI. More impressively, he's drawn 39 walks against only 28 strikeouts, an absolutely startling reversal of fortune from his past history.
The Diamondbacks brass has openly taken notice of his improvements in a short time span, and stated that when/if he gets the call, he will play every day. With Xavier Nady, Russell Branyan and Juan Miranda failing to differentiate themselves at the big league level, the 23-year olds opportunity could arise sooner than expected.
Brandon Allen, you say? Who's that?
J.D. Martinez, OF Houston
Martinez doesn't possess the "toolsy flash" of other top prospects, yet the 2009 20th round selection has done nothing but smoke line drives for 2+ seasons.
The 23-year old hit .341 between the SAL and TEX leagues in 2010, notching 40 doubles, 18 HR and 89 RBI. It should be noted that most of his damage last year was compiled in low A, as in 50 Texas League games he hit just three HR and drove in 25 runs. Martinez has picked up in a similar vein in 2011, hitting .321 with 13 doubles and 31 RBI in 31 games, but the power is missing (3 HR). Lifting the baseball with authority is slightly out of his comfort zone, but no baseball person will complain about consistent solid contact. He's added 25 pounds since being drafted and certainly has the frame to develop power.
Martinez is a beast with ducks on the pond, batting .424 in 33 AB with RISP (.241 bases empty). He's also displayed excellent composure in those situations, accepting eight walks and not pressing to be the run producer when being pitched around. He injured his right leg in early May and has struggled since returning (.259 overall this month).
Martinez could hold his own in a major league batters box right now. His defensive aptitude in the outfield is another story..
James Darnell, 3B San Diego
Hold on, another Padre bat? Is this the bizarro world? The former South Carolina product appears to be fulfilling the offensive promise that made him a second round selection in 2008.
In his third full MiLB season (AA Texas League), Darnell is hitting .368, complemented by 15 two-base hits, nine homers and 35 RBI. His batting eye has been pristine at every stop with BB:K rates of 57:51, 87:89 and 49:68 the last three seasons. This year's ratio of 32:22 is just out of this world. There is little doubt that his approach and contact skills are big league caliber.
Now 24-years of age, why isn't he further along in the process? 1. Defensive liability at the hot corner with glove and arm. A position change seems reasonable, but the Padres already moved Logan Forsythe from 3B to 2B. 2. Line drive central, but lacks the "leave the yard" pop of a traditional corner infielder. 3. Third base is one of the few positions on San Diego's roster that seems relatively set (Chase Headley).
This situation will be intriguing to keep an eye on as the summer months gain momentum.
Written by Adam Ganeles exclusively for TheFantasyFix.com
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(Photo by Andy Hayt/Getty Images)
Tags: The Fantasy Fix, 2011 Fantasy Baseball, Fantasy Baseball Advice, 2011 Fantasy Baseball Rankings, MiLB, The Farm Report, AA, AAA, Adam Ganeles, Anthony Rizzo, James Darnell, J.D. Martinez, Paul Goldschmidt
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