McDonald’s Lovin’ It

The Minnesota Twins signed utility infielder Juan Castro to a two-year, $2M contract last night. Castro is your standard defensive specialist, but Castro is horrendous at the plate, even for a backup infielder. His lifetime batting statistics: .226/.269/.331. And this isn’t due to any sample size error; Castro has impersonated a hitter almost 1600 times in his career.

This leads to John McDonald, who is also a defensive specialist who can’t hit. If Castro is worth a two-year deal, McDonald might be worth at least something. Given that McDonald may well be worth more on the open market than in arbitration given Castro’s deal, this may push teams to go ahead and trade for McDonald rather than to wait for him to become a free agent. Strange times, eh?

Prospects

Baseball America released its list of the Indians’ top ten prospects yesterday. I disagree with a couple placements, including slotting Ryan Garko that low. I understand he doesn’t really have a position, but Garko is the closest of that group to the majors, is the best all-around hitter in the system, and he’s still considered a catcher. There’s no way he’s a better prospect than Aubrey, Miller, or Gutierrez, but placing him behind Snyder and Sowers is a bit too much. I’m also a bit puzzled why Nick Pesco made the list and not Jake Dittler. Jeremy Sowers is probably going to be a nice pitcher, but I’d rather wait and see how he does as a professional before placing him that high. Again, I understand where BA is coming from; they’ve always been about projection and upside, but in my opinion results have to matter at some point. Here’s my ‘shadow’ list:

1. RHP Adam Miller
2. 1B Michael Aubrey
3. OF Franklin Gutierrez
4. C/1B Ryan Garko
5. RHP Fausto Carmona
6. OF Brad Snyder
7. RHP Fernando Cabrera
8. RHP Andrew Brown
9. RHP Jake Dittler
10. LHP Jeremy Sowers

Not a whole lot different than BA’s list, except for swapping out Pesco for Dittler, moving Sowers down, and Garko up. I’m buying into the Miller hype, but I was *this* close to placing Aubrey ahead of him; I really like Aubrey’s total package of defense and offense at first base. The Todd Helton comparisons are probably overblown, but I really think Aubrey will be a very good major league player. If Miller stays healthy, his ceiling is extremely high, but so is the burnout rate for promising young arms. Gutierrez is a pretty solid #3: Alex Escobar’s flameout is really tempering my enthusiasm for Franklin right now, but he’s hitting well in Venezuela thus far.

Just for kicks, here’s my second ten:

11. OF Ryan Goleski
12. RHP Francisco Cruceta
13. RHP Nick Pesco
14. 3B Pat Osborn
15. OF Jason Cooper
16. 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff
17. RHP Justin Hoyman
18. LHP Dan Cevette
19. OF Juan Valdes
20. RHP Tony Sipp

Mostly a lot of decent prospects, with a couple of high-ceiling guys sprinkled in. I still like Pat Osborn, despite his injury problems. Cruceta I probably rated higher than others would, but he’s pretty close to the majors, so the margin of error isn’t as high as with guys like Pesco and Cevette. Valdes is a projection pick, as is Sipp. Both put up real intriguing numbers in short-season ball, and I’ve added them as a kind of heads-up; they may shoot up the list in the next couple years.

While the Indians system may not have as many blue-chippers as in past years, there’s a lot of depth there. I’ve left out guys like Matt Whitney and Mariano Gomez, both of whom were ranked highly before suffering injuries. And unlike in the past couple years, only two players came from other organizations; in fact, Miller, Aubrey, Garko, Snyder, Goleski, Kouzmanoff, and Valdes all came from the 2003 draft; that’s impressive.

After I (finally) complete my major-league profiles, I’ll be concentrating on the prospects; this should start in a couple of weeks.

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