Well, any of you who saw the Futures Game at the All Star break know that my pick-to-click, Raphael Furcal, didn't walk away with the the game MVP. I guess my enthusiasm got the best of me. He was overmatched in his first at-bat vs Rick Ankiel (yeah, but who isn't) and he beat out an infield single in his second. But then he got caught in a run down trying to steal second. All in all not a great day, but not a bad one either, considering he was probably the only guy in A-ball on either roster. He'll get better... a lot better... he's hitting .338 and getting on base at a .420 clip so far. Oh, and has 71 steals.
I wrote about him before, but his performance bears mentioning again. Erubial Durazo is now hitting .429 and slugging .762 in AAA. This is after he hit .403/.695 in AA. Do they just not throw breaking balls in the minors anymore? Numbers like that do not occur normally in nature. If I had a guy like that in my farm system, I'd find a way to have him play everyday on the big club, even if I had to put him at shortstop.
The Padres have another good catcher on the way, bringing back memories of the days when they had Benito Santiago and Sandy Alomar Jr behind the plate. Ben Davis is already up and doing pretty well in the majors and Winkleman Gonzales just got promoted to AAA. Gonzales, by all accounts has a good arm and a very good bat. In AA this year, he hit .338 with 10 homers and 49 RBI. His secondary numbers are also good: .424 on base and .560 slugging. He also has good command of the strikezone, walking 29 times while striking out only 28. He's a little old (25) to still be considered a top prospect, but could be valuable as a back up, or more likely, as trade bait to a team where he would have a chance at starting.
The Expos have another solid pitcher on the way... uh, perhaps I should rephrase that since, with the exception of Ugueth Urbina, their good pitchers are the products of other farm systems... anyway, they've got a very good pitcher in AA Harrisburg who they acquired along with Carl Pavano in the Pedro Martinez deal. Tony Armas, Jr., son of the All Star outfielder, is making quite a name for himself, holding opposing hitters to a measly .210 batting average. He's currently 6-4 with a 2.39 ERA in 18 games. The 20-year old has good strikeout ratios, both in relation to innings pitched (80 in 113 innings) and walks (80/38). He throws around 90 mph consistently and scouts believe he'll add another 3-4 miles an hour as he matures. Adding to his travelogue, he was signed by Yankees originally, but was traded in a deal in 1997 to Boston for Mike Stanley. Had the Yankees not traded him, they, not the Red Sox reportedly would have gotten Pedro Martinez in 1998, as the Expos would not deal Martinez until Armas was included. Wild!
Finally, I always enjoy the Nintendo-like line scores you find with high school players and players in the rookie leagues. One of the more mind-boggling that I've seen this summer is the one for Cincinnati's second pick in this year's draft, Ben Broussard. In 33 games at Pioneer (rookie) League Billings, he has hit .429 with 12 homers and 45 RBI. His on base is .541 and his slugging is .825. Time to move him up a level, guys. On a similar note, just over 20 years ago, Gary Redus had one of the greatest years in professional baseball history at Billings. In 1978, he hit .462, with 17 homers, drove in 62 RBI, scored 100 runs and stole 42 bases in just 68 games. He never really captured that kind of magic in the majors, though. Sometimes it just works out that way.