I have several questions about the prospects involved in the Carlos Beltran trade, so here is my take.
Mark Teahen: Hit .335 with .419 on-base percentage and .543 slugging percentage in 53 games for Double-A Midland this year, earning a promotion to Triple-A Sacramento, where he hit .275/.383/.391 in 20 games. A key figure in the famous Moneyball draft, Teahen has a line-drive stick from the left side and excellent strike-zone judgment. He is also a very good defensive third baseman. The main problem is power: some people (including the Royals and the Athletics) think he'll develop 20 homer power in time, while others, including a lot of statheads, aren't so sure. He also strikes out a lot. He should hit for average, get on base, and play solid defense, so at the least I think he'll be a reasonable replacement for Joe Randa. He will go to Triple-A Omaha for now, working on his power development.
Mike Wood: Wood was crushed in major-league action last summer, but has been consistent and effective in Triple-A. He was 11-3 with a 2.80 ERA and 66/24 K/BB ratio in 90 innings before the trade. Wood's fastball is mediocre in terms of velocity, but has excellent sinking action. He also has an effective splitter and straight changeup. He'll go into the Royals rotation immediately (replacing Chris George), and while he doesn't project as an ace, they expect him to develop into a strike-throwing inning-eater. At worst he should be able to contribute in long relief.
John Buck: Hitting .300/.368/.507 at Triple-A New Orleans, Buck should be the Royals' starting catcher by this time next week. He is a power hitter with good defensive skills. Nagging injuries limited his hitting last year, but he's healthy again and has put up good numbers. Note that New Orleans, unlike the rest of the Pacific Coast League, is not a good park for a power hitter, yet he's done well there. I don't think he's going to be a big hitter for average, but he should knock the ball well.
To the Mailbag
Jack in Toronto asks: Who is Ian Kinsler in the Rangers system? I just noticed him on the top of the Baseball America Prospect Hot Sheet this week, and his numbers are astounding. Especially for an unheralded 17th-round draft pick.
Kinsler is one of the best stories in the minors this year. He hit .402/.465/.692 with 16 steals in 59 games for Clinton in the Midwest League. Read those numbers again: .402 in 59 games. Since being promoted to Double-A Frisco, Kinsler is 18-for-38 (.474) with five homers in nine games. He has great plate discipline, power, and is a reasonably good defensive shortstop.
So, who the heck is this guy?
Kinsler was drafted out of the University of Missouri. I saw him play for the Tigers, and he struck me as a decent-enough athlete with a bit of pop in his bat, someone who would make a solid mid-to-late round pick, which is what everyone else thought too. I don't think anyone could have expected this offensive explosion. I haven't seen Kinsler play yet this year, but I hope to see him in a swing around the Texas League soon.
Is it a fluke? I want to see him in person before making a full assessment. My gut reaction at this point is that there is probably some flukiness and luck involved here, yes, but that Kinsler is a legitimately very good prospect and perhaps an excellent one. Once I see him in person I will make a firmer decision.
Tony from Albany asks: Who is this Ian Bladergroen guy in the Mets system? His numbers are awesome.
Bladergroen is hitting .337/.397/.598 for the Capital City Bombers in the Sally League. I receive questions about him twice a day it seems, so I figured I should answer. He is a left-handed hitting first baseman/DH with big-time power potential from the left side. His plate discipline is only adequate (25 walks, 52 strikeouts in 261 at-bats), and there are some concerns about his ability to make contact and work the count effectively against more advanced pitching. He hit .285/.354/.416 last year in the New York-Penn League, so his '04 numbers represent significant improvement.
Bladergroen was a 44th round draft-and-follow guy, out of a junior college in Colorado, picked in 2002 but not signed until the spring of 2003. He's a big guy at 6-foot-5, 210 pounds, and at age 21 is neither young nor old for the Sally League. He doesn't have a great glove, but if he hits they will find a spot for him. We need to see how he holds up against pitchers who know what they are doing, but so far his career is off to a fine start.
P.M. asks: John, White Sox fans heard a lot of positives about Ryan Sweeney in spring training, not much since. How's he progressing?
Sweeney was a second-round pick last year out of high school in Iowa. He looked great this spring, and the White Sox were confident enough in his ability to push him all the way to the Carolina League, quite a jump for a high school kid from the Upper Midwest. Sweeney is hitting .252/.313/.336, very weak numbers for an outfielder. But again, he's very young for the level, and he isn't striking out very much, just 39 times in 70 games, 274 at-bats, a sign that he isn't totally overmatched. He'll need time to develop, but I'm cautiously optimistic about his chances in the long run.
John Sickels is the author of The Baseball Prospect Book 2004, which can be ordered through his Web site, Johnsickels.com. His other book, "Bob Feller: Ace of the Greatest Generation," is also out, and can be ordered through online book outlets or your local bookstore. He lives in Lawrence, Kan., with his wife, Jeri; son, Nicholas; and feline friends Toonces and Spot.