Double-A Leader Boards: The Hitters by Marc Hulet July 20, 2009 This week we’re taking a look at some of the leader boards in double-A and high-A ball. Today, we’ll take a look at the leaders in batting average and home runs among the three double-A leagues: the Eastern League, the Southern League and the Texas League. You’ve probably heard a lot of these names before, but some of them are fairly new, so let’s see if they’re prospects or suspects. The Eastern League Batting Average (.342) – Brock Bond | 2B | San Francisco A former 24th round selection out of the University of Missouri, Bond doesn’t really hit with enough power to play everyday, especially with his poor instincts on the base paths; He’s been success stealing bases just 11 times in 24 attempts. With that said, the 23-year-old second base is leading the league in hitting and has a career batting average of .326. San Francisco should be proactive and begin getting him experience at other positions because he has the makings of an offensive-minded utility player. (.338) – Josh Thole | C | New York (NL) A converted catcher, Thole has improved enough behind the plate to be an average defensive catcher. Offensively, the left-handed prospect is a gifted hitter who walks more than he strikes out (1.32 BB/K) and hits for a high average. Thole does lack power in his bat, which limits his ceiling a little bit. However, you won’t find many left-handed hitting catchers in the Majors that can hit .300. (.333) – Michael Taylor | OF | (Philadelphia) Taylor has really turned himself into a prospect over the past two seasons. The Stanford grad is 6’6′ 250 pounds but he stolen 18 bases in 22 attempts, to go along with his excellent batting average and 15 home runs. Perhaps in an effort to showcase Taylor, Philadelphia promoted him to triple-A, where he’s now played four games. There are questions about how much of his power is usable, in-game power. Home Runs (19) – Brian Dopirak | 1B | Toronto Rescued off the Cubs’ scrap heap, Dopirak has blossomed with a new swing and approach at the plate. He slugged 29 homers last season for the Toronto organization, while playing mainly in high-A. This season in double-A, Dopirak, 25, continued hitting well with the league lead in homers, as well as a .308 batting average. He’s now been promoted to triple-A, where he should enjoy hitting in the Pacific Coast League. (17) – Ryan Strieby | 1B/LF | Detroit Strieby may have hit the quietest 29 home runs in 2008. Taken in the fourth round in 2006 out of the University of Kentucky, the 23-year-old has slowly made himself into a top prospect with his combination of power and ability to hit for a respectable average (.310 in 2009). (17) – Brennan Boesch | OF | Detroit Taken a round earlier than Strieby and out of the University of California, Boesch’s first two full seasons in the minors were underwhelming. He’s having a breakout season in terms of power this year, although the batting average is suspect (.260) and he rarely walks (.300 OBP). The Southern League Batting Average (.347) – Chris Heisey | OF | Cincinnati Heisey has received a fair bit of attention this season for really turning himself into a legitimate big-league prospect. Drafted out of a small college in 2006, the 24-year-old outfielder showed an ability to hit for average and power, while also stealing 13 bases in 14 attempts. Heisey is now hitting .314 in 18 triple-A games. (.328) – Desmond Jennings | OF | Tampa Bay Despite missing almost all of 2008 due to an injury, Jennings is one of the hottest hitters in the minors. He’s screaming for a promotion to triple-A with a .485 batting average, 12 walks and seven stolen bases in his last 10 games. For the season, he’s nabbed 36 bases in 41 attempts. (.317) – Darwin Barney | SS | Chicago (NL) Selected in the fourth round of the 2007 draft out of the Oregon State University, Barney had a modest first full season in the Majors in 2008. Aggressively promoted to double-A in 2009, the infielder responded with a solid batting average. He doesn’t hit for power or steal bases, so Barney is probably a long-term utility player. He’s currently hitting .170 in 14 triple-A games. Home Runs (20) – Greg Halman | OF | Seattle Halman has troubles hitting the broadside of a barn with the barrel of his bat (He has a strikeout rate of 41.8%), but when he makes contact that barn will have some serious hurt. Halman is loaded with athletic ability and tons of potential but it’s disappointing that Seattle has let him get to double-A with this approach at the plate (0.14 BB/K). He makes Russell Branyan look like Ichiro. (17) – Stefan Gartrell | OF | Chicago (AL) Three of the Top 7 home run hitters in the Southern League come from the same Birmingham squad but only catcher Tyler Flowers is a legitimate prospect. Gartrell, 25, has come a long way since being drafted out of the University of San Francisco in the 31st round as a senior in 2006. He’s repeating double-A after spending all of 2008 in Birmingham, as well. (17) – David Cook | OF | Chicago (AL) Cook has been kicking around the system since being drafted out of the University of Miami (Ohio) in 2003. Now 28, the outfielder is having a nice season while providing veteran leadership to the organization’s young prospects. He was recently promoted to triple-A. The Texas League Batting Average (.358) – Jordan Parraz | OF | Royals An astute pick-up out of the Astros system prior to the 2009 season, Parraz has broken out with the bat, especially in terms of average. The 24-year-old moved very slowly through the Astros system, despite being a former third-round pick with a lot of promise. His base running (33 steals in ’07) seems to have dried up with just four in 12 attempts this season. He’s probably a long-term fourth outfielder with a powerful arm, but he should be challenged with a promotion to triple-A. (.353) – Adrian Cardenas | IF | Oakland Cardenas’ season has had a fair number of ups and downs. The infielder had a nice beginning to his season in double-A before a quick promotion to triple-A. His struggles in the senior league led to a demotion back to double-A where he’s dominated the competition. The organization is obviously hesitant to send him back up, but he has little left to prove in double-A with the bat (defense is another story). (.331) – Tyler Henley | OF | St. Louis An eighth round selection out of Rice University in 2007, Henley has flown under the radar throughout his entire pro career. The left-handed hitter has a career line of .296/.362/.474 but he doesn’t hit for enough power to be a Major League regular. Home Runs (16) – Collin DeLome | OF | Houston DeLome, a fifth round pick out of Lamar University, has exceeded expectations but he’s probably not going to make enough contact to be a regular big-league outfielder. His career batting average is .266 and he’s taken just 22 walks in 2009, compared to 86 Ks. Teams can always use left-handed power, though, so the 23-year-old could eventually work his way into a platoon situation in Houston. (16) – Chad Tracy | 1B | Texas Selected out of Pepperdine University in the third round of the 2006 draft, Tracy had a lot more value before moving from catcher to first base (and left field). Now, he projects to be a quad-A slugger, who could eek out a Ross Gload type of career. (16) – Corey Smith | 1B | Kansas City A former top prospect (and former first-round pick) of the Cleveland Indians, Smith just keeps plugging along in hopes of realizing his big-league dream. After hitting 26 homers in double-A for the Angels organization in 2008, Smith is tied for the league lead at the same level in 2009. He still doesn’t hit for average and he still doesn’t have much patience at the plate… but you have to applaud his perseverance.