The Z-meter tracks the story arcs of 25 top prospects (or players we just like) on their way to the bigs. It is named after current Washington Nationals star Ryan Zimmerman, who made the transition from anchoring the University of Virginia to starring in MLB in one year.
Nobody has accumulated stats yet, so this first edition of ’09 will just introduce you to the players and give you some idea of why they’re on this list. We’ll start keeping a weekly tally of stats and farm-system promotions next week.
Players new to the list are added in green. The rest are holdovers from last year. You’ll also notice that we’ve added the college line. Odds of this being used often are very small. But this year, we have a guy who’s really worth watching.
The top level. These prospects are in AAA in the prime of their youth, waiting for the call that will change their lives.
Andrew McCutchen, CF – Indianapolis Indians (Pirates): A mainstay on last year’s list, and very close to being called up for good.
Wade Davis, RHP – Durham Bulls (Rays): Couldn’t quite keep pace with fellow Rays hurler David Price, but came pretty close.
Kila Kaaihue, 1B – Omaha Royals: Great Hawaiian name, and plays for my hometown team. Can belt the ball, no doubt.
Mat Gamel, 3B – Nashville Sounds (Brewers): Got a couple of at-bats in Milwaukee last season, striking out once and knocking a double. Odds are, he’ll get a chance to try again, and soon.
Matt LaPorta, CF – Columbus Clippers (Indians): Former teammate of meter-mates Gamel and Escobar, LaPorta was traded as part of the Sabathia deal. His numbers tailed off after that, but he’s still starting the season in Triple-A, so he’s not far from livin’ the dream at this point.
Alcides Escobar, SS – Nashville Sounds (Brewers): Escobar gets on base (.328 average) and then makes you pay (34 stolen bases). He did plenty of damage at Huntsville, so he gets to start in AAA with Gamel.
Carlos Carrasco, RHP – Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (Phillies): Added by Will because he throws big-time gas. As Will says “As far as I’m concerned, with the radar gun it’s triple digits or go home.”
Ramiro Pena, SS – Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees: The switch-hitting shortstop from Mexico was suggested by our bobblehead guru, Eric Marinbach.
Jordan Zimmermann, RHP – Syracuse Chiefs: An Extra P. choice, Zimmermann would like to join the man with the one-letter-shorter version of his last name in D.C. this season. How I kept Zimmermann off of the Z-meter this long, I’ll never know.
These guys also have the potential to skip straight to the majors, but may get promoted to AAA first.
Austin Jackson, OF – Trenton Thunder (Yankees): Jackson is the top prospect in the Yanks organization, according to Baseball America. He played well in spring training, even belting a grand slam, but there’s no room for him in the Bronx right now.
Antonio Bastardo, LHP – Reading Phillies (Phillies): The lefty was flying up the meter last season until he got hurt, ending up playing in just 19 games all year long.
Matt Wieters, C – Bowie Baysox (Orioles): Being hailed as a god in Charm City, and was the top overall prospect of last year, an honor previously held by Jay “The Deal” Bruce. Hit well over .300 in a season split between A and AA. Expect to see him in Camden some time this year.
Lars Anderson, 1B – Portland SeaDogs (Red Sox): This guy kind of embodies the frustration of playing for a championship-winning organization. He’s playing really well, but there’s no room above right now.
Fernando Martinez, CF – Binghamton Mets (Mets): Started in center for the International side in the MLB Futures Game. I can’t currently figure out where he’s been assigned, but I’ll update his status as soon as I know.
Jhoulys Chacin, RHP – Tulsa Drillers (Rockies): My favorite fireballer from last season. Had the most wins of any pitcher in the minors, with a total of 18. Struck out 160 batters as well, so, you know… holy crap.
Daniel Bard, RHP – Portland Sea Dogs (Red Sox): Another of Will’s heat-throwing selections. He went 4-1 with a 1.99 ERA for the Sea Dogs last season.
Carlos Santana, C – Akron Aeros (Indians): Started 2008 in the Dodgers organization before being swapped to the Indians as part of a deal for Casey Blake. Has been destroying the minors, once getting seven RBIs in a single game, and carrying a .999 OPS throughout the season.
These guys have vast potential but need to work out some kinks in A-ball before they can advance.
Ian Gac, 1B – Bakersfield Blaze (Rangers): Gac! has almost become a standard salutation between OMDQ and I. The man practices economy of name, and he doesn’t waste at-bats, either. Gac! hit 32 homers last year, and drove in 109 runs.
Mike Moustakas, SS – Wilmington Blue Rocks (Royals): Moustakas struggled in the first half of his debut season, but grew steadily stronger and more disciplined in the second half. Ended up with 22 homers and a pile of doubles.
Madison Bumgarner, LHP – San Jose Giants (Giants): Bumgarner was added to the meter late last season, so we hardly got to know him before it was all over. He went 15-3 at Augusta as a rookie, with a 1.46 ERA, and will begin the season in A-Advanced as a result.
Michael Ynoa, RHP – not assigned yet (Athletics): OMDQ wanted to see the man of many names in our countdown. Given how highly sought-after the Dominican righty has been, he’s bound to make a splash.
Che-Hsuan Lin, OF – Salem Red Sox: MVP for the International side of the MLB Futures Game last season. My (Extra P’s) choice to add because he’s awesome, and because he’s playing close enough to my home for me to go see him.
Josh Vitters, 3B – Peoria Chiefs (Cubs): Another Extra P. selection, Vitters had epic 25- and 15-game hitting streaks at short-season Boise before spending a very brief four-game stint at Peoria to end his first pro season. Hits for average and legs out some doubles.
Shooter Hunt, RHP – Beloit Snappers (Twins): Shooter’s here for a few reasons. One, he went to Virginia, as did the man I named this meter after, and I live in Charlottesville, so I watch Virginia often. Second, his name is Shooter Hunt, for god’s sake. That shit is like catnip to me.
Justin Smoak, 1B – Hickory Crawdads (Rangers): BA’s Prospect Handbook compares Smoak favorably to Mark Teixiera, and that’s good enough for us. He had a record-setting career at the University of South Carolina and was a teammate of Matt Wieters in high school.
NCAA: Only used if a prospect in college shows really, truly, immensely, hugely inescapable potential.
Stephen Strasburg, RHP – San Diego State: Has shown 100+ on the radar gun, and was the only college player to make the Olympic team last year. He’ll clearly be a top pick when he declares, so OMDQ says “no shame in tracking his stats right now.” Consider it done.
7 GS – 6W – 0L – 1.49 ERA – 10 BB – 94 K
Prospects chosen from Diamond Cutter’s Top 25, Baseball America, and our trademark irrational sense of whimsy.