This article is part of our John Sickels' Column series.
Possible September Promotions
Here is an updated look at some Top Prospects who could receive promotions in September (or sooner) for the stretch run. Players currently in the majors are not included.
Michael Bowden, RHP, Boston Red Sox
Bowden was 9-4, 2.33 in 19 starts for Double-A Portland, with a 101:24 K:BB in 104.1 innings and 72 hits allowed. Recently promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket, he's 0-2, 4.15 in four outings with a 14:3 K:BB in 21.2 innings. Bowden could provide Boston's pitching staff with a September boost due to his sharp command and ability to eat innings, and should be a definite staff candidate for 2009. He should already be gone in most keeper leagues with farm systems, but if available he's one of the best pitching prospects in the upper minors, granted all the caveats you have to weight when discussing young moundsmen.
Brent Clevlen, OF, Detroit Tigers
Clevlen is hitting .294/.380/.536 with 20 homers for Triple-A Toledo. A right-handed hitter with plus power and good defensive skills, Clevlen has an up-and-down track record due to erratic strike zone judgment. When he stays within himself he puts up solid performance across the board, but he fights a strong tendency to swing for the fences too often. At age 24, he is still young enough to have a significant career. His track record makes him a risky investment, but with a potentially pleasant payoff.
Dexter Fowler, OF, Colorado Rockies
Hitting .337/.430/.514 for Double-A Tulsa, with 61 walks and 20 steals in 395 at-bats, the switch-hitting Olympian is having a terrific season and could cap it with a September promotion. His on-base skills combine with plus speed to make him a long-term leadoff candidate, and unlike many such players he has pop in his bat as well. He is spending August with the US Olympic team and it will be interesting to see how he performs on such an international stage.
David Hernandez, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
A 23-year-old right-hander, Hernandez is having a breakthrough season for Double-A Bowie, going 6-4, 2.60 with a 137:56 K:BB ratio in 114 innings, with just 87 hits allowed. His main statistical flaw is a strong fly ball rate, which could result in too many homers in the majors. Hernandez is getting his fastball into the mid-90s this year, and both his breaking ball and changeup are sharper, too. His control is still an issue on occasion, and while a September promotion is not guaranteed, the Orioles may want to give him a look in preparation for 2009.
Kila Kaaihue, 1B, Kansas City Royals
The Royals need hitting, and the sudden development of Kila Kaaihue this year is certainly a great help. After struggling in Double-A in previous attempts, he broke out with a .314/.463/.624 mark for Northwest Arkansas this year, and has maintained a hot pace after being promoted to Triple-A in late July, hitting .400/.471/.800 in his first eight games. He's always had strong power potential, but had hard time finding the right balance between excess patience and excess aggression. He's found that balance this year, drawing 84 walks against a mere 47 strikeouts in 317 at-bats. At age 24, he's young enough for the improvement to be real, and it would make lots of the sense for the Royals to give him a good audition in September.
Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
McCutchen's .279/.372/.399 mark for Triple-A Indianapolis isn't spectacular, but he's still just 21 and the Pirates have not been afraid to promote him aggressively in the past. Although his power is still developing and he needs to improve his stolen base success ratio (28 steals, but 17 caught this year), his strike zone judgment is better this year and gives hope he can develop into a legitimate leadoff man. He's been hot the first week of August, hitting .375 with seven walks in seven games. Although McCutchen may not provide excellent numbers right away, his long-term outlook remains strong. He's the equivalent of a college junior.
David Price, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays
Probably the best pitching prospect still in the minors, Price is 7-0, 1.89 ERA with a 55:16 K:BB in 57 innings for Double-A Montgomery. The former Vanderbilt ace is doing everything expected of him, being clocked in the mid-to-upper 90s, throwing strikes, and generally making hitters look bad. Spring elbow problems seem a thing of the past, and rumor has it that the Rays are strongly considering him for a September promotion to help with the stretch run, though whether he starts or relieves in the majors immediately is unclear. In the long run he will be a number one/two starter, assuming the arm problems do not recur.
Nolan Reimold, OF, Baltimore Orioles
The 24-year-old Reimold has rebounded from an injury-plagued 2007 season with a fine .293/.368/.502 campaign for Double-A Bowie. Of particular note: 52 walks and just 62 strikeouts in 430 at-bats, demonstrating greatly improved plate discipline. Reimold lost a lot of development time last year, and given his age the Orioles should consider pushing the timetable and giving him a strong audition in September, especially if they see him as part of the 2009 roster. He needs to get his feet wet.
Brandon Wood, 3B, Los Angeles Angels
Wood has been on a tear at Triple-A Salt Lake, hitting 14 homers since July 1st and giving him a combined .291/.355/.606 line with 27 homers. He should get a chance to erase the bad taste he left in the mouth of fans after his .125/.164/.188 trial with the Angels earlier this year. His strike zone judgment has taken a step forward lately, but we need to see if he can maintain it against major league pitching. If the Angels don't give him a clear shot at playing time soon, they need to trade him to someone who will give him 500 at-bats and find out exactly what he is capable of. He's still just 23, and while he will never be a big guy for batting average, the power is undeniable.
Article first appeared 8/8/08