Minor Matters: Jose Gonzalez Stuck at High-A
Tyler Saladino could one day be the starting shortstop for the ChiSox.
For the first time this season, we’re going to poke around the farm and check in on the performances of a few minor leaguers.
Catcher Jose Gonzalez has scored four runs in the last three games for the High-A Modesto Nuts, but before that he had only tallied two runs in his first 15 games of the season. Signed by the Rockies out of Venezuela in 2004, Gonzalez reached Double-A briefly in 2009, but he’s been stuck at High-A since and given that he’ll be 24 next month and still isn’t showing any marked improvement at the plate, his chances of making it to the majors look very slim.
Another light-hitting minor leaguer that’s had trouble since moving up is Tyler Saladino, the White Sox’s seventh round pick last year. He hit pretty well in the Appy League, and then looked even better in the Sally League last season, but he has struggled at High-A so far this year. In fairness, he had a late start to his season, and was just added to Winston-Salem a couple of weeks ago from extended Spring Training. Also, the fact that he was just drafted out of college last year yet sent straight to full-season ball speaks to how advanced he is. Saladino’s bat is beginning to thaw with doubles in each of his last two games, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he starts to turn things around very quickly. Early reports suggest that the Sox got a great bargain with this 21-year-old.
Philadelphia outfield farmhand Jiwan James was converted from a pitcher to a position player prior to the 2009 season after the Phillies took him in the 22nd round. The transition has been slow and as he’s moved up the ladder, his offensive game has suffered. However, now at High-A, James has been showing some life with this bat recently. He was 3-for-8 with a run, double, triple and two walks in Monday’s 23 (!) inning marathon and has now hit safely in seven straight games. James, who turned 22 last month, could be on the cusp of figuring it out, so he needs to be watched closely.
Travis Witherspoon, the Angels’ 12th round pick in 2009, got off to an amazing start in the rookie level Pioneer League last year, and while he tailed off in the second half, he still wound up flashing power and speed potential that had him being compared favourably to Mike Cameron. In 71 games with Orem last year, Witherspoon cranked 10 dingers and swiped 20 bases while batting .309. Unfortunately, the power and batting average has not followed him to Class-A yet, but as we know, speed does not slump and Witherspoon has already swiped 24 bases this year. However, the 660 OPS suggests that this recently turned 22-year-old has some adjustments to make before he’ll be ready to move to the next level.
The Nats are pretty set at third base for the time being (whenever Ryan Zimmerman returns to the lineup, that is), but down the road they have a kid at Class-A that is hitting up a storm in the Sally League. Blake Kelso, the team’s 10th round pick last year, has hit safely in five straight games and is now batting .351 with 10 doubles in 43 games. He’s showing an advanced batting eye and while it would be nice to see this 22-year-old hitting for power, he’ll be rather limited in that department. However, Kelso has plenty of speed for third baseman as evidenced by the 18 thefts he’s already accumulated in 104 professional games.