Remember this name: Bagran Airbase, Afghanistan.
With a special hello to members and families of the United States Armed Forces, let's hit the mailbag.
Matt P. asks: The White Sox said that Joe Borchard had the most raw power in the draft since Mark McGwire, when they took him in the first round (12th overall pick) in 2000. While any comparison to McGwire may be unfair, what are your feelings about Borchard's future power numbers, could he be a 40-50 HR man? How does he compare to Adam Dunn?
I know his high number of strikeouts alarms some, but do you feel this is an indicator that he simply isn't ready, or is this to be expected throughout his career? Is his swing too long, and if so, will this cause problems once he gets to the majors?
I wrote a full article about Borchard a few months ago, which you can find by clicking here.
Basically, I am extremely impressed with Borchard's raw power. Based on natural talents, yes he could be a 40-homer man someday. But as you point out, there are concerns about his propensity to strike out too much.
While he hit .295 with 27 homers and 67 walks in Double-A, he also fanned 158 times in 133 games. I'm less paranoid about strikeouts than most managers and coaches, but that is excessive. I wouldn't say that his swing is "too long," in the sense that he does hit for average and can pull or go to the opposite field. Most hitters with swings that are "too long" can't do that, or have "slider speed" bats. Borchard will crush a good fastball. I do think he'll need a year of Triple-A before being fully ready for a major-league job, but in the long run I don't anticipate that the strikeouts will be a severe problem.
Eric K. writes: Can you please tell me what Gary Glover did in the 2000 season in the minors? Was he primarily a starter or a reliever?
Glover has been a starter throughout his minor-league career. He's started 139 of 144 minor-league games in which he has appeared, including 27 for Syracuse (Toronto's Triple-A team) in 2000. He went 9-9 with a 5.02 ERA; his career minor-league ERA is 4.79, and he's had his share of rough seasons. But he's done pretty well in the White Sox bullpen this year, with sub-2.00 ERAs in both June and July.
In the 2000 STATS Minor League Scouting Notebook, I speculated that Glover "could find a niche as a reliever." He throws hard and has a good slider, but doesn't change speeds well. That's less of a problem in the bullpen. Although he is in the White Sox rotation right now, I think he'll have a better chance to survive in the long run if he is used out of the bullpen.
Eric L. asks: Ben Davis was a very highly touted Padres prospect. Would you consider him to be a disappointment, and if so do you think he can improve?
Well, I can't say that I'm personally disappointed in Davis, because I never thought he'd be much of a hitter to begin with. He has some pop, but I doubt he'll ever be more than average with the bat. So yes, he's a disappointment if you thought he'd be an offensive star, which is how the Padres hyped him when he was in their system. Realistically though, he's doing about as well as most analysts expected: providing good defense with marginal hitting. I think he'll have a Jim Sundberg-like career.
Amanda writes: I was wondering what you thought of Sean McGowan, a Triple-A prospect in the Giants organization?
McGowan hit .304 in 31 games for Double-A Shreveport this year, as well as .286 with 14 homers in 104 contests for Triple-A Fresno. He's a big guy with good bat speed and a lot of raw power, but his strike zone judgment can be a bit shaky. He drew just 28 walks this year while fanning 114 times, not a good ratio by any means. He owns a career .315 batting average in the minor leagues. I think he could hit .280 in the majors, but his on-base percentage would be mediocre unless he makes major strides with his strike zone judgment. As a first baseman/outfielder, he has to be well above-average with the bat to get a chance at a starting role, and so far he isn't.
David S. asks: What do you think of Ramon Vazquez of the Mariners? He had a nice year at Triple-A Tacoma and I have to think he has a chance to unseat Carlos Guillen next year as the Mariners' shortstop.
I think Vazquez is one of the best unsung prospects in the minors right now. He hit .300 with 10 homers and had a .397 on-base percentage for Tacoma. A left-handed hitter, Vazquez has excellent plate discipline and solid doubles power. His defense at shortstop is steady and reliable; he isn't overly flashy, but he seldom makes mistakes and has decent range. I personally believe that Vazquez deserves a shot to challenge Guillen next year, but whether the Mariners agree or not is uncertain. He doesn't get a lot of attention from scouts, although there is nothing in his numbers to indicate why, and people who watched him play every day in Tacoma this year have nothing but good things to say about him.
John Sickels is the author of the 2001 STATS Minor League Scouting Notebook. He lives in Lawrence, Kansas, with his wife, son, and two cats. You can send John questions or comments at JASickels@aol.com, or you can visit his homepage at hometown.aol.com/jasickels/page1.html.