Blue Ribbon Gold Star
Well, here we are. It’s the end of another minor league baseball season. Do you know how many young men have been through a season like this? Lots. That’s not an exact number. I’ll leave the exact number up to someone with a subscription to the Internet or Wikipeeedia, or a VCR, or an encyclopedia. Anyway, every season begins with heralded kids from all over the western hemisphere (and some from the far-east) being written about by blibber-blabberers like me and zillions more kids who aren’t mentioned in preseason rankings or blogs or Baseball Ameri-spectus. I kinda like these kids, the unmentioned, the unranked. I think you do to. I love Jurickson Profar. But he’s part of the chosen. The kid made an entire nation dance when he was 11 years old for pete’s sake. Jurickson’s been ranked since he was born. So Ima gonna shine a flashlight’s worth of wattage on the unranked. Unfortunately the fleeting nature of being unranked is that it’s only a coat you can wear for one winter. Next spring, the unranked will be written about, but this past spring they weren’t, they worked hard and now they’re here. So here:
Jared Hoying “Rabbit” Hoying is a left-handed hitter. So that’s cool. He can play all 3 outfield positions, which is also cool. I’ve seen him take solid routes on balls while playing left, center, and right. He makes a ton of contact and he handled the formidable jump to AA ball with aplomb. He’s damn near hit .300 since being called up and despite being extricated from the hitters doom that is the Carolina League, this is no small feat. He’d been in that league’s dense air for more than a season. Jared hit like it was easy in short-season Spokane after being drafted in the 10th round of 2010 from baseball megalith, University of Toledo. Then in 2011, he met the Myrtle Beach pitcher’s parks, sea breeze, 140 game schedule, and interminable bus rides. He picked himself off the floor, came into 2012 with a publicly stated goal to be promoted to AA, and I’ll be damned if he hasn’t done just that. He’s an aggressive hitter who could probably stand to work the count a little more. He enjoyed the first pitch of many at-bats I’ve seen. But that’s cool, because he often puts the good part of the bat on it. His above-average speed translates more into extra-base hits than it does stolen bases, but he’s got 9 of the latter. According to his bio, i.e. his Twitter feed, he really likes to hunt and fish and as a Midwest boy, he could probably use some help from a couple of you folks on good spots down here to do both. He signs a crapton of autographs after games, something I’ve noticed time and time again. He’s often the last player signing even when the cheap bastards that own the Riders have turned off many of the lights. That’s a true story. I’ve seen him keep signing in a partially dark stadium on a number of occasions. I know what you’re thinking, so I’ll go ahead and get the comparison out of the way. He’s an affable, left-handed hitting, outfielder that can play all three outfield positions and likes to hunt and fish- so go ahead with you’re David Murphy comps. They’re inevitable. I like the kid. Welcome to the prospectdome, Rabbit Hoying.
Phil Klein Phil is First-Team All Bus. This is the dude you want to amble off the transport right after rolling into a village you aim to conquer. You tell the swerving opponent, “That’s our relief pitcher.” Phil is not sleight. He’s not fat, not even chubby, but he’s listed at 6’7” and 245lbs. That’s a big baseball player, and not a very heralded one. Coming into this season, the 30th rounder from 2011, was more of a project than anything else. Another Ohio native, Klein finished a rather unspectacular four year baseball career at Youngstown State (well, there was that Second-Team All-Horizon League honor following his senior year), and began the 2012 campaign as a 23 year-old at low-A Hickory. Texas felt like there was more velocity in his robust frame and they’ve been right. While not a traditional power pitcher, Klein regularly works in the low-90s and could feature even more velo with continued refinement. He also throws a slider that seems to confound most radio folks into thinking it’s a cutter. I have yet to see the pitch in person or ask the kid what the hell it is, but Jason Cole says it’s a slider, and that is certainly good enough for me. He’s got good command for a big fella and has a long stride that must be quite a physical presence for hitters. He’s never started a minor league game and probably won’t. He’s succeeding following a late-season promotion to Myrtle Beach, but the big jump awaits. He’s going to have to work hard on his secondaries in the off-season if he wants to succeed at the higher levels and possibly one day the fancy-pants world of major league baseball bullpens. But I think the kid can do it. He’s a smart kid, right? I mean, he did spend four years in college.
Drew Robinson DROB! Apparently in 2010, amidst stumbling home values and the dust like disintegration of the financial wherewithal for new high rises, Las Vegas was pumping out ball players. Texas’ 4th round pick, a University of Nebraska commit, Drew Robinson was one of those. (side note: Gobbles Gallo sprang from the similar LV fountains two years later). Ranked by Baseball America as having the second best, well everything, Robinson was perpetually behind preternatural Vegas wunderkind, Bryce Harper. No worries for DROB though, he was snatched up by TEX, and now figures to be the top 3rd base prospect in the system. I mean, Olt is a big leaguer, Villanueva was traded and Gobbles may not stick at the position. Drew plays a crisp third. Good actions and an arm strong enough to make all the throws. His footwork is a strength as was to be somewhat expected from the HS shortstop. But he’s made his biggest impression on me at the plate. He has shown a little pop in the form of 11 homers, something that should increase as he physically matures, and strikes out too much. But he has a trait not often seen amongst 20 year olds. He leads all Texas teams, including the dudes at the top, in walks. 81 free passes he’s taken this year. Second is Joey Butler’s 75 in Round Rock, Mike Napoli leads the MLBers with 50. That’s the sign of a good approach and above-average pitch recognition and it’s generally, a skill that translates well as you move through the levels. If he keeps walking and hitting and walking and hitting and playing a good third base and walking and hitting, he’ll get somewhere. That’s what we all want anytime we walk, to get somewhere.
So there you have it, three dudes who began the year as underdogs and who won’t wear that cape ever again. Now we know who they are and with that knowledge comes an entirely new set of expectations. Frankly, none of these guys project as big league stars and even more frankly, it’s very likely they may not even be big leaguers at all. But they’ve busted their tails, had a good 2012, and deserve to be recognized in the most public of all forums, the Internet.
As always, thanks for reading and, please, enjoy baseball. Love Ya!