One thing that stood out to me about the Bradenton hitters was that there were no promotions. The Opening Day roster was largely the same as the roster at the end of the season. The only player to move up to AA was Travis Scott, who only made a brief appearance in Bradenton, and was more an organizational catcher. You could also add Aaron Baker to that list, although he didn’t get promoted to AA until after he was traded. A big reason for this is that Bradenton had a lot of young starters who were on a full season track, rather than older guys who could have moved up after half a season. Here is the rundown of how everyone at the level did this season, broken down by age group.
The standout from this group was Robbie Grossman. The sixth round pick in the 2008 draft had a breakout season, hitting for a .294 average with 13 homers in 490 at-bats, but more importantly, showing drastic improvements on his plate patience. Grossman entered the year with a 30.1% strikeout rate in his career, including a 25.1% last year in the FSL. He improved this year to 22.7%, and saw his walk rate jump from 11.7% last year to an astonishing 16.9% this year. Grossman became the first minor league player to walk 100 times and score 100 runs since Nick Swisher did it in 2004.
In a system that is thin of catching prospects, the Marauders had two guys put up impressive numbers at the plate. Ramon Cabrera won the Florida State League batting title with his .343 average. His defensive upside is limited due to his height, although he does have a thick frame for his small size. Carlos Paulino was acquired prior to the season in exchange for Jim Negrych. Paulino has good defensive skills, and put up a decent stat line this year. It will be interesting to see what happens to these two catchers next year, with Tony Sanchez having a down year in Altoona.
Jarek Cunningham is one of the top prospects on this list as far as abilities go, although he hasn’t had great results at the plate. He’s shown some good power for a middle infielder, ranking second in the organization in home runs, despite missing most of the second half of the season with concussion-like symptoms. His K/BB ratio is a concern, as he had a 27% strikeout rate and a 5.6% walk rate last year. This year he was at 26.5% and 4.8%.
Elevys Gonzalez put up another surprising season, and might emerge as another Josh Harrison type of player. Evan Chambers continues to put up the same type of season: low average, high walk rate, high strikeout rate, and some power. He struck out in 30% of his at-bats, and walked in 13.3% of his plate appearances, with both ratios being worse than his 2010 numbers in low-A.
The big surprise from this group was the performance of Adalberto Santos, a 22nd round pick from the 2010 draft. Santos put up some impressive numbers, with an OPS that was one point below Grossman, along with impressive K/BB ratios. He does come with the disclaimer that he’s 23 years old, which is two years older than Grossman. He also came from the college ranks, so we will need to see what he can do in AA before getting a good idea of his true talent level.
Aaron Baker started the year at first base, holding Matt Curry down in West Virginia. His presence in Bradenton caused the Pirates to skip Curry over high-A and send him to AA. Baker put up some decent numbers, and was eventually traded to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for Derrek Lee.
It was good to see Calvin Anderson hitting for power this year. Prior to the season he was working on adding a load to his swing in order to generate more power, and that seems to have paid off. He still has some plate patience issues, with a high strikeout total, although that’s less of a concern as long as he can maintain his AB/HR ratio, which projects for 32 homers in a 550 at-bat season. He lacks a true defensive position, and ultimately profiles as a designated hitter, which is where he played all season in Bradenton.
Cole White put up good numbers in the second half this year, but due to his age he needs to start moving through the system quickly to be considered a legit prospect. He missed two years serving with the US Army, which put him behind schedule. In order to have a shot, he needs to move up to Altoona to start the 2012 season, and end up in Indianapolis by the end of the season. He played a lot of first base in Bradenton, although he’d probably play outfield in AA, with Matt Curry expected to repeat the level.