Every Sunday and Wednesday during the season we will be taking a look at a specific level of the minor leagues, and how some of the top prospects at that level have been performing. However, with just three games in the books for many affiliates (and only two for some), that feature will wait to start until later this week.
I attended opening night here in Sacramento on Thursday with the specific intent of scouting a number of the top prospects playing that day. The Las Vegas 51's were in town for the game, which meant that Mets' top prospects Zack Wheeler and Travis d'Arnaud were expected to play. In addition, Sacramento had top outfield prospect Michael Choice playing center field and Grant Green at second base. I will have an in-depth report about Wheeler's start for tomorrow, instead looking at the other prospects in the game today.
Travis d'Arnaud - C - NYM - #1 catcher prospect in the offseason
d'Arnaud batted third in the Las Vegas lineup, so it was very quick that I was able to take a look at him. He was equally as quick, lacing a double to left center on the first pitch he saw from Andrew Werner. d'Arnaud isn't expected to be a great (or even above-average) runner, and it showed a little bit when the third base coach didn't send him from second on a single to left field that he probably had a better than average chance of scoring on. It was moot a batter later when the #5 hitter drove a pitch to deep center for a sacrifice fly.
d'Arnaud walked in the third inning on five pitches, although to be honest Werner was a bit all over the place at that point in the game. He scored from second base on a double by Andrew Brown with the bases loaded, and came up one more time before I had to leave that night. In the 5th inning, d'Arnaud came up with two runners on and hit a screaming liner down the third base line for a double which I didn't see (as I was walking up to the concourse), but I definitely heard it off the bat.
Overall, his offense appears as expected: He should be a well above-average contributor for fantasy offenses, providing power and a decent batting average with the potential for more. He did not have any runners attempt to steal a base that day, but he did have to make a difficult play on a cue shot out in front of home plate with Michael Choice at the plate. His defense seemed fine behind the plate, but it did appear on the couple occasions it was needed that his footwork was still a bit lacking. Nothing that should force a move at this point, but something that might be worth watching if you are playing in a format that includes defense like Scoresheet.
Wilmer Flores - 2B - NYM - #7 third base prospect
We ranked Flores at third base during the offseason, but also noted specifically that he might be in line for a position change due to the presence of David Wright in the long-term. That position change appears to have been finalized, as Flores was the starter at second base on Thursday night. He batted directly behind d'Arnaud that night, and had himself a good night at the plate as well. He hit a ringing single through the 5.5 hole with d'Arnaud on second in the first inning, was then walked on four straight pitches in the 3rd inning, and then had an RBI sac fly to center field in the 5th inning.
His offense also was as expected: Solid to above-average hitter who appears to have some decent power. The thing I was more interested in was his defense, as he could end up at first base long-term if he can't stick at second. I had seen Flores back in 2010 when he was in Savannah at Low-A, still a shortstop, and even though I was barely informed at that point on anything involving scouting, it was pretty clear that he wasn't likely to stay at shortstop.
The main play that stood out to me for Flores on Thursday night was a slow chopper over the mound by Grant Green. He moved quickly toward it, and threw him out barely, but overall the actions and motion looked awkward. I'm sure at least a part of this awkwardness stemmed from a new position for Flores, but it will be interesting to see if that improves with time and reps.
Michael Choice - OF - OAK - #20 outfield prospect
Choice is coming off of a hand fracture that ended his 2012 campaign at AA. Despite this, the A's decided to send Choice up to AAA Sacramento to start the season, and you can start to see why in this game. Choice worked a walk in his first at bat against Zack Wheeler, seeing the full repertoire from him in that at bat and laying off of both a good slider and a good changeup to get there. He struck out against Wheeler in the third, but not before making him work way more than he wanted to. Wheeler had to throw 9 pitches, as Choice kept fouling off pitch after pitch against him. In the end, this became costly to Wheeler as he lasted just 3 1/3 innings due to an elevated pitch count.
On defense, Choice played center field between Shane Peterson and Michael Taylor, and while he is passable there, it does not appear that he could play there long term. He had a couple of flyballs hit directly toward him in center field that seemed to turn him around out there. In addition, he had an opportunity to line up a throw on a sacrifice fly in the first, and the throw came back into the infield, short of the cut-off for the plate. His arm has been reported as average in some scouting reports, so I am left to wonder if he might end up in left field rather than right field long-term.
Grant Green - 2B - OAK - #16 second base prospect
I thought it was an interesting sign of what the organization wants to see as Green started at second base on Thursday, with Jemile Weeks serving as the designated hitter. Green worked a walk against Wheeler on seven pitches in which he saw nothing but fastballs in the 94-97 MPH range in his first at bat, and then was called out on the chopper to Flores mentioned above. Both he and the manager argued that call, to no avail. On defense, I only saw Green get one opportunity, a grounder to his right side which he made the play on. The throw seemed a bit rushed, and ended up a bit low for the first baseman to dig out. I'll be interested to see what he does there as he gets more chances at the position.
Stay tuned tomorrow for my report on Wheeler's start.
Jason Hunt is a contributor to Fake Teams, and you can follow him on Twitter @jasonsbaseball.