Minor League Report: Hammering Hank Conger, on his way up

Most of the minor leagues play their last regular season game today, so I'll post a full report including those stats afterwards.  In the meantime, here's some guys who will definitely make this week's list... 

Matt Brown, 1B, 3B - (24 AB's) .296/.345/.667 with 4 Dbls, 2 HRs, and 9 RBIs

Brown is sticking it out to the bitter end in Salt Lake, mashing RBI's and keeping the Bees' in contention even after many of his long-time teammates received September call-ups or were traded. Given Trumbo's impending promotion and organizational depth at the corner positions, do the Halos' let Brown go this offseason? The man's been in the Angels' system since they drafted him in the 8th round in '01, and has shown above average hitting skills, power, and off-the-charts make-up through his steady, level by level accession. Brown's baseball career is by no means done, and he'd likely find a place much higher on the depth chart in another organization.

Hank Conger, C - (25 AB's) .360/.500/.640 with 1 Dbl, 2 HR's and 2 K's/7 BB's

I'm going to keep repeating what I've said for months: Hank is having his best all-around season by far, but too few people are noticing because he's hit only 11 homeruns. First, he's stayed healthy, catching 86 games for the Travs and DH'ing another 36.  He's made tremendous strides with his defense, erasing an above-average 30% of base stealers and allowing only 3 passed balls (though he's committed a high-ish 14 errors). He's affirmed that he's a true switch-hitter, terrorizing left-handed pitching to the tune of an .875 OPS. And the patience!   He's walked 59 times against 64 strikeouts, controlling the strike zone well against advanced pitching.  Best of all, he's only 21 in AA, which is extremely rare for a catcher. To put that into context, more highly touted Indians catching prospect Carlos Santana is 23 in AA. Buster Posey began the year in High A as a 22-year-old. Hank's homerun power will return, and in the meantime he's made himself a much more complete player. Maybe the rest of the baseball world will catch on when Hank plays in the Arizona Fall League.

Jay Brossman, 3B - (23 AB's) .348/.375/.870 with 3 Dbls, 3 HR's, and 10 RBI's

24-year-old Brossman raked last week, doing his best to erase Matt Sweeney from Quakes fans' memories. His season line is .247/.311/.440, right in line with what he did in A-ball last year, but I think there's more potential there. One feature of www.Minorleaguesplits.com is a tool that neutralizes "luck" on balls in play. If you regress Brossman's BABIP's rates to league averages, his season line becomes a much more useful .284/.346/.493. Reality, of course, doesn't unfold on a spreadsheet - but his good 18% K-rate and very good .193 ISO hint at the possibility of better numbers to come.

Will Smith, lhsp - (1 start) 1 W, 8 IP, 2 hits, 1 ER, 5 K/1 BB

August was not kind to Smith - the opposition hit .324 against him, leading to a 7.56 ERA over 16.2 IP on the month - but he appears to have righted the ship in September. He pounds the strikezone with three decent-to-good offerings and issues few walks, but the K rate and groundball rate have both eroded in full season ball. We'll see how he copes with the California League next year.

Terrell Alliman, RF - (23 AB's) .391/.481/.522 with 3 Dbls, 6 RBI's, and 1 SB

The toolsey Alliman was first in doubles and fifth in BA in the ASL last year. Though he hit only 1 HR in '08, Baseball America liked his power potential, reporting good bat speed and even warning that he'd have to cut down on his upper cut and his tendency to pull the ball. Alliman seems to have taken that to heart, because he's pounding balls into the ground like our own Willie Mays Hayes: 60% of his batted balls were grounders this season, about 20% more than your average player. He runs well enough to hit a higher-than-average .330 on those groundballs, but the proportionally fewer flyballs and line drives means that he's posted a tiny .091 ISO without an HR this year. If you don't hit for power in the Pioneer League as a 20 year-old, you're probably never going to hit for power, and that's just not going to work for a right fielder. 

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