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Monday, July 02, 2007

Third Base Focus

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to take in two Sky Sox games here in Colorado Springs. On Friday night the Sox took on the AAA affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the Salt Lake Bees. The game gave me a chance to take a look at two of the better third base prospects in baseball in Ian Stewart for the Sox and Brandon Wood for the Beavers. Both players were promoted to AAA from AA at the start of the season and both have struggled a bit. Last season Wood put up .276/.552/.355 line on his way to being named a AA All-Star at Arkansas. This after hitting 43 homeruns and racking up 101 extra base hits in the California League in 2005. For the Bees he's sitting at .257/.479/.338. On Friday night he struggled making two errors behind starter Kasey Olenberger leading to 4 unearned runs. He also looked a little uncomfortable at the plate and was able to manage only a sacrifice fly. The Bees still won, however, 7-5 behind Curtis Pride who stroked a go-ahead two-run double during a six-run fifth inning. Sox outfielder Alexis Gomez homered for Colorado Springs earlier in the game but in the 8th inning and down 7-5 with two outs he hit a gapper to left-center. However, rather than settle for the double he tried to stretch it into a triple and was thrown out - an absolutely terrible play.

Stewart was a bit of a disappointment last season hitting .268/.452/.351 at Tulsa with just 10 homeruns (but racking up 41 doubles). This season he's at .296/.472/.376 albeit at a higher altitue and has 10 homeruns at this point. Stewart's defense improved last season and on Saturday night against the Portland Beavers (affiliate of the Padres) he made a diving stop and threw out a runner from his knees.

In that Saturday game the headlines were stolen by Sox pitcher Kevin Walker who threw a five-hit complete game in a 6-2 Sox win. It was, he claimed his first start in 10 years and his first professional complete game (I've since learned he started games in 2002-2004 but hasn't been a starter since 1998 and it was his fourth complete game, having thrown three for Clinton in 1997), and the first complete game at Security Service Field since 2003. Offensively the Sox were led by former prospect Jayson Nix who went 2-for-4 and hit a grand slam off Beaver's starter Tim Stauffer, his fifth homer having hit one the night before, in the sixth inning. In addition Clint Barmes collected 4 hits in 5 trips including a bunt single and his usual collection of dink hits over the infield. Barmes is hitting .331 and was selected to the PCL All-Star squad but don't look for him in Denver anytime soon. Oh, in first two trips to the plate he was thrown out attempting to steal second after getting hits.

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