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2009 High Desert Mavericks at a Glance

Tyson GilliesAfter looking at Clinton yesterday, it is time to move up a level in the system to High Desert. The High Desert Mavericks play in the California League, which is known for its offense. In fact, the Mavericks played a game a little over a week ago against the Lake Elsinore Storm that they lost 33-18! The loss was exceptional though; High Desert won the league's first half title. It has been a very good year for the Mavericks so far, and here are the prospects leading the charge:

Joe Dunigan, 1B/OF - Last year, Joe showed good power potential in the Midwest League, along with stealing 28 bases in 32 tries. However, he hardly made consistent contact, and at 22 years old in that league it was a discouraging sign. What a difference a year, and a more hitter-friendly atmosphere, makes. Dunigan already has more home runs and walks than all of last year, despite jumping up a level. He has cut down his strikeouts too. Some of the progress is likely due to the smaller ballparks, but not all of it with the quantam leap forward Dunigan has made. His power/speed combination remains what makes him intriguing.

Tyson Gillies, CF - The 20-year-old Canadian has burst on the scene this year after a good 2008 season in Everett. Speed is his most impressive tool, as he may steal 40 bases this year. He combines that with good plate discipline, which is even more impressive considering how young he is, and a little extra base power. Gillies has all the makings of a prototypical leadoff hitter, and perhaps is the heir apparent to Ichiro at the top of the M's order if he continues to develop.

Donald Hume, LHP - Honestly, Hume's numbers are about as pedestrian as they get. Nothing is all that spectacular about them. However, in the offensively-charged California League, normal numbers for a pitcher indicate a job nicely done. Hume is already 23, and without any qualities standing out he is a fringe prospect. He has been on a roll since June though.

Alex Liddi, 3B - Liddi struggled mightily last year, posting just a .673 OPS in the Midwest League. However, the 20-year-old Italian has exploded this year with an OPS that has stayed above 1.000 the entire season. He is a five-tool talent, though still a raw one. Liddi strikes out fairly often, and does not draw a ton of walks. Still, he is threatening to win the California League triple crown, and his immense progress this year is undeniable.

Jamie McOwen, OF - A 23-year-old repeating the California League after a modest 2008 did not figure to make this post. However, a 43-game hitting streak that is still going changes that. It is already the longest in California League history by 8 games, and is only the 20th hitting streak of 40 games or longer in professional baseball history (that includes the major leagues). Regardless of age or level, McOwen's hitting streak is impressive. Jamie will have to continue to make a ton of contact to be a decent prospect, because he has limited power, and nothing else aside from all the hits really jumps out. Nothing from his professional career indicated such an incredible streak coming from McOwen, but while hitting streaks are parts fluke and luck, 43 games certainly takes talent.

Carlos Peguero, RF - Peguero is extremely aggressive at the plate, but thus far in his professional career finds a way to hit a bunch of what he swings at pretty hard. This season he already has 14 doubles, 12 triples, and 18 home runs, which in total means over half his hits are going for extra bases. The trouble is that Peguero strikes out about once out of every three at bats. It is feast or famine with him at the plate, and at some point his batting average is likely to plummet. The good news is that Peguero already has twice as many walks this year than he did in all of 2008...then again, it is not hard to do that when you walk 10 times total in a season. Still, the ability to post a .900 OPS with few walks speaks to the 22-year-old's raw talent.

Travis Scott, C - Already 24 and repeating in the California League, Scott is already a fringe prospect. However, his OPS has gone from .791 last year to around 1.000, indicating significant improvement at the plate. With the first half Scott put up, I would be tempted to promote him to AA and see what happens.

Jacob Wild, RHP - Already 24, Wild is old for the level, and is not the best prospect on the Mavericks pitching staff (Juan Ramirez probably is, though Michael Pineda will give him a run for his money when he is healthy). However, Jacob has been the most productive pitcher on the Mavericks, even while bouncing between the bullpen and starting rotation. He gives up a ton of hits, but everyone on the staff has. It is the California League, after all. What sticks out for Wild is a low home run rate. Keeping the ball in California League ballparks is a challenge, and is a reason to believe Wild may develop into a useful major league arm.

Even in a league that inflates offensive numbers, the Mavericks best talent is clearly on offense. Juan Ramirez and Michael Pineda, two of the M's most promising young pitchers, are both in High Desert. I could have included them in the post, but I want to focus on the most productive prospects. Pineda has been injured most of the year, and Ramirez has been a little shaky. Plus, it is not hard to find information on Juan Ramirez, but guys like Donald Hume and Jacob Wild do not get as much publicity. Tomorrow we will move up to AA and check on the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx, where the major leagues all of a sudden do not seem so far away.