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April 12, 2010

Future Shock

Monday Ten Pack

by Kevin Goldstein

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Aroldis Chapman, LHP, Reds (Triple-A Louisville)

While the best pitching prospect in baseball was making his professional debut in Altoona, the best left-handed prospect in the game was in equally glamorous Toledo, putting the first numbers on his official record. Chapman had better overall numbers than Strasburg, and he was throwing a bit harder as well, getting up to triple digits with his fastball and dominating primarily off of that while also flashing a solid slider. For a guy who has had occasional control issues, that certainly wasn't the case on Sunday, and if that remains the case, he could beat Strasburg to the big leagues. 

Dirt, Rangers (High-A Bakersfield)

There are few minor-league towns that offer a worse environment than Bakersfield, California. It has the lowest attendance in the California League, the stadium is old and in shambles, and it's all wrapped up in a city that is often referred to as the meth capital of the world. Things went from bad to worse on Sunday afternoon, however. We've heard of rainouts and even the occasional snow-outs around baseball, but yesterday, in the second inning of their game with JetHawks, the Blaze had a good old-fashioned dirt-out. With California desert winds whipping around at a consistent 40 mph, dirt, dust, and rocks from the stadium parking lot pelted the players until the umpires ruled the conditions unplayable in the second inning. There's no word as to if the game will be made up, as Lancaster does not return to Bakersfield for the remainder of the season—a situation I'm guessing they're just fine with.

Yasmani Grandal, C, Miami

Scouts are having a tough time with Grandal this spring. Currently projecting as a late first-round pick, Grandal continued to hit during a weekend series with Virginia Tech, going 7-for-12 with a pair of home runs to up his season averages to .415/.520/.707. Now, those kinds of numbers for an athletic catcher would normally be that of a single-digit pick, but the problems with Grandal remain behind the plate. His average-at-best arm is brought down by a slow release, his receiving skills need work, and if he can't stay at catcher, there's no clear second destination for him. That said, if he can stay there, he could end up a steal for whoever takes him, but it's not without risk.

Eric Hosmer, 1B, Royals (High-A Wilmington)

While Hosmer was one of the biggest disappointments of 2009, it was far too early to write him off completely. Who knows? Maybe it really was just Lasik surgery that was needed in order to turn things around for the 2008 first-round pick. After struggling to hit his weight at times last year, Hosmer has gotten off to a rousing start this year, going 8-for-16 with a double, two triples and just two whiffs. It's far too early to make any sort of assumptions yet, but the way things have been going in the Royals' system of late, any cause for optimism is a welcome one.

Wily Peralta, RHP, Brewers (High-A Brevard County)

Ranked fourth in the Brewers’ system and the top pitching prospect in the system, Peralta showed why in his season debut, striking out eight over six shutout innings, while giving up four hits and not walking a batter. Sitting at 92-96 mph with his fastball that featured heavy sink (there were just two fly-ball outs against him), Peralta also showcased a plus slider, and the kind of command and control rarely seen last year in the Midwest League. It's a small sample size, to be sure, but he's exactly the kind of prospect who certainly could take a big step forward.

Drew Pomeranz, LHP, Mississippi 

There are a lot of good college pitchers in this year's draft class, but arguably no great one. Pomeranz is doing his best to change that, and he stated his case as the best college arm in the draft by striking out 15 over eight innings against Georgia on Friday, while allowing just one run on four hits. Statistically, Pomeranz has been nothing short of outstanding, with a 1.57 ERA in eight starts and 80 strikeouts in 51 2/3 innings while giving up just 32 hits. And while he's now at the top of the college pitching charts, scouts still see something less than an ace. At 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, he has a body built to eat innings, but he stuff isn't overly dominant. He has above-average velocity at 92-94 mph, with a fastball that plays up due to his inability to throw the ball straight, while his power curve and changeup are both above-average pitches as well. He's damn good, but maybe the problem is that he's not Stephen Strasburg. That said, you don't get those every year, and in 2010, Pomeranz is the best of his class.

Buster Posey, C, Giants (Triple-A Fresno)

I'm glad Buster Posey keeps hitting, as it gives me a continuous platform to ask what the hell he's still doing in the minors. With a 6-for-13 weekend that included a home run on Sunday, he's now begun the year with four straight multi-hit games, and as for the defense, he's played errorless ball while throwing out two of three attempting base stealers. If you understand it, I'd love to hear the explanation.

Stephen Strasburg, RHP, Nationals (Double-A Harrisburg)

Our own John Perrotto has much more on Strasburg's debut, so let's not talk about his past here—let's talk about what's next. Now that the pro debut is out of the way, the spotlight is still there, but it won't be as glaring, and by May, a Stephen Strasburg start, be it in Double- or Triple-A, won't be the story it once was. What's happening here doesn't really matter, he'll be in the big leagues before the All-Star break, and everyone knows it, and those are the games that will actually count.

Jacob Turner, RHP, Tigers (Low-A West Michigan)

Turner entered 2010 with high expectations. He's ranked as the top prospect in the Tigers’ system, and the best pitcher in the Midwest League, but at the same time, he has yet to throw an official game until this past weekend. The hype train gathered more inertia during the spring, when Turner got into a big-league game against the Yankees and struck out the side, including Mark Teixeira. While has wasn't facing anyone in Teixeira's league on Saturday, he still dominated, retiring 15 of the 17 batters he faced, including seven via the strikeout. A classic pure power pitcher from Texas, many believe that Turner could be at High-A Lakeland in the second half of the season, and knocking on the big-league door by the end of 2011. As for Turner's biggest competition for best arm in the Midwest League, Cardinals right-hander Shelby Miller was equally impressive in his debut, striking out seven in four shutout innings.

Alex White, RHP, Indians (High-A Kinston)

 The Indians' first-round pick last summer, White provides some assessment challenges due to his unique arsenal. It's hard to argue with his arm or his results, but as a pitcher who depends overwhelmingly on a fastball/splitter combination, we don't have a lot of historical precedence to go on. It certainly was working in his pro debut on Sunday, as his fastball reached 96 mph while the split generated plenty of swings and misses as well during his five shutout innings that included seven strikeouts and just two hits allowed. He even flashed a slider at times, a pitch rarely seen during his college days, and while it clearly needs work, it showed some potential and could be the key to his ability to remain a starter.  

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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