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April 22, 2010

Future Shock Blog

Minor League Update: Games of April 21

by Kevin Goldstein

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This Just In: He's Good At Baseball

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

Wednesday's stats: 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K

After a rain-shortened two-inning stint last Friday, Strasburg came back with his best pro outing, giving up just a weak (but clean) single up the middle in his five innings of work. Sitting at 95-96 mph while touching 98 at times, Strasburg showed his above-average breaking ball and plus change-up more than in the past, and he is clearly overmatching Double-A hitters by any measurement. General Manager Mike Rizzo was in attendance and said all the politically correct things after the game about Strasburg working his way up, but everyone knows he's ready. It just comes down to service time. While nothing is official, late May/early June remains the best bet for the big leagues. 

Showing Off Their Shiny New Toy

Arodys Vizcaino, RHP, Braves (Low-A Rome) 

Wednesday's stats: 7 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 6 K

The biggest talent to come over from the Yankees in the Javier Vazquez deal, Vizcaino had his best start as a Brave on Wednesday after a pair of mediocre outings to begin the year. With a low-to-mid-90s fastball and a curveball that is advanced beyond his years, some think that the 19-year-old Dominican product has a ceiling that matches any pitcher in an Atlanta system loaded with high-ceiling arms.

Reclamation Project

Dennis Raben, 1B, Mariners (Low-A Clinton) 

Wednesday's stats: 4-for-5, 3 2B, HR (4), 3 R, 3 RBI, K

A second-round pick out of Miami in 2008, Raben is one of the better pure hitting prospects in the system. But after missing all of 2009 due to knee surgery, he's more than just a bit behind developmentally, as the 22-year-old entered the year with just 27 games of professional experience. He should be bashing at Low-A, but at least he's doing just that, hitting .316/.381/.632 in his first 14 games. He'll likely move up quickly at this rate, and he'll need to keep raking, as the bat is the only tool. 

Not Perfect, But The One Key Number Is There

Shelby Miller, RHP, Cardinals (Low-A Quad Cities) 

Wednesday's stats: 4 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 7 K

On the surface, Miller's numbers hardly blow you away, as the 2009 first-round pick has a 4.09 ERA while allowing 12 hits in 11 innings to go with five walks. But that's not what to look at. Between his amateur career and what he showed this spring, we all know he has dominant stuff, with a mid-90s heater and very good curve. That fastball/curve combination is doing the most important thing one looks for in a young arm—in 11 total innings this year, the 19-year-old has recorded 21 whiffs. 

Healthy And Hard To Get Out

Justin Smoak, 1B, Rangers (Triple-A Oklahoma City) 

Wednesday's stats: 2-for-3, 2 2B, BB 

A first-round pick in 2008, Smoak struggled at Oklahoma City last year while dealing with an oblique injury, but he's making up for it early in 2010 and putting some serious pressure on big-league first baseman Chris Davis, who has yet to homer this year while struggling to keep his average at the Mendoza line. Meanwhile, down on the farm, Smoak is hitting, hitting for power, and also turning into a walk machine, with 16 already against just 46 at-bats for a clean on-base percentage of .500. That's a 50/50 chance of getting on every time he steps to plate, and right now, it's probably a 50/50 chance of him being up before the All-Star break. 

Paying Early Dividends

Grant Green, SS, Athletics (High-A Stockton) 

Wednesday's stats: 1-for-2, HR (2), 2 BB, R, RBI 

Green entered last spring as the top college position player in the country, but a disappointing spring dropped him to Oakland with the 13th overall pick in June. It still took $2.75 million (the second largest draft bonus in A's history) to get him signed, but he's been well worth the price so far, batting .345/.390/.564 in his first 13 games with the Ports. He could be in Double-A by the second half of the year and competing for a big league job by the end of 2011. 

Others Of Note:

  • David Adams, 2B, Yankees (Double-A Trenton): Adams reached base five times with a home run, four runs and four RBI; he's up to .388/.455/.633 and getting raves from scouts.
  • Freddie Freeman, 1B, Braves (Triple-A Gwinnett): Freeman snaps out of a slump with two hits, including his first home run of year; I still think he should be a Double-A.
  • Andrew Lambo, OF, Dodgers (Double-A Chattanooga): Lambo hit his first home run of the year last night and is 13-for-25 in his last six games, going from .182 to .354 in a week.
  • Jeff Locke, LHP, Pirates (High-A Bradenton): With two hits allowed and 10 strikeouts, Locke made his best start ever as a Pirates; there's still a glimmer of hope here.
  • Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Red Sox (High-A Salem): He went 4-for-4 and 10-for-21 in his last five games, and he is .381/.469/.500 overall. Is Middlebrooks finally living up to expectations?
  • Mark Rogers, RHP, Brewers (Double-A Huntsville): Even with five shutout innings and a 1.98 ERA in three starts, Rogers' command and control remain issues.
  • Jerry Sands, 1B/OF, Dodgers (Low-A Great Lakes): Sands hit two home runs last night and is .412/.466/.843 overall. He's old for the level and a bat-only guy, but it's at least an impressive bat.
  • Carlos Santana, C, Indians (Triple-A Columbus): He left the game with a bruised knee, but the injury is not considered to be serious.

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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