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April 26, 2010

Future Shock

Monday Ten Pack

by Kevin Goldstein

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Jake Arrietta, RHP, Orioles (Triple-A Norfolk)

So what kind of odds could one have gotten that at some point in May, Arrieta would be in the Orioles’ rotation while Chris Tillman was pitching in the minors? That just might be the case, as the Orioles are desperate for help; Tillman has been up and down, while Arrieta has been dominant. A classic power righty who lives off a 92-96 mph fastball while working in an average breaking ball and change just enough to keep hitters honest, Arrieta has delivered scoreless baseball in three of four starts for the Tides while limiting the International League to a .157 batting average. Arrieta isn't the answer to all of Baltimore's problems, but he's the answer to some of them.

Phillippe Aumont, RHP, Phillies (Double-A Reading)

When the Phillies sent Cliff Lee to Seattle for a prospect package, Aumont headed up the deal from Philadelphia's side of things. The 2007 first-round pick was being groomed as a reliever with the Mariners, but Philadelphia, not sharing the same desire to rush things, returned him to the rotation and started trying to clean up his mechanics. Six-foot-seven, 255 pounds and still a bit raw for his age, the Canadian product has improved with each start this year for Reading, and none more than on Sunday, as he reached the mid-90s with one of the minor league's best sinkers while not allowing a hit.

Busted Weekend of the Year (Oxford, Mississippi)

It was the draft-related matchup that had scouting directors drooling, a Friday night game in Oxford, Mississippi than featured LSU righty Anthony Ranaudo taking the mound against Drew Pomeranz of Mississippi. Both were clearly single-digit picks come June, maybe even in the top five. Then the rains came, leading to a late-night postponement. This led to significant scrambling, as scouting directors and other team officials were forced to cancel their Saturday plans in order to catch the game that turned into a double-bust, as Ranaudo gave up nine runs without getting out of the second inning, while Pomeranz lost the strike zone, walking nine of the 20 batters he faced in just three innings. If anything was learned in this exercise, it's that while this year's draft has plenty of good college pitching, it just might not have any that project as aces down the road.

Jhoulys Chacin, RHP, Rockies (Triple-A Colorado Springs)

Chacin lost a bit of luster last year, as his ability to throw strikes completely abandoned him during his first exposure to big-league hitting, and then stayed with him when he was reassigned to Triple-A. Still just 22 and in possession of four pitches that rate as at least average, Chacin isn't exactly pounding the strike zone (he's walked 11 in 21 1/3 innings), but he sure is keeping runs off the board, as on Saturday he delivered his third scoreless outing in four tries with 5 1/3 shutout innings. With three of the five Rockies starters possessing ERAs north of 5.00, he could be close to a second big-league chance.

Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B, Indians (Double-A Akron)

The top prospect in the Indians' system not named Carlos Santana, Chisenhall hit 22 home runs last year, and while the 2008 first-round pick has yet to go deep this year in 67 at-bats this season, everything else is going great, as he's gone 9-for-19 in his last four games to lift his averages to .358/.427/.433. He could be in the big leagues as early as next year, and that home-run power should start showing up any day now, the way he's hitting.

Aaron Crow, RHP, Royals (Double-A Northwest Arkansas)

Things are going in the wrong direction for the Royals' top pick in the 2009 draft, and he's not the kind of prospect that can afford many bumps in the road. After sitting out much of last year after not signing with the Nationals in 2008, Crow is 23 years old with just four professional starts to his credit. In those four, each one has been progressively worse than the last, including Saturday's start, in which the righty allowed eight runs on eight hits while getting pulled in the fifth. There's plenty of stuff in his arm, but he's not throwing strikes, he's not missing bats, and in his last 13 innings, he has given up five home runs. It's not time to panic yet, but there has to be some level of concern.

Alexi Ogando, RHP, Rangers (Double-A Frisco)

Ogando originally came up as a big, toolsy outfielder, but his monstrous arm had him converting to the mound early in his career. The real trouble was some visa shenanigans that have kept him out of the country since the 2004 season. He had no troubles dominating every summer in his native Dominican Republic, but at the same time, he was sometimes nearly a decade older than his competition, so it was hard to figure out what really to learn by those performances. With his ability to leave the country finally cleared up, Ogando turns 27 at the end of the year, so he needs to make up for years of lost time. A good sign is that he is sitting in the upper 90s with his fastball. During his exile, he added a plus slider. There's late-inning big-league stuff here, and the Rangers should end up being rewarded for their patience.

Chris Sale, LHP, Florida Gulf Coast

With the Pomeranz/Ranaudo matchup, one wonders how many big decision makers even saw what Sale did on Friday, as another college pitcher being bandied about as a top-five pick had the best game of his career. In a 1-0 win over Belmont, Sale was a fifth-inning single and seventh-inning walk away from perfection. He struck out 15 during the game. Because of the performances at the big matchup in Mississippi, Sale couldn't have picked a better weekend to blow up, but in some ways, because of the number of eyeballs on him, he couldn't have picked a worse one, either.

Jerry Sands, 1B/OF, Dodgers (Low-A Great Lakes)

He was a 25th-round pick out of a D-II school, and the only tool is the bat, but Sands it’s impossible to just write him off, despite the draft status, the tools, and the fact that he's a bit old (23 in September) for Low-A. Where he plays isn't under his control, and he's making the best of it, with arguably the hottest start in the minors. Sands is 8-for-13 in his last four games with five home runs, and is now up to .443/.500/.967 in 17 games. He works the count well, he has real power to all fields, and he's some kind of prospect, but it will remain hard to judge his future until he faces some stiffer competition.

Oscar Tejeda, 2B, Red Sox (High-A Salem)

Tejeda had a high profile after signing for more than half a million as a 16-year-old in 2006, but back-to-back disappointing seasons at Low-A had him all but off the radar going into the 2010 season. Moved up to High-A and to the other side of the bag to second base, Tejada is off to the best start of his career after an 8-for-14 weekend that included a double, triple, and two home runs. He's now batting a whopping .410/.413/.705 in his first 15 Carolina League games. With one walk against 61 at-bats, it's going to be difficult for him to keep this up, but it's definitely at least a much-needed step in the right direction.

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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