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May 3, 2010

Future Shock

Monday Ten Pack

by Kevin Goldstein

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Bobby Borchering, 3B, Diamondbacks (Low-A South Bend)
A first-round pick last June, many saw Borchering as the top high school hitter in the draft, but he struggled in his pro debut, as well as in his first month of Midwest League play this season. The good news was that at no point did scouts sound concerned, and their patience has begun to pay off. With two home runs over the weekend, Borchering is on a five-game tear during which he's gone 9-for-17 with a double and three home runs, raising his OPS 221 points in the process and his line to a more than respectable .267/.330/.465. A switch-hitter with plus raw power from both sides of the plate, despite his inexperience and lack of production up until now, he remains the top offensive prospect in a relatively barren Arizona system.

Michael Choice, OF, University of Texas at Arlington
Choice continues to move up draft charts at an alarming rate. Really, he's got it all. He's a big, athletic outfielder with enough speed to play center field in a pinch, and overall tools that profile perfectly in right field with plus raw power and arm strength. As for the numbers-oriented, he pleases them as well, as with six more walks over the weekend—oh yeah, and four hits, too, including his 14th home run—he's now batting .401/.571/.757 with 59 walks against just 152 at-bats. His level of competition isn't the greatest, but scouts are sold, as he's moving into the upper half of the first round for most.

Drew Cumberland, SS, Padres (High-A Lake Elsinore)
A supplemental first-round pick in 2007, Cumberland is a true shortstop with leadoff skills, including a patient approach and burning speed, but constant injuries have prevented him from really getting going as a prospect. He entered his fourth year with just 158 games of experience, and had more problems this year, missing a week with a strained rib cage. He's healthy now, and he's raking, going 9-for-17 since his return to up his overall line to .383/.439/.617 in 16 games with 10 stolen bases. Because of his draft status he's not quite a sleeper, but he could find himself higher on many a list should he stay healthy.

Chris Davis, 1B/3B, Rangers (Triple-A Oklahoma)
You really have to give it to Davis. When one loses their big-league job, as well as the salary, the per diems, the nice hotels, and the chartered jets, the adjustment to being back in the minors is tough. Players deserve a week-long mulligan, maybe even longer, to get things going, but Davis hasn't missed a beat, going 14-for-31 with 12 RBI in his first seven games for the RedHawks, even filling in once at his old position of third base. There are still plenty of future Texas scenarios that involve a roster with both Davis and Justin Smoak on it, and to his credit, Davis is doing his best to turn those projections into reality.

Robbie Erlin, LHP, Rangers (Low-A Hickory)
A third-round pick last June out of a California high school, Erlin is one of those pitchers who does not really impress much until you see him pitch. He's more than a little on the small side, but the stuff that comes out of his hand is big, including a fastball with slightly above-average velocity and a curveball that's even better than that. Pitching long relief every four days at Hickory in order to manage his workload, Erlin struck out a season-high six on Saturday in three innings, giving him 17 in 15 1/3 innings overall while walking three and allowing just seven hits. His stock could go up dramatically with a move to the rotation and longer outings of the same dominance.

Devin Mesoraco, C, Reds (High-A Lynchburg)
Maybe I'm just in a mood where rebounds are attractive to me, as Mesoraco is one of many in this report. The 2007 first-round pick entered the season with career averages of .240/.311/.368, as scouts wondered whatever happened to that high school backstop with average-to-plus tools across the board. He did himself no favors by getting out of shape, but something seems to be finally clicking, as the 21-year-old Pennsylvania native hit his fifth and sixth home runs over the weekend (his career high is nine), upping his triple-slash lines to .310/.398/.620 while gunning down 42 percent of opposing basestealers. It's too early to officially categorize this as a breakthrough, but it's the first good news about the guy in about three years, and the Reds will take it.

Bryan Morris, RHP, Pirates (High-A Bradenton)
It's easy to forget that when Manny Ramirez went from Boston to Los Angeles, the Pirates were major players in the three-way deal, with Morris seen as one of the top players received in return. Unfortunately, he's had problems staying on the mound to harness what is truly plus stuff, primarily his power fastball/curve combination. After Tommy John surgery in 2007, minor strains and bruised limited him to less than 100 innings in each of the past two years, and he hit a low point last season when along with his 5.57 ERA came a suspension for poor sportsmanship. While it's impossible to get to the bottom of exactly what turned things around for Morris, sometimes you need to reach bottom in order to find the right gear, and he has found something this year, firing seven shutout innings on Friday to lower his ERA to a minuscule 0.98 in five starts.

Neftali Soto, 3B/1B… C?, Reds (High-A Lynchburg)
Soto got a lot of attention in 2008 while batting .326/.353/.500 for Low-A Dayton, but as a player whose bat comprised the majority of his value, his stock took a huge hit after he put up a 644 OPS last season in the Florida State League. Repeating High-A this year, only this time in the Carolina League, Soto's bat is showing some signs of life, as he went 8-for-13 over the weekend with a pair of bombs, but that's not the interesting part. What's interesting is that on Saturday, he caught, giving him four games at backstop on the season. He's big, thick, and slow like a catcher, and his arm is plus, so it makes sense, and if he can show any ability back there, his value increases dramatically.

Mike Stanton, OF, Marlins (Double-A Jacksonville)
With a minor league-leading 12 home runs, including eight in his last eight games, there's little to debate when it comes to Stanton's talent. It's even more clear that he needs to get out of the Southern League, as pitches have all but stopped pitching to him in Barry Bonds-like fashion. Since his three-homer outburst last Monday, he's had 17 at-bats and eight walks, giving him 25 free passes on the season, including five intentional, a number nearly unheard of at the minor-league level. He has a good approach, but he's hardly a walk machine, as his 25 walks and .505 on-base percentage are a function of how the league is treating him as opposed to his ability. Then again, simply generating this kind of treatment is an extreme talent in and of itself.

Stephen Strasburg, RHP, Nationals (Double-A Harrisburg)
This is a lesson as the why focusing merely on numbers can be dangerous. On the surface, Strasburg struggled for the first time this season on Sunday, allowing three times as many earned runs (three) as he had in his first four starts while walking a career high three. This is where eyeballs come into play, as according to those in attendance, Strasburg was a good as ever and the victim of an umpire with a shrinking strike zone, and a number of hits described by one observer as “dinky.” Not a bump in the road as much as just as case of it not being his night, and by all accounts, Strasburg's next outing will be his Triple-A debut on Friday.

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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