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August 16, 2010

Future Shock

Monday Ten Pack

by Kevin Goldstein

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Zach Britton, LHP, Orioles (Triple-A Norfolk)

Britton delivered his best Triple-A start on Saturday, when the 22-year-old southpaw struck out nine over eight innings while giving up a run on five hits. It took only 93 pitches for Britton to record his 24 outs. His timetable continues to move up, with a September audition certainly in his sights. He arguably has the best pure sinker in the minor leagues, as capable of missing bats as it is generating ground balls—but it's the overall improvement in his command and control that has him suddenly on the verge of the big leagues.

Kolbrin Vitek, 3B, Red Sox (Short-season Lowell)

Small sample sizes are a dangerous thing, and they nearly always apply to this year's draft picks, even those that sign quickly and start playing. Going into the weekend, Vitek was scuffling to the tune of .241/.333/.368, and as a player who had his share of detractors heading into the draft, some thought his stock was already down. One 9-for-13 weekend and two home runs later, and he's at a much more respectable .273/.358/.422. That's how much three days can affect a line, and why one needs much more than two months of stats to properly judge a pick. As for Vitek, he can hit, but he's not a middle infielder. His play at third base has been rough and he might just need to hit enough to fit in the outfield by the time his development is over.

Tyler Chatwood, RHP, Angels (Double-A Arkansas)

The Angels are often aggressive with their pitching prospects, and it's been no different with Chatwood, a 2008 second-round pick who has found himself in the Texas League at the tender age of 20. Beyond his youth, he's succeeding as well, with a 1.69 ERA over his past five starts. On Friday night, he allowed one run over six innings while tying his Double-A season high with six strikeouts. He's an undersized righty who makes up for it with well-above-average velocity while also flashing a plus curve, and with more strikes he could be ready for Triple-A next year with a shot at a major-league look.

Michael Choice, OF, Athletics (Short-season Vancouver)

Choice is the third-highest drafted player getting at-bats, signing for $2 million as the 10th overall pick in June. It was a slight surprise to see him get slightly over-slot money, but it was also a nice piece of damage control by Oakland to get the best college hitter in the draft for that before bonuses began spinning out of control. Unlike the deadline kids, Choice is getting to display his skills down the stretch, including his first pro home run Friday as part of a five-game run that saw the former Texas-Arlington star go 10-for-21 with 18 total bases. With well above-average power, a good arm, at least average speed and outstanding plate discipline, Choice has both the tools and skills to move quickly, and signing early helps his chances even more.

Kelly Dugan, OF, Phillies (Rookie-level GCL)

The Phillies' top pick in 2009 out of a California high school, Dugan is one of those big, raw athletes the Phillies covet—and even though he's back in the GCL for a second season, the 19-year-old is arguably the hottest hitter in baseball, returning from an injury to go 17-for-26 (.654) in seven games with a nifty 1.585 OPS. A 6-foot-3 switch-hitter with average speed, a good arm and intriguing power potential, he's just getting going, but should be ready for a full-season assignment in 2011 so the Phillies can figure out what they have here.

Jae-Hoon Ha, OF, Cubs (Low-A Peoria)

The Cubs have been one of the busiest teams when it comes to scouting the Pacific Rim, and the efforts are starting to pay off. While most of the attention on the Peoria squad is focused toward shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, his countryman Ha has been making some noise of his own lately. Only 19 years old, Ha is an aggressive hacker with solid across-the-board tools, including at least average speed and gap power. After hitting for the cycle Sunday, he's now on a 22-for-54 (.407) run over his past 14 games that has raised his season averages to .307/.328/.472.

Jeremy Jeffress, RHP, Brewers (Double-A Huntsville)

Jeffress threw another scoreless inning Saturday while also picking up his first Double-A save; adding the former first-round pick to the 40-man roster earlier in the year suddenly isn't looking like such a risky move. On his last shot after a series of drug suspensions, Jeffress still has his top-of-the-line velocity, but now he's throwing strikes with it, walking just 10 over 27 innings (none in nine Southern League frames) and whiffing 37. All of a sudden, he's gone from a guy on his last shot to somebody who has entered the picture as the Brewers' closer of the future.

Jason Kipnis, 2B, Indians (Double-A Akron)

Over the weekend, the 2009 second-round pick went 5-for-10 with a pair of home runs, lifting his Eastern League numbers to .339/.420/.563 in 56 games. With enough at-bats., he'd be leading the Eastern League in all three of those categories. One has to ask the question: Are you positive that last year's No. 2 overall pick, Seattle's Dustin Ackley (also a college player new to second base) is a better prospect?

Yunesky Maya, RHP, Nationals (Rookie-level GCL Nationals)

Maya's pro debut was nearly perfect— nothing left the infield in the first three innings. His fastball is a tick above average and he adds two solid breaking balls and a changeup, but what makes all those pitches play up is Maya's ability to locate them effortlessly. There's still time for him to stretch the arm out this year, and he'll go into the spring of 2011 competing for a big-league rotation spot.

Jean Segura, 2B, Angels (Low-A Quad Cities)

Even though Mike Trout is long gone, the Angels still have one of the Midwest League's best hitters in Segura, who went 8-for-15 over the weekend, is batting .400 in August and .312/.361/.458 overall. A plus-plus runner with 41 stolen bases in 50 attempts and 10 triples, Segura generates almost shocking gap power out of a short and skinny frame thanks to outstanding bat speed and fantastic hand-eye coordination. He has quickly become the best infield prospect in the system.

A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider Insider.

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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