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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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18 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Dave Holgado

... as capable of missing bats as it is of inducing ground balls?

Excited to see Britton in the show. Where do you think he slots in among Teheran, Perez, Chapman, Lamb, Montgomery, Pineda, Matzek, and (insert guy I'm sure I'm almost certainly forgetting) on next year's list?

Aug 16, 2010 09:08 AM
rating: 0
Dave Holgado

Oh I see what happened there.

Aug 16, 2010 09:11 AM
rating: 0

The 1st paragraph somehow got inserted into the middle of the second paragraph.

Thanks for the info, as always. This is one thing I read all the time.

Aug 16, 2010 09:34 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Weird coding error, and it's fixed. Sorry for the problem there.

Aug 16, 2010 09:42 AM

No worries, clearly. Thanks for fixing it so I can re-read the bit on Britton another dozen times and dream on that 2012 Orioles rotation some more (which, I suppose, will look a lot like the 2011 rotation, only more experienced).

Aug 16, 2010 13:26 PM
rating: 0
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

It wouldn't be a KG article without a shot at Ackley.

Aug 16, 2010 09:54 AM
rating: -12
Benjamin Harris

It seems more like praise for Kipnis to me.

Aug 16, 2010 12:16 PM
rating: 2

"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?"

I'd be curious to hear your take, Kevin. You had Ackley ranked as a five-star guy, with caveats about his power, and Kipnis as a three-star guy, with a kind of "whole is more than the sum of his parts" analysis... That seems like a big gap to overcome in one season. Have they met on the four-star middle ground somewhere?

Aug 16, 2010 09:59 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

I don't know, but it's certainly something I've been thinking about. Until I do the rankings and talk to umpteen people who have seen both, I won't be totally sure. I don't think I'm taking 'shots' at Ackley, I'm just saying I don't think he's as good as people thought he would be, and neither have scouts I've talked to so far.

Aug 16, 2010 10:01 AM

I think the Ackley/Kipnis question says more about Kipnis than Ackley. There's a pretty wide gap between what Kipnis was expected to be during the draft (OF with BA and OBP skills but little power) and what he's shown thus far (2B with BA, OBP and solid pop).

Aug 16, 2010 10:18 AM
rating: 3

Segura plays for Cedar Rapids, not QC.

Aug 16, 2010 10:42 AM
rating: 0

Sorry to go slightly off topic but whats going on with Lamb? In 3 starts and 12 IP he has a 8.25 era with 5/5 k/bb and .411 avg against. Worrisome or just a guy who needs time to adjust to AA?

Aug 16, 2010 10:59 AM
rating: 0

Good read as always Kevin. I have a question about Tommie Pham of the Cardinals. He seems to be playing great since his promotion to Springfield, do you view him as a legitimate prospect now? Thanks

Aug 16, 2010 11:21 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

He's been really great lately, and I've been scrambling to get some info . . . I'm definitely intrigued.

Aug 16, 2010 13:43 PM

I saw some video of Michael Choice, and was caught off-gaurd by his unusual swing--specifically the dramatic left knee twitch. I realize this is a timing mechanism, but seems to open the window for an inconsistent swing. Is this anything that gave scouts concern, or is it something you might expect the A's to work on with him? Or is it a case of not fixing what isn't broken?

Aug 16, 2010 14:57 PM
rating: 0
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

To use a player development cliche about these kind of things, nothing is a problem, until it's a problem.

Aug 16, 2010 15:23 PM

The Project Prospect site broke down video of his swing a couple of months back, if you're into that kind of thing. It's a busy swing, for sure, but I'm not well enough informed about this stuff to tell you whether or not it can work at the MLB level.

Aug 16, 2010 21:27 PM
rating: 0

How many homers do you think Choice can hit assuming he makes enough contact to make it to the majors? You said his power is "well above average," but I've seen others say he has 40 HR potential, and Ryan Howard like power-although maybe that's only because he was a smaller college power bat like Howard.

Aug 16, 2010 18:26 PM
rating: 0
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