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October 4, 2010

Future Shock

Monday Ten Pack

by Kevin Goldstein

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When you evaluate minor league performances, you need to do it with a grain of salt. In the minors, the talent level can vary tremendously—and the nature of the parks can as well. Here are 10 minor leaguers—five pitchers and five hitters—whose stat lines this season were a bit misleading.

Johermyn Chavez, OF, Mariners

The average game at High Desert, where Chavez played most of his games, in 2010 featured 14 runs and 3.1 home runs, with all players compiling a .320 batting average with a home run every 23.6 at-bats. A big one-dimensional slugger who takes a massive cut, Chavez is the kind of player born to put up big numbers in High Desert, and he did just that with a .315/.387/.577 line. Unfortunately, nearly all of that came at home, including 23 of his 32 home runs, as away from what is essentially a hot, dry, elevated pinball machine with the wind blowing out, Chavez hit a far more pedestrian .288/.354/.461.

Charlie Furbush, LHP, Tigers

Furbush, a lefty, was second in all of the minors with 189 strikeouts. He's ideally suited to be a minor league pitcher, though: he has excellent control, but his fastball and breaking ball are barely above average. He has good deception on those pitches, but the overall combo rarely will work at the major league level.

Dillon Gee, RHP, Mets

He struck out 165 in 161 innings—leading the International League in that category—and then posted a 2.18 ERA in five MLB appearances. Mets fans want to view him as a rotation answer. Here's the good part: he can throw up to five pitches. Here's the bad part: none of them (maybe his changeup) can miss bats consistently at the major-league level. In 33 IP with the Mets, he K'd only 17. Look at that stat more than the ERA; he's a fifth starter in all likelihood.

Jordan Hotchkiss, RHP, Reds

He's big and athletic, and he led the Carolina League in ERA (2.30). His delivery has a ton of funk, though, and his fastball/curve/slider combo is fairly standard. Most scouts don't believe it will translate to success at the MLB level.

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Diamondbacks

He was California League MVP with a line of .314/.384/.606, including 42 doubles and 35 home runs in 138 games. He can mash and that's what first base prospects need to do. Here's the issue, though: he struck out 161 times, and his line against lefties was gaudy—.413/.453/.860—so the keys here will be consistency and hitting right-handers as he moves up the ladder.

Austin Hyatt, RHP, Phillies

He struck out 11.3 per nine innings at High-A Clearwater. That's dominating, but his fastball is average, his slider is barely that (but to his credit, far better than his college days) and only his changeup is truly plus. He can hit his spots and could project as a middle reliever. Hyatt was a 15th-rounder for the Phils, so logging decent MLB innings would be a victory in and of itself.

Jordan Lyles, RHP, Astros

Lyles is a legitimately good prospect, keeping most of his offerings between 90-94 mph and getting to Double-A at age 19. The issue here is ceiling: most 19 year-olds at Double-A are future superstars. Lyles is more of a steady mover. Could he become a superstar? It's doubtful. Most scouts have him as a No. 3 starter and innings-eater when he gets the call to Space City.

J.D. Martinez, OF, Astros

He won Sally League MVP honors with a .362/.433/.598 line in 88 games for Low-A Lexington, and he proved it wasn't a total fluke with a .302/.357/.407 run in 50 Double-A games. Problem is, he doesn't run well, he doesn't offer more than gap power and his free-swinging approach will prevent him from being some kind of on-base machine. If he was left-handed, his future would be set as a fourth outfielder, but for now, he'll need to keep proving himself.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis, OF, Mets

Nieuwenhuis can hit and has gap-to-average power. The issue is more a matter of context. Evaluated as a center fielder (his current position), Nieuwenhuis is a potential above-average starter. The bad news is that his defensive reviews are marginal, as for many talent evaluators, he lacks the speed and instincts to stay up the middle. He might lack the run production ability to become an everyday corner outfielder in the bigs, though.

Francisco Peguero, OF, Giants

A .329 hitter with 16 triples and 40 stolen bases, Peguero sounds like a future leadoff man of the highest caliber. In 122 games, though, he only drew 18 walks and had a .358 on-base percentage. That isn't leadoff man stuff. He needs to keep hitting .330 through the system to have a shot.

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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