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April 11, 2011

Future Shock

Monday Morning 10 Pack

by Kevin Goldstein

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Trevor Bauer, RHP, UCLA
Bauer continues to see his stock rise for the upcoming draft. With 15 strikeouts in a complete-game victory on Saturday, he now has 97 punchouts in 64 2/3 innings and has allowed just 33 hits to go with a 1.67 ERA. Those incredible numbers have moved him into the middle of the first round, and maybe higher than that. Still, not all the news was good on Saturday; Bauer threw 134 pitches for no reason—the Bruins won the game handily, 10-3. In last week's podcast, A's farm director Keith Lieppman discussed how the low workloads for young arms weren't to protect developing arms as much as it was to heal from the damage put on as amateurs. Saturday night was a prime example of what he was talking about.

Jeurys Familia, RHP, Mets (High-A St. Lucie)

Every team has a guy like Familia: young and athletic, with excellent size and stuff, yet the results just aren't there. Familia is repeating the Florida State League after putting up a 5.58 ERA there last year, but at this rate, his return engagement won't last long. Sitting at 90-97 mph with his fastball and showing a much-improved power breaking ball, Familia faced the minimum 21 batters in his seven innings on Friday, allowing just one hit and striking out seven. Six-foot-three and long-armed, the 21-year-old Dominican has a history of control problems and still needs to improve his changeup to avoid a trip to the bullpen, but with 2010 first-round pick Matt Harvey and top prospect Jenrry Mejia both impressing in their season debuts, the Mets suddenly have a trio of power arms to make many organizations jealous.

 

Slade Heathcott, OF, Yankees (Low-A Charleston)

A first-round pick in 2009, Heathcott hit a so-so .258/.359/.352 in half a season at Charleston last year, but he was still more of an athlete than a baseball player, so the Yankees decided to keep him in the Sally League. So far, he's doing his best to prove them wrong, going 8-for-13 with three doubles, a triple, and two home runs to give him 21 total bases in his first four games. With above-average speed, good range in center, and an outstanding arm, the tools have always been there, and those who believe he'll hit also believe he'll also end up with average power. In a system full of pitching prospects, Heathcott could give Yankees fans a hitter to watch at Low-A other than catching stud Gary Sanchez.

 

Ryan Jackson, SS, Cardinals (Double-A Springfield)

A fifth-round pick in 2009 based almost solely on his glove, Jackson entered the year as a sleeper because he hit better than expected in his pro debut. It wasn't that he was great, but even a .278/.359/.362 line split between two A-level teams exceeded expectations. A simplified swing led to further development this spring, and with four straight multi-hit efforts in the Texas League, he's now 9-for-18 to start his Double-A career. He's not the kind of fast-twitch athlete one normally associates with the position, but his positioning and instincts are off the charts, his hands are quick, his fundamentals outstanding, and his arm more than capable. It will take merely acceptable offense for him to have big-league value, and he could end up exceeding the intial projections of being a Jack Wilson comp.

 

Jacob Petricka, RHP, White Sox (Low-A Kannapolis)

With a 6-foot-5 frame and constantly improving velocity, Petricka rocketed up draft boards last spring, finally landing in the second round. He struck out more than a batter per inning in his pro debut. In one of baseball's worst systems, Petricka is the best arm in the system now that Chris Sale is in the big leagues, and he temporarily cemented that status with six no-hit innings and nine strikeouts on Sunday afternoon in his season debut while walking only one. With mid-90s heat, Petricka has plenty of arm strength, but it will be the development of his slider, changeup, and his ability to clean up an arm-heavy delivery that will determine if he can stay in the rotation or end up setting up Sale down the road.

 

Drew Pomeranz, LHP, Indians (High-A Kinston)

The fifth overall pick in the 2010 draft, Pomeranz signed too late to make his pro debut last year, but he more than made up for lost time by striking out nine over 5 1/3 innings on Friday night while allowing only a pair of infield hits. A pure power pitcher who sat at 93-96 mph and missed as many bats with a wipeout curveball, Pomeranz's left-handedness makes him that much more impressive, and his occasional control issues from college didn't manifest in his first start. There's still development needed here; Pomeranz survived on his two-pitch mix while throwing few changeups, a pitch he needs to both improve and become more confident with in his pitch sequencing. Dominating at High-A is one thing, learning how to dominate in the big leagues is another.

 

Neil Ramirez, RHP, Rangers (High-A Myrtle Beach)

Ramirez signed for a cool $1 million as a supplemental first-round pick in 2007, but his development has been both slow and a bit frustrating. He threw strikes and missed bats last year, but he was inconsistent with his secondary stuff and command, and proved to be far too hittable. Showcasing a considerably cleaner delivery, Ramirez created significant buzz this spring and showed improved velocity; he sat at 90-96 mph on Friday while whiffing nine over 4 2/3. innings, giving up one hit and one walk. Once the sleeper in a loaded Myrtle Beach rotation, he could end the season as much more than that.

 

Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, Red Sox (Low-A Greenville)

Ranaudo is not only the best pitching prospect in the Boston system, he's also the most interesting. Entering last spring as the top college pitcher in the country, Ranaudo fell out of the first round because of a junior year at LSU filled with injuries and poor performance. Following his selection, he looked like his old self in the Cape Cod League and signed for $2.55 million and, after a carefully-monitored offseason, received a conservative assignment to Low-A. He delivered five shutout innings on Saturday while allowing three hits, one walk, and striking out four. His stuff was nearly as impressive as the numbers; his 92-93 mph fastball frequently hit 94, and his curveball/change combination was thrown at any point in the count for strikes. Considering last year's struggles, the Red Sox are understandably taking it slow with Ranaudo, but if healthy, he has the potential to force their hand and reach Double-A.

 

Jean Segura, SS, Angels (High-A Inland Empire)

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Segura, who came to prominence last year when he took over leadoff duties at Low-A Cedar Rapids after Mike Trout was promoted, and Segura nearly matched Trout statistically. Still a level below his predecessor, Segura is enjoying his time in the California League so far, going 7-for-16 with three doubles, a triple, four walks, and a stolen base. With excellent bat speed, gap-to-average power, plus wheels, and good plate discipline, there's not a single weakness in his offensive game. Now that he's a shortstop (who has played errorless ball so far), he's among the best middle-infield prospects in the game.

 

Donavan Tate, OF, Padres (Low-A Fort Wayne)
Prospect lists are fun, and I always try to have fun with the last player on my annual Top 101 list. This year it was Tate, the third overall pick in the 2009 draft who can't stay healthy. When he was healthy last year, he struck out 41 times in 107 at-bats. Still, his tools rank with anyone in baseball; he's a monster athlete with well above-average raw power, speed, and arm strength. In 25 complex league games last year, Tate had just one start in which he didn't whiff, yet he avoided strikeouts all weekend with Fort Wayne while going 5-for-11 with a pair of walks and two doubles. It's far to early to call Tate "fixed," but he made the Top 101 for a reason, and that talent might finally be shining through.

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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