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May 16, 2011

Future Shock

Monday Morning Ten Pack

by Kevin Goldstein

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Michael Aubrey, OF/DH, Nationals (Triple-A Syracuse)
I was sure that I wrote about the aged Aubrey at some point last year after a huge game. I did, and now the 29-year-old does it again. The 11th overall pick in 2003, Aubrey looked like a future middle-of-the-order bat with hitting ability, walks, and above-average power, but a balky back too often put him on the disabled list; he didn't play more than 100 games in a season until 2008. Heading into Saturday's game against Durham, Aubrey's career looked to be nearing the end with averages of .203/.319/.220, but then he want bonkers with four home runs and seven RBIs to lift his OPS 277 points over the course of four at-bats. I don't know what it is about guys like Aubrey, but I really like rooting for them. Failed first round picks are a dime a dozen, but the guys who stick around forever looking for that one more chance, or just because they love the game, or sometimes both, they're a bit of a rarity and I hope he has some monster game in 2012 to get another mention.

Jarred Cosart, RHP, Phillies (High-A Clearwater)
Clearwater was supposed to have one of the best rotations in the minors, but it hasn't really worked out that way. Brody Colvin has made only two starts this year due to back issues, Trevor May is once again struggling above Low-A, and Cosart has been inconsistent due to mechanical issues. The best pure arm in the system, Cosart put it all together on Sunday afternoon, retiring the first 18 batters he faced and finishing the day with seven one-hit innings and eight strikeouts. Cosart consistently features plus-plus velocity in the mid-90s, but his future still depends on the development of his curveball and changeup, both of which can range between below average and borderline-plus depending on the outing. On a good day, he has a No. 2 ceiling, and that was the pitcher we saw on Sunday.

Zack Cox, 3B, Cardinals (High-A Palm Beach)
There was no doubt about Cox's ability to hit heading into the 2010 draft, but there was considerable debate over his power due to a line-drive swing that produces little in the way of loft or backspin. Despite foreknowledge of those limitations, the fact that he had just three doubles after 29 games this year came as a shock that wasn't mitigated by his batting average hovering around .300 for much of the year. After hitting his first home run of the year on Thursday (against a pitcher who was released the next day), Cox continued to drive balls over the weekend, going 6-for-12 with two doubles and another home run to lift his season averages to .328/.347/.416 in 34 games. Now that the power seems to be there, can we figure out what happened to the plate discipline? After walking 34 times in 59 games during his final year at the University of Arkansas, he's suddenly gone 27 games without one in what has been one of the strangest seasons among prospects so far.

Jeurys Familia, RHP, Mets (Double-A Binghamton)
Few pitchers in baseball have done more for their stock this year than Familia, who entered the year as a big arm with plenty to figure out, and is suddenly among the best pitching prospects in the system. After putting up a 5.58 ERA in the Florida State League last year despite mid-90s heat, many projected Familia as a reliever, but that's no longer the case, as after putting up a 1.49 ERA in six starts back at St. Lucie, he's showing no signs of slowing down at Double-A, firing seven shutout innings on Sunday while allowing just three hits and striking out six. His stuff hasn't taken a step forward (not that it needed to), but his control has improved by leaps and bounds; after walking 74 over 121 innings last year, he's handed out just 11 complementary pizzas in 50 1/3. This season is critical in terms of defining his future role; six weeks in, he not only looks like a sure-fire starter, but an above-average one at that.

Johnny Giavotella, 2B, Royals (Triple-A Omaha)
Now that Eric Hosmer is in the big leagues, I've been inundated with questions about which prospect with be next to get the call to Kansas City. Will it be third baseman Mike Moustakas? What about the power lefty duo of Danny Duffy and Mike Montgomery? Yet, no one brings up Giavotella, though he might be the best answer considering the current second base situation at the big league level. After eight hits, three doubles and a home run over the weekend, he's making his case by hitting .295/.350/.397. At just five-foot-eight, he's hardly the most impressive physical specimen, but he plays solid defense, has a good approach, and most importantly, just barrels balls consistently, regardless of pitch type or location. With so much hype revolving around the Royals system, we could have an argument over which prospect in the organization is the most over-rated.Giavotella just might be the most under-rated.

Billy Hamilton, SS, Reds (Low-A Dayton)
The Dragons were rained out on Sunday, which might have been the best thing for Hamilton. Coming off a huge season in the Pioneer League last year, Hamilton brought his easy 80 speed to the Midwest League. One of the most anticipated full-season debuts in the game, Hamilton has been a complete bust, batting .189/.267/.258 in 34 games including an 0-for-9 weekend with seven strikeouts. That gave him 43 whiffs in 132 at-bats. All he is right now is a burner, as he's reached base just 39 times, yet attempted 29 stolen bases. The old cliché about being unable to steal first base applies to no player more than Hamilton right now.

Jesus Montero, C, Yankees (Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre)
Most Saturdays, I'm watching Sabado Gigante, but this weekend, there was a can't miss telenovela with the Jorge Posada situation. Less than 24 hours later, there was plenty of kissing and making up and standing ovations, but it's easy to forget that on Saturday night there was all sorts of talk about releases and breaches of contracts, and if you talk about no more Posada, that means the arrival of Jesus Montero. This really has nothing to do how Montero is doing (.336/.369/.443, if you must know), this has to do with the worst idea ever. As the best prospect of the most popular team in baseball, Montero has an awfully large spotlight on him as is, and to draw him into this drama-fest would arguably be one of the more difficult debut assignments since the days of David Clyde. There will be enough pressure as it is on Montero when he finally gets the call, and the Yankees know that reducing the non-baseball pressure on him when he does arrive could be the key to initial success.

Brett Oberholtzer, LHP, Braves (Double-A Mississippi)
An eighth-round pick in 2008 out of a Florida junior college, Oberholtzer first appeared on the radar with a 2.01 ERA in 56-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in the Appy League in 2009, and less than two years later he's impressing scouts at Double-A. A big, thickly-built left-hander, Oberholtzer had his best start of the year on Sunday, when he lowered hse ERA to 3.10 with seven shutout innings while allowing four hits and striking out six. Limiting the Southern League to a .222 batting average this year, Oberholtzer attacks hitters with a fastball and curve than are both average to a tick above, as well as a decent changeup, but all of his pitches play up due to excellent command and control. Scouts love his bulldog demeanor, one calling him, “the kind of guy the manager needs to physically remove from the mound.” He's not nearly as sexy as the plethora of high ceiling arms in the system, but No. 4 starters are worth eight figures on the open market.

Kyle Seager, 2B, Mariners (Double-A Jackson)
Seager hit .345/.419/.503 last year while leading the minor league in hits, but all that production came with the giant grain of salt that is a full season at High Desert, where good numbers are as easy to come by as bad reality shows on VH1. Ranked eighth in the Mariners system during the off-season, but with trepidation, it's time to take him seriously now that he's hitting at Triple-A. While his gap power has always made him a doubles machine (he's amassed 14 two-baggers in 133 at-bats), he starting hitting balls over the fence this weekend, smacking three home runs to lift his season averages to .308/.370/.504. He's a 10-12 home run player, but he's looking more and more like a true high-average hitter, although playing the same position as fellow North Carlona alum Dustin Ackley doesn't help his chances with Seattle.

Taijuan Walker, RHP, Mariners (Low-A Clinton)
When writing about my in-person look-in on Walker last week, I noted that the 2010 supplemental first-round pick had plenty of promise, but inconsistency was to be expected. He didn't get out of the third inning in his second professional start on Thursday, but five days later he was downright terrifying, striking out 11 over 6 1/3 innings. With all eight of his other outs coming via the ground ball, he had a 15-to-1 G/F ratio after three starts. He has quickly placed himself among the most exciting arms at Low-A, but the up-and-down nature of his performances, not only from game to game, but from inning to inning, shows that this will require patience to go with the excitement.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

Related Content:  The Who,  Johnny Giavotella,  The Call-up

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Collateral Damage: Not... (05/16)
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