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June 27, 2011

Future Shock

Monday Morning Ten Pack

by Kevin Goldstein

James Baldwin, OF, Dodgers (Rookie-level Ogden)
A fourth-round pick last June out of a North Carolina high school, Baldwin certainly has the big-league bloodlines—his father of the same name pitched in the majors for more than a decade—and certainly had the tools—a burner with center-field tools and a long frame that could turn into power as he fills out—to succeed. Ogden is a wonderful place to hit, but with three home runs over the weekend, he's already filling out, and with five stolen bases in seven games, he's the most dynamic power/speed combination in the Pioneer League. Tools turning into skills rarely happens this quickly, and we can’t get too excited with the park and small sample size, but at .433/.469/.867, it's one heck of a start.

Corey Dickerson, OF, Rockies (Low-A Asheville)
Dickerson was my Rockies sleeper heading into the year, but he's on pace to be far more than that on next year's list. An eighth-rounder pick last year out of a Mississippi junior college, Dickerson hit 13 home runs and slugged .634 in his pro debut, and he's not giving up any ground in his full-season debut. He set a South Atlantic League record with 10 RBI in a game earlier this month, and with home runs on Saturday and Sunday, he now has 15 in 179 at-bats and a .285/.370/.615 batting line. He lacks the speed for center or the arm for right, so he’s a left fielder who needs to keep hitting. A friendly home park, where he's slugging .792, is certainly helping his cause. Still, with a good approach and very real power tool, he's definitely a prospect.

Robbie Erlin, LHP, Rangers (Double-A Frisco)
After dominating the Carolina League for the first two months of the season, the Texas League hadn't been as kind to Erlin, who entered Sunday's start with a 5.28 ERA thanks to more than a hit per inning. Some were wondering if his extreme strike-throwing ways were starting to catch up to him. He put many of those doubts to rest with a career-high 14 strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings while throwing 77 of his 105 pitches for strikes. Struggles for a 20-year-old in Double-A are more than understandable. A 14-strikeout game for a 20-year-old is more than a bit impressive. He still profiles as a middle-of-the-rotation starter and the kind of player who exceeds projections.

Nick Franklin, SS, Mariners (Double-A Jackson)
I have no idea what to make of this one. For two-and-a-half months, Franklin was a disappointment. The 2009 first-round pick led the Midwest League with 23 home runs last year, and with a move to High Desert this year, big things were expected, or at least big numbers. Instead, we got a baffling .275/.356/.411 line with just five home runs in 258 at-bats. Nonetheless, the 20-year-old was moved up to Double-A as part of the Dustin Ackley domino effect that bumped Kyle Seager to Triple-A. While Seager was busy going 9-for-18 in his first four games for Tacoma, Franklin was the bigger surprise, with four straight multi-hit games that put him at 9-for-16 in his first four Southern League games with a home run. Being disappointing at one level and then being great after moving up is always a confusing combination. We need more data before making any conclusions.

Aaron Hicks, OF, Twins (High-A Fort Myers)
Let's face it: Hicks hasn't exactly lived up to expectations. We've been talking about his tools nonstop since he was a first-round pick in 2008, but the numbers haven't been there, including the first two months of this season. All of a sudden, he's arguably the most dynamic player in the Florida State League; with a 4-for-10 weekend that included two doubles and three walks, he's hitting .333/.477/.507 in 19 June games and .275/.390/.410 overall. A plus-plus center fielder with a plus-plus arm, Hicks has plenty of defensive value, and he's always had a patient approach. Now that's he's hitting, and with scouts believing that many of his 19 doubles in 229 at-bats will turn into home runs down the road, there's real reasons for optimism here.

Ryan Lavarnway, C, Red Sox (Triple-A Pawtucket)
Lavarnway has always hit. He has put up big numbers since he was selected out of Yale in the sixth round in 2008, including a .356/.420/.667 line in 11 Triple-A games after a 5-for-13 weekend that included two doubles and a home run. Combining a quick bat with massive strength, scouts have no problem projecting him as a big-leaguer at the plate, but the debate rages about his abilities behind it. He's big, thick, and slow, and while that's not rare for a catcher, he doesn't move well behind the plate, and it takes a long time to get his 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame out of a crouch, leading to problems controlling his running game. Still, scouts are quick to say he's getting better back there, possibly to the point of adequacy, and a September look should give us a better idea of where his future lies with the Red Sox.

Tyler Saladino, SS, White Sox (High-A Winston-Salem)
A seventh-round pick last year out of Oral Roberts, Saladino opened plenty of eyes after signing by hitting an impressive .309/.397/.442 in 47 Low-A games. A broken hand delayed his 2011 season, and there were worries that last summer was a fluke when he hit .182 in his first 20 Carolina League games. Since then, he's back to being the player we saw last summer; with two home runs over the weekend, he's hitting .329 in his last 18 games to up his season averages to .252/.333/.476. Beyond having well above-average power for a middle infielder, he's also a legitimate shortstop who makes up for average range with instincts and fundamentals. He entered the year as my 12th-best prospect in a weak White Sox system, and he'll surely get a full write-up this offseason.

Angel Sanchez, RHP, Dodgers (Low-A Great Lakes)
Few players in the minors have been more of a pop-up prospect than Sanchez, who had his best outing as a pro on Saturday with five no-hit innings to lower his ERA to 1.83. Signed last year out of the Dominican as a relatively old 20-year-old, Sanchez made his pro debut in late May with the Loons, moved into the rotation this month, and has limited the league to a .143 batting average by allowing just 17 hits in 34 1/3 innings while striking out 37. At 6-foot-3, skinny and long-levered, Sanchez has a smooth delivery that cuts loose 91-94 mph fastballs with good movement, to go with a solid curveball that he has trouble controlling at times and a changeup that is a true plus offering. I'm not going to lie; I hadn't even heard of this guy heading into the season, and now he's someone Midwest League scouts can't stop talking about.

Will Swanner, C, Rockies (Rookie-level Casper)
Swanner fell to the 15th round in last year's draft due to signability issues, but the Rockies swayed him away from college with a bonus just under $500,000. He hit seven home runs in 76 at-bats during his pro debut for Casper, but was held back in extended spring training to hone his defensive skills. After a 1-for-12 start to the year, Swanner blasted three more home runs over the weekend. He's still a mess behind the plate; in 12 career games he's been charged with four passed balls and has allowed 15 stolen bases without throwing a single runner out. The bat is so far ahead of the glove that a position change could be in order soon, but at just 19, and with no options outside first base, he'll get more time to figure it out.

Adam Warren, RHP, Yankees (Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre)
When I wrote last week about the Yankees being afraid to lean on their prospects in times of need, Warren was one of my main exhibits, and he helped prove my point with six shutout innings on Saturday to lower his ERA to 2.87. To be clear, Warren isn't some kind of savior or future star, but he should be able to hold his own in the big leagues thanks to a plus fastball and average secondary offerings. Why go through all the machinations to add Brian Gordon to the roster and leave Warren down on the farm? Only the Yankees know for sure. 

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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