May 14, 2012
Monday Morning Ten Pack
Manny Banuelos, LHP, Yankees (Triple-A Empire State)
On April 12, in his second start of the year, Banuelos walked six over two innings and then hit the disabled list with a minor back injury. The back was clearly affecting his delivery, but control was an issue in 2011 as well, and whether it's getting healthy or just a good run, he's suddenly turned into a strike-throwing machine. Since his return to the rotation—and including six outstanding innings on Sunday—Banuelos has reeled off 14 2/3 innings without issuing a walk, and he's done it without ratcheting down his stuff in terms of velocity or break. It's too early to get excited here, but with both Banuelos and Betances pitching well of late, maybe the Yankees will trust their own this year when a need arrives.
Bryce Brentz, OF, Red Sox (Double-A Portland)
Brentz saw his prospect stock soar in 2011 with 30 home runs in 115 games, but a slow start in his first exposure to upper-level pitching created a bit of pause after scouts thought he had enough bat to be an everyday corner outfielder. Now, it's looking like just a slow start, as after seeing his batting average still sitting below the Mendoza line in late April, Brentz is on an 18-for-41 tear, including a 5-for-5 day on Sunday to lift his averages to .279/.323/.426 overall. He can be a difficult player to judge at times, as he doesn't have the size of a traditional corner outfielder; he needs to keep hitting to eventually get his chance, especially for a team that doesn't give a lot of chances to just average prospects.
Corey Brown, OF, Nationals (Triple-A Syracuse)
Brown was passed over for a big league chance by Bryce Harper, and then again by Tyler Moore, but it would be a mistake just to write him off. Acquired along with Henry Rodriguez from Oakland prior to the 2011 season for Josh Willingham, Brown has plenty of tools and plenty of patience, but that comes with plenty of strikeouts. Still, Brown does more than enough around a low batting average, and after going 5-for-10 with three doubles and four walks over the weekend, he's now hitting .268/.392/.449 in 37 games. While he's not great in center, he's solid and a better up the middle defender than Harper. It would be interesting to see him get a look.
Matt Davidson, 3B, Diamondbacks (Double-A Mobile)
It's not that Davidson needed to prove that his 2011 season wasn't a California League mirage, as last year, his .277/.348/.465 line fell into the good-not-great category for that circuit; with 147 strikeouts and below-average defense at third base, there were still a lot of questions to answer. No position player in the system has come further early in the season than Davidson, who isn't just hitting more, walking more and striking out less, but also earning future average scores at the hot corner, indicating he can stay there. With a six-hit weekend that included three home runs, Davidson is now batting .318/.434/.583 in 37 games, and what scouts are saying is nearly as impressive as the numbers.
Matt Den Dekker, OF, Mets (Double-A Binghamton)
Den Dekker earned fans this spring with his all-out style of play at Mets camp, and many scouts think he could get to the big leagues on the strength of his defense alone. That said, Den Dekker is proving he's a better hitter than we thought, as after five hits and two home runs over the weekend, he's now at .295/.361/.525 in 34 Eastern League games. He's still an impatient hitter who expands his strike zone too often, but with plus-plus defense in center, he just might have enough bat to be more of a second division starter than an extra outfielder.
Angelo Gumbs, 2B, Yankees (Low-A Charleston)
One of the toolsiest players in the Yankee system, Gumbs opened some eyes with the progress he made last year in the New York-Penn League, but he still entered the year more of an athlete than a baseball player. He hit just .206 in April but since then, he's gone on a tear, going 13-for-28 in his last six games to lift his averages to .270/.339/.383 overall. He's also doing his best Billy Hamilton impression by stealing 11 bases over that stretch to give him 19 in 20 attempts. With outstanding speed, a good approach, and a bit of raw power, he's one of those players with explosive potential, so every hot streak bears watching.
Adeiny Hechavarria, SS, Blue Jays (Triple-A Las Vegas)
Las Vegas is absolutely a great place to hit, but there's more than just a ballpark effect here, as with seven hits over the weekend—all in road games—Hechavarria is batting .316/.374/.462 in 36 games. The Cuban emigre is a plus-plus defender, so really any kind of offense boosts his prospect stock dramatically. But the question is just where he fits on a Blue Jays squad that has Yunel Escobar signed through 2013 with very reasonable options for the two years after that. To move him off of shortstop would be to strip him of much of his value, so if anything, he might just be seeing his trade value exploding.
Tyler Massey, 1B/OF, Rockies (Low-A Asheville)
A 14th-round pick in 2008 who earned a $525,000 bonus to steer him away from college, Massey was signed to hit, and he just had not done enough of it, entering 2011 with a career batting average of .232. Limited athletically to first base or left field, Massey has strength and bat speed coming out of a compact frame, and it's finally turning into results, as after reaching base eight times over the weekend, he's now batting .333/.414/.549 in 29 games. The problem is, he's in his fifth full year so we're talking about a soon-to-be 23 year old hitting in Asheville. For now, he's merely a bit interesting.
Jurickson Profar, SS, Rangers (Double-A Frisco)
There hasn't been a lot of Profar talk this year here, as he hasn't had many of those big days that make updates and Ten Packs. What he has been is arguably the most consistent player in the minors, a shocking statement for a 19-year-old in Double-A. After going 6-for-13 with three doubles over the weekend, Profar now has a 23-game hitting streak going to lift his season averages to .283/.337/.507, which is another shocking statement for a 19-year-old at Double-A. It's a strange year: he hasn't done a lot to make everyone sit up and take notice, but more importantly, he's done nothing to hurt his reputation as one of the best position prospects in baseball, if not the best.
Cory Spangenberg, 2B, Padres (High-A Lake Elsinore)
Last year's first-round pick already has a history of needing some time to adjust to new levels, as while his batting line of .286/.345/.365 last year at Fort Wayne is solid, he was arguably the best hitter in the league down the stretch. It's been a repeat performance this year, as his batting average sat at .200 after an 0-for-4 showing on April 26, but since then, he may again be the best hitter in the league, going 30-for-71 (.423) in 17 games, including a six-hit weekend to lift his averages up to .305/.335/.397 in 37 games. A plus runner with some of the best bat speed in the minors, Spangenberg has the ability to be a consistent .300 hitter all the way up the ladder, including the big leagues.
Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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