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June 11, 2012

Future Shock

Monday Morning Ten Pack

by Kevin Goldstein

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Arismendy Alcantara, SS, Cubs (High-A Daytona)
While the focus on the Cubs system is firmly on the Triple-A team and the prospects that will arrive in Wrigley this year, Alcantara has turned into a pop-up guy in the system. With five hits over the weekend, the 20-year-old Dominican is now batting .291/.315/.417 in 60 games this season. There are some holes in his game, in particular an overly-aggressive plate approach and sloppy throwing mechanics that have contributed to 22 errors, but he's a line drive hitter with a quick bat, plus speed, and the tools to remain at short. Scouts see Alcantara as a good utility player, at the very least, and many give him a chance to be an everyday player if he continues to progress.

Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford
Appel's season came to an end this weekend when the Cardinal were eliminated from tournament action by Florida State, with Appel doing his part with a meltdown start for just his second loss of the year. This led to a predictable narrative of the outing, potentially costing Appel even more cash after his unexpected drop to the eighth overall pick in the draft earlier in the week. It won’t, though.  Yes, Appel was awful, but we have plenty of starts in which he was great. If you believe in small sample sizes, or rather the lack of information within them, then this start will not matter in the negotiations. The most common question I've gotten since the draft is simply whether Appel will sign. I still think yes, and I still think it will involve some unforeseen shenanigans to get the deal done, and nothing about Friday's start changed my opinion.

Trevor Bauer, RHP, Diamondbacks (Triple-A Reno)
Bauer had an overpowering start on Friday at Tucson, striking out 11 batters over seven shutout innings while allowing five hits and just two walks. That led to more questions about when Bauer will arrive in the big leagues, and the pressure is even greater considering Arizona's recent hot streak. Bauer is ready to miss bats in the big leagues and may have even been ready the moment he signed, but is he ready to dominate? With a walk rate just under four per nine innings, Bauer has been an inefficient pitcher who often reaches the 100-pitch mark in the sixth inning; at times, he seems to get too experimental with his stuff as opposed to just blowing hitters away. That makes the strikeout total the only truly dominant number on his stat line, and while he'd help Arizona now, he's not a savior yet.

Dellin Betances, RHP, Yankees (Triple-A Empire State)
Betances had another disastrous outing on Saturday, allowing seven hits and seven runs over 4 1/3 innings to lift his ERA to 5.92 with nearly as many walks (56) as strikeouts (57). He's never exactly been mechanically sound at any point in his career, and he's clearly regressed this year; he has a disturbing tendency to cut off his delivery at release, which costs him balance in a delivery already sorely lacking in that department. The 24 year old just doesn't look like a starter anymore, and unless he finds the mechanics that once made him a top prospect, he might not look like a reliever either.

Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox (High-A Salem)
Bogaerts was one of the big stories in the Boston system last year, showing huge power as an 18-year-old in the Sally League, but a modest start to the 2012 season left people wondering if they got a little too excited. He has started to heat up along with the weather, and after three hits on Sunday (including his eighth home run of the season), Bogaerts is hitting .292/.360/.489 in 59 games—very impressive numbers considering the age and environment. Bogaerts has clearly made some adjustments, as his strikeout rate has plummeted from 2011 levels, and scouts note that he is a much better pure hitter as opposed to just trying to crush the ball with every swing. While he lacks the athleticism to play shortstop long-term, he should end up a good defensive third baseman, and one with plenty of bat.

Tony Cingrani, LHP, Reds (Double-A Pensacola)
While Cingrani was dominating at High-A, the general sentiment involved waiting to see him do it at the upper levels. With nine strikeouts over six shutout innings on Friday, he's doing just that. Still, he's a tough player to figure out. While he's in his first full-season, he turns 23 next month, and he's still dominating off two pitches: a fastball and a changeup that both earn easy plus grades. Successful starting pitchers with Cingrani's path and lack of a breaking ball are rare, so now the sentiment involves waiting to see it will work in the big leagues.

Matt Den Dekker, OF, Mets (Double-A Birmingham)
One of the best defensive outfielders in the minor leagues, Den Dekker is suddenly the hottest hitter as well, adding nine hits over the weekend as part of a six-game run that has seen him go 17-for-27 to lift his season averages to .340/.397/.563. There are some mirages in those numbers—it's impossible to hit .340 long-term while averaging a strikeout per game—but there's clearly some ability here as well. Previous projections of Den Dekker as a good fourth outfielder are starting to see some upgrades.

Danny Hultzen, RHP, Mariners (Double-A Jackson)
Hultzen allowed five earned runs in his first start of the season, but in his 11 starts since then he's allowed a total of five (leading to an ERA of 0.68 over that stretch) while giving up just 30 hits over 62 1/3 innings. The question now revolves around what he's still doing at Double-A. The level clearly provides no challenge for this top prospect, and even if a big league call-up isn't on the Seattle calendar, spending some time in the Pacific Coast League should be able to provide some additional lessons. He remains the pitcher that might not have the highest ceiling in a talented 2011 draft, but he's the most likely to find immediate big league success.

Tyler Matzek, LHP, Rockies (High-A Modesto)
Matzek had arguably his best start of the season on Saturday, allowing one hit over seven innings while striking out seven and walking three. He remains a Jekyll and Hyde prospect, but he's been more good than bad this year, sitting with a 2.87 ERA while limiting the California League to a .180 batting average and just one home run. Fifty-one walks in 69 innings is hardly acceptable, though. Matzek's could wind up as anything from a minor league blow-out to a big league star, and it's the kind of starts he had on Saturday that keep hope for the latter alive.

Mark Prior, RHP, Red Sox (Triple-A Pawtucket)
Prior struck out four batters on Friday, and in three appearances for the PawSox, he has now recorded 10 whiffs over 4 2/3 innings while allowing three hits and two walks. His fastball has gotten up to 93 mph, and one insider noted its deception as well; hitters are clearly having a difficult time picking the ball up out of his hand. He's 31 years old, however, and hasn't pitched in the big leagues since 2006. Prior could have easily hung them up years ago without any guilt, but there he is, in Rhode Island and missing bats. I don't think there's a player in the minors I'm rooting for more.

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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