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June 28, 2012

Future Shock


by Kevin Goldstein

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We still don't know when Player X is going to get called up, as injuries and ineffectiveness at the big league level, as well as the constant spectre of service time calculations, can play a far larger role than simply looking at minor league performance. We can, however, get some clues from the flurry of minor league promotions that come at mid-season. Here are ten recently promoted players, and what we can learn from them.

Jackie Bradley, OF, Red Sox
Nobody should have been surprised to see the Red Sox select shortstop Deven Marrero in the first round this year, as they've made a habit of selecting players who entered the spring as a potential top ten pick but then slipped. Anthony Ranaudo hasn't exactly worked out, but Bradley sure is; after showing a line drive bat and outstanding approach at High-A Salem, he was moved up to Double-A after hitting .359/.480/.526 in 67 games. A plus defender in center, he's suddenly on pace to reach Boston by next September, if not earlier.

Cody Buckel, RHP, Rangers
A second-round pick in 2010, Buckel had a 2.61 ERA in his full-season debut last year, but he exploded in the first-half of 2012, with a 1.47 mark at High-A Myrtle Beach while striking out 94 in 79 2/3 innings, all while limiting Carolina League hitters to a .186 average. Buckel doesn't have monster stuff, but his fastball and changeup both grade out to above-average, and all of his pitches play up due to outstanding command. He doesn't have star-level upside, but he's on the fast track as a potential No. 3 starter after beginning the second half at Double-A Frisco. 

Tony Cingrani, LHP, Reds
Only hitters are supposed to dominate in the California League, right? Cingrani went against the grain by putting up a 1.11 ERA in 10 starts for High-A Bakersfield with 71 strikeouts in 56.2 innings. A third-round pick last June as a senior out of Rice, scouts wondered how well Cingrani's arsenal would work at the upper levels; while his fastball and changeup are both plus pitches, his slider is well below average. He's been good, but not nearly as dominant, in four starts at Double-A Pensacola. Still, a majority of talent evaluators think he could be in the big leagues next year with a move to the bullpen.

Gerrit Cole, RHP, Pirates
The top overall pick in last year's draft, Cole was consistently good at High-A Bradenton which, given the inconsistency of his UCLA career, was quite a surprise; most expected dominant starts mixed with duds, and he had few of each. Now in Double-A, Cole has the potential to make some noise with the Pirates next spring, and should make his debut at some point in the 2013 season.

Kaleb Cowart, 3B, Angels
A first-round pick in 2010, the Angels had been taking it slow with Cowart, who signed for $2.3 million as a third baseman despite most teams preferring him as a pitcher. He didn't make his full-season debut until this spring, but then he lasted just 66 games at Low-A Cedar Rapids while hitting .293/.348/.479. Now in the much more hitter-friendly California League, Cowart could go from a slow mover to a position prospect who reaches Double-A before his 21st birthday.

Corey Dickerson, OF, Rockies
Dickerson hit 32 home runs last year for High-A Asheville, but that looked to be the product of a park that adores left-handed power, as 26 of those bombs came at home while he slugged just .363 on the road. While Dickerson had problems showing the same power at High-A Modesto to start the year, he still hit .338/.396/.583 in 60 games, but has gotten off to a slow start at Double-A Tulsa. As a bat-only prospect limited to left field, Dickerson has to hit to maintain his prospect status.

Nick Franklin, SS, Mariners
Franklin's stock took a dip in 2011. After a breakout year in 2010, big things were expected when he headed to High Desert, but mononucleosis sapped him of his strength and he struggled at the plate. He got all of his stock back and then some with a .322/.394/.502 first-half at Double-A Jackson, and more offensive fireworks at Triple-A Tacoma this summer could suddenly make him the favorite to be the opening day shortstop in Seattle in 2013.

Miles Head, 3B, Athletics
Part of the return from Boston for Andrew Bailey, Head had some of the loudest numbers in the minor leagues during the first half of the season, hitting .382/.433/.715 in 67 games. That earned him a more-than-logical promotion to Double-A Midland, but scouts still aren't quite sure what to do with him because of his weird profile. He's short, stocky, nonathletic and right-handed; a combination rarely seen in major league impact players. All he can do is keep hitting, but the A's have no obvious solution at the infield corners, so Head could be closer than expected to getting an opportunity to be part of the solution.

Danny Hultzen, LHP, Mariners
The only thing surprising about Hultzen's promotion to Triple-A Tacoma was that it took so long. After allowing five earned runs in his pro debut, the second overall pick in last year's draft allowed just five more in his next 12 starts, finishing his Double-A Jackson run with a 1.19 ERA. Some would argue that the most big league-ready player in the 2011 draft was ready for Triple-A to begin the season, and he won't need 13 more starts to reach the big leagues.

Dan Straily, RHP, Athletics
One of this year's biggest breakouts among pitchers, Straily had 108 strikeouts in just 85 1/3 innings at Double-A Midland, and his scouting reports are nearly as impressive, as his 91-94 mph fastball, slider and changeup all project as possible plus pitches, and his command and control are also above-average. Not bad for a 24th-round pick in 2009. After firing seven shutout innings with eight more strikeouts in his Triple-A debut, Straily has gone from nice organizational arm to potential September callup.

A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider Insider.

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:  Cody Buckel,  Corey Dickerson

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