July 30, 2012
Monday Morning Ten Pack
Yeison Asencio, OF, Padres (Low-A Fort Wayne)
Asencio went from complex league monster to 22-year-old who had yet to play in a full-season league when his true identity was discovered, but he's become a pop-up player in the Midwest League since joining the TinCaps in mid May. He had one of the best weekends in the minors, going 10-for-14 with four doubles and a home run to lift his season numbers to .322/.353/.511. There are tools to back it up, as he's a wiry strong right fielder with decent speed, a plus arm and an outstanding feel for contact that has generated just 24 strikeouts in 233 at-bats. He's an aggressive hitter who goes up looking to hit, but his power projects as merely average, which isn't much for a corner outfielder; you can't find perfection in out-of-nowhere types.
Engel Beltre, OF, Rangers (Double-A Frisco)
He's still only 22 years old, he still has all sorts of tools, and, every once in a while, he reminds you that there's still something to be optimistic about. His season line of .257/.299/.433 is classic Beltre, but he's been the hottest hitter at Double-A since the middle of the month: with three multi-hit games over the weekend that included his 14th triple and 12th home run, he's 23-for-57 (.404) with 48 total bases in his last 13 games. Every time he goes on a run like this, it's worth keeping an eye on, because every time he goes on a run like this, there's a small chance it's for real.
Archie Bradley, RHP, Diamondbacks (Low-A South Bend)
Bradley has the best stuff in the Midwest League, which is part of what also makes him one of the most frustrating prospects on the circuit. The 2011 first-round pick whiffed a career-high 11 on Sunday, and his ERA went up to 3.92, as he also allowed five runs over 4 2/3 innings. That's an ERA approaching four for a pitcher who has allowed just 59 hits over 103.1 innings for a miniscule .165 opponent's average, a pitcher who sits in the mid-90s with heavy sink and follows that up with a nasty power breaking ball. His undoing has been location, as he's walked 67, hit eight and uncorked 16 wild pitches on the season, but with this stuff and this ability to miss bats, he remains a top prospect with No. 1 potential and plenty of time for refinement.
Domonic Brown, OF, Phillies (Triple-A Lehigh Valley)
Brown is suddenly kind of hot again, going 9-for-21 during a six-game hitting streak to raise his season averages to .292/.340/.440, leaving one wondering about what could have happened with him in the second half under different scenarios for the big league club. A competitive Phillies team likely would have used him as a trading chip and an attractive change-of-scenery piece. A bad Phillies team might need to trade both Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino for Brown to get consistent playing time with a club that pretty clearly doesn't have much faith him. For now, he's stuck, and all he can do is ride an extended hot streak that either forces the Phillies to give him another chance, or increases his value enough where someone else will pursue him as an off-season acquisition.
Khris Davis, OF, Brewers (Double-A Huntsville)
Sometimes you just get a feeling about a guy. A 7th-round pick in 2009 out of Cal State Fullerton, Davis hit .280/.398/.499 in his 2010 full-season debut, but earned criticism for being old for the level. He hit .309/.415/.533 in the Florida State League, but all that people wanted to talk about was a bad six weeks at Double-A, along with tools that limited him to left field. He's missed significant time this year with injuries, but on Friday he hit a home run in his fifth consecutive game, and after an 8-for-10 weekend, he's batting a very loud .383/.484/.641 in 44 games. All of the criticisms are fair. He'll turn 25 during the off-season. He's a 40 runner with a 40 arm and has little value beyond his bat. But he can really hit, always has, and there's an onus on the Brewers to see just how good he really is.
Cesar Hernandez, 2B, Phillies (Double-A Reading)
The Phillies have a shallow, pitching-heavy system, with Hernandez being among their brightest lights this year among positional players, and a 5-for-10 weekend with two doubles and a triple lifted his season line to .302/.343/.435 in 102 games. He's the kind of prospect who grows on you, as he's a 5-foot-10 second baseman who lacks loud tools, but he can field, run and make contact, and he added gap power to his game this year. It's a scary thought for Phillies fans, but the Hernandez ETA suddenly lines up perfectly with the end of Chase Utley's seven-year contract.
Leon Landry, OF, Dodgers (High-A Rancho Cucamonga)
A third-round pick in 2010 out of LSU, Landry earned some attention with a .349/.399/.510 Pioneer League line, but a miserable showing in his full-season debut took the bloom off the rose. With an 8-for-15 weekend that included three triples (giving him 15 on the year) and a home run, he's hitting .328/.358/.559 in 80 California League games, and in a system lacking many positional prospects, he's getting some notice again. There are some tools here, including good defense and above-average speed, but there are still issues as well, including an ugly approach and a fear that much of this is simply a product of the Cal League. He's not suddenly a highly rated prospect, but he does look like some kind of useful big leaguer.
Roberto Osuna, RHP, Blue Jays (Short-season Vancouver)
The first thing that strikes you is the date of birth. February 7, 1995. The second thing that strikes you is that 17-year-olds are not supposed to strike out 13 of the 19 batters they face in the college-heavy Northwest League over five one-hit innings. But that's what happened on Saturday night, and the hundreds of Twitter questions soon followed. The good news is that Osuna is a very good prospect. He's already sitting in the low-90s while touching 94 mph and his feel for both a breaking ball and changeup are advanced for his age. The bad news is that his delivery features an ugly finish and a hard fall to his left side, and he has a huge body that could lead to some conditioning issues down the road. He's definitely someone to keep an eye on, but he's still below many other young pitchers in the system. All he's done for now is reduce the gap.
Robert Stephenson, RHP, Reds (Low-A Dayton)
For 2011 first-round picks that begin the year in full-season leagues, they get about a ten week head start on the hype train. That leaves Stephenson with plenty of room to make up, but he's clearly doing all he can, tossing five one-hit innings with six strikeouts in his Dayton debut after whiffing 37 over 30 2/3 innings with a 2.05 ERA in the Pioneer League. The 27th overall pick last June who signed for a well above-slot bonus of $2 million, Stephenson was consistently touched the mid-90s as a California high schooler, but he's found even more velocity since, now sitting comfortably there while occasionally reaching triple-digits. His breaking ball and changeup need plenty of work, but the raw material for a 19-year-old pitching prospect has gone from very good to outstanding.
Mike Zunino, C, Mariners (Short-season Everett)
For now, this year's third overall pick is just getting his feet wet, as after a 6-for-12 weekend that included his fifth and sixth home runs, Zunino is clearly too good for the Northwest League, hitting .356/.465/.746 in his first 16 games. The question on Zunino is not what he does this year, but what 2013 looks like. Incredibly polished, it's not ridiculous to think Zunino is ready for Double-A next spring, and with the big league roster featuring Miguel Olivo (who can't hit) and Jesus Montero (who can't catch), the 21-year-old could end up on the fast track to the big leagues. A promotion to get him eligible for Arizona Fall League play will be one indication, as will his actual assignment to an AFL roster. If those two things happen, Zunino's minor league career could be a short one.
Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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