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August 13, 2012

Future Shock

Monday Morning Ten Pack

by Kevin Goldstein

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J.O. Berrios, RHP, Twins (Rookie-level Elizabethton)
He wasn't a first-round pick in June, but he was the first pick right after it ended, going 31st overall and ending up just the sixth high school arm selected. He signed quickly for a $1.55 million bonus and he's looked nothing short of fantastic since taking the mound: 27 strikeouts and just seven hits allowed over 16 2/3 innings in the Gulf Coast League, adding four one-hit innings with five more whiffs on Saturday in his Appy League debut. Berrios is undersized at an even six feet tall, but he makes you forget about his size quickly with plus to plus-plus velocity coming out of one of those easy deliveries that makes it look like he's playing catch. He's flashed a good slider so far and has some feel for a changeup; the few pro scouts that have seen Berrios think the Twins may have really found something here.

Mark Cohoon, LHP, Mets (Double-A Binghamton)
Cohoon had the best pitching line of the week, when on Friday night he fired a complete game two-hitter against Harrisburg while walking one and striking out 10. But is he a prospect? It's a mixed bag. He has a solid 3.44 ERA and has walked just 25 batters in 120 1/3 innings, but at the same time, he turns 25 in a month and, even with the big strikeout game, he's punching out Eastern League hitters at a rate of barely over 5.1 per nine. He's really just a strike thrower with a changeup, as he rarely scrapes 90 mph with his fastball. While that won't land him (or shouldn't) on anyone's Mets prospect list, he's one of hundreds in the minors who just might be good enough at his craft to be an occasionally usable No. 5 starter. Of course, of those hundreds with the potential, few actually do it.

Christian Colon, SS?, Royals (Triple-A Omaha)
Since he plays in one of the most loaded systems in baseball, it's been easy to forget about Colon. A budget-minded fourth overall pick in 2010, Colon hit .257/.325/.342 at Double-A Northwest Arkansas last year, and that was enough to take him off of many radars. He was never drafted for his big tools or projection, as he was all about current skills, fundamentals, polish, and makeup. That's all still there, but while repeating the level, the 23-year-old hit .289/.364/.392, and with two hits on Saturday and four more on Sunday, he's 7-for-15 (.467) in his first four Pacific Coast League games. Now, the question is what to do with him. Obviously, he's not going to play shortstop in the big leagues, so he's battling his own middle infield teammate in Johnny Giavotella for the big league second baseman job. Which do you want, the guy who can really hit, like Giavotella, or the guy who is not nearly as good offensively, but is a far superior defensive player who can bunt, play mistake-free baseball and be the toughest guy to strike out on the team? It's really a personal preference in many ways, but Colon is definitely back on the map.

Joey Gallo, 3B, Rangers (Rookie-level AZL Rangers)
A supplemental first-round pick who got easy first-round money with a $2.25 million bonus, Gallo has been the talk of the complex leagues this year, hitting .300/.448/.743 in 41 games that included his league record 17th home run of the season on Sunday night. Despite those crazy numbers, it's hard to say Gallo's stock is suddenly higher than it was the day he signed. He had the best raw power in the draft, so a ton of home runs isn't a surprise, nor is it indicative of anything, since the previous record holder was... Wladimir Balentien. There's still a lot of swing and miss in his game, and his ability to stay at third base is debatable. He's a guy with 80 power, a huge arm, and a great feel for the strike zone, and he's going to have to show it all the way up the ladder. That's a tremendous starting point in terms of skills and tools, and I'm a big fan, but just because he set a complex league record or has nearly a 1.200 OPS doesn't really change his projection much at all.

Robbie Grossman, OF, Astros (Double-A Corpus Christi)
When the Astros acquired Grossman from Pittsburgh as part of the Wandy Rodriguez deal, his .266/.378/.406 line really didn't tell the whole story, as it was the result of a disturbing slow start, and the beginning of a white-hot run before the deal. That run has continued with the Astros, as with an 8-for-12 weekend that included two doubles, a triple and a home run, he's now hitting .358/.482/.537 in 17 Texas League games. His outstanding plate discipline has been well documented, but for the small majority of scouts who believe he can stay in center field, he's a dynamic player with the power for double-digit home runs and the speed for 20 stolen bases. Jordan Schafer has spent the 2012 season proving that he is not Houston's center fielder of the future. At some point in 2013, Grossman will get the chance to prove that he is.

Billy Hamilton, SS, Reds (Double-A Pensacola)
Hamilton had a good weekend, going 5-for-12 with a triple and three walks to lift his Double-A batting line to .288/.410/.405 in 31 games, but of course, that's not the story. The story was six more stolen bases to give him 35 at Double-A and 139 overall in 113 games. That's six shy of what is believed to be the minor league record of 145, set by Vince Coleman in 1983. He's also been getting gunned down quite a bit: he's gotten caught stealing in four straight games, giving him 10 at Double-A and 31 on the season. Of course, 31 times caught stealing seems like a ton, as it's more than a full game of caught stealing. However, he's still managing to be successful at an 82% clip. That's good when judged on the standard stolen base success scale, but it's amazing when you think about the fact that Hamilton is running every time. Every damn time. He knows it, the pitcher knows it, the catcher knows it, and anyone in the stands who has any idea who Hamilton is knows it. That makes his success percentage downright remarkable, and one has to wonder what it could be when his speed is used more judiciously.

Casey Kelly, RHP, Padres (Double-A San Antonio)
This could have been a big year for Kelly. It was hard to spend more than a day in Arizona this spring without somebody telling you how good Kelly looked. Then he started the year with 14 strikeouts and no walks in his first two Triple-A starts before elbow soreness shelved him until late July. Returning to the upper levels after a few complex league warm-ups, Kelly tossed five one-hit innings on Friday in an efficient 65 pitches while walking one and striking out four. He'll likely finish up the year in San Antonio, catch up on innings in the Arizona Fall League, and that just might be enough for this to still end up a pretty big year for Casey Kelly.

Shelby Miller, RHP, Cardinals (Triple-A Memphis)
Miller was one of the biggest disappointments in prospect land during the first half of the year, and there were plenty of theories as to why his ERA sat at 6.17 at the All-Star break. Command and control issues were one reason, and they're certainly looking corrected, as Miller struck out a season-high 10 on Saturday. In his last five starts he's whiffed 31 over 29 2/3 innings without walking a single batter. More importantly, the stuff is back, as his fastball is back to 92-95 mph, and both his curveball and changeup are generating swings and misses. What was once a big cause for concern is suddenly looking like a bump in the road.

Bruce Rondon, RHP, Tigers (Triple-A Toledo)
Rondon started the year at High-A Lakeland, but he's suddenly on the verge of the majors as his ability to harness his triple-digit heat by throwing strikes has been one of the biggest pleasant surprises in the system this year. Moved to Toledo early in the week, Rondon has thrown a pair of scoreless innings so far, although his outing on Saturday ended after one pitch that the umpire ruled was an intended message. The Tigers have struggled to live up to expectations this year, and part of those struggles have been an inconsistent bullpen; Rondon's surprising leap through the system could have one more step in it.

Mike Zunino, C, Mariners (Short-Season Everett)
As a highly advanced product from a major college program, no player in the 2012 draft was more ready for a high assignment than Zunino, who proved it by going 7-for-12 with two home runs over the weekend, and 14-for-24 with three home runs in his last six Northwest League games. With a .373/.474/.736 line, Zunino is finally done with his introduction to professional baseball, and will move on in a big way to Double-A Jackson this week. You want an accelerated timetable? You got it. A big three weeks here and in the Arizona Fall League, and the third overall pick in June could suddenly be in line for a very long look next spring.

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:  Prospects,  Scouting,  Minor Leagues

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