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June 5, 2006

Future Shock

Monday Morning Ten-Pack, 6/5/06

by Kevin Goldstein

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Yovani Gallardo, rhp, High Class A Brevard County (Brewers)

With the fifth overall pick in 2004, the Brewers selected Mark Rogers, Gallardo's teammate at Brevard County who has recorded 64 strikeouts in 45 innings; he's also allowed 52 hits and 31 walks--leading to a 6.20 ERA. With their second round pick, they grabbed Gallardo, who outpitched Rogers at Low Class A West Virginia last year and is doing so once again in the Florida State League. On Saturday against Lakeland, Gallardo struck out 12 in seven innings, allowing one run on four hits while walking a pair. It was his fifth double-digit strikeout performance in 11 starts, a feat made all the more impressive when you consider that this is a 20-year-old on a strict pitch count who has gone more than six innings just three times. With a fastball that gets into the mid-90s, two quality breaking balls, a decent changeup and plus command, he hasn't just passed Rogers as the top pitching prospect in the Milwaukee system, he's passed many to become one of the better pitching prospects, period.

Matt Garza and Glen Perkins, rhp, Double-A New Britain (Twins)

While the Twins still avoid drafting college hitters like the plague, they've spent some big money on college arms of late, dishing out nearly $2.8 million combined on first-rounders Glen Perkins (2004) and Matt Garza (2005). The pair both made starts in Sunday's doubleheader, and it was a bad day to be in the Bowie lineup. In the opener, Garza allowed one hit over six innings, carrying a no-hitter into the sixth before giving way to Adam Harben, who pitched a perfect ninth in the 3-1 win. In the nightcap, it was all Perkins, who pitched a seven-inning complete game two-hitter, striking out 10 in a 1-0 win that was over in 108 minutes. Final Bowie batting line: 3-for-45 (.067) with 13 strikeouts.

Zack Greinke, rhp, Double-A Wichita (Royals)

No matter how you look at it, it was progress. On Friday night, Greinke pitched for the first time this season, going five innings against San Antonio while allowing one run on four hits, walking one and striking out just one. It wasn't dominant, but it was certainly effective; with unspoken fears that he'd show up and be unable to pitch at all, it was a breath of fresh air. He'll get two or three more starts before any sort of decision is made, but in a nightmarish season in Kansas City, here at least is some good news.

Chase Headley, 3b, High Class A Lake Elsinore (Padres)

A second-round pick last June out of Tennessee, Headley was one of the more attractive options last June to teams who value performance, as he hit .387 for the Volunteers with 63 walks in 238 at-bats. Headley got off to a very slow start for the Storm this year, batting .238 in April without a home run, but the stick has since come alive. Since May 19, Headley is 22-for-64 (.344) with six home runs, including two homers on Saturday and another on Sunday. At .283/.374/.465 and rising, Headley joins what is a number of breakout seasons in the Padres system, one that still has some work to do but is definitely in better shape than it was two months ago.

Howie Kendrick, 2b, Triple-A Salt Lake (Angels)

It's hard to imagine Kendrick actually getting better, but he's done just that, going 7-for-12 with a double and three home runs over the weekend. He's batting .395 since getting sent down from the big leagues, and .391/.429/.656 overall. I realize he's making the 10-pack nearly every week, but with performances like this, what am I supposed to do?

Andy LaRoche, 3b, Double-A Jacksonville (Dodgers)

Like Headley, Laroche got off to his own slow start this year, batting .226 in June with two home runs. He's since batting .344 with 27 RBI in 33 games and has more walks (38) than strikeouts (30) on the season. His power (seven home runs in 209 at-bats) is still nowhere near last year's levels, but with those kinds of on-base skills, even average power will be more than enough for LaRoche to be a star.

Mike Pelfrey, rhp, Double-A Binghamton (Mets)

See? I told you he'd be fine. On Friday night, Pelfrey struck out 10 over six innings against Harrisburg while allowing just four hits; he now has 40 strikeouts in 34.1 Double-A innings. More surprisingly, the four hits allowed by Pelfrey were just one more than he had at the plate, as the 6-foot-7 righty went 3-for-3 with a double in the 6-5 win. He's now 4-for-7 with just one strikeout, and this isn't a player who was a two-way star at Wichita State--his career batting line for the Shockers: 0-for-1.

Kyle Sleeth, rhp, High Class A Lakeland (Tigers)

Sleeth is one of those guys teams are having nightmares about as the draft draws near. The third overall pick in 2003, Sleeth was seemingly the perfect pitcher. He was big (6-foot-5, 210 pounds), athletic, and, more importantly, had both excellent stuff and excellent statistics. The Tigers gave him $3.35 million, and his pro debut in 2004 was more than a little disappointing, as he had a 5.23 ERA in 139.1 innings between High A and Double-A. It made a little more sense when he missed all of last year with elbow pain that turned into Tommy John surgery. On Friday night, he pitched three innings, allowing five hits and four runs in his season debut. He turns 25 at the end of the year, and while it's far too early to write him off, the chances of him living up to initial expectations aren't good. Luckily, the Tigers have a system rich in pitching to help cushion the blow.

Wardell Starling, rhp, High Class A Lynchburg (Pirates)

Starling has been a bit of an enigma in the Pittsburgh system. A fourth-round pick in 2002, Starling actually turned into the rare high-round draft-and-follow, signing the following spring after spending a year at Odessa (Texas) Junior College. But despite a fastball that sits in the low 90s and has touched 98, Starling has never really performed as expected, entering 2006 with a career ERA of 4.59. Now in his second year with the Hillcats, Starling allowed three hits over seven shutout innings on Saturday, and on the season has limited Carolina League hitters to a .199 average while allowing just two home runs in 60.1 innings. The strikeouts aren't there (37), but something is suddenly working here.

Chris Young, of, Triple-A Tuscon (Diamondbacks)

Wrist injuries are difficult to deal with, as they can still sap a player's power, even once they're healed. Young was the biggest part of the Javier Vazquez trade and, after missing the first three weeks of the season, got off to a slow start with the Sidewinders. Once healthy, everything has gotten better:

            AB  H 2B 3B HR BB SO  AVG  SLG
First 17 G  63 15  5  0  1  8 10 .238 .365
Last  17 G  70 22  7  0  7  8 12 .314 .714

So no worries, Arizona fans: one of the best center field prospects in the game is once again playing like it.

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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