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July 17, 2006

Future Shock

Monday Morning Ten-Pack, 7/17/06

by Kevin Goldstein

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Chris Carter, 1b, Rookie-level Great Falls (White Sox)

A 15th-round pick out of a Las Vegas high school last June, the White Sox thought they had found a sleeper in Carter when he bashed 10 home runs in his pro debut, but he struggled in an assignment to full-season Kannapolis in April, going 6-for-46 (.130) with 17 strikeouts in 13 games before getting reassigned to extended spring training. Sent out to the White Sox' Pioneer League affiliate in June, the optimism is back. Carter hit home runs in two of his first three games and has never looked back, going 8-for-12 over the weekend with his 10th home run, raising his season averages to .351/.431/.745 in 94 at-bats. A huge (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) presence at the plate with an all-or-nothing approach, Carter will always rack up high strikeout totals, but he's a pretty interesting young power prospect in a system that lacks them.

Alexi Casilla, ss, Double-A New Britain (Twins)

Casilla had the most surprising placement when I ranked second baseman last week, but the question is becoming where he'll rank as a shortstop now. Moved up to Double-A, Casilla went 7-for-18 with a pair of stolen bases over the weekend in his first four Eastern League games, all on the left side of the infield. As always, there was no power, but the more people who see him, the more are convinced that he can hit in the big leagues.

Tyler Greene, ss, Low Class A Quad Cities (Cardinals)

Greene is like Carter, only on a larger scale. A first-round pick out of Georgia Tech last year, Greene's bat was the subject of much debate prior to the 2005 draft, and the naysayers looked to be right during the first half of the season; Greene had a miserable three months at High Class A Palm Beach, batting .224/.308/.325 in 71 games with 90 strikeouts in 268 at-bats. The Cardinals decided that enough was enough and, hoping that a change of scenery would do him well, sent him down to the Midwest League. The move has worked wonders, as Greene has hit .328/.385/.810 in 14 games with the Swing with eight home runs, including two on Sunday, after hitting just five for Palm Beach. He's 23 in a month and beating up on Low A pitching, but at least there's some signs of life here.

Jason Hammel, rhp, Triple-A Durham (Devil Rays)

Hammel's been a bit of a disappointment. Generally considered the organization's top starter who could help this year, Hammel gave up 10 runs over 8.1 innings in a pair of big league starts in April, and never found a groove at Triple-A, entering last night's game against Columbus with a 4.91 ERA in 16 starts. His good stuff is brought up a grade across the board thanks to excellent command, and everything was working against the Clippers as the 23-year-old pitched 8.1 no-hit innings before giving way to reliever Juan Salas for the final two outs. The pull was understandable, as Hammel had thrown 125 pitches, so why abuse the arm when he may be back on track?

Ryan Harvey, of, High Class A Daytona (Cubs)

Prior to the 2003 draft, Harvey was a bit of a wunderkind--a 6-foot-5 athletic high school slugger who drew plenty of comparisons to two-time MVP Dale Murphy. While he led the Midwest League in home runs last year with 24 in his full-season debut, the focus was on all the things he didn't do, including his mediocre .257 batting average and a miserable 137/24 K/BB ratio in 467 at-bats. This year, in the pitching-friendly Florida State League, Harvey has had a terrible season--one week ago his batting average sat at .202 with eight home runs and 84 strikeouts in 192 at-bats. On July 10th, Harvey went 3-for-5 against Vero Beach, and something must have clicked, as in his last seven games, the former sixth overall pick is 12-for-26 with four home runs and 13 RBI. At .223/.262/.387 he still has a very, very long way to go, but at least his numbers are going up, as they had been in reverse for three months running.

Chris Iannetta, c, Triple-A Colorado Springs

Congratulations, Rockies, I think you found yourself a catcher. Iannetta's breakout season began with a .321/.418/.622 performance at Double-A Tulsa, and he's been even better since a late June push to Triple-A, going 5-for-9 over the weekend with four walks to push his averages to a ridiculous .457/.590/.739 (21-for-46) in 15 games with twice as many walks (14) as strikeouts (7). He should be in line for a September look at the very least, and playing in Coors Field could make him a candidate for 2007 Rookie of the Year honors. Plus, he was a mathematics major in college, and how can BP folks not love that?

Brad Lincoln, rhp, GCL Pirates

It should be no surprise that Lincoln didn't allow an earned run in his 7.2 Gulf Coast League innings while recording nine strikeouts. As the 4th overall pick last month coming out of a major college program, he really didn't belong in the league. The assignment was a little surprising until it become clear that the Pirates were just getting his feet wet in preparation for a much larger assignment: he'll start on Wednesday for Low Class A Hickory in the Sally League. One note of caution: Lincoln threw 128.2 innings this spring at the University of Houston and, with roughly eight starts remaining, would approach 180 innings total on the year by averaging just five innings in each of those starts. Let's hope the Pirates slow things down a little bit.

Stephen Marek, rhp, Low Class A Cedar Rapids (Angels)

Marek signed for $800,000 last year as a draft-and-follow, and in a system this deep, he's gotten a bit lost in the shuffle. There are better pitching prospects out there, though Marek's numbers are nothing to sneeze at: a 1.96 ERA and a sub-one WHIP. You'd be hard-pressed to find a starter who has been more consistently good than Marek. In 19 starts for the Kernels, Marek has yet to give up more than three runs, and he's done that only three times. He's taken it up one further notch in recent times, allowing one run over seven innings on Friday night while striking out nine--extending his streak to seven starts of allowing one or zero earned runs. His fastball can get into the mid-90s and his curve can be very good at times, but he needs to move quickly as he's in Low Class A and turns 23 in September.

Dustin Pedroia, ss/2b, Triple-A Pawtucket (Red Sox)

Back to last week's second baseman rankings. The most common e-mail I received following its publication went something like this: "Where's Dustin Pedroia? He's better than most of these guys! Why do you hate him so?" Number one: Pedroia has played more than twice as many games at shortstop (55) than he has at second base (23) this year, and he's started on the right side of the infield just twice in his last 20 games. Number two: He is better than many of the players listed in the second base rankings, and he's especially hot right now--after going 9-for-13 over the weekend, the former Arizona State star is batting .440 in 13 July games and .311/.389/.435 overall. Number three: I don't hate him, and I never have. I just don't think he's going to be a star-level player, because with a good walk rate and no power, he has to consistently hit .320+ to be that kind of player, and I'm not convinced by any means that he can do that. He's going to have a very long major league career, however--I'm convinced of that.

Sean Watson, rhp, Rookie-level Billings (Reds)

The Reds' second-round pick this year, Watson was the closer at Tennessee this spring, notching 11 saves and striking out 47 in 41 innings. With a relatively fresh arm, a plus fastball and curve, as well as a usable changeup, the Reds are trying him out as a starting pitcher in the Pioneer League, and the results have been impressive. On Saturday night, Watson faced the minimum 12 batters during his four-inning outing, allowing one hit and striking out five--extending his professional streak of not allowing an earned run to 18.1 innings, in which he's given up seven hits and two walks while punching out 15. Nearly a year younger than most college draftees, Watson doesn't turn 21 until later this month, but could be one to watch in 2007 when he makes his full-season debut, most likely at Low Class A Dayton.

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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