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October 23, 2006

Future Shock

Monday Morning Ten Pack 10/23/06

by Kevin Goldstein

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1B Mike Carp, North Shore Honu (Hawaii Winter League, Mets)

Carp had a very good year in the High-A Florida State League, batting .287/.379/.450 for St. Lucie. Not eye-popping numbers, but after considering the league, scout appreciation for his size and pretty swing, the fact that Carp just turned 20 at the end of June, and his hitting ten home runs in his final 41 games, things start to look a little rosier. Carp's winter season in Hawaii started with a 0-for-10 run, but he's batting .400 since, and .286/.405/.457 overall. Making it as a first baseman is the toughest road for any position player prospect, as there's no flexibility defensively if things turn sour, but Carp is on roll--one he hopes to continue next year in Double-A.

OF Brett Carroll, Peoria Javelinas (Arizona Fall League, Marlins)

In my Arizona Fall League preview, I didn't have much good to say about Carroll, which quickly elicited some responses from scouts who insisted I swung and missed on him. Carroll hit .236/.313/.420 this year while reaching Double-A, with 17 home runs as the only plus skill offensively. Working in Carroll's favor is his ability to play all three outfield positions, as well as an arm that is the best in the system. At 24, Carroll's offensive clock is ticking, but he's off to a solid start in Arizona, batting .394 in seven games with three home runs. The Marlins system is relatively bare after this year's rookie-fest, so Carroll could be a bit of a sleeper.

RHP Dennis Dove, Peoria Saguaros (Arizona Fall League, Cardinals)

High-A Palm Beach had its share of interesting arms this year, but Dove rarely got any attention. He now deserves some, as scouts were universal in their appreciation of the 2003 third-round pick's arm strength. Pitching out of the bullpen, Dove recorded 56 strikeouts in 51.1 innings this year, before finishing the year in Double-A where his ERA in 13 appearances was lofty (8.79), but at least he still missed bats (15 Ks in 14.1 innings). A six-foot-four righthander who consistently gets into the mid-90s, Dove's future development will rest on his ability to develop his slider from a fringe-average offering into an out pitch. Dove has been outstanding so far in Arizona, allowing just two hits in 6.1 innings, and while he'll likely begin next season back in Double-A, he could be on the short list for who's next to join a very young Cardinals bullpen.

1B/3B Eric Duncan, Peoria Saguaros (Arizona Fall League, Yankees)

Yankees fans and prospect hounds got a little too excited last year, when Duncan won MVP honors in the Arizona Fall League. A first-round pick in 2003, Duncan has always received a little too much attention for some uninspiring performances in the regular season, including a .234/.330/.405 mark this year over 88 games split between Double- and Triple-A. He's batting .298 so far in his second AFL stint, but it's a .298/.320/.383 line overall, as he's homerless with just two walks in his 47 at-bats. It's interesting to note that Duncan did play a game at third base on Saturday, but at this point, the bat is not playing anywhere, and he's been passed up by a plethora of young Yankees prospects from their recent drafts and international signings.

OF Choo Freeman, Yaquis de Obregon (Mexican Pacific League, Rockies)

A 1998 first-round pick who has developed at a snail's pace, Freeman spent his first full year in the majors this season, appearing in 88 games as a bench outfielder and batting just .237/.298/.341. Sent to Mexico to get consistent at-bats for the first time all year, Freeman began the season with eight straight multi-hit games and is batting .500 (22-for-44) overall with a gaudy 1310 OPS south of the border. Scouts have always loved Freeman as an athlete, but his offensive skills have never been enough, and at 27, the projection is gone. All the Rockies can hope for at this point is his possibly becoming more attractive on the trade market.

RHP Christian Garcia, West Oahu CaneFires (Hawaii Winter League, Yankees)

Garcia's season was almost over before it began, as an abdominal injury delayed his season debut, and he then developed a sore arm while trying to return too quickly as he overcompensated for the existing injury. Limited to just 53 innings, the 2004 third-round pick had an ERA approaching five, but also struck out 60. Stretching things out in Hawaii, Garcia has his best outing on Saturday, with five one-hit innings and six punch outs. In 15.2 innings overall, he's struck out 18 and allowed just nine hits, but his control is still shaky, as evidenced by nine walks. Garcia has an ideal pitcher's body and power stuff, though some team officials were bothered by Garcia's work ethic while hurt. He's not the next Philip Hughes, but he could be the best pitcher at High-A Tampa next year.

RHP Edwin Jackson, Navegantes del Magallanes (Venezuelan Winter League, Devil Rays)

Jackson's major league debut against Randy Johnson while in a Dodgers uniform seems like ancient history at this point, but he is still just 23, and he still has an awfully good arm. After splitting time as a starter and reliever at Triple-A Durham (with more success in the latter role), Jackson's struggles at the big league level continued. With less than 110 total innings pitched on the season, the organization decided to get him some more work in Venezuela. Returning to a starting role, Jackson fired five shutout innings on Sunday in his debut, and continued success will put him in the mix for some sort of role in spring training. With his raw abilities, he's in line for plenty of chances.

RHP Ian Kennedy, West Oahu CaneFires (Hawaii Winter League, Yankees)

When the Yankees selected Kennedy with the 21st overall pick this past June, it raised a few eyebrows. When his bonus was finally revealed to be $2.25 million, it raised even more. Not that the Yankees can't afford the bill, but is he worth a bonus normally designated for the seventh overall pick? Despite being an undersized righthander who works in the high 80s, Kennedy put up some monster numbers at Southern California--until this year. He relies primarily on plus-plus command, and with any sort of deterioration, he's in trouble, and that's what happened on Sunday afternoon, as he allowed eight runs without getting out of the second inning, and that only five days after firing four shutout frames. These kind of uneven performances are a repeat of what happened to him during his junior year at Southern California, and even when he's on, he projects as no more than a middle-of-the-rotation starter. It's the kind of thing the Yankees are in a unique position to afford, but that doesn't necessarily make it a good purchase.

OF Fernandez Martinez, Mesa Solar Sox (Arizona Fall League, Mets)

Martinez just turned 18 two weeks ago, making him the youngest player in the league by far, and he initially struggled against the more advanced competition in the AFL, going 1-for-18 in his first five games. He's 7-for-20 since, including his first home run on Friday afternoon, and any success at all for a player so young is a remarkable achievement. There are still plenty of holes in his game, in particularly his approach, but Martinez' raw hitting skills are top of the line. They'll have to be, as the one knock against him in scout's minds is his defense, and Martinez will likely be moving to a corner well before he gets to the big leagues.

1B/2B/LF Mark Reynolds, Scottsdale Scorpions (Arizona Fall League, Diamondbacks)

Few knew what to make of Reynolds' season, as he came pretty much from out of nowhere to hit .318/.401/.633 this season, with 31 home runs in 387 at-bats. He was Team USA's biggest power threat in the Olympic trials, and now he's tied for the Arizona Fall League home run lead with four blasts in 35 at-bats. One scout who recently caught Reynolds in Arizona noted that Reynolds uses an open stance and cheats to get around on many pitches, yet he still drives balls all over the field and displays plenty of strength. Still a man in search of a defensive home, he still has to prove himself a good enough hitter for a corner outfield slot, as his glovework isn't going to be enough for the middle of the infield. Despite the unorthodox approach to offensive success, his bat is finding more and more believers.

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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