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April 16, 2007

Future Shock

Monday Morning Ten Pack

by Kevin Goldstein

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Brett Anderson, LHP, Low-A South Bend (Diamondbacks)

Last year at this time, Anderson was one of the more difficult high school pitchers for teams to evaluate. Despite being a six-foot-four lefthander, he wasn't a power arm, instead sitting in the 88-91 mph range. As the son of Oklahoma State coach Frank Anderson, his mechanics were ideal, his control impeccable, and he had mature breaking balls and off-speed pitches. An inability to really categorize him, as well as perceived bonus demands, dropped him to the second round, where he signed for a slightly-above slot $950,000--though too late to make his pro debut. Making the second start of his career on Saturday, Anderson fired five shutout innings against West Michigan, allowing three hits and striking out eight. It's hard to project stardom for him but, at the same time, he could move quickly, and is one of the safest high school pitcher draft picks in recent memory.

Augusta Green Jackets, Low-A (Giants)

The Giants' South Atlantic League affiliate is off to an 11-0 start, playing a game that looks more like something from 1907. The team has scored 63 runs while at the same time hitting just one home run in 356 team at-bats. What they have been doing is reaching base at a decent .359 clip, and running every chance they get, stealing 31 bases in 41 attempts, including a minor league-leading 12 by shortstop Brian Bocock. At the same time, it's not the offense that's winning games, it's the pitching. Using anything but a prospect-laden staff, the Green Jackets have given up just 12 runs in those 11 games, with a 1.02 team ERA, allowing just 66 hits and 19 walks in 97 innings. It's a unique brand of baseball, and an entertaining one as well.

Ryan Braun, 3B, Triple-A Nashville (Brewers)

Braun hit well enough in spring training to win the big league third base job, but his defense betrayed him when a string of throwing errors earned him a trip back down to Nashville for a little more seasoning. After starting off the year 3-for-16, the 2005 first-round pick smashed three home runs on Saturday, and added another--his fifth of the season--on Sunday afternoon. Just as importantly, in nine games, he's made just one error. Milwaukee's third base job is currently being held by a platoon of Craig Counsell (.290 OBP) and Tony Graffinino (.263 SLG). With the National League Central looking as wide open as anticipated, Braun's bat could be the difference for the Brewers.

Dewon Day, RHP, Double-A Birmingham (White Sox)

Day was signed as a fifth-year senior by the Blue Jays, and was closer to 23 than 22 when he made his pro debut. Adding to his slow development was Tommy John surgery in 2004. A minor league Rule 5 pick by the White Sox prior to 2006, Day had a solid year in the Carolina League, and then opened some eyes in the Arizona Fall League with a solid fastball and plus-plus slider. Now 27 years old and in Double-A, Day is the definition of a late bloomer, but his numbers so far have him looking like much more than just an organizational arm. On Saturday, he struck out six in two innings, and that's just the continuation of his season so far. In four games, he has 16 whiffs in 5.2 innings, with only one out all year coming on anything but a strikeout. Keep an eye on this one.

Chris Errecart, 1B, High-A Brevard County (Brewers)

Last year at Cal, Errecart and teammate Brennan Boesch were both struggling through difficult junior years that would cause their stock in the draft plummet. Dropping all the way to the fifth round for Milwaukee, Errecart found his stroke after signing, batting .316/.406/.518 in the Pioneer League. Jumped to the High-A Florida State League for his full-season debut, Errecart has begun the year with a nine-game hitting streak, including six multi-hit contests, giving him a .472 batting average (17-for-36) on the season. The bat is the only plus tool, and it will have to be his ticket to the big leagues, but so far, so good.

Terry Evans, OF, Triple-A Salt Lake (Angels)

Terry Evans had the most unexpected great season in the minors last year. Beginning the year as an organizational solider who'd batted in the .220s in each of the previous two seasons, Evans got off to a ridiculous start in the Florida State League for the Cardinals before moving to the Angels in the Jeff Weaver trade. Everyone expected Evans to tail off, but a move to Double-A did nothing to slow him down, as he finished the year with a composite .309/.377/.565 line in 133 games with 33 home runs and 37 stolen bases. The body and athleticism always earned high marks, but scouts still didn't trust the sudden performance peak. So far this year, Evans is continuing to reduce the numbers in his pool of critics, going 5-for-11 with a double, triple, and home run over the weekend to raise his averages on the season to .368/.405/.711. Averaging less than three runs a game, the Angels are getting very little production out of players like Garrett Anderson, Gary Matthews Jr., and Shea Hillenbrand--players at the positions Evans can fill in at. I'm just saying...

Yovani Gallardo, RHP, Triple-A Nashville (Brewers)

Reasons why the Brewers can win the NL Central, Part Two. Gallardo gave up four runs over five innings in his first start of the year, but scouts weren't concerned, pointing at some lucky hits and stuff that looked just as good as it did last year: a low-90s fastball, power-breaking curve, and an above-average change. Gallardo brought that same package to the mound on Saturday against New Orleans, and the results were much different, as the 21-year-old righty fired six shutout innings, allowing three hits and striking out 12. Much like Braun being their best option at third base, Gallardo is a better option in the rotation than Claudio Vargas and the like.

Taylor Teagarden, C, High-A Bakersfield (Rangers)

A third-round pick in 2005 out of the University of Texas, Teagarden looked like one of the better catching prospects around, but a lost season in 2006 due to Tommy John surgery dropped his stock. Teagarden earned praises for his defense, but his hitting skills were in question, with most believing that his power and high walk rate could make up for it. Finally healthy and assigned to the California League, Teagarden looks like he's all the way back so far, batting .385/.590/.731 in eight games, thanks in part to 13 walks in 26 at-bats, and with five of his ten hits going for extra bases. Just as importantly, his plus arm is showing no ill effects from the surgery, as he's nailed four of eight attempted basestealers. In a system beyond desperate for position player prospects, Teagarden provides some hope.

Matt Tuiasosopo, 3B, Double-A West Tenn (Mariners)

With no picks in the first two rounds of the 2004 draft, the Mariners took a local product with their third round pick, nabbing Tuiasosopo and paying him over $2 million to keep him from playing quarterback at the University of Washington. The gambit has yet to pay off, as Tuiasosopo has been rushed through the system while never dominating in a full-season league, hitting just .185/.259/.218 in the Texas League last year. In his defense, age is a slightly mitigating factor--he's only 20. Back at Double-A this year, and still one month short of his 21st birthday, the player nicknamed "Baby Tui" is showing some signs of life. Opening the year with a ten-game hitting streak, Tuiasosopo is batting .424/.537/.576. His plus raw power still rarely shows up in games, as Tuiasosopo is without a home run in 33 at-bats, but the five doubles are a good sign. His ceiling is still up there with that of any other position player in the system, and he'll easily move back into the Mariners' top ten if he keeps it up.

Justin Upton, OF, High-A Visalia (Diamondbacks)

We've been hearing it for about a year now, and we keep repeating it--any day now, Justin Upton is just going to explode. We said it throughout last year, and it never happened, as Upton's .263/.343/.413 year at Low-A South Bend was one of the more disappointing seasons in the minors. We said it all offseason, anticipating that a move to the high-offense California League would be just what the doctor ordered. In nine games, we're still waiting, as the number one overall pick in the 2005 draft is batting .152/.310/.242 in 33 at-bats, including 11 strikeouts. I'm still saying it, still predicting the offensive explosion is imminent, but I'm saying it more with a shrug these days than with any kind of conviction.

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:  The Streak,  Taylor Teagarden,  The Atlantic

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