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July 16, 2007

Future Shock

Monday Morning Ten Pack

by Kevin Goldstein

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Matt Antonelli, 2B, Double-A San Antonio (Padres)

Antonelli was the Padres' first-round pick last year, and despite putting up a .412 on-base percentage in his pro debut, he was rarely mentioned as anybody's top prospect in a weak San Diego system, nor was he on anyone's Top 100 list. That's probably about to change. The rap on Antonelli was that he was a singles hitter with good plate discipline and speed, but that was about it. Despite going homerless in 205 at-bats last year, some teams did see power potential in him, and obviously the Padres were one of them. Beginning his first full-season at High-A Lake Elsinore, Antonelli hit .314/.409/.499 in 82 games for the Storm with 14 home runs in 347 at-bats. Moved up to Double-A late last week, the former Wake Forest star went 8-for-12 in his first three games for the Missions, then finished off his weekend with a home run on Sunday. You want an exploding stock? You've got one right here.

Wladimir Balentien, OF, Triple-A Tacoma (Mariners)

There's been a lot of talk among Mariners fans about getting top prospect Adam Jones in the big-league lineup as soon as possible, and for good reason. But how many people beyond hardcore Seattle fans are aware that there is another outfielder at Tacoma, also a legitimate prospect, having an even better year than Jones? With a pair of two-hit games over the weekend and his 21st home run of the year on Sunday, Balentien is up to .326/.395/.590 in 89 games for the Rainiers. He's just as worthy of a shot as Jones is.

Mitch Canham, C, Short-Season Eugene (Padres)

Among the many impressive performances among '07 draftees is Canham, the catcher for Oregon State's back-to-back champions who was selected in the supplemental first round; he's already gone 12-for-34, and slugged his first professional home run on Saturday. Canham's offensive skills are already advanced, and with surprising speed for his position, he's also stolen three bases in eight games. While he projects to be a good catcher because of his athleticism, he's still fairly new to the position and remains raw, already committing two errors and getting charged with four passed balls, although he has thrown out three of seven base stealers; the arm is his top defensive tool. Going into the season, I ranked the Padres 29th among the 30 teams in terms of minor-league talent, but with a number of talents taking a step forward and eight selections in the first 87 picks this June, that ranking is going to make a significant move upwards this winter.

Joba Chamberlain, RHP, Double-A Trenton (Yankees)

While a rehabbing Philip Hughes stole the show at Trenton over the weekend by striking out six over three shutout innings, Chamberlain took the opportunity on Saturday to showcase once again why he's now mentioned among the top right-handed prospects in the minors, arguably having his best Double-A start with seven shutout innings while allowing three hits and striking out nine. With a fastball consistently sitting in the mid-90s and a slider that has transformed from a good pitch into a wipeout option, Chamberlain now has 57 whiffs in his 34 2/3 Eastern League innings, and could be seen as a big-league ready option soon. The Yankees may have some pitching problems now, but with Hughes, Chamberlain and some lesser (but still good) prospects like Tyler Clippard, Alan Horne and Ian Kennedy, that won't be the case for long.

Chris Davis, 3B, High-A Bakersfield

A fifth-round pick last year, Davis slugged 15 home runs in 253 at-bats as part of his pro debut for Short-Season Spokane, and he showed enough in spring training to earn a two-level jump to High-A for his full-season debut. It's proven to be little challenge for him--he went 6-for-12 with three home runs (giving him 21) over the weekend, upping his averages to .314/.356/.598, and extending his hitting streak to 33 games. Davis has definitely elevated his prospect status, but at the same time, there are some issues that can't be ignored. First off is the strikeout rate, as Davis has whiffed 108 times in 338 at-bats, making it hard to think he can hit .300+ on a continuing basis. Secondly, his defense is a bit problematic. Fielding percentage is anything but the ideal measurement, but at the same time, it doesn't take a sabermetrician to realize the he's having problems at the hot corner when his number is under .900 because of 25 errors. So let's temper our excitement a bit, but still honor one of the hottest bats around.

Fautino De Los Santos, RHP, Low-A Kannapolis (White Sox)

A month ago, I called him a massive sleeper, but after an appearance in the Futures Game (he gave up a home run to Justin Upton), he's a secret no more. On Friday night he had his best start of the year, striking out 10 over seven one-hit innings. Currently sporting a 2.67 ERA with 108 strikeouts in 87 2/3 innings, De Los Santos is more than just an out of nowhere guy statistically; his scouting reports match as well. With a low- to mid-90s fastball and a knee-buckling curve, the 21-year-old Domincan is headed towards the top of a fairly weak White Sox Top 10.

Chin-Lung Hu, SS, Triple-A Las Vegas (Dodgers)

Hu entered the year as one of the best defensive infielders in the minors, if not the best with questions about him instead wondering about his ability to hit. Those questions were answered with a .329/.380/.508 line in 82 games at Double-A Jacksonville, and now with a Futures Game MVP award on his mantle, Hu is going for extra credit at Triple-A. Hu had back-to-back games over the weekend with three hits and a home run, and in four contests for the 51s, he's now 8-for-16 with three home runs and zero strikeouts. Rafael Furcal is signed through 2008, but next spring the Dodgers have some decisions to make, as Hu will be ready for his shot.

Ryan Kalish, OF, Short-Season Lowell (Red Sox)

If there's not a Ryan Kalish bandwagon already going, hop on, because I'm driving. Last year, the New Jersey prepster fell to the ninth round, as most teams saw him as a difficult sign. The Red Sox took care of that with a $600,000 bonus--around mid-second-round money--which looks like a sound investment at this point. Saturday, Kalish reeled off his fourth consecutive three-hit game, a streak in which he's gone 12-for-15 with three doubles, a triple, and a pair of home runs, raising his season averages to .372/.476/.547 in 22 games while also stealing 18 bases. An ultra-athlete with power, speed and center-field skills, Kalish is making a very quick transition from toolsy to skillsy, giving a pitching-heavy organization that high-upside player they've been looking for.

Scott Moviel, RHP, GCL Mets

While the Mets disappointed some fans in last month's draft by ignoring some of the high-ceiling talent (like Matt Harvey) that fell due to signability issues, they still took a risk in the second round by drafting Moviel. At six-foot-eleven, Moviel already throws in the low 90s, but he's incredibly raw, with rough mechanics and secondary stuff that is far from refined. Making his fifth pro start on Friday, Moviel fired four innings without allowing an earned run, giving up two hits and striking out four; it was his fourth straight start without allowing an earned run, and in five games he's allowed just one in 14 innings (0.64 ERA) while limiting batters to a .176 batting average. The gap between what Moviel is and what he can be is enormous, but there are plenty of guys drafted ahead of him who would love to have his upside.

Matt Sweeney, 3B, Low-A Cedar Rapids (Angels)

Despite being a low-profile eighth-round pick out of high school last year, Sweeney garnered some limited attention with a .341/.431/.576 line in the Arizona League during his debut, and he's now having a breakout year in his first appearance in a full-season league. After a solid first half, he opened some scouts' eyes by taking Clayton Kershaw deep to the opposite field in the Midwest League All-Star Game, and he's been on a roll since, going 6-for-12 with three home runs over the weekend to raise his averages to .272/.336/.486. With 14 home runs, Sweeney is one off the league lead, and with his size, broad build, and excellent bat speed, he projects easily for more power down the road. His defense at third is unacceptable, and his final destination is likely first base or left field, but the bat is looking like it will play anywhere.

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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