July 30, 2007
Monday Ten Pack
Five years ago, if somebody told you that Dewon Brazelton would be pitching against Bobby Brownlie in July of 2007, you'd anticipate a must-see game that might even prevent you from going out on a Saturday night. Instead, it was enough to bring out about 6,000 fans in Akron, Ohio, and was accompanied by no national fanfare. Brazelton was the third overall pick in the 2001 draft as a player the Devil Rays had hoped would develop into the franchise's first ace, but command issues and the inability to develop his breaking ball has turned him into a minor league floater. He's now trying to put it together in the Pittsburgh system after the Royals released him earlier this year. Brownlie went into the 2002 year as the top college pitcher in the country, but he struggled with some tendonitis and slipped to the end of the first round, where the Cubs gave him $2.5 million, the sixth-highest bonus of the year. Unfortunately, and almost mysteriously, Brownlie never came close to showing the kind of stuff from his days at Rutgers, and by the time he was released at the end of 2006, he was a middle reliever whose heat sat in the mid-80s. He begin 2007 in indy ball, but pitched well enough there to get a look by the Indians. Brazelton gave up just two runs over six innings on Saturday, and Brownlie did the same in seven, and they combined to strikeout four in their combined 13 frames. It's quite possible, probably even likely, that Brazelton won't reach the majors again, and Brownlie may not ever, but for one night, it was fun to see the two names in the same box score and think about what might have been.
Michael Burgess, OF, Rookie-Level GCL Nationals
Six months ago Burgess looked like a sure-fire top 10 pick in the draft, but while nobody debated his plus-plus raw power, his pure hitting skills came into question during his senior year of high school, as his swing has a hitch, and he had problems hitting anything but a fastball. Despite dropping to the 49th overall selection, Burgess is showing no such problems early in his pro career, going 4-for-5 with a pair of doubles on Saturday, then adding two more hits and another two-bagger on Sunday. He's now sitting at an impressive .348/.446/.609 in his first 20 games. He's still definitely a high-risk/high-upside type of player, with equal chances of busting out and becoming one of the steals of the draft.
Steve Evarts, LHP, Rookie-Level Danville (Braves)
A supplemental first-round pick last year, Evarts had a solid debut in the Gulf Coast League last year, but his offseason was a little rough, as the team suspended him when he couldn't quite escape high school stupidity by getting arrested in Tampa for taking a baseball bat to a school rival's car. Trying to make up for lost time, Evarts reported to Danville two weeks ago, and on Saturday night he delivered five shutout innings in his third game for the D-Braves, just six days after going four perfect frames. In three appearances this year, Evarts has allowed just five of the 38 batters he's faced to reach base, utilizing an 88-92 mph fastball with plenty of sink, an already-plus changeup (a rarity for a teenager), and a developing slider. Evarts has plenty of projection and upside, and should be a highly-regarded southpaw prospect as long as he can grow up a bit.
Hughes made has fifth and hopefully final rehab start on Sunday afternoon, as a quick check of the standings shows the Yankees just four games out of the wild card, and in need of nothing more than a starter like Hughes. The 21-year-old right-hander shut down Rochester on three hits over 6 2/3 innings and 91 pitches, and his final line in the five starts following hamstring and ankle issues are nothing short of dominating, as he gave up just one earned run in 21 2/3 innings while allowing only 10 hits and compiling a 25/8 K/BB ratio. According to those who have seen him, everything is there, from the velocity to the command to the breaking ball. If you're handicapping the AL wild card race, a healthy Hughes making ten starts down the stretch changes things significantly.
Cory Luebke, LHP, Short-Season Eugene (Padres)
The Padres had six picks between 40 and 77 this June, and used all but one on position players, taking a break at 63 to nab Luebke, the ace at Ohio State who improved his draft status considerably since being selected in the 22nd round by the Rangers in 2006. Luebke quickly signed with the Padres and joined a talented Eugene staff, where he's been outstanding. Friday night, Luebke struck out six over three no-hit innings, that just eight days after a game in which he delivered four perfect frames; after eight games, he has a 1.46 ERA. He also walked two on Friday, the first two free passes issued in his pro career, as he now has 26 strikeouts and just those two walks in 24 2/3 innings. The 6-foot-4 Luebke has average velocity for a left-hander, as well as a solid slider, throws strikes (obviously), and throws downhill, generating plenty of groundballs. His upside isn't in the same class as that of a pure power pitcher, but he still looks like a good one.
Michael Main, RHP, Rookie-Level AZL Rangers
The 24th pick this June, Main fell off a bit late in the high school season with some inconsistent performances, so the Rangers may have gotten a steal here. The Rangers wanted to give his arm a rest after signing, so they let him DH in the complex league after signing, which made little sense. Yes, Main nearly had first-round talent as an outfielder, but his future lies on the mound, and it's seems foolish to have him hitting in eight games (and making four stolen base attempts) and risking injury. Luckily, that's over, and Main is back to pitching. On Friday, Main struck out five over two shutout innings, which extended his scoreless streak as a pro to 5 2/3 frames, in which he's allowed two hits while striking out eight. Main has been touching 94 mph with his fastball and showing a good changeup, and should be ready for a full-season league next season. In a system desperate for pitching prospects, the Rangers have a good one in Main, and hope that they'll add a second if they can sign Blake Beavan, their other first-round selection.
McDonald has been one of the minor's best breakouts this year, striking out 104 in 82 innings for High-A Inland Empire before getting promoted to the Southern League three weeks ago. Yesterday, McDonald had his best outing yet for the Suns, whiffing 11 over seven innings while allowing one run and four hits. In four starts for Jacksonville, McDonald has a 1.19 ERA while limiting hitters to a .192 average and punching out 28 in 22 2/3 innings. Better yet, his scouting reports are nearly as impressive as his numbers. A 6-foot-5 right-hander, McDonald has a low-90s fastball than touches 94 mph, plus a solid curveball and a very good changeup. He's moving up quickly, and is already a lock for my Dodgers' Top 10 list in the offseason, and has a good chance of reaching the majors at some point in 2008.
Chris Pettit, OF, High-A Rancho Cucamonga (Angels)
In 2006, Chris Pettit hit a fairly pedestrian .281/.360/.456 for Loyola Marymount, well off from his 2005 showing, which led to his getting drafted in the 19th round (582nd overall) by the Angels. He hit .336/.445/.566 for Orem in the Pioneer League after signing, but it seems like a college veteran beating up on kids more than anything else. Beginning the year with Low-A Cedar Rapids, Pettit hit .346/.429/.579 in the first half of the season, and during the Midwest League All-Star game, more than one talent evaluator pointed out that this was more than just an almost 23-year-old taking advantage of younger competition-this guy could really hit. Moved up to the California League for the second half of the season, Pettit has yet to slow down, going 5-for-12 with two doubles and a home run over the weekend to up his numbers for the Quakes to .344/.421/.609 in 37 contests. In three months, Pettit has gone from unknown to sleeper, and he's well on his way to going from sleeper to legitimate prospect.
Ben Revere, OF, Rookie-Level GCL Twins
The Twins opened a lot of eyes when they took Revere with their first-round pick, and now Revere is opening a lot of eyes in his pro debut. The fastest player in the draft, Revere already has six triples and 11 stolen bases in his first 26 games, and with a 5-for-8 weekend, he's batting .330/.363/.481 overall. At 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds, Revere has no home run projection, and his only future destination that works will be as a center fielder and leadoff man. He still needs to learn an advanced approach (as evidenced by three walks in 106 at-bats), but everything else so far looks to be falling in place.
Geovany Soto, C, Triple-A Iowa (Cubs)
It's probably wrong to criticize the Cubs at this point, as they've turned this around 180 degrees from their awful start and now sit just a half-game out of both the National League Central and NL wild card races. Yet, here I go-Jason Kendall still stinks, Koyie Hill is hitting an unacceptable on any level .163/233/.288, and yet Geovany Soto is left rotting away in Iowa. It makes no sense. Soto went deep on both Friday and Saturday, giving him home runs in four of his last five games, and even with an 0-for-5 night on Sunday, he sits at .335/.408/.602 in 79 games for Iowa. Even those who bleed Cubbie blue should be having a hard time rationalizing why he's stuck at Triple-A, and why the Cubs even traded anything at all away for Kendall in the first place.