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August 13, 2007

Future Shock

Monday Ten Pack

by Kevin Goldstein

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Todd Frazier, SS, Rookie-level Billings (Reds)

Frazier got plenty of attention from me in Ten Packs this spring while at Rutgers. There and then, he was busy rewriting the team record book, including new single-season (22) and career (42) home run marks. The fact that he's not a true shortstop dropped him four picks away from the first round, but he received an $825,000 bonus and reported to the Pioneer League. After a slow start, Frazier is turning it on, delivering a four-hit game on Friday night and adding three more Saturday to offset an 0-for-2 night on Sunday that dropped his season numbers to .324/.413/.491 in 28 contests. Still at shortstop for the time being, it's no surprise that Frazier has been sound there, committing just four errors, but he just lacks the speed and first-step quickness to provide major league range. Third base is a likely destination, but it doesn't matter too much because the kid can hit.

Brandon Jones, OF, Triple-A Richmond (Braves)

Jones is a fantastic athlete who always had tremendous potential; he just needed consistent playing time to develop. Injuries hampered him in the last two seasons, but 2007 has proven to be a coming-out party, because in the flurry of Braves trades at the deadline, Jones was the one player Atlanta didn't want to send elsewhere, and he's now clearly the top position prospect in the system. After batting .293/.368/.507 for Double-A Mississippi, Jones was promoted to Richmond in late July, and since starting his International League career in a 7-for-39 (.179) slump, he's been among the hottest hitters around. Jones had two hits on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, extending his multiple hit streak to nine games over which he's gone 20-for-40 with six doubles, a triple, and two home runs. Now at .344/.404/.559, Jones is nearly a lock to be the starting left fielder come Opening Day next spring, and could even be a Rookie of the Year dark horse.

Daryl Jones, OF, Low-A Quad Cities (Cardinals)

Jones is the best athlete in the Cardinals system, and that includes Colby Rasmus, but he's also incredibly raw. After two up-and-down years in short-season leagues, the Cardinals put him in the Midwest League, and he struggled mightily, not getting his batting average permanently over the .200 mark until mid-July. Over the last two week, something is suddenly clicking with Jones, and perhaps Cardinals fans should be excited. On Sunday, Jones hit a game-winning home run as part of his first four-hit game of the year, and in his last 10 games he's gone 17-for-39. As to whether or not this is real, that's still a mystery, but this has been his hottest streak of the season by a mile, the potential for a breakout has always been there, and in the end we just don't know yet.

Cameron Maybin, OF, Double-A Erie (Tigers)

Maybin had already met lofty expectations this year by batting .304/.393/.496 for High-A Lakeland in the Florida State League. Despite missing nearly a month with a shoulder injury, Maybin was able to rack up impressive secondary numbers as well, with 10 home runs, 43 walks, and 25 stolen bases in 83 games. As a reward for his performance, and to get a sense of just how close he is to the big leagues, the Tigers moved the 20-year-old center fielder to Double-A for the final three weeks of the season, and he started his Erie career with, quite literally, a bang. Making his debut on Friday night against Connecticut, Maybin hit a home run. On Saturday, he hit another, then he added a third on Sunday. The Tigers now have their better sense of just how close he is, and Tiger fans can enjoy seeing their best position prospect in years arrive at some point early in 2008.

Andrew McCutchen, OF, Double-A Altoona (Pirates)

McCutchen was selected 11th overall in the 2005 draft, just one selection after Maybin. He almost made the big league team out of spring training, and even though he was unable to avoid the final cuts, the Pirates jumped him up all the way to Double-A to begin the year. There, he struggled mightily, sitting at .214/.284/.369 at the end of May. However, lowly but surely McCutchen has improved since, and the numbers are starting to catch up with the scouting reports that considered him the top prospect in the Pittsburgh system by a considerable margin. McCutchen went 5-for-12 over the weekend, and while his averages on the season are a still-disappointing .255/.324/.375, he's hitting .302/.375/.439 in 38 games since the calendar was turned over to July. His projection hasn't changed too much really, he's still an outstanding defensive player who could hit for average and provide 20 home runs and 30 stolen bases annually in the majors.

Stephen Pearce, 1B, Triple-A Indianapolis (Pirates)

Every season, there are a few players who get two or more promotions within the year, and unless you look at all of their statistics on one line, you can't appreciate what they're really doing. Pearce is one of those--he began the year in High-A, but he's been in Triple-A since the end of July, and with a pair a multi-hit games over the weekend, he's now hitting .354/.415/.646 in 14 games at the level. But overall, in 114 games across three levels, Pearce is now at .339/.404/.644 with 29 home runs. The Pirates need to find a way to get his bat into their lineup, which is difficult with the presence of Adam LaRoche at the highest level. As a four-year college player, Pearce was facing the prospect of being forced through the system quickly because of his age. Instead, he's forcing his way through the system with his bat.

Billy Rowell, 3B, Low-A Delmarva (Orioles)

Here he comes? After beginning the season on the sidelines with a strained oblique and two months of middling performance, Rowell has caught fire. Last year's first-round pick went 7-for-16 with nine RBI over the weekend to up his averages to .287/.354/.444 on the year, impressive numbers for an 18-year-old in a full-season league, but continuing to go up. There are still some holes in his game, including 81 strikeouts in 275 at-bats and a level of play at the hot corner that all but guarantees an eventual move to first, but he was the first high school hitter selected last June for a reason, and now he's starting to show it.

Jeff Samardzija, RHP, Double-A Tennessee (Cubs)

Coming into the season will a lot of pressure after signing one of the largest deals in draft history, Samardzija was nothing short of awful in the Florida State League. His 4.95 ERA was probably his most impressive statistic in 24 games for Daytona, as the ex-wide receiver allowed 142 hits in 107 1/3 innings while striking out 45. The logical move? A promotion to Double-A, of course! Laugh all you want (I know I did), but Samardzija has actually been surprisingly effective in two starts since the promotion, getting the win in both, including an outing on Sunday in which he allowed two runs (one earned) over 6 1/3 innings. He's still not recording a lot of strikeouts (five in 12 1/3 innings overall), but scouts still respect his stuff, and while they still have a very, very long way to go, the numbers are catching up a little bit as well.

Taylor Teagarden, C/DH, Double-A Frisco (Rangers)

Teagarden turns 24 in December, so his .315/.448/.606 line at High-A Bakersfield needs to be taken down a peg or two due given his advantage of age. Pushed up to Double-A at the end of July, Teagarden is now facing a more appropriate level of competition, and showing no signs of slowing down. With a 7-for-12 weekend, the former University of Texas star is 17-for-44 in 13 games with a 1031 OPS, and now just one big question remains--Teagarden's elbow is still not full healthy after last year's Tommy John surgery, and he's played more DH than catcher at Frisco. If he can get healthy enough to catch every day, he's one helluva prospect. If he can't, he's a bat without a position.

Nick Weglarz, OF, Low-A Lake County (Indians)

When the Indians selected Weglarz in the third round of the 2005 draft, they knew that patience would be required. Just 17 years old when signed, Weglarz had plus-plus raw power but he had little baseball experience, and it showed in his pro debut when he hit just .231/.313/.347 for Burlington in the Appy League with just two home runs in 147 at-bats. That was followed by a lost season in 2006, as Weglarz had to deal with a broken bone in his hand, and wound up with a total of two at-bats all year. Despite the lack of experience, the Indians decided to give a healthy Weglarz a full season in the South Atlantic League, and something very interesting is happening with the 19-year-old outfielder. Weglarz hit home runs on Saturday and Sunday, giving him 19 on the season, and in 110 games he's at .266/.389/.473. A hulking, un-athletic slugger who is barely acceptable in left field, Weglarz has 115 strikeouts in 383 at-bats, and he will likely never hit for average, but he's doing so much beyond that batting average, notably the power and 73 walks. This is an interesting if not very good prospect, and one who seems to be flying under people's radar.

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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