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August 27, 2007

Future Shock

Monday Morning Ten-Pack

by Kevin Goldstein

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Joe Borchard, OF, Triple-A Albuquerque (Marlins)

Seven years ago, Borchard signed for what was at the time a record $5.3 million bonus, but he was seemingly unable to curb his high strikeout totals, getting picked up on waivers by the Mariners and then the Marlins this year.  Hitting .196/.287/.313 for Florida this year, Borchard was once again waived two weeks ago, but nobody showed any interest and the Marlins were able to keep him and assign him to Triple-A Albuquerque.  He's not suddenly a prospect, but he is suddenly one of the hottest hitters in the minors.  Playing in one of the friendliest home parks around doesn't hurt, but what Borchard has done would be impressive anywhere, as the 28-year-old former Stanford quarterback hit two home runs Friday, another one Saturday and now sits at a whopping .458/.526/1.021 in his first 14 games for the Isotopes, going 22-for-48 overall with eight home runs.  I'm not sure it means anything at all for Borchard's long-term future, but it's certainly worth noting.

Trevor Cahill, RHP, Low A Kane County (Athletics)

The A's have a solid history of pitchers putting up some big numbers at Kane County, but for the most part they were older college veterans taking advantage of rest of the league's youth, and for the most part they didn't have the prospect status to match the numbers. For every Joe Blanton, there was a Brad Knox or a Steven Bondurant.  Trevor Cahill is a little different.  Oakland's top draft pick last year (second round), Cahill is just 19, and his future is looking very bright these days.  On Saturday, the righthander allowed one run on two hits over six innings while striking out seven, extending an eight-game streak in which the California native has an 0.91 ERA while allowing just 23 hits in 49.1 innings while striking out 52.  With a low-90s fastball that touches 93 and one of the better curveballs in the system, Cahill has the stuff to match the stats and is arguably the top minor-league pitcher the A's have.

Johnny Cueto, RHP, Double-A Chattanooga (Reds)

While Homer Bailey's recent struggles continued over the weekend (eight hits and six runs over three innings in a rehab start for High-A Sarasota), Cueto's star continued to rise, as the 21-year-old Dominican recorded his third double-digit strikeout game of the year, punching out 11 in six innings on Friday night.  One of those players whose season is hard to appreciate because he's played at three levels, Cueto has a 3.09 ERA in 26 starts, racking up an impressive 153/31 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 148.1 innings.  On a scouting level, the only real knock against Cueto is his height.  Just 5-foot-10, but solidly built, Cueto has showcased a starter's arsenal and stamina this year, with a 90-93 mph fastball that has reached as high as 96 this year, as well as a slider and changeup than both have the makings of plus pitches.  Homer Bailey is still Plan A, but it's always nice to have a backup option.

Chris Davis, 3B, Double-A Frisco (Rangers)

When looking at short-term minor-league numbers, one constantly has to ask, "what is a small sample size, and what is a player making adjustments?"  After burning through the California League, Davis has been even hotter since a promotion to Double-A, hitting a pair of bombs over the weekend to now sit at .314/.394/.767 in 24 games for Frisco with 11 home runs in 86 at-bats.  With 35 home runs overall on the season, Davis now ranks second in the minors, and while he's still projecting as a first baseman in the end, his plate control numbers have taken a huge jump: from 123 whiffs and 22 walks in 386 at-bats for Bakersfield, to 22 strikeouts and 11 free passes in 86 at-bats in the Texas League.  If he can maintain those kind of improvements next year, he'll become one of the better power prospects around.

Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Double-A Jacksonville (Dodgers)

Earlier this month, the Dodgers promoted Kershaw to Double-A.  After striking out 10 over seven innings on Saturday while allowing just two hits, Kershaw has limited Southern League hitters to a .153 batting average in 21.1 innings while punching out 25.  Have we mentioned that he's just 19 years old?  It's been a long time since we've seen a left-handed prospect this young and this good, with one scout recently comparing him to "Scott Kazmir with five more inches and 30 more pounds."  That's a scary proposition, and Kershaw is the best pitching prospect in baseball, but remember it's anything but a sure thing with pitchers.  How many fans have kind of forgotten about Francisco Liriano?  If Kershaw needs his own reminder on how fleeting prospect greatness can be, there's always Greg Miller, who like Kershaw dominated Double-A as a teenager, and four years later is still in that Double-A rotation. 

Matt Latos, RHP, Short-season Eugene (Padres)

In 2006, Latos was one of the top high-school arms in Florida, but questions about his signability and his attitude dropped him to the 11th round.  This spring he dominated at Broward Community College, showing not only improved stuff, but a far more mature approach on the mound.  Signed for $1.25 million a week before the draft, Latos is one of the last of the big-money draft-and-follows, and so far, that process is looking like it will go out with a bang.  Friday night, Latos struck out a career high eight batters in just four innings of work. In his last four outings, he's recorded 25 strikeouts in 19 innings while allowing just 12 hits.  With nearly an ideal power-pitcher build, Latos has consistently been up to 96 mph with his fastball for the Emeralds, and his slider and changeup both have the potential to be effective major league pitches.  It's been years since the Padres had a pure power starter in the minors, and even though he has just 50 innings of pro experience, Latos is the top pitching prospect in the San Diego system.

Michael Main, RHP, Short-season Spokane (Rangers)

While Blake Beavan took until the August 15th deadline to sign, the Rangers other first-round pick, Main, signed quickly and has been nothing short of outstanding on the mound.  After he put up a 1.42 ERA in five Arizona League starts, the Rangers bumped Main up to the Northwest League. The 18-year-old has had no problems adjusting to the college-heavy circuit, firing five one-hit innings on Saturday for his second straight win.  Tall and skinny, Main has showed plus velocity and movement on his low-90s fastball, and while his breaking ball remains inconsistent, he breaks off four or five a night that are true plus pitches.  Between the Teixeira trade, the 2007 draft, and the emergence of Chris Davis, is there a more improved system this year than the Rangers?

Mike McCardell, RHP, Rookie-Level Elizabethton (Twins)

It's not a secret that the Twins love control pitchers, and they've found another one in McCardell, a fifth-round pick out of Kutztown University in Pennsylvania.  On Sunday, McCardell had the best start of his pro career--six no-hit innings--but it wasn't really that much better than most of his Appy League starts. In eight games for the E-Twins, McCardell has gone exactly five or six innings and he's struck out at least eight in every game while never walking more than a single batter.  The overall totals are eye-popping: 45 innings, 29 hits, five walks, and 70 strikeouts.  At six-foot-five, McCardell is already throwing downhill, and he adds plenty of sink to his 89-92 mph fastball which, needless to say, he commands with the precision of a surgeon.  His secondary pitches are acceptable but need some work, and as a college senior, he's already 22 and hard to project as more than a back-of-the-rotation starter. Nonetheless, the Twins found another good one here.

Oscar Tejeda, SS, Short-season Lowell (Red Sox)

Scouts don't catch too much Gulf Coast League action.  Every once in a while, an especially energetic scout will catch the afternoon games while covering the Florida State League, but it's hard to get too many outside reviews on players in the complex league.  I've only heard from a couple of scouts this year who saw any action there, and for each, it was the same name that was the first to be mentioned: Tejeda.   Signed last year for more than half a million dollars, the 17-year-old shortstop hit .295/.344/.399 in 45 games for the GCL Red Sox and has stepped it up as one of the youngest players in the New York-Penn League, delivering seven hits and five RBIs over the weekend to up his averages to .391/.404/.543 for the Spinners.  On a tools level, Tejeda has no weaknesses.  He runs well, has bat speed, a frame for developing power, outstanding fielding skills for a player so young and a cannon for an arm.  The Red Sox gave up one of their ultra-toolsy young Dominicans, Engel Beltre, in the Eric Gagne deal, but the one they kept is looking awfully special of late. 

Mason Tobin, RHP, Rookie-level Orem (Angels)

Pitching at Everett Community College in Washington this year, Tobin didn't get too much attention.  Drafted by the Braves out of high school, most teams assumed Tobin would sign with Atlanta, but he didn't and few teams got multiple looks at him, and many missed how well he was pitching by the end of the season.  Drafted in the 16th-round two months ago, he already looks like a steal.  Friday night, Tobin struck out seven and allowed just two hits over six shutout innings for the Owlz, lowering his Pioneer League ERA to 1.64 in 22 innings, with just 13 hits and two walks allowed.  At six-foot-three and 210 pounds, Tobin is a strong-bodied righty with a smooth delivery and excellent arm strength, sitting at 90-94 mph and touching 95-96 in his last few starts.  His changeup is already a quality offering, and his slider is the only weak point in his arsenal.  Angels scouting director Eddie Bane is one of the greatest pitchers in college baseball history, so it should be no surprise that the organization knows how to stock their farm system with quality arms. 

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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