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September 4, 2007

Future Shock

Tuesday Ten Pack

by Kevin Goldstein

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Andrew Bailey, RHP, Triple-A Sacramento (Athletics)

The RiverCats clinched their sixth division title in the last eight years on Friday night, so for the final regular season game of the year, they decided to rest the staff for the upcoming playoffs and bring up Bailey from High-A Stockton for the finale. Last year's sixth-round pick proved to be more than up for the task, taking a perfect game into the fifth and a no-hitter into the seventh, finishing the night with eight innings of three-hit ball, and perhaps surprisingly only his fifth win of the year. It doesn't take any advanced understanding of statistical analysis to realize that wins tell you little, but you'd still expect Bailey to have notched a few more, as he was one of the best pitchers in the Oakland organization this year, and arguably their breakout player of the year. Splitting his other 22 games between the club's two A-ball affiliates, Bailey finished the year by leading the organization with 150 strikeouts in just 125 innings, while giving up just 101 hits. Bailey's got a classic power-pitcher build, and while none of his offerings are dominant, he does have three solid offerings, with a low-90s fastball, solid curve, and a rapidly improving changeup. He'll likely start the 2008 season at Double-A, and is one of the better starting prospects in the system.

Robert Bryson, RHP, Rookie-level Helena (Brewers)

In the final year of the draft-and-follow process, the Brewers were one of the busiest teams, including a $300,000 handout to Bryson, who they selected in the 31st round of the 2006 draft out of a Delaware high school. While it's early, Bryson has looked like a bargain so far, delivering a season high in innings (seven) and strikeouts (eight) on Friday night while giving up just two hits, lowering his Pioneer League ERA to 2.77 in 17 appearances. Bryson recorded the majority of his 70 strikeouts in just 52 innings on the strength of his fastball, which he throws hard (92-95 mph) and commands well (12 walks). He's a little on the small side, and he doesn't have a consistent second pitch, but he's just 19 years old, so there's plenty of room for patience.

Todd Frazier, SS, Low-A Dayton (Reds)

Frazier was a Ten Pack regular during his final college year at Rutgers, but subpar defensive skills and unorthodox swing mechanics dropped him out of the first round. The defense still might be a problem (he'll likely be a third baseman or corner outfielder in the end), but the kid can clearly hit. After hitting .319/.409/.513 in 41 games for Billings, Frazier spent the final week of the season at Low-A Dayton, where he slugged a pair of home runs on Sunday and amassed 16 total bases in six games with the Dragons leading into the Midwest League playoffs. Frazier is one of the better hitters from this June's draft class, and in the end, his bat should play anywhere.

Nick Hagadone, LHP, Short-season Lowell (Red Sox)

Without a first-round pick this year, the Red Sox used their first selection in the draft to select Hagadone, a big power lefty who served as the closer at the University of Washington this spring. His pro debut was a forgettable one, as Hagadone gave up five runs on six hits while failing to get out of the second inning. Those are also the last runs he's allowed. On Friday, the 6'5", 230 pound southpaw struck out five over three shutout innings, extending his scoreless streak to nine games and 20 innings, over which he's giving up just seven hits and six walks while striking out 26. Hagadone's fastball and slider are both plus offerings, and the Red Sox are slowly stretching out his arm with the assumption that he'll be in the Low-A rotation next year. Like Frazier, Hagadone has the potential to be another talent who proves in the end that he should have gone in the first round.

David Hernandez, RHP, High-A Frederick (Orioles)

Hernandez' final statistics on the year are a mixed bag. In 145 1/3 innings, he logged an impressive 168-to-47 strikeout-to-walk ratio, yet his ERA was 4.95. This points to the Jekyll/Hyde nature of the 22-year-old right-hander's game. His fastball is always there, sitting in the low 90s with good command and movement, but depending on the day, his slider is either a plus pitch or a sweeping, highly hittable mistake. Hernandez allowed two or fewer earned runs in 15 of 28 games this year, yet he also gave up five or more runs seven times. On Sunday, everything was clicking for Hernandez however, as he struck out 18 over nine three-hit innings, the highest total in the minors this season. No-hitters can be fluky things, but 18-strikeout games cannot--they take excellent stuff. If Hernandez can achieve consistency, he's a very real prospect.

Matt LaPorta, OF, Low-A West Virginia (Brewers)

When the Brewers selected LaPorta with the seventh overall pick in June, it was a bit of a surprise, as was the fact that the team announced they would play LaPorta in left field, a position he had never played before. Even if the position switch doesn't work out, LaPorta is making it very clear that his bat will play anywhere. After getting adjusted to pro ball with a week in the Pioneer League, LaPorta spent the final month of the season in the South Atlantic League, where his home run in Monday's regular season finale was his fifth in seven games, and 10th in 88 at-bats for the aptly-named Power. At .318/.392/.750 overall, LaPorta is expected to be put on the fast track next year, and if he can prove to be even an acceptable outfielder, he could be in the majors as early as late 2008.

Aaron Poreda, RHP, Short-season Great Falls (White Sox)

Desperate for good news, White Sox fans? Here's some--the team's first-round pick isn't some boring, safe, low-ceiling college arm like Lance Broadway or Kyle McCulloch. After being mandated by general manager Kenny Williams to take a power arm in the first round, the White Sox settled on Poreda, and he's been nothing short of outstanding, matching his season high with seven strikeouts on Saturday, with the one run he allowed over five innings actually raising his ERA to 1.17 in 46 1/3 innings. As a 6'6" lefty who can touch 97 mph, Poreda is an extremely rare commodity, though his lack of a consistent breaking ball is what kept him out of the upper half of this year's first round. In a full-season league, Poreda will need to get by on much more than just his fastball, which will provide a significantly greater challenge than the Pioneer League does, but let's not worry about that until 2008, and instead just give White Sox fans something, anything to look forward to.

Jordan Schafer, OF, High-A Myrtle Beach (Braves)

In last week's center field rankings, I placed Schafer sixth overall thanks to the biggest breakout in the Atlanta organization. Since those rankings, Schafer broke out a little more, going 15-for-34 in his final seven games to finish the year with a minor league-leading 176 hits. In 136 games split between Low- and High-A, Schafer finished the season at .312/.374/.513 with 49 doubles, 10 triples, 15 home runs, 56 walks, and 23 stolen bases. That doesn't even touch on his defensive abilities, as he's among the top center fielders in the minors, with great instincts, fantastic range to both sides, and a well-above average arm. This is a special prospect who has gotten little attention this year, and with the Braves purging their system in the Mark Teixeira trade, he's moved way up on their organizational rankings, becoming a contender for the top position.

Travis Snider, OF, Low-A Lansing (Blue Jays)

Detroit's Gorkys Hernandez won Midwest League MVP honors this year, and with all respect to Hernandez--a fine prospect in his own right--they got it wrong. Snider's home run in the regular season finale on Monday finished out a final month in which the 2006 first-round pick hit .342/.394/.617, contributing to a season line of .313/.377/.525. That was good for second in the league in batting average while leading the league in slugging, extra-base hits (58), and RBI (93). Hernandez is a guy who can slap the ball around and run like the wind, but Snider looks like a potential impact bat in the middle of any major league lineup.

Brandon Waring, 3B, Short-season Billings (Reds)

A seventh-round pick out of Wofford College in South Carolina, Waring assaulted the Pioneer League after signing, slugging .311/.369/.614 en route to establishing a new franchise record with 20 home runs in just 68 games, finishing the year on a ridiculous run by going 17-for-37 with nine home runs in his last nine games. Those kind of numbers are hard to ignore, and one starts to wonder if the Reds really have something here, or how 228 players were selected ahead of him three months ago. Chances are, Waring is not some kind of special find, and his 83 strikeouts in 267 at-bats is already a huge red flag. This is the Pioneer League, and there's always some guy putting up huge numbers, never to be heard from again. The previous holder of the Billings single-season home run record? Robert Mosby, who hit 19 in 2004 and is already out of pro baseball. Remember Vito Chiaravolloti? He was a 15th-round pick of the Blue Jays in 2003 who went out and won the New York-Penn League Triple Crown with a .351/.469/.605 campaign. He's also out of organized ball after hitting .190/.271/.343 in 42 Double-A games and then bouncing around the Orioles system for a little bit. I'm not saying Waring is a fluke or a bust, I'm just saying that he's upgraded his status to merely 'keep an eye on him,' as opposed to suddenly being a real power prospect.

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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