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November 5, 2007

Future Shock

Monday Ten Pack

by Kevin Goldstein

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RHP Jake Arrieta, Phoenix Desert Dogs (Orioles)

Arrieta is becoming an offseason Ten Pack regular, as the Orioles keep pitching him an inning at a time, and he keeps putting up zeroes. At this point it's gone from "nice start" to "downright impressive," as Arrieta had his best outing yet on Saturday, striking out all three batters he faced. So far, the Orioles fifth-round pick who got first-round money has put together 12 scoreless innings over 10 appearances, while allowing just six hits and striking out 13. It's a little too early to call him a steal, and his disappointing final college season is still in the back of people's minds, but his timetable is on the verge of getting accelerated.

RHP Daniel Bard, Honolulu Sharks (Red Sox)

Friday's Boston prospect rankings, like any prospect list, generated a lot of email. Most of it concerned guys who didn't make it, like Brandon Moss or Craig Hansen, but nobody asked about Daniel Bard. Twelve months ago, that wouldn't have been the case, because last year at this time, Bard was a highly regarded first-round pick who could touch 100 mph, although he had some issues when it came to command and secondary stuff. This year, the wheels fell off. Beginning the year at High-A and then spending the majority of the year at Low-A after a demotion, Bard finished the year with a 7.08 ERA and 78 walks in 75 innings. Using the Hawaii Winter League as an opportunity to find the magic once again, the good news is that Bard has a 0.69 ERA in 13 innings while allowing just seven hits. The bad news is that he's walked 11. It doesn't matter how hard you throw if you have no idea where it is going.

OF-L Kyler Burke, Honolulu Sharks (Cubs)

Burke was acquired during the season by the Cubs in the Michael Barret trade, and he may have gone from highly regarded to slight sleeper. Entering the year as the ninth-best prospect in the Padres system, the 19-year-old outfielder proved to be unprepared for a full-season league, batting just .211/.305/.268 at Low-A Fort Wayne before the deal. The Cubs dropped him back down to the Northwest League, where he started off 1-for-27 before taking off, batting .284 the rest of the way with 10 home runs in 197 at-bats. Burke went 0-for-4 for the Sharks on Saturday, ending a six-game multi-hit streak in which he went 14-for-24 with seven doubles. He's now batting .355/.412/.516 in 18 games. Burke is ready for another shot at a full-season league, and scouts have always been enamored with his tools; keep an eye on this one.

1B-L Chris Carter, Tiburones de La Guaira (Red Sox)

Carter knows what it is like to be blocked. While in Arizona, he was never going to get a look over Conor Jackson, and as no more than a first baseman or designated hitter, Boston isn't exactly a great place for him either. Nevertheless, Carter has noteworthy offensive skills; he hit .316/.377/.504 on the year, and has continued that run in Venezuela, as his numbers are up to .416/.444/.636 in 19 games after an 8-for-11 weekend for the Sharks. Scouts tend to discount Carter for numerous reasons; he's the definition of stiff and unathletic, he's a bad defender, and his hitting mechanics are unorthodox if not downright awkward. His production shows that he deserves at least a chance to see if he can do it at the next level, but that chance probably isn't coming in Boston.

LHP Matt Harrison, Surprise Rafters (Rangers)

Harrison entered the year as the top pitching prospect in the Braves system. He was pitching well but below expectations at Double-A before being shut down with some shoulder problems, and after the Rangers acquired him as part of the Mark Teixeira deal, he remained shut down until the Arizona Fall League kicked off. Now he's back to looking like an upper-echelon prospect, and the bounty Texas received looks a little more bounteous. On Friday, Harrison delivered four no-hit innings for the rafters, and in his last three games he's fired 11 shutout innings while surrendering just one base knock. Harrison has size and stuff, and will quickly be considered among the top pitching prospects in his new organization very soon, if not already.

CF-L Jordan Schafer, Peoria Javelinas (Braves)

While the Rangers were able to procure a number of impressive talents from the Braves in July, the one guy that weren't allowed to have under any condition was Schafer, and with good reason. After taking as large a step forward as arguably and prospect in baseball this year, Schafer was given an Arizona Fall League assignment, which represents his first exposure to upper-level pitching. So far, it has not proven to be much of a challenge, as the 21-year-old outfielder went 6-for-14 over the weekend, is 17-for-35 in his last eight games, and now sits at .397/.468/.529 overall in 17 games. If you needed anymore proof beyond the regular season numbers and over-the-top scouting reports that his breakout was for real, here it is.

SS-R Scott Sizemore, Peoria Saguaros (Tigers)

Entering the year as the seventh-best prospect in the Detroit system, Sizemore was expected to have a big seasons as a polished college player in Low-A, but his .265/.376/.390 turned out to be a bit of a disappointment, although he did hit much better during the second half of the season. So far, he's looked much better in Arizona, as he's gone 20-for-48 (.417) in 11 games with 31 total bases and more walks (six) than strikeouts (five). Even more important is where Sizemore is playing in the field, shortstop. After spending the regular season exclusively as a second baseman, Sizemore has held his own on the left side of the infield, showing soft hands and solid fundamentals, though his range is a bit short. Still, a successful attempt to move towards a more difficult position on the defensive spectrum can do nothing but increase a guy's value.

OF-L Travis Snider, Scottsdale Scorpions (Blue Jays)

The Blue Jays' system is in a down period right now, and fans of Canada's lone big league team are pinning their hopes on Snider as the team's future star. Luckily, I can't think of many other names you'd want in that position. Just 19 years old, Snider is coming off a season in which he was the best hitter in the Midwest League by a wide margin, and pitchers generally three to six years older than he is are presenting no significant challenge to the 2005 first-round pick, who had three hits on Saturday to rasie his AFL averages to .359/.425/.578 in 17 contests. Already seen as one of the best hitting prospects in baseball, Snider is simply cementing that claim.

1B/3B-R Brandon Snyder, Honolulu Sharks (Orioles)

A first-round pick in 2005, Snyder's full-season debut was curtailed by shoulder surgery, but he rebounded this year to hit .283/.354/.422 at Low-A Delmarva. A decent season for sure, but the problem is that Snyder is no longer a catcher, he's a first baseman, where the bat has to be not merely decent, but outstanding. He's definitely picked things up a bit in the Aloha state, batting .361/.392/.569, but the more interesting development is that Snyder is playing half of the time at third base, his first exposure to the position in his brief career. He's athletic with a strong arm, so if he can stick at the hot corner it changes his outlook considerably, and gives him a better shot at making next year's Baltimore prospect rankings, a list he fell just short of a week ago.

3B-S Neil Walker, Venados de Mazaltan (Pirates)

Walker can maybe be a bit of inspiration to Snyder. Like Snyder, he was a first-round pick as a high school catcher, and like Snyder, he's now a third baseman, after playing there all year in Double-A this season while batting .277/.349/.434. Instead of sending him to Arizona, the Pirates changed things up a bit by sending Walker to Mexico, where he went 5-for-11 over the weekend and is now batting .329/.371/.512 for the Venados (Deer). Scouts do like Walker quite a bit, and feel he can be an impact switch-hitter, but that needs to start showing up more often in the stat lines. The good news is that he's a Pirate, so there's no such thing as getting blocked; there will be plenty of chances.

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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