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April 16, 2008

Future Shock

Ten Pack for Haters

by Kevin Goldstein

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The world is a more negative place than it once was. For evidence of that fact, I recently got some feedback on the weekly Ten Pack asking why I didn't list players that were doing poorly. To appease this reader and any other nattering nabobs of negativism, here's a bonus mid-week Ten Pack: ten players from this year's Top 100 who are off to disappointing starts. Just remember that it's early.

8. Colby Rasmus, OF, Cardinals
Despite some whispers that he'd open the year in the majors, the plan all along was to have Rick Ankiel in center field this year and then slide him over to a corner in 2009, because while the current combination of Chris Duncan and Ryan Ludwick is off to a great start, someone, likely Ludwick, will need to move into a reserve role next year. This year, however, their jobs are safe for now, as Rasmus isn't doing anything to help rush himself to the big leagues, hitting .204/.298/.286 in his first 12 games for Triple-A Memphis. He also has just one home run in 49 at-bats, after leading the Texas League with 29 a year ago.

19. Mike Moustakas, SS (for now), Royals
Moustakas tweaked his hamstring over the weekend, but a few days off might be for the best at this point. He committed three errors in his second game of the season, has yet to register a multi-hit game or extra-base hit, and after eight contests with Low-A Burlington he's hitting just .172/.226/.172. One can't help but wonder if the second overall pick from last year's draft is taking his defensive struggles with him to the plate, and one also can't help but wonder if the Royals are going to move him over to second or third base sooner rather than later; everyone still thinks he can hit, but nobody thinks he can stay at short.

23. Chase Headley, OF, Padres
The former third baseman had a strong enough spring training to nearly win a big league job at his new position; maybe losing out to Paul McAnulty in the end burst his bubble temporarily, as he's currently at .250/.318/.350 in 10 games for Triple-A Portland, and that's only because he's gone 5-for-13 in his last three games. More alarming early numbers include just one home run in 40 at-bats, and four walks against 15 strikeouts from a player with one of the best approaches in the organization. Still, with McAnulty struggling once again to hit big league pitching, Headley could be just a two- or three-week hot streak away from getting his chance.

48. Jose Tabata, OF, Yankees
Just 19 and already in Double-A, Tabata is one of the more gifted hitters in the minors, with a lightening-quick bat and excellent hand/eye coordination. At the same time, the excuses about his lack of power (a wrist injury here, a tough park there) are beginning to wear thin, and even though he's now in his fourth pro season, he remains smallish and skinny, with a single-plane swing. Currently hitting .244/.346/.267 in 12 games for Trenton with just one extra-base hit, the average will certainly come up, but he's finding fewer takers these days when it comes to future power projection.

49. Eric Hurley, RHP, Rangers
Hurley's never been hugely dominant at the upper levels, and that's continued this year. While the right-hander has recorded 17 strikeouts over 14 innings in his first three starts for Triple-A Memphis, he's also been knocked around for 24 hits, including three home runs. His stock was down a bit last year as it was, with many projections from from a No. 2 starter to more of a No. 3, and so far this year, he's still moving in the wrong direction.

51. Fernando Martinez, OF, Mets
Another 19-year-old much-hyped New York outfield prospect, Martinez' tools and hype have consistently outstripped his performance, and he got off to another slow start the year, going 3-for-22 in his first six games before a five-game hitting streak brought his numbers up to a far more respectable .267/.333/.422. Like Tabata, at some point you run out of mitigating factors, and although he's still a teenager, some see 2008 as a bit of a put up or shut up season now that he's repeating a level.

55. Carlos Triunfel, SS, Mariners
After hitting nearly .300 last year as a 17-year-old while spending most of the year at High-A, the Mariners have slowed things down a bit by returning him to the California League, and his production has slowed as well, as he began the year in a 2-for-22 slump before being sidelined with an abdominal injury. Like Tabata and Martinez, there's been a little too much excitement based solely on his youth and batting average; he's a fantastic hitter, but without power, patience, or the ability to play shortstop at the big league level, he's a really good prospect, but not a great one.

63. Brent Lillibridge, SS, Braves
For the second straight year, Lillibridge is off to a difficult start, going 4-for-42 (.095) in his first ten games at Triple-A Richmond, including an 0-for-16 mark against left-handers. It's a bit surprising to see the Braves not trying Lillibridge at other positions, as Yunel Escobar has a firm grasp on the big league shortstop job for both that short- and long-term future. Leaving Lillibridge there for now could be a showcasing maneuver.

82. Greg Reynolds, RHP, Rockies
After getting hammered for seven runs in the first innings of his first start of the year, Reynolds pitched five solid innings in his second, but got hit hard again on Sunday, giving up 11 hits and seven runs over 5 1/3 innings. While Reynolds is a very good prospect, he's not the kind of talent that would normally justify a No. 2 overall selection in the draft, which the Rockies made him in 2006. He's big, has good-not-great stuff, and gets groundballs by throwing downhill, but he doesn't have the same margin for error that a pure power pitcher has, and throwing his home games in Colorado Springs makes it all the more difficult.

99. Chris Carter, 1B, Athletics
Carter was an in-demand commodity in the offseason after a breakout full-season debut with the White Sox that saw him hit .291/.383/.522 for Low-A Kannapolis while finishing third in the Sally League in both home runs (25) and RBI (93). He was briefly the property of the Diamondbacks after the Carlos Quentin trade, but was then quickly flipped to the A's as part of the package that netted the Snakes Dan Haren. After wowing team officials this spring, Carter is off to a brutal beginning at High-A Stockton, batting just .122/.217/.220 (5-for-41) without a single home run. As a one-dimensional slugger, Carter needs his bat to carry him to the big leagues, and so far it's not holding up its end of the bargain.

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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