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May 27, 2008

Future Shock

Tuesday Ten Pack

by Kevin Goldstein

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J.P. Arencibia, C, High-A Dunedin (Blue Jays)
Matt Wieters gets a lot of attention, and rightly so, but there's another college-sourced catcher taken in the first-round of last year's draft who is impressing at High-A in his full-season debut. The 21st overall pick out of the University of Tennessee, Arencibia got off to a slow start in a pitcher's league, but his has been one of the hottest bats in the minors of late, with 18 hits, four doubles, three home runs, and 16 RBI in his last 16 games to raise his overall liine to .315/.342/.530 in 43 games. He's also showing improved defense behind the plate to accompany what has always been an above-average arm. He's not in Wieters' class as a prospect, but who is? Forget about that unfair comparison, and realize instead that the Blue Jays have a player in their system who projects as an above-average everyday big league catcher. Can more than half of the franchises in baseball even say that?

Jay Bruce, OF, Triple-A Louisville (Reds)
Well, there's one common email out of the way. When are the Reds going to call up Jay Bruce? The answer is... today. And it's been a long time coming, as Bruce was basically wasting time at Triple-A Louisville, batting .364/.393/.630 in 49 games and a ridiculous .419/.453/.709 mark in May. The Reds didn't want to bring Bruce up until they could get him consistent at-bats, and that's now going to happen as Bruce takes over as the primary center fielder. There's really nothing new to tell anybody here--Bruce is a stud, and pretty much anyone who follows baseball knows it. But now it's easier to watch him every day, and he definitely has the potential to be one of those players where one stops everything they're doing, just to see him hit.

Madison Bumgarner, LHP, Low-A Augusta (Giants)
Despite being drafted higher and receiving a larger bonus, Bumgarner was overshadowed a bit early in the season by Tim Alderson. See, Alderson was filled with polish and going to High-A as a teenager, while Bumgarner was more raw and starting in Low-A. Allowing 10 runs over 11 2/3 innings in his first three starts didn't help anything, but since then, Bumgarner has been nothing short of dominant. His six-plus shutout innings on Friday was really just another day at the office of late for the six-foot-four southpaw; he has allowed all of one earned run over his last six starts, a streak of 32 1/3 innings during which he's allowed 23 hits, walked 11 and struck out 38. He's currently living off of a low to mid-90s fastball with good movement and command, his slurvy breaking ball will flash as plus at times and his changeup is showing some early promise. Alderson remains the more polished product, but Bumgarner eclipses him when it comes to upside.

Jeff Clement, C, Triple-A Tacoma (Mariners)
Clement didn't really have a May to remember. Called up as part of a roster shakeup and looking like he'd be in the majors for good, he fell into a brutal slump, and just when it seemed like he was snapping out of it with a couple of multi-hit games, he gets sent back to Tacoma. That's exactly the kind of situation that can lead to a lost season, but give Clement credit, because he took his demotion in stride and came out slugging, going 11-for-32 in eight games since his return. Only one of the hits was a single, so that plus six doubles and four home runs gives him a .906 slugging over that stretch, so at least he's doing his part of convince the big club that he really is a better designated hitter option than Jose Vidro.

Matt Harvey, RHP, University of North Carolina
Harvey was one of the top high school arms in last year's draft, but teams had a hard time matching his bonus demands with his talent. That dropped him to the third round, where the Angels took him and made a run at signing him, but he ultimately declined the offer and enrolled at the University of North Carolina. If the Angels had a scouting contingent at this weekend's ACC baseball tournament, chances are they wished that they upped the ante a bit. Facing Wake Forest, Harvey had his best outing of the year, allowing just two hits and a walk over eight shutout innings while striking out 13. That gave him 71 whiffs over 57 2/3 innings this year, although the good (just 45 hits allowed, including zero home runs) needs to be balanced against the freshman rawness (42 walks). At six-foot-four and 210 pounds, Harvey's frame is nearly ideal, and with a plus fastball and even better curve, he's well lined up to get his money two years from now.

Jason Heyward, OF, Low-A Rome (Braves)
The Braves where beyond thrilled to still see Heyward on the board with the 14th overall pick last June, as huge, athletic outfielders who go left-left and are loaded with tools don't exactly grow on trees. Beginning the year in the Sally League, Heyward has hit from day one, and that continued over the long weekend, as he went 8-for-18 with three doubles and his sixth home run of the year, upping his season averages to .328/.364/.490 in 50 contests. Right now, all of Heyward's tools rate as average or better, as he makes consistent hard contact, is loaded with raw power, runs well enough to steal eight bases in nine attempts, covers good ground in the outfield, and has a strong arm. He has 'future star' written all over him, and could move quickly.

Lou Marson, C, Double-A Reading (Phillies)
Marson was one of the Phillies' breakout players last year, batting .288/.373/.407 at High-A Clearwater while featuring plenty of athleticism behind the plate. All of that has led to another step forward this year, as Marson is currently riding a nine-game hitting streak is which he's reached base 22 times and driven in 15 runs. Now batting .345/.462/.460 for the R-Phils, Marson has turned into an absolute on-base machine, reaching safely at an even .500 pace in 21 May games, and he's doing his part defensively as well by nailing 39 percent of opposing basestealers. From nice catching prospect to very good one, Marson could fill one of the Phillies few lineup weaknesses by mid-2009.

Mike Moustakas, SS, Low-A Burlington (Royals)
Snap judgements can be dangerous things. The second overall pick in last year's draft, Moustakas had a nightmarish first month of the year, adjusting the pro ball with playing in cold, wet weather in the toughest offensive league in the minors. On May 3rd, he was batting .182/.242/.216, and questions were starting to linger about what exactly was wrong here, or what did the Royals do with the second pick in the draft. What they did, in fact, was draft a player with remarkable bat speed and tons of raw power, because those tools are starting to pan out--since that day, he's gone 30-for-96 (.313) with five home runs to suddenly raise his season average to .250/.302/.413, and increasing his OPS by more than 200 points in just three weeks. He's still not a shortstop by any measurement, but any questions about his bat have completely disappeared.

Tim Murphy, LHP, UCLA
As the only major college conference who hasn't succumbed to the pure money-grab of a post-season conference tournament, the Pac-10 wrapped up their regular season over the weekend, and Murphy helped ease his team into the NCAA tournament by tossing a five-hit shutout against a very good Cal team while walking four and striking out ten. He's not some kind of stud prospect, but that outing probably made him a bit of money--he's not now suddenly a first-round pick, but he's big and has three average pitches, and he has a ton of durability, as evidenced by Friday's pitch count of 144 and the fact that his stuff in the ninth inning was as good as his stuff in the first. He'll likely been a second-round pick next week, and while he's not a future star, he's going to beat plenty of guys drafted ahead of him to the big leagues.

Carlos Triunfel, SS/2B, High-A High Desert (Mariners)
Triunfel began the year 3-for-39 during an injury-plagued April that led to questions about whether or not last year's showing was some kind of fraud. Things got even more complicated when he was sent off the team for ten days this month as a disciplinary action. The things is, wrapped around all of these issues, Triunfel has really started to rake. With nine multi-hit efforts in his last 12 games, Triunfel is hitting .426 in May, and .297/.345/.377 overall in 33 games for the Mavericks. That's a pretty remarkable achievement for a player born in 1990, so beyond the scouting reports, we now have mounting statistical evidence that this is a very special bat.

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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