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June 9, 2008

Future Shock

Monday Ten Pack

by Kevin Goldstein

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Mike Carp, 1B/LF Double-A Binghamton (Mets)
In a system running quite low on prospects, at least Carp continues to enjoy the best rebound in the system. Last year, he was one of the organization's biggest disappointments, batting just .251/.337/.387 at Binghamton, but in his defense, he was just 20 years old at the start of the season. This year he returned to the B-Mets, smacked a home run on Opening Night, and has never looked back since. On Friday night he had a strange game, going 4-for-4 with a double yet somehow not scoring or driving in a run. He made up for those counting stats on Sunday by slugging two home runs (driving in six), which helped raise his season averages to .351/.404/.553 on the season. The Mets have tried to increase his value even more this year by trying him some in left field, but scouts have characterized that as something of a disaster. Offensively, though, he's a smash hit who could get a shot at being a cheap replacement for Carlos Delgado in 2009.

Shelby Ford, 2B, Double-A Altoona (Pirates)
A third-round pick in 2006 out of Oklahoma State, Ford put himself on the prospect map last year with a solid first full season at High-A Lynchburg, but his year this season was put on hold when he played just three games in April before being sidelined for over six weeks with a hip injury. Profiling as an offense-oriented second baseman, Ford has been just that of late, with two-hit efforts on Friday and Saturday, followed by a 5-for-6 effort with a double and a triple to raise his averages for the Curve at .365/.420/.492 in 15 games. Ford is a free swinger without a ton of power who doesn't draw a ton of walks, so the majority of his value comes from his batting average, but some scouts think he'll hit for an high enough one for it to be worth it.

John Jay, OF, Double-A Springfield (Cardinals)
In many ways, Jay is the Cardinals' version of Carp. A 2006 second-round pick who hit .342/.416/.462 in his full-season debut, Jay struggled mightily last year while dealing with shoulder and wrist problems, causing to fall off many a prospect list. Now healthy and at Double-A, Jay had three hits on Friday, Saturday and Sunday to raise his averages to .304/.362/.470 in 59 Texas League games. Jay is another player without any overwhelming secondary skills; he has gap power and draws only a modicum of walks, but he plays a decent center field and profiles as a classic No. 2 hitter. He started the year well behind Colby Rasmus on the Cardinals' depth chart in center field, and that's still the case, but there's some kind of big league value here.

Jeremy Jeffress, RHP, High-A Brevard County (Brewers)
Jeffress' season was delayed until mid-May because of a 50-game suspension related to a positive test for a drug of abuse. His off-field issues have been well documented, but they don't obscure the fact that the kid has some awesome stuff. His 5.13 ERA in his first five starts shows how inconsistent he's been, but at the same time, he's been completely dominant in three of the five outings, including seven shutout innings on Friday night that including just four hits allowed one walk and eight strikeouts. In 26 1/3 innings, he's recorded 36 strikeouts while getting up to 98 mph with his fastball and showing much improved control. If he can stay on the straight and narrow, his ascension to the big leagues could be pretty straight and narrow as well, because his is a pretty special arm.

Desmond Jennings, CF, High-A Vero Beach (Rays)
Rays fans reached the point where they were emailing me on almost a daily basis for Desmond Jennings updates. The No. 18 prospect in the game entering the season, Jennings had minor off-season knee surgery at the end of last year, but this year's problems were back and shoulder injuries. He returned to action on June 1 and hit the ground running, slugging a home run in his first game and adding five hits and five walks over the weekend. In seven games with Devil Rays (yes, the minor league team kept the 'Devil'), Jennings has reached base 17 times, going 8-for-19 with nine walks. As a leadoff man with patience and power, if he can stomp on the injury bug he'll be a huge part of Rays future.

Cameron Maybin, CF, Double-A Carolina (Marlins)
You can't talk about Maybin as a prospect without talking about his strikeouts, and with 77 whiffs in 222 at-bats, that's understandable. His contact issues came to the fore even more when he hit just .225 in April. Now that he's the hottest hitter in the Southern League... not so much. Maybin smacked his 11th and 12th home runs of the year over the weekend, and in seven June contests, he's gone 13-for-29 with two doubles, two triples, and five home runs--not to mention 'just' five strikeouts. Now batting .270/.371/.509 on the year despite the awful start, Maybin remains one of the highest high-ceiling players in the minors, strikeouts be damned.

Gerardo Parra, OF, Double-A Mobile (Diamondbacks)
When Carlos Gonzalez was shipped to Oakland in the Dan Haren trade, Parra took over the mantle as the best hitting prospect in Arizona's system. Coming off a Midwest League batting title last year, Parra began the year with a .301/.381/.413 line in 50 games for High A Visalia, and he's been even better since earning a promotion to Double-A at the beginning of the month. Since going 0-for-4 in his Southern League debut, he's reeled off a seven-game hitting streak, including a 5-for-11 weekend to put him at .333/.412/.567 in his first week-plus with the BayBears. Splitting time between center and right field, Parra's ability to stay in center might be the key to his future, as the 21-year-old has yet to find much power in his game to go with the consistently outstanding batting averages.

Travis Snider, OF, Double-A New Hampshire (Blue Jays)
Still recovering from a miserable start to Double-A in which he want 4-for-32 with 18 strikeouts, Snider's batting line for the Fisher Cats is now a respectable .262/.362/.452 following a 6-for-12 weekend that included a pair of doubles. That line doesn't really tell you how good he's been of late, as since that slow start he's hit .294 in 36 games with a .529 slugging percentage and 18 walks in 136 at-bats. Only 20 years old (and he doesn't turn 21 until next February), Snider has quickly regained his status as one of the best pure hitters in the minors, and will likely make his Blue Jay debut before he's legally allowed to have a beer to celebrate.

Neil Walker, 3B, Triple-A Indianapolis (Pirates)
When the Pirates nabbed Vanderbilt third baseman Pedro Alvarez with the second overall pick on Thursday, it left some to wonder what that meant for Neil Walker. Moved from catcher to third base last year, the team's first round pick in 2004 wasn't doing much to help his own cause, as his averages sat at .224/.267/.413 in 55 Triple-A games at the time of the selection. Over the weekend, he lifted his slugging percentage by 51 points in two games by going 3-for-5 with a double and home run on Saturday, and then hitting two more long balls on Sunday to give him nine on the year. Alvarez passes him up on the Pittsburgh prospect list the second he signs, but there's likely still some kind of future for Walker in black and gold.

Charlie Zink, RHP, Triple-A Pawtucket (Red Sox)
Five years ago, Zink was quite the object of affection. He's a knuckleball pitcher, which is an inherently cool thing in itself, but there was more as he was also an undrafted free agent out of the Savannah College of Art and Design, of all places. And his coach there was Luis Tiant--I kid you not. After earning far more attention that his talent really deserved, Zink established himself as what many saw as a Double-A/Triple-A lifer, being really good at times, but mostly compiling a lot of five-plus ERAs. However, on Saturday night Zink got my attention with eight very good innings, allowing only one run on four hits, and a little further investigation shows that Zink has actually been good pretty much all year. In 13 starts for the PawSox, he has an excellent 2.44 ERA while limiting International League hitters to a .204 average. While I've yet to talk to a scout about him, the knuckler seems to be knuckling of late, and maybe the 29-year-old Zink will be everyone's favorite knuckleball prospect again soon.

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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