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June 18, 2008

Future Shock

AL Central Notebook

by Kevin Goldstein

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Chicago White Sox

Sure, But Can He Sing?: David Cook has spent six years in the White Sox system, and while he's repeated some levels along the way, he's consistently drawn many a walk and shown decent power. This year at Double-A Birmingham, the 26-year-old outfielder has taken everything up a notch, batting .313/.467/.577 for the Barons, and leading all of the minor leagues with 62 walks in just 208 at-bats to go along with 12 home runs. His age and a short, stocky build prevent him from being seen as much of a prospect, but one scout said his team, size, and style of play couldn't help but remind him of a former White Sox player with a bowling-ball build and lots of secondary skills--Warren Newson. Promoted to Triple-A last week, Cook went 11-for-24 with three doubles and three walks in his first seven games with Charlotte, including a 4-for-4 showing with a triple on Wednesday.

Still Slugging: Your current minor league home run leader is former Pirate Brad Eldred, who's popped out 24 in just 71 games and 265 at-bats for Charlotte. He is still, however, the same Brad Eldred, as evidenced by a .260 batting average and 78 strikeouts against just 18 walks. Chances are that he'll get every opportunity to maintain his home run lead, because with Jim Thome and Paul Konerko in the big leagues at DH and first base, there's no room in Chicago for him. Eldred is the kind of player who could do very well performance-wise and popularity-wise in Japan.


Cleveland Indians

Nick The Not So Quick: Nick Weglarz put himself firmly on the prospect radar last year with a .276/.395/.497 line at Low-A Lake County after missing almost the entire 2006 campaign with a wrist injury, and while his slugging has slipped a bit this year in the tougher league (High-A Carolina) and tougher park (Kinston), one scout who recently caught the K-Tribe in action remained impressed, but with some reservations: "Just his sheer size and strike zone control is enough for me to be high on him," said the evaluator of the 6'3", 245-pound Canadian. Currently batting .261/.400/.405 in 64 games and with 49 walks in 222 at-bats, the scout saw Weglarz as almost being too patient at times, and he had some concerns about where he'll end up and his long-term development. "I think he's on the first base path for sure, as he's slow, lumbering... almost heavy-footed," said the scout. "The other concern is that you are talking about a guy with old-player skills, and he's just 20," a comment which proves once again that scouts really do read and understand some of the basic concepts of statistical analysis.

Keep An Eye On: Six-foot-five left-hander Kelvin De La Cruz. The 20-year-old Dominican is skinny to a fault, but with a whip-like arm action, he's been showing plus velocity this year and touched as high as 93 mph. His control needs work, as does his breaking ball, but it's been good enough to compile a 1.60 ERA in 13 starts at Low-A Lake County.


Detroit Tigers

Figaro, Figaro, Fi-ga-ro!: Some of the most impressive numbers of any pitcher in the minor leagues have been put up by Dominican right-hander Alfredo Figaro, who has a 1.22 ERA in 12 starts while allowing just 48 hits in 81 innings for Low-A West Michigan. One scout who has seen him this year says that the numbers might look like those of an elite-level prospect, but the stuff doesn't match. "He's very aggressive, he throws a lot of strikes, and there's a lot of showboat in him--he's really into it," observed one scout. "That said, the stuff isn't eye-popping--he tops out around 92-93 mph, but he doesn't pitch there, he's more 90-91, with a tight 12-to-6 curveball that's pretty average and a mediocre changeup."

Will The Tools Play?: While the West Michigan lineup is thin on prospects, one sleeper might be 21-year-old Dominican shortstop Audy Ciriaco, who is hitting a pedestrian .276/.301/.385 for the Whitecaps, but who has impressed scouts with his potential. "It's kind of an Alfonso Soriano body, and while he needs a lot of refinement, he has the best tools on that team by far," said the scout. "He just sticks out like a sore thumb on that roster."


Kansas City Royals

Finding His Groove: As the only real prospect on the team, Mike Moustakas has had all eyes on him this year at Low-A Burlington. The second overall pick in last year's draft, the shortstop hit just .190/.253/.226 in April, but he's starting to look like the hitting machine that earned a $4 million bonus last summer, slugging .525 in May with 16 of his 32 hits going for extra bases. One scout who saw him early in the season and again recently saw noteworthy changes. "He just has his feet under him now," said the scout. "His bat speed is better, he looks a lot more confident up there. I think everyone expected him to come around at some point. He was the second pick for a reason."

A New Double-Play Partner: Joining Moustakas in the middle of the Bees infield this week is Johnny Giovatella. A second-round pick two weeks ago who signed quickly for just under $800,000, Giovatella is a tiny sparkplug-type. He went 2-for-5 with a double in his pro debut.


Minnesota Twins

It's Very Real: One of the biggest breakouts in the minors this year has been authored by infielder Luke Hughes. The 23-year-old Australian entered the year as a career .263/.322/.382 hitter who was repeating at Double-A, and now he's suddenly sitting at .335/.407/.618 in 47 games, although his run has been temporarily interrupted by a groin strain. One scout who saw him last year and this year insists that this is anything but a fluky showing. "He's a completely different player now," said the scout. "Last year he had below-average power and now he's just hitting missiles--I'm talking crazy power--opposite-gap bomb kind of power." While Hughes has spent most of the year at third base, he's also seen some time at second and in the outfield, although the scout wasn't quite sure where he'd end up. "He kind of has that out-of-position profile bat. I'd like to see him as a power-hitting second baseman like Jeff Kent in the end," he said. "It's a lean, muscular, very live body, and it's just playing different. He's one of the better hitters I've seen in the Eastern League this year, and he's definitely for real."

A Quick Look At Loek: It's easy to dismiss 7'1" Dutch right-hander Loek Van Mil as a novelty act, but he's found a home in the bullpen at Low-A Beloit, with a 2.59 ERA in 20 appearances with 32 strikeouts in 31 1/3 innings. One scout who recently saw him thinks he'll have a spot in a big league bullpen when all is said and done. "He's obviously just a reliever, and he's already 23 and only in Low-A, but I really like him," said the scout. "He's in the low 90s and his delivery is overhand, so it looks like it's coming from the top of a mountain, basically," he added. "I've seen him strike out multiple hitters on called third strikes that were just fastballs down the middle--just because it was so weird it would freeze batters."

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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