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June 30, 2008

Future Shock

Monday Ten Pack

by Kevin Goldstein

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Michael Almanzar, 3B, Rookie-Level GCL (Red Sox)
Almanzar was one of the big prizes in last year's international signing period. The Red Sox spent mid-first-round money ($1.5 million) on the Dominican slugger, betting on his excellent swing mechanics and tons of physical projection. Making his pro debut in the Florida complex league, Almanzar began his career with four consecutive two-hit games, and extended his hitting streak to eight games by reaching base in all five of his plate appearances on Sunday, going 3-for-3 with a triple and a pair of walks. Now batting .412/.474/.500, Almanzar is having little difficulty hitting, while on defense the reports are "so far, so good" on his transition from shortstop to third base. It's far too early to call, but Almanzar's talent is looking like it was properly valued by Boston.

Jaff Decker, OF, Rookie-Level AZL (Padres)
Decker is comparable to recent high draft picks like Cleveland's John Drennen and Oakland's Matt Sulentic. He's never going to blow anyone away with his athleticism or overall skill set, but the one tool he has is the hit tool, and that's the most important one. A supplemental first-round pick in June who signed for just under $900,000, Decker isn't playing very far from his Peoria, Arizona home during his pro debut, and the home cooking seems to be doing wonders. He's scored five runs and driven in four in a pair of weekend games, and is now 9-for-17 with two doubles, a home run, and eight walks in his first five contests. Already playing left field--the position he'll likely be limited to as a pro--Decker will try to prove that man can live by bat alone.

Wilmer Flores, SS, Rookie-Level Kingsport (Mets)
It's remarkable to consider that Flores doesn't turn 17 years old until August. If he was an American, we'd be taking about him as a young talent to keep your eye on for the 2009 draft, but instead, he's eating up his first taste of pro pitching. Ranked as the fourth best prospect in the Mets system after signing last season for $700,000, Flores went deep on Friday and Saturday, and while he was held to just a single on Sunday, he's batting a healthy .386/.410/.632 in his first 13 games. He'll eventually grow out of the position, but most international scouts thought the bat would play anywhere, and that's looking to be spot on.

Chris Getz, 2B, Triple-A Charlotte (White Sox)
A fourth-round pick out of Michigan in 2004, Getz does not have a whole lot going for him in terms of tools or athleticism, but the one thing that he can do is hit, and that's continued this year at Triple-A, as Getz had back-to-back three-hit games over the weekend and is now 12-for-23 in his last five games (.313/.363/.446 overall). He began the year exclusively at second base, but since then he has also seen time at shortstop (where his range is below average) and in the outfield. Developing that kind of flexibility could indicate that the White Sox are trying to figure out a way to get him onto the big league roster.

Che-Hsuan Lin, OF, Low-A Greenville (Red Sox)
Signed out of Taiwan in 2007, Lin had an impressive pro debut in the Gulf Coast League last year, and has served as the Drive's leadoff man since the start of this season. While his performance has been up and down, the tools continue to impress, and they were on display in a major way over the weekend. Lin went 6-for-11 with two doubles, two home runs, four walks, and eight runs scored, raising his OPS a whopping 50 points in three games to 768. Lin's speed and arm are both well above-average, but his gap power projects as merely average. Still, combine that with very good plate discipline, and the 19-year-old Lin doesn't need to hit .300 to have value down the road, but there's still plenty of time for that to happen as well.

Fernando Martinez, OF, Double-A Binghamton (Mets)
Martinez continues to be a source of frustration. There are still scouts out there who see MVP potential here, yet he just can't stay healthy. Just 19 and spending his second year in Double-A, Martinez seems to finally be hitting his stride, going 15-for-38 (.395) in a 10-game stretch before pulling his right hamstring, which put him on the shelf for six weeks. The top prospect in the system returned over the weekend and picked up where he left off, going 7-for-12 with two doubles and a home run in a three-game set with Connecticut, and raising his season averages to .302/.339/.450. The talent has always been there, and the question now is whether or not it can stay on the field and continue to blossom.

Neil Ramirez, RHP, Short-Season Spokane (Rangers)
The Rangers entered the year with one of the best minor league systems in the game, but it's perhaps even more impressive that so many of their top prospects have met and exceeded expectations. That makes it easy for a player like Ramirez to get lost in the shuffle, but that would be a mistake. A supplemental first-round pick last June, Ramirez wanted first-round money to sign, and the Rangers responded by happily handing him $1 million. Showing a 90-94 mph fastball, an outstanding hammer curve, and a developing changeup on Friday night, Ramirez fired six shutout innings while striking out seven and allowing only one hit. In his first three pro starts, he's surrendered a whopping four hits in 14 innings, and is definitely one to watch.

Jose Tabata, OF, Double-A Trenton (Yankees)
Make no mistake about it, Tabata has been horrible this year. His slugging percentage didn't rise above .300 until yesterday's home run, and that extra-base hit was a rarity, with 59 of his 71 hits on the year falling for singles. Beyond that, there have been concerns about his conditioning and his attitude, and his prospect stock has begun to plummet. The good news, with small sample-size caveats applied, is that Tabata had an excellent weekend, going 7-for-12 with three multi-hit games. While his numbers still sit at a disappointing .248/.322/.311, one can hope that this is the beginning of a turnaround.

Mark Trumbo, 1B, High-A Rancho Cucamonga (Angels)
The 2004 draft seems like ancient history at this point, but one of the bigger stories at the time was Trumbo, an 18th-round pick who nobody thought would sign. For the Angels to pay over $1.4 million for his services was surprising enough, but then came the news that they'd be using him as a position player rather than on the mound, where most teams thought his first-round value actually lied. Since then, Trumbo has shown plus power but little else, entering the year with career averages of .254/.313/.409 after two years at Low-A. The California League is known to boost offense, but Trumbo nonetheless seems to finally be enjoying a breakout performance, with home runs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday giving him a career-high 20 on the year, as well as an overall batting line of .292/.333/.571. Scouts insist that the power is very real, and perhaps that bonus wasn't such a mistake after all.

Jordan Walden, RHP, Low-A Cedar Rapids (Angels)
When the Angels signed Walden last year for $1 million, making him one of the last big-ticket draft-and-follows, he immediately became the best pure arm in the system. This year's goal was to make him a better pitcher, and so far, it's working. On Saturday, the big power right-hander struck out seven over five shutout innings to lower his ERA to 2.42 in 15 starts. It was his third consecutive scoreless outing, and fourth in his last five. His fastball has maintained its plus-plus velocity this year, and it's possible that Walden's much improved secondary offerings have him passing a disappointing Nick Adenhart as the top pitching prospect in the system.

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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