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July 2, 2008

Future Shock

AL West Notebook

by Kevin Goldstein

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Los Angeles Angels

Tough Times On The Farm: The Angels are usually known for having one of the strongest farm systems in the game, but that's quickly becoming no longer the case. A quick review of their Top 11 prospects entering the season shows a list filled with players plagued with poor performances and injuries:

  1. Nick Adenhart, RHP: Command problems hounded him during his major league debut, and he has shown little sign of improvement at Triple-A.
  2. Brandon Wood, 3B/SS: His raw power remains enormous, but making no changes in his free-swinging approach have him making far too many outs.
  3. Jordan Walden, RHP: As good as advertised, with a 2.42 ERA at Low-A after three straight scoreless outings.
  4. Hank Conger, C: Has missed most of the first half of the year with a wrist injury, and his power has yet to return, as evidenced by just one home run in 20 Cal League games.
  5. Sean O'Sullivan, RHP: Primarily a command pitcher with little margin for error, Sullivan is not throwing as many strikes as he used to and is getting pounded at High-A, with a 5.91 ERA.
  6. Sean Rodriguez, SS: Did little to help himself with poor major league showing, but he's outhitting Brandon Wood by a sizable margin at Triple-A, with an impressive .276/.408/.578 line.
  7. Peter Bourjos, CF: Batting .347 with 41 stolen bases in 44 attempts; now he just needs a more patient approach to profile as a true leadoff man.
  8. Rich Thompson, RHP: A mysterious inability to throw strikes was somewhat solved when he went on the shelf in early May with nerve problems in his pitching shoulder.
  9. Matt Sweeney, 3B: A minor ankle injury morphed into major ankle surgery, which will cost him the entire year.
  10. Jon Bachanov, RHP: Tommy John surgery in the spring ended his season before it began.
  11. Mason Tobin, RHP: Had a 3.13 ERA in eight Low-A starts before hitting the DL earlier this month with shoulder soreness.

Go Go Jacobo: Tabbed as one of the better second-day picks by the Angels immediately following the draft, tenth-round selection Gabriel Jacobo has had little trouble translating his performance at Sacramento State to pro ball, as he's batting .320/.352/.620 in his first 12 games for Orem in the Pioneer League, with 10 of those 16 hits going for extra bases. One word of warning, however-there were questions about his ability to play third, and he's already playing exclusively at first base-so the bat had better continue to play.


Oakland Athletics

Hot, Cold, And Now Hot Again: After being a supplemental first-round pick in 2007, Corey Brown got off to a great start at Low-A Kane County this year, then suffered through a miserable May that saw him hit just .215 with 32 strikeouts in 93 at-bats. Heating back up of late, Brown has been on a tear, going 15-for-35 with five doubles and three home runs to lift his averages on the season to .275/.367/.507 in 77 games. As important as the numbers are, he's also getting the attention of scouts. "He lives up to the hype of a first-round pick," said one scout who recently tracked the Cougars. "He's got plus speed, plus raw power-this is the Midwest League and it's not a good place to hit-and he has 14 home runs." The scout added that Brown was an acceptable center fielder, borderline big league, with an average arm but good accuracy. Like all who have seen him, this scout found it hard to ignore Brown's significant strikeout rate (89 in 276 at-bats), however. "He's got a big hole and really needs to work on how to hit pitches inside from lefties," commented the scout. "But when he makes contact, he just fills the gaps."


Seattle Mariners

Rattling Up Some Reports: While most observers following Seattle's Low-A affiliate Wisconsin have all eyes on 2007 first-round pick Phillippe Aumont, the pitching staff also has a number of prospects beyond the big Canadian who are impressing scouts.

Ranked one slot ahead of Aumont going into the year, 19-year-old right-hander Juan Ramirez currently has a 4.25 ERA in 15 appearances, with better peripherals than that would indicate, allowing just 70 hits in 78 1/3 innings while striking out 68 and walking 26. One scout who recently saw him categorized Ramirez as a high-upside arm who still has a lot of work to do. "It's very easy velocity," said the scout. "I had him sitting at 92-94 mph and touching 96, and the pitch has good movement." Beyond the fastball however, is where Ramirez' troubles lie. "The secondary stuff is very rudimentary due to his delivery," continued the scout. "He doesn't repeat his delivery consistently, and he's going to need some fine-tuning there. He gets on the side of his breaking ball, and it gets caught between a curve and a slider, and then he babies it to throw strikes-which costs him tilt and velocity." Despite the issues, the scout still saw a good starting point. "He's young, loose, and athletic, and I think he has a good chance to come together. It's a very interesting package."


Texas Rangers

Big Things In Small Packages: In Monday's Ten Pack, the readers were re-introduced to Neil Ramirez, the 2007 supplemental first-round pick who is off to a roaring start at Spokane. However, he's not the only Indian (yes, I know, it's confusing) on the staff worth watching. The Rangers are always busy in Latin America, especially in terms of finding pitching, so their Northwest League affiliate has three prospect-worthy arms from the region in the rotation. While Carlos Pimentel and Wilfredo Boscan are both aggressive strike throwers with decent stuff, the best of the group is Venezuelan southpaw Martin Perez. Signed for over $500,000, 17-year-old Martin has a smallish six-foot frame, and already has three pitches that grade out as average or above. His fastball sits at 88-92 mph with good finish, and both his curveball and changeup project as above-average offerings. He's an excellent athlete with one of the smoothest deliveries in the organization, and in his first three starts has posted a 2.45 ERA. He left his most recent start with a small finger injury, but he's worth following when he returns.

Even More Pitching: All but buried in a rotation that includes top prospect Neftali Feliz and 2007 top pick Blake Beaven, six-foot-five lefty Derek Holland is making a name for himself with a 2.64 ERA in 15 starts, and generating the scouting buzz to match. Southpaws who can touch 95 mph are a rare commodity, and Holland has done that this year, although his heat usually sits in the low 90s; he's missing bats with both his heater and a plus changeup. His slider is average, and there are some concerns about him throwing across his body, but his size and the two plus offerings have him on a lot of people's radar these days.

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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