July 7, 2008
Monday Ten Pack
Trevor Cahill, RHP, Double-A Midland (Athletics)
In Friday's piece on Michel Inoa, I noted that Inoa would likely rank as Oakland's top prospect by the end of the year. Now I doubt that Cahill reads BP, but maybe he does-if he didn't sign with Oakland, he was going to play his college ball at Dartmouth. Either way, Cahill stated his case for the top slot with yet another outstanding outing over the weekend, striking out 10 over eight shutout innings while allowing only two hits in just his third Texas League start. His fastball was touching 94 mph on Friday, his curveball remains a more than plus offering, and his ascension to the big leagues continues well ahead of schedule. Perhaps the decisions this offseason on the Oakland rankings will be tougher than I thought.
Travis D'Arnaud, C, Short-Season Williamsport (Phillies)
D'Arnaud is another one of those players who was easy to forget about during the first half of the season. A supplemental first-round pick last June, D'Arnaud ranked as the sixth-best prospect in the Philadelphia system going into the year, but was held back until the short-season leagues began, where the 19-year-old took over everyday catching duties in the New York-Penn League. With two-hit games in each of his three weekend contests, D'Arnaud is more than holding his own in a league primarily stocked with players with some college experience, and is batting a brisk .375/.419/.516 in 18 games, showing average-to-plus raw power and solid defensive skills. Catching prospects who project as everyday players are a rare commodity, but with Lou Marson's offensive explosion at Double-A this year, there's no reason to rush D'Arnaud.
Dexter Fowler, CF, Double-A Tulsa (Rockies)
Fowler had already been having a breakout season at Double-A, but now the breakout is turning into a monster season, because after a 7-for-12 weekend, Fowler has had seven straight multi-hit games, and is batting .438 in his last 25 (.330/.407/.518 overall). Fowler's power potential remains the subject of debate, but nobody was arguing about it on Sunday while he walloped his eighth and ninth home runs of the year. Unlike many toolsy players, Fowler has a patient approach, although he is prone to strikeouts and needs to improve his base-stealing prowess. Other than one good year by Preston Wilson in 2003, the Rockies have never had a dynamic power/speed combo player in center field, but it appears that Fowler will likely hold the position a good bit longer than Wilson did.
Gio Gonzalez, LHP, Triple-A Sacramento (Athletics)
Quick quiz: What's Gio Gonalez' ERA? Before you guess, let me remind you that Gonzalez began the year by allowing only one earned run in each of his first three outings. Just three starts ago, he delivered eight innings of one-hit shutout baseball while striking out 12. Friday night? Even better, with nine innings of one-hit ball and 13 strikeouts, while sitting at 92-93 mph, touching 95, showing a vicious curve, and looking like one of the better lefty prospects in the game. So how is it possible that his ERA is 4.84? That just doesn't seem right, but there it is, a result of his being lit up around once every three starts. Take May 23rd, when Tucson scored ten runs against him before he escaped the fourth inning. Or just two weeks ago, when Salt Lake scored six times before Gonzalez was pulled in the third. No one seems to have a good explanation for this inconsistency. When he's on, he's really on, but when you add it all up, there's a lot of "really off" there as well.
Aaron Hicks, OF, Rookie-Level GCL (Twins)
When Minnesota made Hicks the 14th pick in the draft this June, we knew what they were getting into. Hicks was without question one of the best combinations of athleticism and toolsiness available in the draft, but his baseball skills were a bit raw, though it seems that no one has told Hicks that. In an extra-inning marathon on Friday he went 4-for-7 with a double and his first professional home run, and followed that up with a three-hit effort on Saturday. Even with an 0-for-4 collar on Sunday, Hicks is hitting a healthy .327/.407/.462 in his first 12 games as a pro, with a surprising seven walks in 52 at-bats. Every one of Hicks' raw tools are above average, and they're showing themselves on the baseball field sooner than most expected.
Francisco Liriano, LHP, Triple-A Rochester (Twins)
While the Brewers are adding the best left-hander available in the trade deadline, the Twins might soon be adding their own elite-level southpaw, with no need for a deal to make it happen. While his return from Tommy John surgery has been running behind schedule, Liriano is slowly regaining form, firing shutout ball for the second consecutive time on Saturday, while allowing just three hits and striking out seven over six frames. His fastball still isn't what it used to be, sitting primarily in the low 90s, but scouts who have seen him lately think he's got plenty enough to take out big league hitters.
Jonathan Lucroy, C, High-A Brevard County (Brewers)
A third-round pick in the 2007 draft, Lucroy had an impressive debut in the Pioneer League last summer, and this year he's proving it was no fluke. After hitting .310/.391/.501 in the Sally League, the Brewers moved the 22-year-old backstop to the tough Florida State League in mid-June, and he's only gotten better. With a 5-for-12 weekend that included two home runs on Sunday, Lucroy is mashing to the tune of .351/.426/.649 in his first 16 games for the Manatees, with eight walks and just four strikeouts. He's no more than average defensively, but with this kind of bat, average is more than enough.
Dennis Raben, OF, Short-Season Everett (Mariners)
Raben entered this spring as one of three potential first-round picks on the University of Miami Hurricanes. While Yonder Alonso and Jemile Weeks exceeded expectations and were drafted even higher than initially expected, Raben had a disappointing junior year, as he dealt with some minor yet nagging injuries. That dropped him to Seattle with the 66th overall pick, and the Mariners couldn't have asked for a better debut weekend, as the slugger went 3-for-4 with a home run in his first pro game on Friday; followed that with a 3-for-3, two double night on Saturday; and finished up with a 2-for-3, two-double, two-walk night on Sunday. For you math whizzes, that's a 2346 OPS after three dominating performances. Raben is a big, hulking slugger with lots of bat and few other tools-but so far, so good.
Nick Weglarz, LF, High-A Kinston (Indians)
In a recent conversation with a scouting official, I was told that he believed Weglarz was on the brink of really taking off. He saw an exaggerated trigger in Weglarz' swing early in the year, and that trigger has slowly been reduced of late. Over the weekend, his tremendous raw power made some in-game appearances, when he hit his eighth home run of the year on Saturday, and went into double-digits with two more yesterday. Now at .270/.396/.448 as a 20-year-old in High-A, Weglarz remains well ahead of schedule, with more than enough time to continue making adjustments.
Matt Wieters, C, Double-A Bowie (Orioles)
It seemed like the Orioles took a little longer than expected when it came to moving the team's top prospect up to Double-A. Wieters hit .345/.448/.576 during his nearly three months in the Carolina League, and scouts were nearly unanimous in their calling him a man amongst boys there. Now playing up at Bowie, little has changed. Over the weekend, Wieters went 5-for-10, adding a home run on Sunday to up his Double-A numbers to .353/.463/.618 in 10 games with the Baysox-including seven walks and just three strikeouts in 34 at-bats. Now people are wondering if he's already proven to be too good for this league as well.
Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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