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July 28, 2008

Future Shock

Monday Ten Pack

by Kevin Goldstein

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J.P. Arencibia, C, Double-A New Hampshire (Blue Jays)
When one talks about hitters in the Blue Jays system at the advanced levels, the conversation usually begins and ends with Travis Snider. However, don't forget about Arencibia, the former Tennessee catcher and one of two first-round picks from 2007 for the organization. After hitting .315 with 13 home runs in 59 Florida State League games, Arencibia has moved up to Double-A, where he has shown even more power, blasting his ninth home run of the year on Saturday for New Hampshire in just 136 at-bats. Yet he's done this in relative anonymity; how many people know that on the season, Arencibia has two more home runs than Matt Wieters? To be fair, he's not on the same prospect level as Wieters, and he's drawn just two walks in 34 Eastern League games for a somewhat strange .287/.300/.522 line, but real catching prospects of any kind are a rare commodity; ones with power even more so.

Emilio Bonifacio, 2B, Triple-A Columbus (Nationals)
Many in the industry were surprised that Bonifacio was all that the Nationals received in return for reliever Jon Rauch. He was hitting .302/.348/.387 at Triple-A Tuscon at the time of the swap, and his skill set had seen little evolution over the past three years. He is what he is-an absolute burner with little or no power (nor the projection for any), who lacks the plate discipline to hit at the top of the order or the arm to play on the left side of the infield. Nonetheless, he's making a good first impression with his new team, going 10-for-16 with seven runs scored and three walks in his first four games. He's not great, but he's better than Felipe Lopez.

Erik Cordier, RHP, Low-A Rome (Braves)
Speaking of first impressions, Cordier took more than a year to make one with Atlanta. Acquired from the Royals last year for shortstop Tony Pena Jr., Cordier missed all of last season recovering from Tommy John surgery, and despite previously showing loads of promise, he was entering the season with just 87 1/3 professional innings under his belt. Sent to Rome after a trio of warm-up outings in the Gulf Coast League, Cordier is once again showing promise, allowing just three hits and one run over 5 2/3 innings on Friday night, which actually raised his ERA to 1.56 in four starts. His velocity is already clicking in the low 90s and touching 96, and his above-average changeup has hard, late fade. He's struggling to command his curveball, a common problem for those coming back from TJ surgery, but it projects as an average offering at least. If he can stay healthy, he's a very solid pitching prospect.

Anthony Hewitt, 3B, Rookie-level GCL Phillies
Hewitt's entry into the game was well-publicized; he was the best athlete in this year's draft, a player that some scouts scored as a perfect 80 on raw power, speed, and arm. The only problem was that nobody really thought he was a very good baseball player yet. Nevertheless, the Phillies love athletes, so they took him with their first-round selection, and so far he's exceeded expectations. After a two-hit game on Friday, Hewett went 4-for-7 with two doubles and his first professional home run in a Saturday doubleheader, raising his debut-season averages to .333/.385/.583. He also drew his first walk of the year (it took him ten games) and made a couple of errorless starts at third base, a 'read and react' position that might work better for him than those requiring game instincts.

Chin-Lung Hu, SS, Triple-A Las Vegas (Dodgers)
Dodgers injury problems gave Hu his first extended big-league look, and he crashed and burned by hitting just .159/.224/.206. It takes quite a bit to recover one's prospect status after that kind of disaster, but Hu is doing his best back in the Pacific Coast League, going 4-for-5 with a double and two triples on Saturday, and following that up with a perfect 3-for-3 night on Sunday, bringing his averages with the 51s up to .400/.429/.575 in 11 error-free games. Don't write him off yet.

Shooter Hunt, RHP, Low-A Beloit (Twins)
In the first half of the spring, Hunter looked like one of the top college arms in the country, but as his performances in the second half slid downward, so did his draft stock. It was a surprise to see him fall all the way out of the first round, but he was scooped up by the Twins with the first supplemental pick. Since signing for a seven-figure bonus, Hunt has once again looked like that pitcher the scouts saw in the first part of the college season, absolutely dominating in four Appy League outings by allowing just four hits in 19 innings while striking out 34. That was enough for a quick promotion to a full-season league, and in Saturday's Midwest League debut, he dominated once again, striking out nine over five frames while giving up one run on three hits. He has two plus pitches and a solid changeup, and when he throws strikes, he can be a dominating force. If he keeps showing the plus command that he did early in the season, he could be a draft day steal.

Jon Lucroy, C, High-A Brevard County (Brewers)
A third-round pick in 2007, Lucroy hit .342/.383/.487 last year in the Pioneer League, but didn't get much attention since college guys raking in that environment are hardly a rare occurrence. He then hit .310/.391/.510 in 65 Sally League games to start this season, but still didn't get much attention, as college guys raking in that environment are hardly a rare occurrence. With two-hit games on Saturday and Sunday, including a home run yesterday, Lucroy is now hitting .333/.390/.516 in 35 Florida State League contests, and it's time to start paying attention. His defense was a question mark in college, but like his offense, it's continually improved, as he's nailed 20 of 34 attempted base stealers since the promotion to High-A. He's now one of the better catching prospects in the game, so pay attention.

Vince Mazzaro, RHP, Double-A Midland (Athletics)
Here's another guy to watch. How many people are aware that Mazzaro has a sub-two ERA in the Texas League? After seven shutout innings and a 1.50 ERA in his last ten starts, Mazzaro has a 1.97 mark in 21 starts overall for the RockHounds, allowing 112 hits in 132 1/3 innings while striking out 99. He does not have monster stuff, but excellent command of a plus sinker turns him into a strike-throwing ground-ball machine that should eat innings at the big-league level for years to come. He's not blowing away scouts at the Futures Game, he's not gaining attention by signing record bonuses, but he's still one of the top pitching prospects, even in a crowded Oakland system.

Mike Moustakas, 3B, Low-A Burlington (Royals)
After a disturbingly slow start, Moustakas is continuing to show why he was the second overall pick in last year's draft. After going 5-for-12 over the weekend with a pair of home runs, Moustakas' averages are now up to a far more respectable .255/.318/.425, and he's tied for fourth in the Midwest League with 14 homers. Moved to third base in early June, he seems far more comfortable at the hot corner than he did at shortstop. While there is some work to do fundamentally on defense, he's made just one error in his last 23 games and has soft hands and a plus-plus arm. Early in the year, people were wondering who the Royals' top prospect would be if Moustakas didn't work out. With a .321/.397/.519 line since the All-Star break, nobody is wondering anymore.

Brandon Wood, SS, Triple-A Salt Lake (Angels)
A lot of people have given up on Brandon Wood, because in 97 big league at-bats he's hit a miserable .134/.160/.216, and his propensity to strike out in the minors has become disturbing. Many in the scouting community, however, have not given up on him, and with the trade deadline approaching, some teams see Wood as a the perfect "change of scenery" candidate, despite the Angels being historically conservative when it comes to trading prospects. To his credit, Wood is doing his best to help himself back in the Pacific Coast League, going 7-for-12 with two home runs over the weekend, and 16-for-36 with seven home runs in his last ten games (.288/.355/.573 on the season). Scouts are taking note, and teams are placing him high on their want list when it comes to talks with the Angels.

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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