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August 25, 2008

Future Shock

Monday Ten Pack

by Kevin Goldstein

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Brian Bogusevic, OF, Double-A Corpus Christi (Astros)
In the spring of 2005, Bogusevic was one of the top two-way players in the country, serving not only as Tulane's ace, but also as a tools-laden center fielder with above-average speed and power potential. A hamstring injury limited him primarily to mound duties, and the Astros took him in the first round as a power left-hander. While that didn't work out, his converting back to the outfield was something some scouts had been hoping for, as his batting practices were among the most impressive to be seen in a weak Astros chain. That conversion began in July after another brutal campaign on the mound, and it's been a smashing success. Over the weekend, Bogusevic went 7-for-11 to raise his averages to .359/.445/.553 in the Texas League, and while he had dropped well off of most Astros prospect rankings as a lefty, he's back on them-and very highly ranked-as an outfielder.

David Bromberg, RHP, Low-A Beloit (Twins)
Ranked the 10th-best prospect in the system coming into the year, Bromberg's full-season debut has not exactly lived up to expectations, as his ERA has hung around the five mark for much of the season. The good news is that he's finishing on a high note; on Sunday, Bromberg whiffed a career-high 13 in 6 2/3 innings, and in his last four starts he's allowed two earned runs over 24 2/3 innings while punching out 38. At six-foot-five and 240 pounds, Bromberg is a massive presence on the mound, and he has two plus pitches with a heavy low-90s fastball and power curve. While he has an acceptable walk rate with 52 in 143 innings, he is still prone to bouts of wildness, as evidenced by 15 wild pitches and 17 hit batters, but he does miss bats-the most important ability in a young arm-so despite the unimpressive ERA, he's still an impressive prospect.

Brett Cecil, LHP, Triple-A Syracuse (Blue Jays)
Cecil was a closer at the University of Maryland, but the Blue Jays didn't surprise anyone by converting him to starter after spending a supplemental first-round pick on him last year, as he always had a deep enough arsenal to make the transition. What has been surprising is how quickly he's moved through the system. Starting the year at High-A Dunedin, a moderately aggressive first full-season assignment as it is, he lasted just four outings before moving up to Double-A, where he had a 2.55 ERA in 18 starts before moving up another level last month. On Saturday, Cecil delivered his second straight outing of seven shutout innings, only this time he did it by holding his opponent hitless while walking two and striking out five. Across three levels, he's allowed just 94 hits in 113 1/3 innings while compiling an impressive 124-to-37 K/BB ratio thanks to excellent command of a low-90s sinker, a fantastic slider, and a solid change. Once a moribund system, the last two drafts have turned the Blue Jays into a team with some interesting things coming, and we'll see to yet another arm in a short while.

Jordan Danks, OF, Low-A Kannapolis (White Sox)
Three years ago, Danks was one of the top high school outfielders in the game, but he stuck to his college commitment. Hindsight being 20-20, he probably should have came out, as he had a three-year career at the University of Texas that wound up well below expectations. With teams leery of his bonus demands, Danks fell to the seventh round this June, and he held out until the deadline, finally signing for a $525,000 bonus. His pro career has started off well, however, as he went 6-for-12 over the weekend with his first professional home run, giving him a .400 batting average and six RBI in his first five games with the Intimidators. It's far too early to project when he'll be joining his older brother John in the White Sox clubhouse, but he's one of the best position-player prospects in a system that entered the year desperate for anything in that department.

Cedric Hunter, OF, High-A Lake Elsinore (Padres)
A highly-regarded player early on after earning Arizona Summer League MVP honors in 2006, Hunter's full-season debut last year was a bit of a clunker, as he put up a .282/.344/.373 line for Low-A Lake Elsinore while not showing scouts much of anything in the way of tools. Those tools are still hard to find this year... except for his bat. With three straight multi-hit games over the weekend and 11 such efforts in his last 18 contests, Hunter is now batting .324/.366/.449 for the Storm while leading the minors with 181 hits. The tools still have scouts wondering where he fits in the end; he's no more than an average runner, which leaves him a bit fringy in center, and his power and arm are both a bit below average, and he also doesn't walk much. As an everyday center fielder, he's a bit short defensively, and as a corner guy, he's a bit short offensively. He's a prospect, but a bit of a weird one.

Darryl Jones, OF, Double-A Springfield (Cardinals)
Entering the 2007 season, I ranked the ultra-toolsy Jones as the fifth-best prospect in the Cardinals system based almost solely on projection. He rewarded my optimism with a .217/.304/.296 line in his full-season debut. That kind of performance dropped him right off of most radars, but he's back with a vengeance this year, as his tools have blossomed into baseball skills at a remarkable rate. Beginning the year in the High-A Florida State League, Jones suddenly started doing everything right, batting a downright shocking .326/.406/.476 before moving up to Double-A, where, rather than slowing down, he's actually sped up. With a 9-for-15 weekend that included home runs on Saturday and Sunday, Jones is now hitting .333/.467/.583 in 28 Texas League games, and he's not only back on the Cardinals prospect lists, but is getting plenty of Top-100 consideration as well.

Zach McAllister, RHP, High-A Tampa (Yankees)
A third-round pick out of a small Illinois high school two years ago, the Yankees took it slow with McAllister after signing him, and he didn't pitch in a full-season league until this year. Now, he's moving quickly; with a 2.45 ERA in 10 Low-A starts for Charleston, McAllister was sent up to the Florida State League at the end of May, where the 20-year-old has proven that he should be ready for Double-A next year. With five shutout innings on Sunday, McAlister has pitched scoreless baseball in five of his last six games, lowering his Tampa ERA to 1.83 in 88 2/3 innings. A big, big kid at 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds, McAllister uses his size to generate low-90s velocity on his outstanding sinker, to go along with a solid breaking ball and changeup-while all of his pitches grade up a tick due to plus-plus command. It's not the kind of package that gives you a stud all that often, but it's easy to project him as a big-league starter, and those are hard enough to find as it is.

Brad Mills, LHP, Double-A New Hampshire (Blue Jays)
A fourth-round pick as a senior last year, Mills doesn't exactly thrill scouts with his size or stuff, but at this point, his numbers are becoming impossible to ignore. After starting the year at Low-A Lansing, Mills has moved across three levels in the Blue Jays system, and gotten better with each ascension, putting up a 1.15 ERA for High-A Dunedin, and lowering his Double-A mark to 1.10 in six starts after seven shutout innings on Sunday. In the end, Mills is a trick pitcher. He has average velocity for a lefty, and a solid curve ball, but two parts of his game have given him remarkable success. The first is a plus-plus changeup that just falls off of the table, and the second is a highly deceptive delivery that hides the ball behind his body and head, making it very difficult to pick up. Scouts see the tricks as good enough to work all the way up the ladder, projecting him as a fourth or fifth starter in the big leagues.

Drew Stubbs, OF, Triple-A Louisville (Reds)
The eighth overall pick in 2006, Stubbs saved last year's poor full-season debut by finishing strong thanks to an adjusted swing that greatly reduced his alarming strikeout rate. He got off to another slow start this year, batting an average (at best) .261/.366/.406 for High-A Sarasota, but once again, he's finishing strong. Moved up to Double-A in July, Stubbs hit .315/.400/.402 for Double-A Chattanooga, and in 11 Triple-A games, he's now at .348/.412/.587 following a weekend that featured a trio of two-hit games. On the level of toolsiness, Stubbs has it all: he's big, strong, fast, and one of the best defensive center fielders in the minors. The only real question now is how much power has been sapped from his game, for while he has reduced his strikeout rate from one every 3.5 at-bats last year to roughly one every four this year, he's hit only seven home runs in 441 at-bats. He's a better prospect than he was a year ago, but he is also a different one.

Brett Wallace, 3B, Double-A Springfield (Cardinals)
Wallace certainly deserves a Ten Pack mention this week, as this June's first-round pick has already moved up to Double-A, hit a home run on Saturday, smacked two more on Sunday, and has 20 total bases in his first 20 Texas League at-bats. That said, I don't think anyone is all that surprised that Wallace has an overall batting line of .341/.430/.549 in his first 46 pro games. The guy can hit-nobody questions that at all-although many still wonder where the defensive liability fits in with the Cardinals big-league roster, and at this rate, they'll need to come up with an answer more quickly than expected.

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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