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April 10, 2009

Future Shock

Friday's Monday Ten Pack

by Kevin Goldstein

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When it's Opening Day, one can't wait until Monday for a Ten Pack.

Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pirates (Hi-A Lynchburg)
Yesterday, I wrote about the possibility that Alvarez' assignment to the Carolina League was designed partially as a confidence builder. Consider it built, as Alvarez' pro debut went just fine, thank you very much; the second overall pick in last year's draft went 3-for-4 with a double, a home run, and four RBI in the Hillcats' 6-5 win over Potomac. While I'm not comparing him to Matt Wieters as a prospect, he's likely on the Wieters timetable-set up to dominate the Carolina League for a few months, hopefully do the same in the Double-A Eastern League when he advances to Altoona, and be ready for the big leagues a year from now.

Gordon Beckham, SS, White Sox (Double-A Birmingham)
One of the loudest buzzes in Arizona this spring involved Beckham, who made a real run at the big-league second-base job to begin the year despite having just 14 games of professional experience under his belt. Based on his first game at the upper levels, this one might not take long, as the 2008 first-round pick out of Georgia went 4-for-6 with a double, three runs scored, and an RBI in a 5-4 win over Chattanooga, and that RBI was the key one-a game-winning single in the 11th inning. Up by September? Don't be surprised.

Tim Beckham, SS, Rays (Low-A Bowling Green)
Last summer, my inbox was inundated by "What's wrong with Tim Beckham?" e-mails, as the #1 overall pick in the draft struggled in his pro debut, batting just .243/.297/.245 in the Appy League. The answer, of course, was that nothing was wrong with Tim Beckham. Debuts are often difficult for a number of reasons, but the talent eventually shines through. Before the days of 24/7 minor league coverage, Chipper Jones hit .229/.271/.321 in the Gulf Coast League, and two years later, in the same circuit, Derek Jeter hit just .202/.296/.312. Nobody panicked, nor should they have, and the same is true with Beckham, who began this year by going 2-for-5 with a home run off of Rangers Top 11 prospect Wilfredo Boscan in an 8-3 win over Hickory. Those e-mails from last year will be replaced by "Just How Good is Tim Beckham?" e-mails in short order.

Brian Bogusevic, OF, Astros (Triple-A Round Rock)
Last year's transformation from crappy pitcher to really good outfielder was borderline shocking, as having not played in the outfield since 2005, the former Tulane star hit .349/.433/.537 in 50 games. Assigned to Triple-A to begin the season, Bogusevic is now out to prove that it was no fluke, and Opening Night he made a strong statement in his favor, going 2-for-3 with a walk, two runs scored, and a towering home run off of reliever Jeff Samardzija in a 10-4 win over the I-Cubs. In a system desperate for prospects, especially at the hitting level, Bogusevic is a shining beacon, and it's not as if Michael Bourn will be any kind of a roadblock.

Tony Delmonico, C, Dodgers (Low-A Great Lakes)
The son of a coach who plays with all the effort one expects from those types, last year's sixth-round pick hit .340/.443/.716 in the Pioneer League last year, while also proving that he just doesn't have the chops to play in the infield. The solution? Make him a catcher. Game one was a rousing success, as Delmonico went 3-for-4 with a pair of walks, a triple, two home runs, four runs scored, and three RBI in a 14-3 thrashing of Dayton. Behind the plate, things were mixed; he was charged with a passed ball and Dayton tested his arm, running three times and getting caught once. Sometimes this kind of transition works (with Craig Biggio as the poster boy), and sometimes it doesn't (see Sergio Pedroza), but it's definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Brad Emaus, 2B, Blue Jays (Double-A New Hampshire)
I really like this guy. He ranked seventh on my Top 11 prospects list for the Jays, and I'm already worried he was too low. After leading the Florida State League in runs scored last year while finishing among the league leaders in several other categories, Emaus cracked three doubles in his Double-A debut on Wednesday and added three more hits last night, including his fourth double of the year, in a 4-3 win over New Britain. Yes, he's short and kind of squat, and his range at second base isn't going to impress anyone, but the guy can hit. I might be over-reacting here after whiffing so hard on Dustin Pedroia, but again, the guy can hit.

Tommy Hanson, RHP, Braves (Triple-A Gwinnett)
Last year, Tommy Hanson began the season with a bang, striking out 13 over five no-hit innings for Myrtle Beach. A year later, he's on the brink of the big leagues, and once again, his opening shot was loud. Kept on a strict pitch count, Hanson delivered 4 1/3 shutout innings using 84 pitches, allowing three hits, walking two, and got 10 of his 13 outs by strikeout. Out a scouting level, it was vintage Hanson, as his fastball ranged from 90-95 mph, and all three of his secondary pitches (curve, slider, changeup) rated as average or plus as the G-Braves rolled over Charlotte 9-1. He's going to get to the big leagues by the All-Star break at the latest, but Hanson is doing his best to accelerate that process.

Gregory Infante, RHP, White Sox (Low-A Kannapolis)
Sleeper Alert! Infante is just one of those guys-and every organization has a few-a live-armed kid who for whatever reason just hasn't put it all together. For Infante, it was certainly all together on Opening Night as the 21-year-old Venezuelan put up the best pitching line of the evening, striking out 11 over six no-hit innings while walking two, but still facing the minimum of 18 batters thanks to a caught stealing and a double play as the Intimidators edged Asheville 1-0 in ten innings. Long-armed and brimming with projection, Infante sits with plus velocity but can ramp it up to 94-96 mph with a clean delivery and excellent arm action. The White Sox need some prospects to step up in a shallow system, and Infante just made himself an excellent candidate for such a leap forward.

Matt LaPorta, OF, Indians (Triple-A Columbus)
We can officially stop worrying about LaPorta's second half last year. After a big spring training showing, he kicked off the season with a 3-for-5 night, including two doubles and a home run in the Clipper's 12-4 win over Louisville. I can't see the Indians feeling any pressure to show that they've gotten a good return for CC Sabathia in last year's blockbuster, but LaPorta might end up in the big leagues sooner than expected, because he's just a better option than Ben Francisco in left field, and will give the team a better opportunity to compete in the wide-open American League Central.

Brett Wallace, 3B, Cardinals (Double-A Springfield)
The countdown can probably begin now, as with an injured Troy Glaus in the last year of his contract, Wallace is quickly putting his name in permanent marker at the top of the 2010 depth chart. He had one of the biggest lines of Opening Day, taking advantage of a howling wind to go 4-for-5 with two home runs, four runs, and six RBI in a 16-4 walloping of Frisco. The questions about Wallace are far more about his defense at third than anything he does with the bat; it's hard to find a scout who doesn't think he's going to mash, and there are very few who don't think he'll be ready by the end of the year.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

Related Content:  Tommy Hanson,  The Who,  Triple-A

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