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April 27, 2009

Future Shock

Monday Ten Pack

by Kevin Goldstein

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Homer Bailey, RHP, Reds (Triple-A Louisville)
Bailey has been crowned as the savior of the Reds' rotation for some time now, but he's run into some frustrating bouts of inconsistency at the upper levels. Some mechanical changes this spring renewed his former promise, and the scouting reports were good, but they didn't carry over to the season: Bailey entered Sunday's start against Toledo with a 7.71 ERA. While two runs allowed over 6 1/3 innings didn't do much for his ERA, it doesn't say anything about just how dominating Bailey was, as the big number on his box score line was 15, as in 15 of his 19 outs were strikeouts. While it's too early to simply say he's back, it's hard to imagine a more promising sign.

Jeff Clement, C, Mariners (Triple-A Tacoma)
When Clement began the year 1-for-22, one wondered if we were seeing what is fairly commonplace in Triple-A: a top prospect thinks he should be in the majors, the top prospect instead goes to the minors, and then some combination of frustration, confusion, and anger hinder performance. I e-mailed Mike Curto, one of the best minor league play-by-play men you'll ever find, looking for some insight, and he assured me that nothing was wrong, and that Clement was hitting balls hard-just right at people. As always, Curto knew what he was talking about, as a seven-game Clement hitting streak since (including a 4-for-4 game on Friday, and a double and triple on Sunday) suddenly have his averages up to a far more respectable .264/.361/.472. It's still hard to figure out where he fits in with Seattle, but at least there's nothing to be concerned with performance-wise.

Caleb Gindl, OF, Brewers (High-A Brevard County)
The South Atlantic League was loaded with prospects last year, so Gindl flew under the radar while finishing among the circuit's top five in doubles, hits, and on-base percentage. Standing only 5'9", Gindl is the kind of player who gets the most out of limited tools and needs to keep performing to prevent scouts from focusing on what he doesn't do. He has hit everywhere he's gone, and this year is no different, as after a 7-for-12 weekend that included a pair of home runs, he's now hitting .397/.455/.621 in his first 16 games for the Manatees. If you love him, you compare him to Brian Giles, and while that seems more than a little over the top, the guy sure can hit.

Carlos Gutierrez, RHP, Twins (High-A Fort Myers)
The Twins tend to surprise people with their first-round picks. In 2007, it was Ben Revere, and last year it was Gutierrez. It's not that people didn't like these players, it's just that they didn't necessarily profile as first-round talents on most organization's boards. For Gutierrez, it was a casting issue. He was one of the best closers in the college game last year at Miami, but he didn't really have that classic closer stuff, depending more on throwing strikes with three pitches and getting tons of ground-ball outs with a plus-plus sinker. That sinker was on display Saturday night, as Gutierrez allowed just two hits over seven innings, and while he struck out just one hitter, 17 of the other 20 outs were ground balls. With a 0.50 ERA in 18 innings this year, even more impressive are his 36 ground-ball outs against just seven of the fly-ball type. He's not in possession of a huge ceiling, but everything is in place for a quick ascension.

Mike Leake, RHP, Arizona State (NCAA)
"He's making it hard to ignore," is how one scout sees Leake, who just keeps pitching well seemingly every time out. He's about six feet tall, his fastball sits at average velocity in the 88-92 mph range, but everything else about him grades above average, from his athleticism to his secondary stuff to his command and control. On Friday, it was yet another outstanding start, a complete-game five-hitter against an impressive California lineup that lowered his ERA to 1.54 in 81 2/3 innings while allowing only 50 hits and compiling an impressive strikeout-to-walk ratio of 90-16. In a draft with so much uncertainty, Leake offers the kind of consistency that could push him up further than the raw tools might normally allow.

Chuck Lofgren, LHP, Indians (Double-A Akron)
Two years ago, Lofgren was generally seen as one of the better left-handed prospects in the minors. Since then, it's been a rough two years at Double-A for Lofgren, who has seen his stuff slide while dealing with some questions about his effort (and/or lack thereof). He worked hard during the spring on a new delivery that was designed to simplify his inconsistent mechanics, and the results so far have been outstanding. After allowing just one earned run in each of his two starts, Lofgren fired six no-hit innings on Sunday, walking one and striking out seven. The two off years give Lofgren some red flags, as he's suddenly a 23-year-old pitching in the Eastern League for the third consecutive season, but his past and what is rapidly becoming his present are keeping his blip on the prospect radar lit.

A.J. Pollock, OF, Notre Dame (NCAA)
Pollock did his part in trying to separate himself from the pack of good-but-not-great college position players by going 6-for-12 over the weekend with home runs on Friday and Saturday and a pair of doubles on Sunday, upping his season averages to .364/.457/.578 as Notre Dame's leadoff man. He's not the toolsiest guy in the world, but he has a quick bat, gap power, speed that is average to a tick above, and outstanding fundamentals. In this draft, that should be a sure-fire combination for a team selecting in the second half of the first round.

Nolan Reimold, OF, Orioles (Triple-A Norfolk)
Reimold is the best hitting prospect in the Orioles system not named Wieters, so he's more than a little overshadowed. He's not an elite-level prospect, but most see him as a solid but unspectacular everyday player who makes up for a good batting average with power and walks. This year, his average is more than decent, as after a 4-for-10 weekend, it actually slipped a bit to .417. The secondary skills are more than still there, as he went deep on Friday and added two more bombs Sunday, including one off of David Price to give Reimold six on the year and a .750 slugging percentage. Adam Jones and Nick Markakis make up one of the most exciting young outfields in the game, but currently Felix Pie isn't keeping up his end of the bargain to make it a threesome, which could lead to an opportunity for Reimold sooner rather than later.

Ryan Strieby, 1B, Tigers (Double-A Erie)
Strieby didn't get a lot of attention last year, but he certainly deserved it by leading the Florida State League with 29 home runs and needing just 112 games to do so. Entering the year as the eighth-ranked prospect in Detroit's system, the former University of Kentucky star hit a pair of home runs in his first game for Erie, but then went 12 games without going deep. He made up for it this weekend with home runs on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday as part of a 5-for-12 weekend that included 10 RBI and lifted his season averages to .309/.424/.655. He's a big, hulking slugger who is eternally blocked by Miguel Cabrera as a Tiger, but in a system desperate for prospects, Detroit will take anything they can get.

Brett Wallace, 3B, Cardinals (Double-A Springfield)
It's been a streaky April for the 2008 first-round pick; he slugged a pair of home runs and drove in six on Opening Day, but followed that up with a 4-for-30 slump. Consider him hot again, because Wallace slugged walk-off home runs on both Friday and Saturday, added two runs and a hit on Sunday, and is now batting .290/.450/.516 in his first 16 games. As to how rare the back-to-back walk-off homers are, our data guru Bil Burke crunched the numbers and found that it's only happened seven times since 1954, with the last being Albert Belle in 1995.

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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