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July 2, 2009

Future Shock

Represent!

by Kevin Goldstein

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After yesterday's review of dream-crushing evaluations, let's accentuate the positive and look at some players that are generating more glowing reactions from scouts.

Few prospects have had a more impressive return from Tommy John surgery than Phillies righty Kyle Drabek. With much cleaner mechanics and better control, the 2006 first-round pick had a 2.48 ERA in 10 appearances for High-A Clearwater, and actually pitched better than that, striking out 74 in 61 2/3 innings while walking just 19 and limited the league to a .218 batting average. He's been nearly as impressive at Double-A Reading, with a 2.43 ERA in five starts.

One scout who recently saw him there walked away impressed, observing, "He's significantly smoother now, and I really like him; he's going 95-96 mph in the first inning, and that curveball is a big-time hammer with a great arm stroke." Drabek's smallish frame and injury history contribute to the trouble many have figuring out exactly which direction his path will take him, but the scout saw him succeeding in a variety of roles. "He really could be anything," the scout surmised, "I could see him starting, I could see him relieving... he could have a lot of different careers, but they're all good ones."

White Sox center fielder Jordan Danks never lived up to expectations at the University of Texas, but after receiving an over-slot $525,000 bonus as a seventh-round pick last June, he's almost been a revelation. He was initially batting .322/.409/.525 at High-A Winston-Salem, and has since had little trouble adjusting to more advanced pitching at Double-A, posting a .308/.387/.442 line for Birmingham before being sidelined with a wrist injury.

"I came away impressed with him," said one scout, "he reminded me of Jordan Schafer with a little less power and a little more hitability," he added, while adding praise for Danks' overall game. "He plays a very good center field, he works the counts, he does all of the little things; he's an everyday big leaguer for sure."

With a .258/.329/.343 batting line at Single-A Augusta, it's hard for Giants shortstop Ehire Adrianza to generate much attention in the box scores, but then again it's his glove work that's generating a lot of buzz among scouts. "You watch him take one ground ball, and you are sold," said one evaluator, who added that on overall future defensive potential, the 19-year-old Venezuelan is, "the best shortstop I've seen this year." He doesn't offer much with the bat, but the scout believed it would be enough to make him and everyday player in the end. "He has a good swing, and they're going to give him every chance to figure out how to hit, because he is a top-end defender, and it's so comforting to have a guy like that behind the pitcher."

Rangers righty Blake Beavan is one of the more difficult prospects to figure out. Drafted in the first round two years ago as a six-foot-seven monster with mid-90s heat, the Rangers had to smooth out Beavan's ultra-violent mechanics, and while the velocity has dropped significantly since his high school days, one scout who has seen him in each of the last two years still sees him as a solid big-league starter.

"He's only 20 years old and he's in the Texas League, he throws a lot of strikes, he's not afraid to challenge hitters, and he has enough stuff to make it work," said the scout, while adding that Beavan has become a much more complete pitcher this year, and one more comfortable with his secondary offerings. "When I saw him last year at [Single-A] Clinton, he threw maybe one changeup for me, and this year a threw a bunch and has a real feel for it; the Rangers have done a nice job backing him off the power game and turning him into a guy with a good mix of pitches."

So while he's morphed into something unexpected, the scout was still bullish on Beavan's future, stating, "It's not a top of the rotation special prospect package, but it's a nice big guy with strikes and three pitches who should eat up a lot of innings."

Very little has been heard from Cubs righty Chris Huseby since he signed for a whopping $1.3 million bonus in 2006 as an 11th-round pick. Entering the year with less than 100 innings of pro experience in three years, and none of it in a full-season league, Huseby began this year as a relatively anonymous factor in the bullpen at Single-A Peoria. However, he has turned into one of the circuit's best relievers, with 40 strikeouts in 28 2/3 innings, and even more surprising, just two walks.

A pair of scouts who saw Huseby throw this year both agree that he's back on track. "He's backing up a dominant cutter with a plus slider, so the way he's going, it's got to end up being capable of helping out a big-league bullpen." The second scout was just as impressed, but couldn't help still holding a bit of trepidation based on Huseby's past. "He's been up to 93 mph for me, and gets swings and misses with that cutter," the scout explained, while going further about his concerns, "he holds his delivery pretty for a 6-foot-7 guy and he's throwing a ton of strikes, but it's a bit scary as when you look at last year [when he walked more than a batter per inning] there is a fear he could go south in a hurry."

Still, living in the now, Huseby remains a well thought-of prospect. "Right now, it's two legitimate big-league pitches, and he's got a real chance to be a nice set-up guy."

Jason Varitek's long and successful run in Boston has coincided with the organization's inability to develop catching talent, but one scout thinks they might be onto something with Mark Wagner. A ninth-round pick in 2005, Wagner has a miserable 2008 campaign, but has bounced back with a .301/.410/.477 line at Double-A Portland before getting promoted to Triple-A earlier in the week.

That kind of offense, paired with what was already plus defensive work is what excited one veteran scout. "I think he is underrated," he said, "I like him as a backup on a good club or even a solid short-term regular," he added, while heaping on the praise about his defense. "He's a good blocker back there, his footwork and exchange let his arm play up, he calls a good game, works well with pitchers and surprises you with his power," he added, while observing that he saw just enough bat for the big leagues: "He's cheating a bit with his lower half, but he'll surprise you once in a while with his power."

More Drops of Sunshine

Adrian Cardenas, 2B/SS/3B, Athletics (Double-A Midland): "Such a nice short and compact swing, he's definitely going to hit, and I could see him growing into some power down the road with 10-15 home runs a year."

Alcides Escobar, SS, Brewers (Triple-A Nashville):"He could be in the big leagues this year, and in the end, I could see him batting out of the two-hole. He could be an Edgar Renteria type of player."

Derek Norris, C, Nationals (Low-A Hagerstown): "He's a real gamer, almost a throwback kind of guy. Athletic and strong, can work the count and hit home runs, and he was better defensively than I was told coming in."

Justin Smoak, 1B, Rangers (Double-A Frisco): "The ball comes off his bat so hard... he's going to make Rangers fans not miss Mark Teixeira all that much."

Josh Thole, C, Mets (Double-A Binghamton): "Great approach, great makeup, I could see him lasting in the big leagues for a long time... almost a Darrin Fletcher, part two."

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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