July 22, 2009
Future Shock Blog
The hits just keep coming
Jon Gaston, OF, Astros (High-A Lancaster)
Tuesday's stats: 2-for-3, 2 HR (27), 2 R, 2 RBI, BB, K
A day after getting credit for crazy numbers, even in a crazy great ballpark for hitting, Gaston upped the crazy a bit by smacking two more bombs. His .310/.397/.676 line is a thing to behold, but keep in mind that he's slugging .800 at home, and with 100 strikeouts in 96 games, he's going to have trouble hitting for a high average once he moves to more normalized environments.
Another Oriole arm to know
Zach Britton, LHP, Orioles (High-A Frederick)
Tuesday's stats: 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R (0 ER), 0 BB, 7 K
A third-round pick in 2006 out of a Texas high school, Britton lowered his Carolina League ERA to 2.66 with last night's start, good for second in the circuit, and the scouts are speaking just as highly as his numbers. With a low-90s sinker than generates as many groundballs as it does swings and misses, along with a solid slider a changup, many evaluators think he's just one step below the much-hyped trio of Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta.
Some good news for Pirates fans
Jose Tabata, OF, Pirates (Double-A Altoona)
Tuesday's stats: 4-for-5, 2 2B, RBI, K
Once one of the bright young bats in the Yankees system, Tabata lost a bit of luster before moving to Pittsburgh in last year's Xavier Nady deal. He got national attention for all of the wrong reasons this spring with a story involving his wife and the theft of a baby that was worthy of Jerry Springer. It's easy to forget that Tabata is still only 20 years old and, after a slow start, he's batting .364/.405/.494 this month.
Stretching the arm out
Andrew Cashner, RHP, Cubs (Double-A Tennessee)
Tuesday's stats: 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K
Cashner was the best college reliever in last year's draft, but the Cubs saw a 6-foot-6 frame and three quality pitches, and decided to slowly convert him back to a starting role. They've done so incredibly cautiously, as even in late July, his pitch count is still at 80, but last night was the best start of his career The former Texas Christian star faced just 19 batters in six innings. While he's not getting up to 98 mph as he did in shorter stints, he's sitting at 92-94 and featuring a plus slider and solid change.
More crazy numbers in the Cal League
Thomas Neal, OF, Giants (High-A San Jose)
Tuesday's stats: 2-for-3, HR (17), 2 R, 3 RBI, BB
Sure it's still the Cal League, but San Jose isn't the pinball machine that Lancaster is, so Neal's batting line of .345/.430/.621 is far more impressive, and the fact that scouts were always intrigued by his athleticism helps his cause. When he got off to a big start, he was just a guy to keep an eye on, but he has graduated to a full-fledged, legitimate prospect.
Not as exciting as Casey Kelly, but in its own way, much cooler
Lance Niekro, RHP, Braves (GCL Braves)
Tuesday's stats: 6 IP, 1 H, 3 R (0 ER), 3 BB, 0 K
A second-round pick by the Giants in 2000, Niekro spent parts of four years in the big leagues as a first baseman, batting .248/.288/.421 in 499 at-bats. The son of the late Joe Niekro, who won 221 big league games, Lance was released early last year, but had always thrown a knuckleball in warm-ups as a joke. His father taught him the pitch when Lance was a teenager, and under the tutelage of his uncle Phil, he refined it a bit and the Braves decided to give him a shot. As a 30-year-old pitching in the Gulf Coast League, he has got a long way to go, but it's real hard not to root for this one.
Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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