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September 17, 2009

Future Shock

Great Leaps Forward, NL

by Kevin Goldstein

Arizona Diamondbacks: A 15th-round pick in 2007, right-hander Josh Collmenter continued to prove he can miss bats at High-A, striking out 152 over 145 1/3 innings at Visalia. At 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, he has the big frame of an innings-eater, and he has the stuff as well, with a average-velocity fastball grading up due to his ability to locate the pitch, and he adds a variety of spins to the offering.
Runner-up: Paul Goldschmidt was an eighth-round pick in June, and while college players putting up big numbers in the Pioneer League should always be evaluated with a grain of salt, in just 74 games he ended up leading the organization with 18 home runs as part of a .334/.408/.638 line at Missoula.

Atlanta Braves: After struggling with some minor shoulder problems last year, southpaw Jose Ortegano got better as the season rolled on, finishing with a 2.83 ERA in eight Double-A starts to end the year. Venezuelan, left-handed, and possessing a plus change, his Myrtle Beach teammates jokingly called him "Santana Dos."
Runner-up: A sixth-round pick in 2008, outfielder Adam Milligan began the year in extended spring training and left many wondering what he would have done will a full year, as he hit .344/.393/.592 across three teams, with most of the damage done for Low-A Rome.

Chicago Cubs: Outfielder Kyler Burke always had intriguing size and athleticism, and those qualities began to translate into performance on the field with a .303/.405/.505 line at Low-A Peoria that also involved his chipping in 15 home runs, 14 stolen bases, and 78 walks. If some of his 43 doubles turn into home runs, look out.
Runner-up: Righty Chris Carpenter has first-round stuff, but a long injury history dropped him to the third round last year. But he stayed healthy all year, earned a pair of promotions, and finished with a 2.82 ERA in 27 starts while consistently throwing 94-95 mph fastballs.

Cincinnati Reds: A second-round pick in 2005 who had all but fallen off the radar after a pair of mediocre seasons (at best), Travis Wood is a short, stocky lefty whose best pitch is a changeup, but he was one of the best pitchers in the minors this year, compiling a 1.77 ERA in 27 starts between Double- and Triple-A.
Runner-up: As a 17th-round pick, outfielder Chris Heisey has gotten little attention despite performing at every level, but everyone is starting to pay attention after another big year at the plate, as he delivered a .314/.379/.521 line split between Cincy's two upper-level affiliates.

Colorado Rockies: There was some mystery as to how Christian Friedrich slipped to the 25th overall pick in last year's draft, and now teams are wondering why they passed on him, as he's now one of the top left-handed prospects in the game. With a 2.41 ERA and 159 strikeouts in 119 2/3 innings, Friedrich missed bats with one of the best breaking balls around, but his fastball is more than enough to keep him from being labeled as a finesse pitcher.
Runner-up: Pitching in a hitter's paradise, Dominican righty Juan Nicasio is a bit old to have been pitching at Low-A, but he put up a 2.41 ERA in 18 starts for the Tourists, showing solid stuff that played up thanks to fantastic command and control.

Florida Marlins: A ninth-round pick last year, lefty reliever Dan Jennings moved up to Double-A in his full-season debut without allowing a run over the final month of the season. A classic sinker/slider pitcher, Jennings doesn't blow hitters away, but he gave up just one home run in 45 appearances with a ground-ball ratio of two to one.
Runner-up: One of the more impressive arms in the Florida State League, Dominican right Jhan Martinez showed mid- to upper-90s heat while striking out nearly a batter per inning.

Houston Astros: A supplemental first-round pick last year, right-hander Jordan Lyles ran out of gas a bit at the end of the year, but still finished with a 3.24 ERA at Low-A Lexington with a whopping 167 strikeouts in 144 2/3 innings and just 38 walks. His fastball and command are both plus, and his breaking ball showed significant improvement.
Runner-up: Sure, it's Lancaster, but catcher Koby Clemens led the minor leagues with 123 RBI while batting .345/.419/.636 for the Jet Hawks with 45 doubles, six triples, and 22 home runs in just 116 games. The ballpark certainly helped, but it's not 100 percent of the reason, as scouts saw real improvements.

Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers have always been enamored with outfielder Trayvon Robinson's tools, and he finally repaid that faith with a big year, finishing the year at Double-A with an overall line of .300/.373/.493 that included 17 home runs and 47 stolen bases.

Runner-up: Shortstop Dee Gordon was even better than expected in his full-season debut, earning Midwest League co-MVP honors while scoring 96 runs in 131 games while batting .301 with 12 triples and 73 stolen bases. The scary part is that all of his scouting reports emphasize just how raw he still is.

Milwaukee Brewers: A third-round pick in 2008, Logan Schafer became one of the better outfield prospects in the system with a .313/.369/.446 line at High-A Brevard County while showcasing gap power, a good feel for contact and outstanding defense.
Runner-up: Completely healthy for the first time since getting drafted in 2007, big right-hander Cody Scarpetta struck out 117 in 110 innings while showing off one of the better power arsenals in the Midwest League.

New York Mets: Catcher Josh Thole proved that last year's .300 batting average in the Florida State League was no fluke by improving to .328/.395/.422 at Double-A this season. Employing a patient approach while spraying line drives all over the field, he's being given a long look this September to see if he can become the favorite for the everyday job in the big leagues in 2010.
Runner-up: A third-round pick last June, outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis turned into a revelation in the outfield, as he was the most dangerous hitter in the Florida State League down the stretch, batting .345/.406/.647 in August and then finishing the year by going 13-for-32 (.406) at Double-A Binghamton.

Philadelphia Phillies: Held back in extended spring training to begin the year, 2008 fourth-round pick Trevor May finished the year as one of the top pitching prospects in the system, allowing just three earned runs over 25 innings in his last five starts and finishing the year with a 2.56 ERA and 95 strikeouts in 77 1/3 innings for Low-A Lakewood thanks to both a fastball and curve that grade out as above-average at times.

Runner-up: After barely pitching for two years due to a never-ending slew of elbow problems (including three surgeries), righty Scott Mathieson returned in a bullpen role and advanced all the way up to Double-A while posting a 0.84 ERA in 22 appearances. He's now looking very much like he could become part of the Phillies bullpen of the future.

Pittsburgh Pirates: A 2006 draft-and-follow who had done little until this year, southpaw Rudy Owens had a 2.10 ERA in 25 starts between Low- and High-A this year while walking just 17 batters in 124 innings. With a thick build, outstanding command of both an average to plus-velocity fastball and an outstanding changeup, the scouting reports matched the results.
Runner-up: Hardly a high-profile Latin American signee (his bonus was just $85,000), outfielder Starling Marte hit .312/.377/.439 in 54 late-season games at Low-A West Virginia while demonstrating plus speed and a bit of projectable power.

St. Louis Cardinals: While his defense forced a move to the outfield to keep him from competing for the open third-base job, Allen Craig made a statement for 2010 with his bat at Triple-A Memphis, batting .322/.374/.547 while leading the organization with 26 home runs. In 51 games after the All-Star break, he hit a remarkable .405/.449/.764 with 18 bombs in 195 at-bats.
Runner-up: Outfielder Adron Chambers had a 667 OPS last year at Low-A, but showed some impressive tools, and he made remarkable progress at High-A Palm Beach, batting .283/.370/.400 and leading the minor leagues with 16 triples.

San Diego Padres: On a squad stacked with big prospects from the 2008 draft that ended up with the best team record in the minors, little-known right-hander Simon Castro might have ended up the best prospect of them all. A 6-foot-5, 21-year-old Dominican with plus-plus velocity and sharp command, Castro whiffed 157 over 140 1/3 innings for the Wizards while walking just 37, and his secondary stuff seemed to get better with each start.
Runner-up: A supplemental first-round pick last year out of the University of Arkansas, there are still questions about third baseman Logan Forsythe's power ceiling after he hit just 11 home runs, but with a .300 batting average and 102 walks in 132 games, his on-base skills alone overshadow those concerns.

San Francisco Giants: Outfielder Thomas Neal improved his approach at the plate while also quieting his swing, leading to a breakout year at High-A San Jose with a .337/.431/.579 batting line. Scouts are definitely intrigued by his ability to hit for average with plus power.
Runner-up: Also at San Jose, 2008 third-round pick Roger Kieschnick hit .296/.345/.532 while leading the organization with 23 home runs and 110 batted in. He's an excellent athlete with at least average tools across the board.

Washington Nationals: All but off of everyone's radar, shortstop Ian Desmond reclaimed his prospect status by batting .330/.401/.477 between Double- and Triple-A to earn his first big-league callup, where he's gone 10-for-17 in four games. It's easy to forget that he'll still be just 24 years old next year, and he'll likely win an everyday job in the middle infield.
Runner-up: A fifth-round pick in 2007, 6-foot-6 southpaw Bradley Meyers led the minors with a 1.72 ERA in 24 appearances split between High- and Double-A. His stuff took a leap forward as well, as his fastball was consistently in the 90-92 range with cutting action, his slider showed much-improved tilt, and he pounded the strike zone with both offerings.

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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