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May 24, 2010

Future Shock

Monday Ten Pack

by Kevin Goldstein

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Henderson Alvarez, RHP, Blue Jays (High-A Dunedin)
The Blue Jays’ system was transformed when the club traded Roy Halladay, and with all the focus on Brett Wallace and Kyle Drabek, many legacy prospects seem to have been forgotten. Take Alvarez, an undersized command and control righty who lacks much in the way of upside, but is exceedingly good at his craft. Just six-feet tall (and arguably generously listed), Alvarez's fastball only sits at 87-90 mph, but his ability to spot it with near perfection and keep hitters off balance with his plus changeup has been enough to dominate at the lower levels. The 20-year-old Venezuelan is doing just that, tossing seven shutout innings on Friday to lower his ERA to 1.40 while not allowing an earned run in five of eight outings. He's hardly a future ace, but no team has five of those; they need back-of-the-rotation types as well.

Tim Beckham, SS, Rays (High-A Charlotte)
The first overall pick in the 2008 draft, Beckham's full-season debut last year was seen as a bit of a disappointment, but 2010 was starting to make people throw out a premature bust label. A week ago, Beckham's batting line for the Stone Crabs sat at a paltry .146/.235/.282. That's enough to create an understandable concern, but it's hard to go No. 1 overall without having something in the ways of tools that can play, and they're starting to do just that, as in his last five games, the 20-year-old is 11-for-18 with a double, two triples, and two home runs, raising his OPS nearly 200 points in the process. Don't give up on this one yet.

Andrew Cashner, RHP, Cubs (Triple-A Iowa)
The Cubs are quickly arriving at a bit of a tipping point when it comes to Cashner. When they selected him in the first round of the 2008 draft as the best college reliever in the country, they immediately went about developing him as a starter, and it was the smart thing to do. Unlike many closers, Cashner actually has a quality changeup, and with his dominating fastball/slider mix in front of it, his value increased exponentially in the rotation. He's been one of the most dominant starters in the minors this year, as seven shutout innings on Saturday gives him a 0.95 ERA in three Triple-A starts, but that's not what the Cubs need. They need bullpen help, and Cashner is ready. Let's just hope it's a temporary fix so all of this really smart development doesn't go for naught.

Dan Hudson, RHP, White Sox (Triple-A Charlotte)
If there's one thing that makes scouts (and those in the prospect-ranking business) nervous, it's the out-of-nowhere guy. In 2009, Hudson was just that, as the fifth-round pick in the 2008 draft went from Low-A to the big leagues while putting up some off the best numbers in the minor leagues. Sent to Triple-A in order to get more innings, Hudson struggled in April, hitting rock bottom in his fourth start of the year when he allowed nine runs in one inning to raise his ERA to 9.37. Call it adjustments, call it small sample size, but the Hudson we saw last year, with the outstanding command of a deep arsenal is back. On Sunday, he struck out a season-high 11 over eight shutout innings while giving up three hits, and in five May starts he's whiffed 41 in 32 innings with a 1.97 ERA. If you're the White Sox and you're not exactly going anywhere, why not see what you have here?

Brett Lawrie, 2B, Brewers (Double-A Huntsville)
An Opening Day assignment to Double-A was a bit surprising for Lawrie. While he is the top prospect in the system, between being only 20, playing just two-thirds of a season last year because of a World Cup commitment, and simply having less experience than most his age due to his Canadian upbringing, most thought a one-step-per-year path made the most sense. Lawrie did seem a bit overmatched in April, striking out in nearly one-third of his at-bats. Surprising numbers from a high-ceiling bat, but hitters this talented tend to make the necessary changes, and Lawrie has done just that, going 9-for-18 in his last five games. Even more impressively, he has struck out just three times in his last 11 games. The defense at second base is still a work in progress (to be kind), but the bat is going to play anywhere.

Sam LeCure, RHP, Reds (Triple-A Louisville)
It's been a long road for LeCure. He entered the spring of 2005 as a potential Top-50 pick, but academic ineligibility ruined his junior year at Texas and dropped him into the fourth round. Since then, he's taken a slow route through the Reds’ system, often needing multiple years at a level to find success. That's because he's not a pitcher with much of a margin for error, as he throws three average pitches for strikes—lots and lots of strikes. On Saturday, a complete game one-hitter lowered his ERA to 2.55, and he might be the man getting the call should Homer Bailey's shoulder pain turn serious.

Mike Moustakas, 3B, Royals (Double-A Northwest Arkansas)
The second overall pick in the 2007 draft is having the best 30 games of his pro career since missing the first part of the season with an oblique strain. His .395/.482/.816 batting line with the aptly-named Naturals is gaudy enough, but he's stepped it up even from there in the last week, going 15-for-30 with six home runs and 18 runs driven in. Royals fans desperate for, well, anything, want to see him in the big leagues, but that might be a bit premature. At the very least, I think we all can agree that he could use a bigger challenge.

Ben Revere, OF, Twins (Double-A New Britain)
A career .334 hitter entering the year, scouts where looking forward to seeing how the 2007 first-round pick would do in his first exposure to the upper levels, but nearly everyone thought he would hit. His start of the season, while hardly bad, fell a bit below expectations, but the speedster has picked it up of late, going 14-for-26 in his last six games to raise his season line to .324/.400/.392. While he still doesn't show much in the way of power, both his walk and stolen-base percentages are at career highs, and he still projects as an old-school leadoff man of the finest variety.

Brandon Short, OF, White Sox (High-A Winston Salem)
An all but unknown 28th-round pick out of a Florida junior college in 2008, Short's solid-but-unspectacular showing leading up to this season wasn't enough to get him on anybody's radar, but scouts are getting forced to take notice now. The 21-year-old skinny outfielder has above-average speed and little else in the way of tools, but with two hits in all three weekend games, his batting line is up to .372/.396/.531 for the Warthogs. As you can tell by the line, he doesn't walk much and he's not a big power guy. He is also not good enough defensively to stay in center field long-term. For now he's just an interesting hitter, but anything out of the 28th round is an impressive find. 

Mike Stanton, OF, Marlins (Double-A Jacksonville)
 Stanton went through his first slump of the year last week, going 3-for-30 with 10 strikeouts over an eight-game period to drop his OPS nearly 200 points. It also allowed some to inch closer to him on the minor-league home-run leader board, but Stanton took care of that over the weekend by going 7-for-14 with his 16th an 17th bombs of the year. Just as interesting, he made his first two starts of the year in left field as opposed to right, prompting speculation that he could be getting prepped for an ascension to the majors, or at least Triple-A. For now all we know is that he's still in Double-A, and the slump was just that, only a minor bump in the road.   

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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