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June 7, 2010

Future Shock

Monday Ten Pack

by Kevin Goldstein

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Dustin Ackley, 2B, Mariners (Double-A West Tenn)
Don't call it a comeback; he's been here for years. The second overall pick in last year's draft had the most puzzling April in the minor leagues, batting just .147 and leaving scouts completely baffled as to what went wrong. He was making up for it as best he could with loads of walks, but .147 isn't a slump; .147 is something wrong. While we may never figure it out, whatever was wrong is over, as he's turned into an extreme on-base machine. The walks are still there, including 16 in his last 12 games, but the hits are coming too, as in the same stretch he's gone 15-for-33 (.455). Now batting .251/.408/.359 with everything pointed in the right direction, the only thing to worry about is the same debate that revolved around Ackley going into the year. Some think he'll hit for power, some don't, and with one home run in 167 at-bats, so far the doubters are right.

Brandon Belt, 1B, Giants (High-A San Jose)
A fifth-round pick last June from the University of Texas, Belt was the best hitter on the Longhorns last spring, but scouts weren't crazy about his profile. He's a first base-only type who's 6-foot-5, and while he can hit, he's just that, a hitter and not a slugger, as he employs a single-plane swing and loves to use the opposite field. The good news is that while he's still not showing much power, with five home runs in 188 at-bats, he's absolutely raking, going 9-for-13 in his last four games, to bring his season averages to an impressive .388/.496/.606. He's ready for a bigger challenge, and we'll know much more once we see if he can hit in the Eastern League.

Rashun Dixon, OF, Athletics (Low-A Kane County)
Dixon has two things going for him—one of the best mohawks in baseball and some crazy tools. Given a $600,000 bonus as a 10th-round pick in 2007 in order to sway him away from a college football career, Dixon is a big, compactly-built athlete with some speed and plenty of raw power. Raw is the key word here, as he's a long way from being a baseball player. But with tools guys, sometimes things just finally click, and Dixon looks like he's clicking, going 8-for-17 with a pair of home runs in his last four games to raise his season line to a far more respectable .257/.358/.419. There's a big, big ceiling here, and the soon-to-be 20-year-old is one to watch for in future box scores.

Anthony Gose, OF, Phillies (High-A Lakewood) 
Another player who is starting to see his tools click is Gose, who led the minor leagues with 76 stolen bases last year, but also showed that he had a long way to go with his approach, as well as a bit of raw power than simply never showed up in games. He got off to a slow start in the tough Florida State League, but he's coming on of late, going 10-for-20 in his last six games, including his 10thtriple of the year to raise his averages to .277/.345/.424 in 57 games. His overall game is maturing, as he's showing a more patient approach and also driving balls more, but something has gone sour in the stolen base department, as he's been caught in five of his last six attempts and 17 times in 38 attempts on the season.

Reese Havens, 2B, Mets (Double-A Binghamton)
Mets fans hoping to see someone other than Luis Castillo at second base in their near future should be keeping their eye on Havens. The 2008 first-round pick hasn't rocketed through the system like Ike Davis, but he's starting to come on strong now that he's finally seemed to have kicked the injury bug. With three home runs over the weekend and five in his last five games, Havens is batting .327/.393/.727 in 13 games with the B-Mets while looking much more comfortable defensively since sliding over from shortstop. It's far too early to start asking for the big call, but he could make for some interesting competition next spring.

Liam Hendricks, RHP, Twins (High-A Fort Myers)
Hendricks is never going to generate a big number on a scouting report. He's not big, he doesn't throw especially hard, but he's especially good at what he does. He places his 87-91 mph fastball with near effortless perfection, he'll spin a decent breaking ball to keep hitters honest, and he'll change speeds effectively with a plus changeup. It's not the kind of combination that leads to future All-Star appearances, but it could get the 21-year-old Australian in the big leagues down the road, as with eight shutout innings on Sunday, his Florida State League ERA sits at 1.83 in six starts after a 1.32 mark during a six game stint at Low-A Beloit.

John Lamb, LHP, Royals (High-A Wilmington)
As if the Royals don't have enough good news down on the farm this year, they've gotten a huge step forward out of Lamb, a fifth-round pick in 2008 who had a 1.58 ERA in eight Low-A starts and isn't finding the High-A Carolina League to be much more of a challenge. Sunday, Lamb fired six two-hit innings while striking out nine, and in four starts for the Blue Rocks, he's given up four runs over 24 innings while striking out 28. Lamb features impressive velocity for a lefty, and his curve and changeup have both made big progress this year, with many projecting him as a third starter or better down the road. Cheer up Royals fans; the team has one of the best systems in baseball, made that much better by the surprise performance from Lamb.

Wilson Ramos, C, Twins (Triple-A Rochester)
Ramos impressed many big-league observers during his week-long stint in the majors last month, but his time at Triple-A this year has been surprisingly dreadful. Four days ago, the 22-year-old Venezuelan was hitting .173 in 31 games for Rochester, but since then, he's gone 10-for-13 to raise his OPS more than 100 points. As a big league-ready catcher with power and defense, there are few prospects in the game as blocked as Ramos, but come July, he could be Minnesota's top trade chip.

Kyle Russell, OF, Dodgers (High-A Inland Empire)
Russell didn't play Sunday amid rumors of a promotion, and it's been well earned. By going 9-for-17 with four home runs in his last five games, Russell is hitting .354/.448/.692 with 16 home runs in 198 at-bats, and it's certainly time to move up, as Russell was drafted as a college senior in 2008 and turns 24 in three weeks. Nobody questions his plus-plus raw power, and for a pure slugger with a ton of strikeouts, he's a very good athlete with average speed, good defense, and a very good right-field arm. Double-A will be a significant test to the holes in his swing, but there is certainly no reason to leave him here.

Mike Stanton, OF, Marlins (Double-A Jacksonville)
Stanton went 3-for-3 with a triple, his minor league-leading 21st homer, and four runs scored on Friday. Two days later, the Marlins announced that the 20-year-old would join the big-league team on Tuesday for their series with the Phillies. Excitement abounds among prospect watchers, but it's not without some trepidation. His .311/.441/.726 batting line with a home run every nine at-bats and a walk every 4.3 might lead some to project instant stardom, but don't forgot about the 53 strikeouts in 52 games, maybe the biggest factor of them all when it comes to Stanton's initial exposure to big-league pitching. Expect greatness down the road certainly, but for now, he could end up looking a lot more like a young Rob Deer.  

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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