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March 14, 2011

Future Shock

Monday Morning Ten Pack

by Kevin Goldstein

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Brandon Allen, 1B/OF, Diamondbacks
I'm the guy who still believes in Allen as a productive big leaguer. His .261/.405/.528 line at Triple-A Reno in 2010 shows that there is plenty of power and patience in his game, and with a 5-for-8 weekend that included his first home run of the spring, he's gunning for another shot at the big leagues by battling both Juan Miranda for the first-base job, and Xavier Nady for some at-bats in left field, where he's athletic enough to be at least adequate defensively. Miranda and Nady aren't exactly Pujols and Holliday, so one way or another, he'll likely get his shot.

Jackie Bradley, OF, University of South Carolina
Even with the new bat regulations turning the "ping" into a "pong," and offensive numbers seeing a dramatic drop, this was already seen as a pitching-heavy draft from the college field, with few impact talents amongst position players. Bradley was one player scouts hoped for a big season from, and he's yet to disappoint. After going 3-for-3 with a double, home run, walk and stolen base on Friday, he reached base three times on Saturday, added a single and a sac fly on Sunday, and is now hitting .396/.483/.813 for the 11-2 Gamecocks. At 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, he's not the most physical player around, and he doesn't have a tool that scores past 60 on the scouting reports, but he can really play baseball, has the ability to zip through a minor-league system, and is on his way to a potential top ten selection.

Zach Britton, RHP, Orioles
The best and maybe only prospect the Orioles have at the upper levels of their system, Britton was expected to open the year at Triple-A Norfolk with a chance to get big-league looks at some point in the season, but he's suddenly in the mix for the fifth starter's job after delivering his third consecutive scoreless outing on Saturday with four scoreless frames against the Astros. As impressive as his 0.00 ERA in nine innings is, his 18-to-4 ground-ball ratio has been just as eye-popping, with his 90-94 mph sinker continuing to earn raves as the best pitch of its kind in the minors. Service-time issues means it's unlikely that Britton will break camp in the big leagues, but his timetable has potentially been accelerated nonetheless.

Matt Carpenter, 3B, Cardinals
While the Cardinals have made it clear that David Freese is their third baseman, Carpenter has at least opened the big-league staff's eyes with a 12-for-28 (.429) spring that has included plenty of hits against big-league arms and only two strikeouts. He's hardly exciting on a tools levels, but what he can do is hit and make up for a lack of athleticism with solid defensive fundamentals. Freese will never be confused with Cal Ripken in terms of keeping his name in the lineup, as he's played just 152 games over the last two years combined, so Carpenter could get a shot that seemed far less likely 12 months ago.

Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals
The inevitable finally happened over the weekend, as Harper was sent to minor-league camp with the expectation that he'll open the year at Low-A Hagerstown, where at 18 years of age he'll be among the youngest players at a full-season affiliate. He needs a starting player's at-bats to prepare for the season, but his time as a Nationals bench player was nothing short of magnificent, as he went 7-for-18 with three doubles. Maybe more impressively, he had just three strikeouts in some of his first exposure to big league-quality off-speed pitches. Harper said he wants to be in the big leagues by June, but even just a September call-up would be a remarkable achievement, and is not totally out of the realm of possibility considering his talent.

Eric Hosmer, 1B, Royals
While Hosmer is still getting the limited at-bats of a prospect who won't break camp in the big leagues, he's still taking advantage of every opportunity he gets, going 3-for-5 over the weekend, with every hit a double. Now at .474/.542/1.000 in 19 at-bats, few players in Arizona have been as impressive as Hosmer, as last year's breakout looks not only real, but if anything, he's improved upon it while profiling as a middle-of-the-order force who hits for both average and power. The spring has already convinced the Royals to bump Hosmer up to Triple-A, and a 2011 big-league showing has changed from a possibility to nearly a certainty.

Danny Hultzen, LHP, University of Virginia
The defending ACC pitcher of the year, Hultzen entered the spring as a good pitcher in a great draft, with the thought that if he pitched well, he could land in the middle to back half of the first round. Just four starts into the season, he's now being talked about as a single-digit selection. On Friday, he struck out 14 over 6 2/3 shutout innings against a good Clemson team, and on the season he now has 50 whiffs against just four walks in only 27 1/3 innings while limiting batters to a .143 average. A very athletic southpaw who is also hitting .368/.458/.526 for the Cavaliers, Hultzen's heat tops out at 93 mph, and armed with a quality breaking ball and changeup, he has the potential for three average to plus pitches with well above-average command and control. One month into the college season, no player has done more for their draft stock.

Jarrod Parker, RHP, Diamondbacks
Despite missing the entire 2010 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, Parker remained the top prospect in the Arizona system. Part of that was the fact that he had little competition, but part of that was reports from fall instructs that had his arm all the way back to 2009 levels, including a fastball that was up to 97 mph, leading to some talk that he could play a big role in the majors this year. After four spring appearances, that talk has quieted down; while Parker has consistently bumped 94-95 mph with his heater, the one bugaboo of Tommy John survivors has reared its ugly head, with the 2007 first-round pick walking six over 6 1/3 innings and consistently struggling with his location. There was no need to rush him in the first place, and now he's giving Arizona every reason to give him more time in the minors.

Matt Purke, LHP, Texas Christian University
The Rangers' unsigned first-round pick from 2009, Purke missed time early in the year with a blister problem, and while he's pitched relatively well since returning, his stock is slipping. On Saturday, he suffered the first loss of his college career, giving up four runs in just 3 2/3 innings against a Houston Baptist team that entered the day with an 0-14 record. While he gets a bit of a mulligan for rustiness, his velocity has been down a bit this year, and one scout has noted that only his changeup is a plus offering right now. As a perfect example of how fluid pre-season draft rankings can be, Purke entered the year as one of the top three talents in the draft, but with Hultzen and nearly equally surging Jed Bradley of Georgia Tech, he's now just the third-best college lefty available.

Mark Trumbo, 1B/LF, Angels
While Trumbo went 1-for-7 on Saturday and Sunday, his Friday alone deserves mention, as he went 2-for-3 with a home run and a double, with the two-bagger a 420-foot shot off the center-field fence. Even with the weekend mini-slump, Trumbo is batting .349/.364/.744 this spring, and leaving the Angels much more comfortable with the distinct possibility that Kendrys Morales is unable to start the year at first base. Now, with talk about him participating in fielding drills in left field over the coming days, he might be much more than just an immediate insurance policy.

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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