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April 8, 2011

Future Shock

Opening Day Madness

by Kevin Goldstein

Nearly every weekday, Baseball Prospectus subscribers will get a Minor League Update with write-ups on three to six (sometimes more, you never know) prospects and plenty of tidbits (usually 20 or so) on notable performances in the big leagues, as well as observations from the people who were there. Those that follow me on Twitter (@kevin_goldstein) usually get some brief previews the night before. But yesterday was special, so here's an expanded version.

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Mobile (Double-A Mobile): 2-for-4, 2 HR (2), 2 R, 4 RBI, BB, K
Goldschmidt hit .314/.384/.606 last year for High-A Visalia and took home California League MVP trophy, but he was 22, a fairly non-descript eighth-round pick from the year before, and playing in the California League, a place where crazy things (like that season) happen. As a big, unathletic, bat-only first baseman, he needs to keep hitting, and he certainly did so in the opener. There is no question about his plus-plus power, but after whiffing 161 times in 138 games last year, there are still plenty of questions as to whether he'll hit enough for it to matter.

Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals (Low-A Hagerstown): 2-for-4, RBI, K, SB, CS
In what was certainly the most anticipated pro debut of the night, Harper was mostly as good as advertised, lining a single in his first official at-bat and later showing his athleticism with a bunt single. With one caught stealing and another out made via a pickoff, his baserunning might need some work, but we're nitpicking here. The tools and talent for a massive season are all there, and might actually be the floor as far as expectations go for the game's top prospect.

Matt Harvey, RHP, Mets (High-A St. Lucie) and Shelby Miller, RHP, Cardinals (High-A Palm Beach)
It was the prospect matchup of the night, and it lived up to expectations, as the pair of hurlers combined to strike out 18 over 10 innings. The two are a fun couple to compare and contrast. Both are tall, powerfully-built right-handers with low- to mid-90s heat and occasionally a bit more, and both already have plus power breaking balls. From there, Miller starts to separate himself, as he has a better changeup, better command, and is more than a year-and-a-half younger. There was some talk of the Cardinals starting Miller at Double-A this year, but he should be there by midseason, with Harvey not far behind.

Devin Mesoraco, C, Reds (Triple-A Louisville): 2-for-4, 2B, HR (1), K
Is it real? That was the question after Mesoraco entered the 2010 season with 18 home runs in 215 career games, and then suddenly slugged 26 in 113 contests while moving from High- to Triple-A in the process. Scouts believed, and as a 2007 first-round pick, there certainly was some pedigree, but the track record still created just a bit of hesitation in his projection. With the Reds competing and having two solid catchers in the big leagues, he might have to wait until September, but the gutsy move might end up finding a taker for Ramon Hernandez in July and throwing Mesoraco into the midst of what is already an impressive mix of young talent at the major-league level.

Enny Romero, LHP, Rays (Low-A Bowling Green): 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 K
Despite the attention the Rays and their prospects get, Romero has been flying under the radar. If he keeps pitching like this, that won't be the case for long. A 20-year-old Dominican with a lanky, projectable frame, Romero can already touch the mid-90s with his fastball, and he backs up the pitch with an advanced curveball. Just as impressive as the stuff is his command, which is rarely found in players just making their full-season debut. There is potential for his stock to skyrocket.

Keyvius Sampson, RHP, Padres (Low-A Fort Wayne): 6 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 10 K
Your Opening Day player of the day, Sampson struck out 58 in 43 innings for short-season Eugene last year, but his season ended on a disturbing note; he was sidelined with some labrum problems—those will remain a red flag until he can last a full season. He is a bit undersized, but he makes up for it with outstanding arm action and a plus fastball that can get up to 96 mph when he reaches back. His curveball and changeup both come and go, but both were working last night, as he went 18 up and 18 down while whiffing 10. This was a huge opening salvo from a pitcher who bears watching.

Gary Sanchez, C, Yankees (Low-A Charleston): 2-for-4, HR (1), 2 R, 2 RBI, K
Is he the next big thing in Yankeeland? Sanchez entered the season with plenty of hype; he is one of the youngest players in the full-season leagues (he's just over 18), but his hitting ability and massive raw power should allow him to survive just fine. His home run, off Astros 2010 first-round pick Mike Foltynewicz, is the first 2011 evidence in his favor. That said, there are plenty of people asking questions about how ready Sanchez is, with inquiries about his ability to do things like reach Double-A this year. Go back to the second sentence: He is barely 18 years old. He is a remarkable talent for sure, but there is absolutely no reason to rush him, and, despite the numbers, also absolutely no reason to think he can do something like handle Double-A pitching. Prospects and patience are a rare combination in fandom, and that needs to change. Let the kid develop.

Jacob Turner, RHP, Tigers (Double-A Erie): 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 9 K
Turner is easily the best prospect in the Tigers system, and he dominated in his season debut. No big deal, right? Keep a couple of things in mind: First, Turner is just 19 and pitching in Double-A, and he won't turn 20 until late May. Second, look at the strikeouts. He whiffed 102 in 115 1/3 innings last year, but he also entered the year with a career-high mark of seven strikeouts in a game. So we've gone from a top prospect dominating in his season debut to a 19-year-old setting a career high in strikeouts during six shutout innings in his Double-A debut. That's better, no?

Others of Note

Jose Altuve, 2B, Astros (High-A Lancaster): 2-for-4, 3B, R, K, SB. With Tim Collins in the majors, this is my new favorite short player in the minors. Lancaster will help him put up some big numbers.

Chad Bettis, RHP, Rockies (High-A Modesto): 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 5 K. The second-round pick from last June has a fastball with above-average velocity and sink; he had an 8-0 ground-ball/fly-ball ratio last night.

Bryce Brentz, OF, Red Sox (Low-A Greenville): 3-for-5, HR (1), R, RBI, K, CS. The 36th overall pick in last year's draft, Brentz had a brutal pro debut, batting .198 for short-season Lowell with 76 strikeouts in 69 games, but he has very real power.

Darrell Ceciliani, OF, Mets (Low-A Savannah): 2-for-5, 2B, HR (1), 2 R, 2 RBI. He saw his stock rise last year with a big showing in the New York-Penn League. He's a plus runner with defense and hitting ability, but don't expect a power surge because of this one night.

Christian Colon, SS, Royals (Double-A Northwest Arkansas): 2-for-4, HR (1), R, 2 RBI, K, CS. There are some scouts who think he can stick at shortstop, but will it matter with Alcides Escobar around?

Jarred Cosart, RHP, Phillies (High-A Clearwater): 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 2 K. He just needs a healthy season to become a top-flight prospect. Cosart has better pure stuff than rotation-mates Brody Colvin and Trevor May.

Zack Cox, 3B, Cardinals (High-A Palm Beach): 2-for-4, 2B, K. It was the full-season debut for this first-rounder. His bat will have to carry him, as his speed and defense are below average.

Charlie Culberson, 2B, Giants (Double-A Richmond): 3-for-5, 2B, RBI, K. Culberson had a 2010 breakout in the California League and an even bigger showing in the Arizona Fall League; now he is finally playing (and hitting) in a more neutral environment.

Chris Davis, 3B, Rangers (Triple-A Round Rock): 2-for-5, HR (1), R, 2 RBI, 2 K. There's nothing new here, as we all know Davis can mash Triple-A pitching. The question is whether his next big-league shot comes in Texas.

Randall Delgado, RHP, Braves (Double-A Mississippi): 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K. He's not in the same league as Teheran, but in a less loaded system, he'd be much more well-known. Delgado has three average-to-plus pitches and plus command; he projects as an above-average big-league starter.

Andy Dirks, OF, Tigers (Triple-A Toledo): 4-for-5, HR (1), 2 R, 2 RBI, K. The max-effort grinder should get to Detroit at some point during the year, but he is more of a good fourth outfielder than an everyday player.

Brett Eibner, OF, Royals (Low-A Kane County): 1-for-3, HR (1), 2 R, RBI, BB, K. It was the pro debut for this second-round pick. He has plus power, speed, and arm, but he is going to strike out quite a bit.

Daniel Fields, OF, Tigers (High-A Lakeland): 1-for-2, 3B, 2 R, RBI, 2 BB. He is still young for the level and still loaded with tools. If you are looking for a breakout sleeper, this might be your guy.

Darren Ford, OF, Giants (Triple-A Fresno): 2-for-5, 2B, HR (1), K. If Andres Torres turns out to be a fluke, this is the next guy in line. He's an 80 runner, an excellent defender, and has power at times (like last night).

Logan Forsythe, 2B, Padres (Triple-A Tucson): 2-for-3, 2 HR (2), 3 R, 4 RBI, 4 BB. He is already two-thirds of the way to last year's home-run total of three, thanks to a windy night in Colorado Springs. Forsythe is a second baseman with on-base skills and the ability to play the hot corner. He could have a good utilityman future.

Grant Green, SS, Athletics (Double-A Midland): 1-for-3, HR (1), R, 2 RBI, BB. Green is one of the best offensive middle-infield prospects in the game, but far more attention will be paid to his defense this year after an error-plagued 2010.

Brett Jackson, OF, Cubs (Double-A Tennessee): 2-for-4, 3B, R, 2 RBI, 2 BB, K. Jackson could be in Triple-A by July, and he could be in the big leagues by September.

Fernando Martinez, OF, Mets (Triple-A Buffalo): 4-for-5, 2B, R. Don't worry, I'm sure he'll get hurt eventually.

Manny Machado, SS, Orioles (Low-A Delmarva): 2-for-3, 3B, 2 RBI. This first-round pick drove in both Delmarva runs in his full-season debut; he is already the best shortstop prospect in the game.

Deck McGuire, RHP, Blue Jays (High-A Dunedin): 4 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K. McGuire was among the most polished arms in last year's draft, so he should cruise through the Florida State League. The question will be how his stuff plays at the upper levels.

Ramon Mendez, RHP, Rangers (Low-A Hickory): 4 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 6 K. Acquired from the Red Sox in the Jarrod Saltalamacchia deal, Mendez hit 99 mph this spring while sitting in the mid-90s, but his secondary pitches lag well behind.

Melky Mesa, OF, Yankees (Double-A Trenton): 2-for-5, 2B, R, RBI, K. Mesa created a ton of buzz this spring, and slugged 19 home runs at High-A Tampa last year—hardly an easy task. His aggressive approach could catch up to him at the advanced levels, but he is loaded with tools.

Brad Meyers, RHP, Nationals (Double-A Harrisburg): 5 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 K. Meyers is a pure finesse pitcher, but he's good enough at his craft to profile as a potential fifth starter.

Mike Montgomery, LHP, Royals (Triple-A Omaha): 5 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 2 BB, 3 K. He wasn't so sharp after dominating in the Royals' Futures Game.

Matt Moore, LHP, Rays (Double-A Montgomery): 5 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 7 K. Moore has led the minor leagues in strikeouts over the last two years, and he certainly has the ability to do so again.

Brandon Morrow, RHP, Blue Jays (High-A Dunedin): 2.1 IP, 8 H, 5 R (4 ER), 1 BB, 2 K, Not exactly the ideal rehab start.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis, OF, Mets (Triple-A Buffalo): 1-for-4, HR (1), 2 R, RBI, BB, K. Captain Kirk has the potential for double digits in home runs and stolen bases, but no star-level tools.

Andy Oliver, LHP, Tigers (Triple-A Toledo): 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 6 K. It's hard to find lefties with his kind of size and velocity. With improved breaking stuff, he'll not only be in the big leagues, but he'll make an impact.

Jordan Pacheco, C, Rockies (Triple-A Colorado Springs): 2-for-4, HR (1), 2 R, 2 RBI, SB, K. This converted catcher was one of the talks of Colorado's spring training, and he has done nothing but hit. He is still new to catching, and way too easy to run on.

Wily Peralta, RHP, Brewers (Double-A Huntsville): 6 IP, 1H, 1 R, 2 BB, 6 K. It's an encouraging start after Peralta struggled at Double-A last year. Keep in mind that his best start of 2010 was also his first.

Jurickson Profar, SS, Rangers (Low-A Hickory): 1-for-3, HR (1), R, RBI, K, SB, HBP. Power is not a huge part of his game, but he projects for double-digit home runs down the road to go with plus defense and speed.

Clint Robinson, 1B/DH, Royals (Triple-A Omaha): 2-for-4, 2 HR (2), 2 R, 2 RBI, K. Almost a forgotten player in the system despite hitting .335/.410/.625 last year, Robinson's bat is his only tool, and there is no room for him in Kansas City.

Joe Savery, 1B/DH, Phillies (High-A Clearwater): 4-for-4 2B, 2 R, BB. This former first-round pick is now trying to make it as a hitter after flopping on the mound. It's  a long shot to be sure, but showed pro potential with the bat in college.

Hayden Simpson, RHP, Cubs (Low-A Peoria): 3.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 7 K. He whiffed half of the hitters he faced in his pro debut while getting up to 94 mph with his fastball in the cold.

Jonathan Singleton, OF, Phillies (High-A Clearwater): 3-for-5, R, RBI, K. Nobody questions the bat; but they do ask if can he become adequate in left field, which would give him a much clearer path to the big leagues.

Giovanny Urshela, 3B, Indians (Low-A Lake County): 2-for-4, 2B, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB. Sleeper alert! This 19-year-old Colombian is an outstanding defensive prospect with a developing bat.

Josh Vitters, 3B, Cubs (Double-A Tennessee): 3-for-5, 2B, 2 R. Vitters had one three-hit games in 63 Double-A contests last year; his swing is still among the sweetest around.

 Jemile Weeks, 2B, Athletics (Triple-A Sacramento): 2-for-5, 3B, R, 3 RBI. All he needs to do is stay healthy to take over at second base next year. 

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

Related Content:  The Who,  Triple-A,  Debut,  Big League Debut

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