April 18, 2011
Monday Morning Ten Pack
Trevor Bauer, RHP, UCLA
Another Saturday and another great start for Bauer; he struck out 13 during a four-hit shutout of Arizona. The win made him the all-time Bruins leader in that category (28) to go along with the all-time strikeout mark he reached earlier in the season. There are better pitching prospects in college baseball, but there are no better pitchers, as Bauer now has a 1.47 ERA with 110 strikeouts in 73 2/3 innings while allowing just 37 hits. Unfortunately, there is still the question of workload, as Bauer once again had a concerning number of pitches, firing 134 in the win. There has been much hand-waiving concerning Bauer's poise and maturity, and how his unique routines and arm actions make him less susceptible to the damage caused by high pitch counts, just like Tim Lincecum in 2006. That's the most dangerous of comps, as Lincecum is a unique specimen, and it is dangerous to assume Bauer will develop along the same lines just because he too is a bit of an oddball. Teams will bet he can be rested and used properly, and providing he survives his current , Bauer will still go in the first ten picks.
Tim Beckham, SS, Rays (Double-A Montgomery)
I don't root against players, perhaps save for Josh Leuke. When people ask me if a player is a bust, the last thing I want to say is yes. One of my favorite things to say is, “the tools are still there.” That is certainly the case with Beckham, who entered the year with career averages of .263/.332/.371. Although he's probably not going to be a shortstop in the end—something that was a shaky proposition—even when he was the top pick in the 2008 draft—it's far too early to jump to any conclusions about his abilities. After a 4-for-12 weekend that included a pair of home runs, Beckham is hitting .308/.357/.538 in ten games while having yet to commit an error. Obviously, the Rays wish they took Buster Posey three years ago, but at least they finally have cause for optimism.
Gary Brown, OF, Giants (High-A San Jose)
When Gary Brown was the Giants’ first-round pick last June, scouts talked about his blinding speed, outstanding center field defense, and .438 batting average, while a small but vocal minority of those statistically inclined just talked about the walks, or incredible lack thereof. Here's the thing: When you are hitting .438 and slugging .695, there is no need to tell a guy it's time to take more pitches, as it serves no purpose. Now a pro, Brown understands that his future is as a big-league leadoff man, and that he's not going to hit .438, and getting on-base is going to involve more than line drives. With five hits and two walks over the weekend, Brown is hitting .318/.434/.364 in his first 11 pro games with seven walks in 44 at-bats, and scouts are noting solid plate discipline and pitch recognition. College and professional baseball are very different things, and reading too much into the numbers can be dangerous.
C.J. Cron, 1B, Utah
While the 2011 draft class continues to earn praise as one of the best in recent memory, it's also becoming an incredibly unbalanced one, as new top-flight pitchers seem to pop up on a weekly bases, while the crop of position players has for the most part, left scouts hungry. This could lead to some overdrafts, and that's where Cron comes in. The son of Chris Cron, a second-round pick in 1984 who played briefly in the majors and now manages Double-A Erie, the younger has been among the best college bats all spring, and while he's a bat-only first baseman, it's hard to ignore a bat that added six more hits over the weekend and is now hitting .478. Despite his limited tools, Cron is in plenty of first-round mixes, and could be a surprise pick in the teens.
James Darnell, 3B, Padres (Double-A San Antonio)
Highly regarded after an impressive full-season debut in 2009, Darnell fell to No. 15in this year's Padres prospect rankings after a 2010 season that was a ugly combination of injuries and inconsistent play. An athletic third baseman with solid power and an excellent approach, Darnell is repeating Double-A as a 24-year-old, but he's finally healthy and among the hottest bats in all of the minor leagues, going 8-for-10 with five walks over the weekend to up his averages to a ridiculous .514/.591/.771 in nine contests while striking out just once in 35 at-bats. Like most minor league prospects with less than two weeks in the books, it's too early for judgments, but like Beckham, at least the tools are there.
Eric Hosmer, 1B, Royals (Triple-A Omaha)
Hosmer has just one home run in his first 44 Triple-A at-bats. There: I found something bad to say. After going 7-for-9 over the weekend, the 21-year-old is now hitting .409 (18-for-44) in his first 11 Triple-A games, and the scouting reports are as good as the numbers, as few hitters in the minors are more consistently barreling up pitches than the former first-round pick. The most fascinating aspect to the possibly historic Royals minor league system at this point isn't in the talent, but in the execution, and Hosmer's doing his best to mess with any master plan by rapidly accelerating his timetable to the big leagues.
Jose Martinez, OF, White Sox
Three years ago, Martinez was among the highest-ceilinged prospects in the White Sox system, but a severe knee injury cost him all but 39 games in 2008, the entire 2009 season, and limited him to only 67 games last year. At six-foot-five, he still looks awfully good in a uniform, and while the knee problems have sapped him of his speed, there are (stop me if you’ve heard this one before) still plenty of tools. At 22, he's still far more projection than reality, but Martinez has hits in eight of nine Carolina League games, including a three-hit effort on Sunday, to raise his averages to .432/.488/.595, and in a system desperate for anything resembling a prospect, he's suddenly one to watch again.
Jio Mier, SS, Astros (Low-A Lexington)
Despite hitting .235/.323/.314 last year in his full-season debut, Mier still ranked as the tenth-best prospect in the Astros system. A first-round pick in 2009, Mier is a true shortstop defensively with plus range, soft hands, and arm strength, so nearly anything Houston can get out of the bat will be gravy. He works the count well and has some bat speed, so there is reason to believe he can at least hit enough to fit in the bottom of a big league lineup, and after a 6-for-11 weekend that includes his first home run of the year, he's hitting .343/.477/.486 in 10 games back in the Sally League. Now battling Jonathan Villar for the title of shortstop of the future, Mier is doing his best to close the gap.
Wily Mo Pena, OF, Diamondbacks (Triple-A Reno)
Sure, he's 29 years old, and sure he's a career .253 hitter in the big leagues with nearly a strikeout for every three at-bats, but he's huge, he's fun to watch, and when he gets a hold of one, it can clear Derek Jeter’s mansion. With six home runs in nine Triple-A games inflating a .971 slugging percentage, Pena has whiffed only five times in 35 at-bats, but it's hard to see him getting a shot as long as Arizona continues their quest to see if Gerardo Parra can be an everyday corner outfielder (hint: he can't). Root for him, enjoy the fireworks, hell, even start a “Free Wily Mo” campaign, but in the final analysis he's still Wily Mo Pena, and we all know what that is.
Jean Segura, SS, Angels (High-A Inland Empire)
No one should be surprised that Segura is hitting. After torching the Midwest League during the second half of the 2010 season, the 21-year-old Dominican is now batting .404 in the Cal League after an eight-hit weekend. Hitting baseballs, showing gap power, drawing some walks and stealing some bases was expected from him, but the big story was the rare reverse move on the defensive spectrum, as the former second baseman is now a shortstop. A 60-plus runner, Segura has more than enough range, a plus arm, and he's shown much more consistency with the glove so far than in past years, committing just one error in 11 contests. As a potential .300 hitter with walks, double-digit home runs and 30+ stolen bases, Segura was a fantastic prospect as a second baseman. If he can stay on the left side of the infield, he will move into elite territory.
Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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