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May 9, 2011

Future Shock

Monday Morning Ten Pack

by Kevin Goldstein

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Matt Adams, 1B, Cardinals (Double-A Springfield)
A virtually unknown 23rd-round pick in 2009, Adams was the first player since 2000 to be selected out of Slippery Rock University, a school that has yet to have a drafted player reach the big leagues. He gained some attention with a .310/.355/.541 mark at Low-A Quad Cities last year in a season shortened by elbow problems, but as an older, bat-only prospect, he earned little true fanfare. Double-jumped to the Texas League for 2011, Adams keeps on raking, going 5-for-11 with three home runs over the weekend to lift his season mark to .322/.358/.643 in 29 games. At least 30 pounds more than his listed weight of 230 pounds—and that might be kind—Adams’ body will always be a concern, but he's continuing to prove that his bat deserves to be taken seriously.

Domonic Brown, OF, Phillies (Triple-A Lehigh Valley)
Brown's miserable showing this spring, in which he went 1-for-16 with nine strikeouts, ended early with a broken bone in his right hand, which at least made for much easier roster decisions. Now at Triple-A after warming up in the Florida State League, Brown has started his IronPigs stint with a six-game hitting streak, including a 4-for-9 weekend and two home runs. Forget about his big-league showing last year when he struggled in adjusting to a bench role, and forget about the miserable spring; he's still a monster prospect and will help the Phillies once they give him another shot.

Robbie Erlin, LHP, Rangers (High-A Myrtle Beach)
It was a week of no-hitters in the big leagues, and while Erlin hasn't quite thrown one, he has been the least hittable pitcher in the minors this year; after six starts, the Carolina League is batting a paltry .115 against him. On Friday, he went seven innings and gave up one hit. His last three starts have been even crazier: He has allowed just four hits over 21 innings (4-for-67) with one walk and 24 strikeouts. That's a 0.24 WHIP for you numbers folks. At the beginning of the year, he was one of the just-missed players from my Top 101 prospects, as he's just 5-foot-11 and has no more than average velocity. With each start giving more reassurance that he'll reach his ceiling as a good third starter, that lack of inclusion is looking more like a mistake.

Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals (Low-A Hagerstown)
I've been on a kick lately about questions concerning when a prospect will be in the big leagues, so I misinterpreted a tweet late last week asking about Harper. The questioner simply mentioned the word “promotion,” and I wrongly mocking him. All he meant was a promotion to the Carolina League, which is suddenly looking more like a possibility before the All-Star break. With three multi-hit games over the weekend, Harper's .371/.460/.701 season line is impressive enough, but his ridiculous .466/.544/.948 line in his last 16 games show that he's too good for this level, despite being just 18. Much like last year at junior college, Harper isn't just as good as advertised, he's accomplishing the nearly impossible by being better.

Hak-Ju Lee, SS, Rays (High-A Charlotte)
It's just 20 games, but everything about Lee's season seems so right; after an 8-for-14 weekend, the 20-year-old Korean is hitting .414/.469/.621 in his first 20 games as a Ray. Last year with Peoria, less than 20 percent of his hits went for extra bases, but with Lee's jump in average comes a jump in power. More than one-fourth of his hits have been non-singles, and he has already matched last year's total of four triples, while doubling his 2010 total with a pair of home runs. An average defender at short with a 60-65 arm, Lee is still prone to silly, out-of-control errors, but the projection of at least an average everyday shortstop (something there is not 30 of in the big leagues) is stronger than ever.

Carlos Martinez, RHP, Cardinals (Low-A Quad Cities)
Few players have been more hyped without pitching in the United States, but tales of Martinez's lightning arm spread quickly in a system that at times looks like Shelby Miller and everyone else. After beginning the year in extended spring training, Martinez arrived in Quad Cities on Saturday and let the hype train begin by firing four no-hit innings against Wisconsin while striking out six and walking one. But let's be patient in regards to projecting the 19-year-old. His fastball, which sat at 95-97 mph and touched 99 was as good as expected, if not better, but he remains a small right-hander who still needs significant development time in regards to his curveball and changeup. His ceiling is through the roof, but we need far more evidence before we plug Martinez at the top of a theoretical future Cardinals rotation.

Drew Pomeranz, LHP, Indians (High-A Kinston)
Six starts into his professional career, Pomeranz has had one so-so game and five excellent ones, including Saturday's, when he struck out eight over five shutout innings for his first professional win. With a 1.27 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 28 1/3 innings, Pomeranz has certainly been dominant, but no pitcher is perfect. While Pomeranz’s fastball and curveball are both true out pitches, his changeup lags behind and his control has occasional lapses. Pomeranz will likely move to Double-A for the second half of the season, just like 2009 first-round pick Alex White did last year, and should reach the big leagues in his second full season, just like Alex White did this year.

Eric Surkamp, LHP, Giants (Double-A Connecticut)
On the surface, Surkamp almost seems like a National League version of Erlin: He's left-handed, doesn't throw very hard, and yet he’s utterly dominant. On Saturday, he delivered his third consecutive double-digit strikeout game, and he leads the minors with 51 strikeouts in 32 2/3 innings, but scouts are still flummoxed as to exactly how he does it. It's not fair to call him a finesse arm—he has walked 15 batters this year—and he's also a backward pitcher who uses an above-average curve and changeup combination to set up his fastball as almost a chase pitch. All of his pitches play up due to a delivery than involves hiding the ball behind his head until nearly the moment of delivery. It's hard to say what Surkamp is right now other than very good statistically, and he'll likely get a chance to prove his game can work at Triple-A at some point in the second half of the season.

Mike Trout, OF, Angels (Double-A Arkansas)
When compiling this year's Top 101 prospect list, I flipped Trout and Harper's names numerous times, finally finishing with Harper at the top. A month into the season, it's still a coin flip, as Trout continues to run roughshod over the Texas League as a 19-year-old, going 3-for-10 over the weekend with a double, home run, and four walks to lift his season averages to .304/.398/.565 in 25 contests. With five home runs in 92 at-bats, Trout's power is developing rapidly, and his combination of excellent hitting skills, approach, and plus-plus speed and defense leave him as the most dynamic prospect in baseball. As for being the best over Harper? Keep flipping that coin.

Tim Wheeler, OF, Rockies (Double-A Tulsa)
The 32ndoverall pick in the 2009 draft, Wheeler's stock plummeted throughout the 2010 season, as he hit just .249/.341/.384 in his full-season debut. Those numbers looking even more mediocre when put into the context of the California League. Moved up to Double-A, because that's what you do with a first-round pick, Wheeler is have one of the biggest breakouts in the minors; after going 6-for-11 over the weekend with a pair of home runs, he's now hitting .318/.413/.682 in 28 games. On a tools level, Wheeler's greatest strength is a lack of weaknesses: He's a 50-55 runner who can hold his own in center field with a solid-average arm, while both his hitting skills and raw power fall into that solid-average range as well. Players with that combination of tools almost always make the big leagues, and most that do are everyday players, but few are stars. 

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:  Eric Surkamp,  Over-the-top Delivery,  Quad-a

35 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Peter Hood

For those of us who haven't listened to your live comments on Taijain Walker, could you summarize them here?

May 09, 2011 02:40 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Hosmer/Teheran delayed some stuff, but I'm writing about Walker and Simpson today.

May 09, 2011 08:34 AM
 
Peter Hood

I'm also sure that Erlin is a little taller than 10" as stated in the photo caption :)

May 09, 2011 02:41 AM
rating: -1
 
SC

Nope, captions are meant to be taken literally.

May 09, 2011 09:57 AM
rating: 1
 
raygu1

Kevin-Thoughts on Dodgers Low A pitcher Garret Gould? He's has an impressive showing so far this year for Great Lakes.

May 09, 2011 03:14 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

I like him quite a bit as a future mid-to-back rotation guy. Not a power pitcher, but very good at his craft.

May 09, 2011 08:35 AM
 
ScottyB
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

Is the 10" in the headline supposed to be a joke, or was it supposed to read 5'10"? Yet another recent glaring error in headlines at BP.

May 09, 2011 05:51 AM
rating: -33
 
BP staff member Steven Goldman
BP staff

Joke, not error. Thank you.

May 09, 2011 06:06 AM
 
gilgamesh

I assumed it was a joke.

OTOH, Mr. Erlin can clearly walk around proudly in any locker room in America.

May 09, 2011 06:22 AM
rating: 7
 
hegglund

I'm glad to see that Jason P's influence on BP has now extended (eh?) to a more generalized editorial practice of making male anatomy jokes in the headlines.

May 09, 2011 06:36 AM
rating: 0
 
Peter7899

Boooooo

May 09, 2011 07:14 AM
rating: -1
 
ScottyB
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

I stand corrected. Thanks for the response. (BTW- you know what they say about when you have to explain something was meant as a joke...)

May 09, 2011 07:30 AM
rating: -7
 
Ian Miller

It means the questioner has a questionable sense of humor.

May 09, 2011 09:00 AM
rating: 7
 
Brian24

I wish you hadn't said that...because I have to admit I still don't get the joke. Can somebody explain?

May 09, 2011 10:22 AM
rating: 0
 
Ian Miller

check out the image on the BP homepage

May 09, 2011 10:31 AM
rating: -1
 
Brian24

Yeah, I see that there's a ruler next to him that seems to indicate inches. I still don't get the reference.

May 09, 2011 11:59 AM
rating: 0
 
dianagram

Well, given that the rules next to Erlin went up to 10" and not 70", I'd say it was for comic effect.

May 09, 2011 07:36 AM
rating: 5
 
dianagram

that should read "ruler", not "rules" (of course)

May 09, 2011 07:36 AM
rating: 0
 
fawcettb

I get the joke, but how do you know that?

May 09, 2011 06:29 AM
rating: 1
 
Scott44

It was a joke and fairly good one, I thought. Keep up the great work BP.

May 09, 2011 07:05 AM
rating: -3
 
Benjamin Harris

The joke was funny, but I think it should have been saved for when Jose Altuve makes his appearance on the ten pack.

May 09, 2011 07:40 AM
rating: 7
 
carligula

I'm not surprised Domonic Brown is on a tear - forget being promoted to the bigs, if I had to play for a team calling itself the "IronPigs", I'd be desperate to get out of there too.

May 09, 2011 09:32 AM
rating: 0
 
dianagram

The name is a reference to pig iron, used in the manufacturing of steel, for which the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania is world-renowned.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pig_iron

I like when franchises honor their host cities ...

May 09, 2011 09:44 AM
rating: 4
 
xanthan

Yay for Eric Surkamp. I'm a huge fan. I keep hearing his velocity isn't impressive, but I recall reading reports that he was in the 90-91 range at times last year. That seems quite acceptable for a LHP with very good secondary offerings.

May 09, 2011 09:43 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

He's generally 88-91.

May 09, 2011 09:59 AM
 
markbhey

Kevin -- no problem dude. I should have been more specific with my Harper question. Appreciate all the work you guys do.....tincup.

May 09, 2011 10:15 AM
rating: 2
 
saucyjack88

"Though barely 10" when standing fully erect"... When did the guys from South Park start writing headlines for BP?

May 09, 2011 10:38 AM
rating: 0
 
ScottyB
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

Wow! I mistook a joke headline for a typo, got it clarified by the BP editor, and then admitted my mistake. Didn't think this merited -17.

May 09, 2011 10:55 AM
rating: -7
 
yadenr

If it makes you feel any better, you are only averaging -7.67 per posting today :)

May 09, 2011 12:32 PM
rating: 6
 
thegeneral13

If I had to guess, I'd say the minuses are driven not by the fact that you didn't get the joke, but by the fact that even while acknowledging it could be a joke and not a typo, you used the theoretical typo to take a shot at BP's quality.

May 09, 2011 14:11 PM
rating: 8
 
amazin_mess

You were hit by the minus police because you questioned a joke that wasn't funny. How dare you.

May 09, 2011 12:36 PM
rating: -3
 
vtadave

Says one who has been a frequent target of said police...

May 09, 2011 13:45 PM
rating: 4
 
Behemoth

I suspect that he was minused because of the unnecessarily confrontational way that he posted, rather than because of his failure to understand the joke. (And no, I didn't minus him, even though it was a pretty poor post).

May 09, 2011 14:56 PM
rating: 3
 
amazin_mess
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

and?

May 09, 2011 14:28 PM
rating: -8
 
UofIx3

Given Adams' low walk rates, does he have much chance to succeed in AAA?

May 09, 2011 21:09 PM
rating: 0
 
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