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May 7, 2012

Future Shock

Monday Morning Ten Pack

by Kevin Goldstein

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Matt Barnes, RHP, Red Sox (High-A Salem)
Throughout the entire month of April, it was pretty clear that Barnes didn't belong in Low-A, as the 2011 first-round pick allowed just one run over 26 2/3 innings while striking out 42. On Saturday, Barnes showed that he might not belong in High-A either, as he whiffed 12 over six four-hit innings in his Carolina League debut. Just as important as the numbers, Barnes has started to break out the secondary stuff, as after relying primarily on a fastball that can touch 97 in Greenville, he was generating swings and misses with a curveball that has been an inconsistent pitch in the past. His ceiling hasn't changed yet, but his timetable is quickly accelerating.

Gerardo Concepcion, LHP, Cubs (Low-A Peoria)
The Cubs rocked the scouting world when they signed Concepcion to a $6 million big league deal that included a $3 million bonus, and the 20-year-old Cuban has not exactly gotten off to a rollicking start. After allowing seven runs in one inning on Saturday, he now has an 18.90 ERA in three starts and the Midwest League is batting .514 (19-for-37) against him. That said, it's not time to panic, as the money involved was the creation of end-of-market inflation, and not Concepcion's talent. He throws strikes with an upper-80s fastball and has the potential for good secondaries, but as a command-and-control pitcher and not a stuff guy, it's going to take time to figure out how to pitch, as well as to adjust to his new life in the United States. Patience, for now.

Kyle Crick, RHP, Giants (Low-A Augusta)
Yet another one of those 2011 draftees overshadowed by all of the tremendous young pitching we've seen so far, Crick had his best outing of the year on Sunday, whiffing eight over six shutout innings while allowing just one hit to lower his ERA to 1.66 in five starts. While it's a bit of a cliché, Crick is a classic Texas high school righty: a power frame with power stuff. With a fastball that's been touching 95, a solid breaking ball and a much improved slider, the biggest challenge for Crick is improving his control, as over 21 2/3 innings, he's walked 17 and hit seven batters. Still, his ceiling ranks with any starter in the system, and he should not be overlooked.

Evan Gattis, OF, Braves (Double-A Mississippi)
The story of Gattis is becoming well known. If you need to catch up, Dave O'Brien wrote a wonderful piece on it this spring. So he walked away from the game, came back, and since then has done nothing but crush the ball. Moved up to Double-A after hitting a walloping .385/.468/.821 in 21 games at High-A Lynchburg, Gattis has a two home run weekend and now has three bombs in his first six games at the upper levels. Yes, he's killing it, but he's difficult to wrap one's head around. Because of the layoff, he turns 26 in August, and there just aren't many players like him. Understanding prospects is about understanding history. I'm not talking about finding the proper comp, it's more of looking at a player, and his tools and his performance and his development path and recognizing what players like that look like and therefore the various permutations of what they can become. There is no such roadmap for Gattis. All he can do is keep hitting and earning promotions.

Jedd Gyorko, 2B, Padres (Double-A San Antonio)
One indication of an organization's attitudes about a player can be shown when he switches positions, shifting the wrong way on the defensive spectrum. That was the case with Gyorko, who switched to second base at the end of April and suddenly seemed to be close to San Diego. Gyorko's done his part to help that narrative, as with two more runs over the weekend, he's now batting .321/.397/.643 since moving to the position. The Padres housecleaning began with the Ernesto Frieri deal, and expect it to continue with Gyorko taking over at second base before the All-Star break. Possibly well before.

Jose Iglesias, SS, Red Sox (Triple-A Pawtucket)
Every bit of hyperbole you've heard or read about Iglesias' defensive prowess is true: he's the best defensive shortstop in the minors. But what if he can hit? Even just a little bit? Even just enough to hit 9th every day? It's impossible to say he can do that yet, but with two hits in all three weekend games, he's strung together five straight multi-hit games to lift his averages to .253/.330/.293. His longest such streak all of last year was three games. The question is still a what if, but the answer isn't as sure as it once was.

Marc Krauss, OF, Diamondbacks (Double-A Mobile)
A second-round pick in 2009, Krauss' 2010 season in the California League made him a prospect, and his follow-up campaign last year in Double-A made him a suspect. His size, patience, power, and lack of athleticism has always brought on comps of a poor man's Adam Dunn, and he's suddenly hitting like one. A 5-for-11 weekend that included his fifth home run of the year has his averages up to .277/.414/.554 with 21 walks in 31 games, and he's very much back to looking like a prospect again.

Wil Myers, OF, Royals (Double-A Northwest Arkansas)
Wil Myers had a disappointing 2011 campaign while playing through an injury. He followed that up with a remarkable showing in the Arizona Fall League that had scouts saying "this is the player we thought he could be." Despite the sample size differences, the reports out of Arizona were so glowing that he was the top-ranked prospect in a strong Royals system entering the year. Turns out those scouts in Arizona were right, as with three home runs in his last four games, he's hitting .336/.390/.692, and his nine home runs is already one more than last year's total in 99 games. This is a special offensive prospect; now if only the Royals could find some pitching.

Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Royals (Double-A Northwest Arkansas)
It's been a strange season for Odorizzi, as his 3.48 ERA in six starts is a combination of dominating starts and some clunkers. On Saturday, it was the former, as the 22-year-old matched his season high with 11 strikeouts while allowing just two hits over 7 1/3 innings. He now has 40 strikeouts in 31 innings on the year and an opponent's average of just .184; with more consistency he becomes the top pitching prospect in the system, combining plus stuff with plus command and outstanding athleticism. However, until you feel like you're going to get that every start, he remains a really good prospect, not a great one.

Nick Tropeano, RHP, Astros (Low-A Lexington)
A fifth-round pick last June, Tropeano has been among the best starting pitchers in the Sally League so far this spring, as after seven shutout innings on Saturday—while allowing just two hits and striking out eight—he has a 1.87 ERA in six games with 41 whiffs in 33 2/3 innings. He's a bit of a trick pitcher, but it's one hell of a trick, as he throws strikes with an average-velocity fastball to set up a fantastic changeup, the kind of pitch that will make Low-A hitters look childish. He's certainly a prospect, with the potential to fit into the back of a big league rotation, but in order to do so, that one trick has to work all the way up the ladder.

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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