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May 18, 2009

Future Shock

Monday Ten Pack

by Kevin Goldstein

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Brandon Allen, 1B, White Sox (Double-A Birmingham)
Ranked 99th on my Top 100 list coming into the year, Allen had a breakout campaign in 2008 with 29 home runs in 472 at-bats, but he still had four previous years of not-so-impressive performances to overcome to convince a significant number of doubters. With home runs on Saturday and Sunday, and 13 RBI in his last 11 games, Allen now has a nice track record of production at the upper levels with a .300/.369/.521 line, and scouts who have seen him this year have come away impressed.

Jake Arrieta, RHP, Orioles (Double-A Bowie)
Arrieta is somewhere in the middle when you look at Baltimore's talented totem pole of top throwers (and that alliteration just won me a bet). He hasn't gotten much attention this year, but it's not because he's been bad; he's merely been good, without that one start worthy of a mention in Ten Pack or Minor League Update. That all changed on Saturday night, thanks to a seven-inning one-hit shutout that included a season-high 10 strikeouts. With a 2.70 ERA and 42 whiffs in 33 1/3 innings, Arrieta is on track to become one of the many arms that fixes Baltimore's long-term pitching woes.

Peter Bourjos, CF, Angels (Double-A Arkansas)
When you think about the son of a scout, you imagine one of those gritty, grinder types who gets the most out of limited tools. But that's not Bourjos, who is instead a player with a classic leadoff man's package, one that includes a line-drive bat, 70 speed on the 20-80 scouting scale, and the ability to make use of it with outstanding center-field play and basestealing. His only problem was a free-swinging style that led to just 19 walks all of last year. Six hits in two games over the weekend has now extended his hitting streak to ten games (during which he's gone 16-for-40), and, more importantly, he's already worked 13 free passes in 129 at-bats.

Michael Bowden, RHP, Red Sox (Triple-A Pawtucket)
Bowden and Clay Buchholz currently make up one of, if not the best one-two pitching single-team rotation punches anywhere in the minors. Bowden kept up his end of the bargain on Sunday, needing just 93 pitches to twirl eight shutout innings while allowing three hits, walking four, and striking out seven. In his seven starts for the PawSox this year, Bowden has allowed zero earned runs on four different occasions, one run twice, and two runs once-thus the ridiculous 0.86 ERA. While his 28:16 ratio of strikeouts to walks in 42 innings isn't especially eye-popping, but the 19 hits allowed and .136 opponents average certainly are.

Madison Bumgarner, LHP, Giants (Double-A Connecticut)
Tim Alderson announced his Eastern League arrival with authority by throwing six no-hit innings in his Double-A debut, and Bumgarner followed with an outing that was merely very good, as he gave up one run over six innings on seven hits. Sunday afternoon, however, he made up for it with six one-hit innings and nine strikeouts. Whenever I would write about the Giants having the most terrifying rotation in the game, I usually attached the arrival year of 2011 to it; that may prove to be too conservative an estimate.

Kila Ka'aihue, 1B, Royals (Triple-A Omaha)
After leading the minors in on-base percentage last year while finishing second in slugging, Ka'aihue's slow start had many wondering if his 2008 season was just some kind of mirage, with the Royals' strange acquisition of Mike Jacobs adding to the feeling that maybe there's something here that we just don't get. So much for that. With home runs on Friday and Sunday as part of a five-game surge that has seen him go 10-for-20 with three doubles, four home runs, and five walks, the big Hawaiian is suddenly batting .270/.439/.548 overall, and everything seems normal again.

Alex Liddi, 3B, Mariners (High-A High Desert)
The Mariners have a long-standing reputation for having one of the most wide-reaching international scouting departments out there, so it wasn't much of a surprise when they spent six figures in 2005 to sign Liddi out of Italy. It's easy to see what they liked about him, as he's 6-foot-4 with long limbs and broad shoulders, but baseball hasn't come so quickly for him, as he did little in two Midwest League seasons, hitting .240 with eight home runs in 2007, and showing no progress last year with a .244 batting average and just six bombs. High Desert does wonders for any hitter, but it's hard not to think some progress has been made here as well, as home runs on Saturday and Sunday gave Liddi 10 already on this young season, to go with an attention-generating overall line of .361/.395/.674.

David Price, LHP, Rays (Triple-A Durham)
Two of the most frequently repeated questions overheard early this season in the minors involve what is 'wrong' with Matt Wieters and David Price, the top two prospects in the game. The answer, of course, is nothing at all. Wieters homered on Friday and had a triple while scoring the only run of the game on Saturday, while Price put an exclamation point on the weekend Sunday afternoon with five no-hit innings, walking two and striking out nine. The Rays' experiment with very strict pitch counts at Triple-A (Price was lifted after just 82 pitches, his highest total of the year), meant that he left well before he was tired, but at least the questions about the pair should be fading away soon.

Ben Revere, CF, Twins (High-A Fort Myers)
After flirting with .400 in his full-season debut in '08, the Twins' top prospect came into the year with some massive expectations to fulfill. Without much in the way of power or patience, Revere is the kind of player who needs to hit .320 to be of value, and the scary thing is that he shows no indications that he's not capable of that. With three multi-hit games over the weekend (and four in a row overall), plus a current 10-game hitting streak in which he's gone 20-for-41, Revere is now batting .346/.412/.406. He's also hitting with improved plate discipline, drawing 14 walks, while making even better contact (just eight strikeouts in 133 at-bats) than he showed last year.

Josh Vitters, 3B, Cubs (Single-A Peoria)
It's not easy being the only premium prospect in the system, but with three hits each game on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, Vitters is hitting .407 in 16 games this year, and the power is beginning to show up in a major way, as the 2007 first-rounder hit his fourth home run of the year on Friday, and added a pair of doubles and his fifth homer on Sunday. Early on, scouts were calling Brett Lawrie the best young hitter in the Midwest League, but a few trips to Peoria have changed that assessment, and Vitters now holds the title.

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

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

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Are Bowden and Buchholz better than Price and Davis?

May 18, 2009 10:06 AM
rating: 0

Price > Buchholz > Bowden > Davis, in my opinion.

May 18, 2009 10:32 AM
rating: -2

Tommy Hanson and Kris Medlen have been just as good if not better than both those duos.

May 18, 2009 10:47 AM
rating: 0

Buchholz/Bowden is the third best starting duo in the International League by FIP:

Medlen/Hanson 2.19
Tillman/Hernandez 2.51
Buchholz/Bowden 2.69

May 18, 2009 11:02 AM
rating: 2

I'm fine with Dayton Moore acquiring Jacobs for one year while making Kila prove he wasn't a fluke..but Kila simply has to be the DH on Opening Day 2010....

May 18, 2009 10:12 AM
rating: 0

..although, Jacobs has been better so far than anyone thought he would be. His OBP isn't that bad and he's hitting for power. Better than Ross Gload.

May 18, 2009 10:13 AM
rating: 1
David Coonce

I'm better than Ross Gload.

And I haven't played baseball competitively in 17 years.

May 19, 2009 05:24 AM
rating: -1

Is Bowden changing his style with nearly 3.5 BB/9? He is supposed to be a control freak.


May 18, 2009 10:12 AM
rating: 0

The company line on that (and probably the truth, though I can't confirm personally) is that he's working on his slider and doesn't have complete control of it yet.

May 19, 2009 06:48 AM
rating: 0

My question all year will be how long can the Sox keep Buchholz in the minors. (And how long can the Rangers keep Smoak down, but that's a different question).

May 18, 2009 10:28 AM
rating: 0

I can answer that one easily. As long as the team is in first base, and Chris Davis is hitting above the Mendoza line, and Smoak is not yet in AAA, they'll keep him on the farm. But I do expect them to send Justin Smoak to OKC soon.

May 18, 2009 11:48 AM
rating: 0

That O's pitching staff with Tillman, Matusz, Arrieta, Guthrie and ? should be very formidable. Kevin...would they bring up the whole "gang" at once in 2010?

May 18, 2009 10:58 AM
rating: 0

Are you keeping an eye on 22-year old Mets catcher Josh Thole? He had almost as many extra base hits as strikeouts last year and is currently batting .356(.906 OPS) this year at AA and again has almost as many XBHs as Ks -- should we expect to see his name in an update or 10 Pack soon?

May 18, 2009 12:09 PM
rating: 0

Ah -- I see Thole had a blurb in last Friday's Update. Good plate discipline, low Ks and doubles power to go along with good defense sounds pretty nice.

May 18, 2009 12:16 PM
rating: 0

Is Revere showing anything to suggest that his ability to hit for average won't go Pie once he gets to the majors?

May 18, 2009 13:45 PM
rating: 0
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

They are very, very different players. Pie struck out 100-120 times annually in the minors. Revere has struck out EIGHT times this year.

May 18, 2009 15:06 PM

"talented totem pole of top tossers" would have been slightly more alliterative, don't you think?

May 18, 2009 14:39 PM
rating: 2
David Coonce

If David Ortiz continues struggling, do the Red Sox call up Lars Anderson, or is he just not ready?
Is it at all possible that San Diego offers Boston Adrian Gonzalez for Buchholz, Bowden and a third prospect? Who hangs up first?
And, I know you're a Naked Raygun fan. I am too. But I cannot explain "Raygun...Naked Raygun" to anybody. Can you?

May 19, 2009 05:28 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

I don't think Anderson is near ready, and I don't think Boston is going to pay two starters for A-Gon.

R...NR is not to be discussed.

May 19, 2009 08:55 AM
David Coonce

The sad thing is that my wife moved to Chicago in the late '90s, just missing the NR era, although she knew all about the mystique. So one day she admitted to me that she never really got into Naked Raygun, was looking through our records to play something, and grabbed the first NR album she saw.....

Guess which one? Yeah, now I have to do some intensive re-education.

With regards to Bowden and Buchholz, do the Red Sox see Bowden as a bonafide quality starter, or is he more of a 4/5 type who might do better in the weak league/division and in a great park like San Diego?

May 19, 2009 10:43 AM
rating: 0

What, the first rule of "Raygun...Naked Raygun" is that you don't talk about "Raygun...Naked Raygun"?

Can Kila keep his batting average high enough to keep a starting job in the majors, or is he bound for a Cust-like bounce around the league before someone gives him a legitimate shot? Do scouts expect him to hit lefties in the majors, or is he more of a platoon DH?

May 19, 2009 09:00 AM
rating: 0

"Talented Totem pole of Top TWIRLERS" is better alliteration...but I'm glad you won the bet.

May 20, 2009 03:40 AM
rating: 0

Since this thing was posted Vitters has been 6-10 with 2 more HR's. Two years ago Travis Snider made a splash after going 313/377/525 with 16 HR's in 118 games. Vitters is at 374/400/598, its early but I mean even a stiff regression would put Vitters on pace to demolish Snider's numbers.

May 20, 2009 14:41 PM
rating: 0
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