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July 6, 2009

Future Shock

Monday Ten Pack

by Kevin Goldstein

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Daric Barton, 1B, Athletics (Triple-A Sacramento)
It almost seems as if Barton is washed up at this point. The former top prospect in the system flamed out last year when given the big-league job at first base, and then he followed that up with a miserable start at Triple-A when he was sent back down to the minors to begin the year. After spending much of June in back in the big leagues more out of necessity than anything else, Barton is now trying to hit his way back, going 7-for-21 with three home runs since his return to Sacramento. He's still a relatively young 23, and he still has some kind of a chance.

Reymond Fuentes, CF, Red Sox (Rookie-level GCL Red Sox)
As with any 2009 draftee, small sample sizes greatly lessen the impact of any numbers put up. Good starts are better than bad ones, however, and Boston's first-round pick definitely falls into the former category, as he had one hit in his pro debut, two in his second game, and three more yesterday to make him 6-for-10 after three contests. This year's workout king still needs to improve his base-stealing instincts, as he's been caught twice in three attempts, but that's really just another small sample, and the point is, so far, so good.

Greg Halman, OF, Mariners (Double-A West Tenn)
In his last 11 games, Halman has gone 16-for-48 with seven home runs, including two bombs on Saturday and two more yesterday to give him a Southern League-leading 20. The bad news is that he needed that kind of streak to get his batting average back up over the Mendoza line, and in 267 at-bats, he's struck out 111 times while drawing just 15 unintentional walks. All of the tools are there, and are clearly often showing up in games, but this one aspect is almost destroying his future. It's just hard to figure out what to make of Halman, and plenty of scouts seem confused as well, with one stating, "See him on the right day, and you'd put him down as a 'strong acquire,' see him the next day, and you might put him down as a 'no prospect.'"

James McOwen, OF, Mariners (High-A High Desert)
If anything, McOwen is kind of the anti-Halman in the Mariners system. He has just four home runs in 264 at-bats this year, and that's playing in the best home-run park in baseball, but he's also batting .352 and in the midst of a remarkable 42-game hitting streak, establishing a new Cal League record. If you could combine his swing with Halman's tools, you'd have one heck of a player, but while he's twice the hitter Halman is, he's still half the prospect, as he lacks the speed for center and doesn't profile well for a corner.

Jiovanni Mier, SS, Astros (Rookie-level Greenville)
The Astros' first-round pick was supposed to be a slick-fielding shortstop who was expected to struggle a bit with the bat, but nobody told Mier. With two-hit efforts in each of the three weekend games, he's now batting .308/.386/.538 in his first nine professional contests. Given his three triples and a pair of stolen bases, Mier's speed is evident in the statistical line, and the glove is reportedly every bit as good as advertised.

Logan Morrison, 1B, Marlins (Double-A Jacksonville)
One of the brightest hitting prospects around, and one who was coming off of a monster showing in the Arizona Fall League, Morrison missed nearly two months early in the season with a fractured wrist, but he's beginning to find his swing again. After going deep on Saturday, the 21-year-old had one of the best days in the minor leagues yesterday, going 5-for-6 with two doubles and a homer, upping his season averages to .278/.381/.515 in 25 games. If the Marlins decide to be aggressive, he could be up by September, and their starting first baseman next spring.

Derek Norris, C, Nationals (Single-A Hagerstown)
If we measure talent-to-hype ratios, is this the most unrecognized prospect in the game? With a home run on Saturday and two more on Sunday, the 20-year-old Norris is now batting .314/.406/.569 with 17 home runs and 40 walks in 77 games while showing solid (and rapidly improving) defensive skills. At the same time, and maybe it's because he's with the Nats, nobody really gives him much attention. Until Strasburg signs, he's the best prospect the Nationals have, and that's not damning with faint praise, as he'd be No. 1 in plenty of other systems as well.

Rudy Owens, LHP, Pirates (Low-A West Virginia)
A month or so ago, he was a nice little sleeper, but now Owens is a very real prospect. A big, physical lefty, he has been in the low 90s with his fastball this year while also showing off a solid breaking ball, plus change, and outstanding command. Owens fired five more scoreless innings on Sunday, running his shutout streak to five starts, a span of 31 innings over which he's allowed only 14 hits and one walk while striking out 30. He's certainly ready for a crack at High-A Lynchburg, although it would be understandable for Pirates fans to be a bit cautious considering the organization's recent history with pitching prospects.

Robbie Ross, LHP, Rangers (Short-season Spokane)
A second-round pick last year out of a Kentucky high school, Ross signed for an over-slot bonus of $1.575 million, but the deadline deal prevented him from making his pro debut until this year. Despite being a 5-foot-11 southpaw, Ross is actually a power arm with plus control, as he has been clocked up to 94 mph so far this summer while showing potential will his slider and changeup. He struck out 10 over five innings on Sunday, and has 34 whiffs against just four walks in 20 1/3 innings on the season, so he is definitely someone worth keeping an eye on.

Danny Valencia, 3B, Twins (Triple-A Rochester)
Joe Crede is just a one-year fix (and I use the term lightly) at best, as Valencia is the guy in line for the job in 2010, if not earlier. Seen as little more than an organizational player when drafted in the 19th round three years ago, all Valencia has done since signing is hit, and it's something he's been doing more than ever since getting promoted to Triple-A two weeks ago. With a trio of multi-hit games over the weekend, the former University of Miami star is batting .370/.375/.609 in his first 12 International League games. A solid defender, there are questions about Valencia's power upside, but his ability to hit for average is universally praised.

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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