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November 2, 2009

Future Shock

Monday Ten Pack

by Kevin Goldstein

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Johermyn Chavez, OF, Blue Jays (VEN: Magellanes)
Chavez made tremendous strides in 2009. Overmatched at Low-A in 2008 and batting .211/.272/.323 as a 19-year-old, Chavez returned to the Lugnuts this year and raised his OPS by 227 points, finishing second in the Midwest League with 21 home runs, and third with 241 total bases. Used sparingly so far for the Navegantes, Chavez got his first start on Sunday and responded with a 3-for-4 night that included a double and three RBI. In a system desperate for prospects, Chavez is definitely one.

Luis Durango, OF, Padres (DOM: Cibao)
This has been a very good year for Durango. Barely on anyone's radar during the year, Durango ended up playing in the Futures Game, finished third in the Texas League with a .390 on-base percentage, second with 44 stolen bases, and he finished the year by going 6-for-11 in the big leagues. Those trends have continued with the Gigantes, as he's now 13-for-25 with five walks and four stolen bases for them. Scouts still aren't sure what to make of him, though, as it's hard to come up with a recent player who has less power. Durango had nine doubles and two triples in 129 games for San Antonio, for an ISO of .028. He's a bench player at best, but it was still a huge leap forward from where he was at the beginning of the year.

Brandon Erbe, RHP, Orioles (AFL: Phoenix)
While he's been passed up by more advanced products like Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz on Baltimore's depth chart, Erbe remains a very real prospect, and one of the few who is putting up good numbers from the mound in Arizona, as he has allowed one run over 4 1/3 innings while striking out five. While is seems like he's been in the organization forever, he turns 22 in December, so he's on a normal track age- and level-wise. With his heat sitting on 92-94 mph as he also mixes in a solid slider, improving changeup, and plus command, Erbe will likely begin next year at Triple-A, but should end the year at a much higher pay scale.

Craig Kimbrel, RHP, Braves (AFL: Peoria)
Nobody can question Kimbrel's ability to miss bats, because with a 94-96 mph fastball with heavy sink and a plus slider, he's whiffed 159 batting in just 95 1/3 career innings, as well as four of the last eight batters he's faced in Arizona. By any logical account, he's the Braves' closer of the future if he can get over the hump of problems in the control area. He walked 45 in 60 innings during the regular season, and has already handed out five free passes over 6 2/3 frames for the Saguaros, but none in his last three games. That's been the story throughout his career, and every time you think he has figured things out, he starts walking everyone again. He'll begin 2010 in Triple-A, hoping for a streak like his current one.

Jenrry Mejia, RHP, Mets (AFL: Surprise)
It might just be the sheer number of Mets fans, or maybe it's that in a weak system there's so little on the prospect front to root for, but for some reason Mejia is one of the most talked-about players in the AFL. Everyone wants to talk about the velocity, which is unquestionably excellent, as he sat at 93-97 mph on Friday while touching 99, but what about the 12.91 ERA after four games that includes 14 hits and nine walks in just 7 2/3 innings? Yes, at 20, he's very young for the league, but he's also much more of a thrower than a pitcher, even for his age group. His arem is a special one, but it's also a bit of a spectacular mess.

Mike Moustakas, 3B, Royals (AFL: Surprise)
While the Royals' organization did not get anything close to what was expected from their teenage slugging tandem of Moutakas and Eric Hosmer, the former is at least trying to make up for it a bit, slugging a pair of home runs on Friday to give him a .273/.313/.568 line in 11 games for the Rafters. His bat speed remains off the charts, and his defense has received some surprisingly good reviews so far. It's far too early to write him off, although his showing at Double-A next season will help determine if he was really worthy of the second overall pick in the 2007 draft.

Michael Taylor, OF, Phillies (MEX: Obregon)
Taylor got off to a slow start in Mexico, going just 3-for-14 in his first four games, but he's 12-for-29 (.414) since, including hitting his first home run of the season on Saturday. He remains a unique prospect, as he's a 6-foot-6, 250-pound behemoth that is known more for his ability to make contact than his power (which is average, if only for his size and strength). Like Domonic Brown, another advanced outfield prospect in the system, it's hard to figure out where he fits in with the Phillies, but he could force some decisions in short order.

Donald Veal, LHP, Pirates (AFL: Scottsdale)
Whatever the Pirates have done here with Veal, let's hope they keep doing it, as he's been one of the stories of the league so far with a 0.71 ERA in four starts for the Scorpions. Sitting at 92-94 mph with his fastball, he's showing far better command than he did during the regular season and flashing a good curve and changeup. He's going from persona non grata to a very real candidate for a slot in the 2010 rotation.

Neil Walker, 3B, Pirates (VEN: Margarita)
At this point, it's time to give up on Walker as any kind of top prospect, as the 2004 first-round pick has now spent three years at the upper levels of the Pirates system with very little progress. He hits for a middling average, doesn't draw many walks, pops out 15 or so home runs, and that's just not enough. He's on a hot streak for the Bravos, going 5-for-12 with two doubles and a pair of home runs in his last four games, but unless he's interested in returning to catcher, he's destined for a return to Indianapolis.

Jemile Weeks, 2B, Athletics (AFL: Phoenix)
Weeks got off to a slow start with the Desert Dogs, but things are beginning to return to form again, as he's 7-for-12 with three doubles and a triple in his last three contests. Weeks possesses a nice combination of tools and skills, projecting as a solid second baseman who should hit for average, draw walks, and hit 15-25 home runs with 20+ stolen bases a year, but he has to stay healthy to do it, having played just 99 games since being chosen as Oakland's first-round pick in 2008. He'll begin next year back at Double-A, and his health and performance will play a role in the club's decision to pick up Mark Ellis' 2011 option.

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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