Bobby Borchering, 3B/1B, Diamondbacks (High-A Visalia)
If you are looking for a mixed bag when it comes to prospects, Borchering is your guy. A first-round pick in 2009, Borchering finished his full-season debut with a strong second-half and was expected to build on it in 2011. Some scouts say he is, some say he isn't. A switch hitter with a swing that appeals to anyone with a sense of beauty, Borchering went 5-for-11 with a pair of home runs over the weekend to lift his seasonal numbers to .268/.327/.481, and that line alone shows you the good and the bad in his game. While he's having a breakthrough on a power level, he's also struck out 109 times in 362 at-bats and remains prone to swinging at bad pitches. Scouts love his hit tool, but it's not going to matter until he cleans up his approach.
Chih-Hsien Chiang, OF, Red Sox (Double-A Portland)
When writing last week's Futures Game Ten Pack, I realized that I had written up every player in the game this year except for one. A 23-year-old converted second baseman from Taiwan, Chiang has come all but out of nowhere to put up a .331/.389/.651 line after a 7-for-11 weekend with a pair of doubles and two home home runs. Despite those numbers, scouts are still having a problem warming up to him. “He has some power, and some hitting ability,” said one talent evaluator. “But there aren't any plus physical tools, so he has limited athleticism and therefore versatility.” Despite the numbers, he'll have to prove himself further, and a move to Triple-A while maintaining these numbers would do wonders for his prospect status.
Chun-Hsiu Chen, C, Indians (Double-A Akron)
Chen had an offensive breakout in 2010, hitting .315/.404/.521 between Low-A and High-A, but he missed the Indians prospect list due to downright horrible defensive reviews, leaving him as a big and bulky bat without a position. The bat is still there at Double-A; after reaching base nine times over the weekend, he's up to .286/.332/.475 in 71 Eastern League games, and the good news is that the defense is better as well. The bad news is that it’s an upgrade from dreadful to well below average as he still does not move well behind the plate or receive well, and his pop times are in the 2.05 range. He just needs to become adequate to have some semblance of a big league career, and at least his trends are in the right direction.
Michael Choice, OF, Athletics (High-A Stockton)
Heading into this season, the biggest question about the 2010 first-round pick was the amount of times he swings and misses, and while Choice has already registered 104 strikeouts in 358 at-bats, his rate of whiffs has decreased throughout the year. He's absolutely killing the ball in July as a 7-for-14 week with two home runs has him hitting .441/.479/.897 in 16 July games and .291/.381/.575 overall, with his 26 home runs tied for third in the minor leagues. With a patient approach, average speed, and a plus arm, Choice profiles as a classic star-level right-fielder and the kind of power source the A's have been desperate for.
Rymer Liriano, OF, Padres (Low-A Fort Wayne)
Liriano is having a tremendous year, but he still has a stigma attached to him after hitting .127 in 15 California League games at the start of the year. Demotions never help one's prospect status, but keep in mind that Liriano is just 20 years old, so he’s young even for the Midwest League, and he's been among the most dangerous all-around players on the circuit since returning to Fort Wayne. After a six-hit weekend that included a mammoth home run on Sunday, Liriano is hitting .315/.383/.503 with 44 stolen bases, and both his power and speed tools are a tick above-average—although with a thick 210 pounds on a six-foot frame, it's hard to see him staying fast as he moves up the ladder. He's the type of player who will need to perform at Double-A for us to get a true read on him, but despite the slow start to the year, his stock is actually up.
Tom Milone, LHP, Nationals (Triple-A Syracuse)
Milone walked a batter on Sunday while allowing one run over 7 1/3 innings, and that's notable because he's given out only eight free passes all year. That's eight over 110.1 innings with 113 strikeouts, creating the most eye-popping ratio in baseball to go with a 3.02 ERA. That said, scouts are still confused as to his future. There's no need to bring a radar gun to a Milone start as his fastball routinely sits at 85-90 mph, but obviously he puts the pitch exactly where he wants it. He mixes in a solid curveball, a changeup that is clearly his best pitch, and keeps hitters off balance with a delivery that features multiple points of hesitation. He's certainly a trick pitcher, but it's yet to catch up to him in the minors, and the act is at least worth an audition in the big leagues.
Rougned, Odor, 2B, Rangers (Short-Season Spokane)
Odor gained notoriety for all the wrong reasons last week when he was involved in a brawl that led to a suspension, but he returned to action on Sunday with two hits—including his second home run of the year—to raise his season averages to .326/.383/.453. These are good numbers by themselves but are made even more impressive by the fact that he is a 17-year-old hitting in the college-heavy Northwest League. Signed during the off-season for $425,000, Odor would have received more if he had the tools or athleticism to play on the left side of the infield. His hit tool is receiving outstanding reviews, though, and his combination of fantastic bat speed with a knack for hard contact should allow him to develop at least gap power down the road based on how consistently he puts the barrel to the ball. Second base prospects have to hit all the way up the ladder—that is a position with no career path as a backup—and Odor is off to a great start in proving that.
Joc Pederson, OF, Dodgers (Rookie-level Ogden)
The Dodgers gave Pederson a $600,000 bonus as an 11th-round pick last year, but he hit just .160 in 16 Midwest League games—a number that certainly had at least some bad luck involved since he struck out just nine times in 50 at-bats. Sent to the Pioneer League once the short-season circuits began play, Pederson has found his swing, roping two hits on Saturday and three more on Sunday, bringing him up to .341/.421/.561 in 22 games for the Raptors. The league (and Ogden in particular) is a great place to put up numbers, but Pederson also has tools, and while they are not star level, they are at least average across the board. Just 19 years old, he'll get a second crack at Low-A in 2012 and still be young for the league.
Wilin Rosario, C, Rockies (Double-A Tulsa)
When compiling the Top 50 list at the end of last week, Rosario's name stayed on the spreadsheet a very long time before becoming one of the final cuts. With three home runs over the weekend, he's now batting .256/.300/.474 in 68 games for the Drillers, and in 141 games for Tulsa over the last two years, he's cranked out 34 home runs. Throw in above-average defensive skills, and he seems like a future star. Questions about his pure hitting skills abound, however, as his batting average fails to impress, and he's an impatient hitter who sits dead-red early in counts and often finds himself behind. Again, he just missed the top 50 and still projects as an above-average every day catcher, but there is still some room for improvement in his game.
Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals (Low-A Quad Cities)
Had Taveras not had hamstring issues this year that have limited him to just 39 games, he would have received stronger consideration for the Top 50 as he's been among the most impressive hitters in the Midwest League when healthy. With seven hits over the weekend, including three doubles and a home run, the 19-year-old Dominican is a ridiculous 21-for-39 (.538) over his last ten games to raise his season line to .393/.434/.567. Most of Taveras' value lies in his ultra-fast bat, but he does have gap-to-average power and a solid arm, giving him an everyday corner outfield profile . . . if he could just stay healthy.