Hanser Alberto, SS/3B, Rangers (Low-A Hickory)
When I visited the Rangers minor league camp this spring, they were playing a pair of games with their Low- and High-A squads about 20 feet from each other. With one of the best systems in baseball, including a plethora of expensive draft picks and big ticket international signings, it was an impressive display of expensive talent, but it was Alberto who stole the show, as he just barreled everything. I hadn't even heard of him, but I got a quick primer from Jason Parks, who thinks he can hit, and that seems to be the universal opinion. That's with good reason as after eight hits over the weekend, including four on Sunday, the 19-year-old Dominican is now hitting .369/.396/.476 while seeing time at both left-side infield positions. It's always fun to see the big name players, but it's equally good to find new names as well.
Jackie Bradley, OF, Red Sox (High-A Salem)
Bradley entered last spring with hopes of being a single digit pick, but nothing went right in his final year at South Carolina, as he struggled to hit with a case of draft-itis, and then his season was cut short by a wrist injury. His previous performance was strong enough to land him in the supplemental first-round and earn him a big bonus at $1.1 million, which looks like a bargain so far. With four more hits and two more walks over the weekend, Bradley is hitting a monstrous .370/.479/.493 in 20 games with 17 walks and eight stolen bases in nine attempts. He's not a big tools guy, with just average speed, but he's an on-base machine who can play center field, which is a rare combination.
Andrew Chafin, LHP, Diamondbacks (High-A Visalia)
Not that the Diamondbacks need more impressive arms, but Chafin is beginning to generate so big buzz in the California League. A supplemental first-round pick last June, Chafin was a potential first-rounder before some late-season arm issues, and when combined with a Tommy John surgery in his past and some violence in his delivery, he'll always have some red flags. What he also has is excellent stuff, with a slightly above-average fastball that sits in the low 90s and a wipeout slider that some scouts put a 70 grade on. He struck out a career-high 12 on Saturday, and he's been missing bats all year, with 45 in 27 2/3 innings to go with a 2.28 ERA in five starts. The Double-A Mobile rotation is already one of the best in baseball, and Chafin could be joining them soon.
Billy Hamilton, SS, Reds (High-A Bakersfield)
Having fun yet? You should be. Hamilton has been hot all year, but he kicked it up a notch over the past week, going 13-for-28 with 15 stolen bases in his last seven games. That's not a typo: Fifteen. Now hitting .398/.481/.591 in 23 games with 29 stolen bases, scouts say this is more than just some California League mirage, as they see a much improved swing that is conducive to a high average to go with being the fastest player in the game. Get excited folks, this is looking very real.
Miles Head, 3B/1B, Athletics (High-A Stockton)
Head has a lot going against him. Acquired from Boston as part of the Andrew Bailey deal, Head's not really a third baseman, he showed up to camp in well short of ideal shape, and at six-foot and 220 (or so) pounds, he's a short, stocky right-right guy who doesn't exactly fit an ideal physical profile. With all that out of the way, what Head really can do is hit. After pounding out nine total bases on Saturday—including his sixth home run of the year—Head added two more on Sunday and is now hitting .368/.390/.716 in 23 games. Again, he's a first-base only guy with a weird profile, so far now, he's intriguing.
Hak-Ju Lee, SS, Rays (Double-A Montgomery)
Lee had a breakout year in 2010, but it was mitigated a bit by an ugly final month's showing at Double-A. Those struggles continued at the beginning of 2012, but he seems to have found his stroke; with two-hit games on Saturday and Sunday, he's now 12-for-25 in his last six games to lift his averages up to a more respectable .248/.315/.327. To be certain, Lee needs to hit. He has below average power and, while he has good plate discipline, he's not exactly a walk machine, so much of his value revolves around his batting average and plus speed. Any offensive production will make Lee quite valuable, as he's not just a true shortstop, but a good one. Again, he needs to hit.
Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians (Low-A Lake County)
When I saw Lindor play in person on Monday, it just felt like seeing something special, and it's starting to show up on the stat sheet. After a 6-for-12 weekend extended his five-game hit streak to an 11-for-21 run, Lindor is now hitting .314/.369/.451 in 23 games with two home runs and eight stolen bases. All that comes with impressive defense, and at an age that fits more with this year's high school draftees, as Lindor doesn't turn 19 until November. Special, indeed.
Nick Maronde, LHP, Angels (High-A Inland Empire)
Maronde got to the third round of last year's draft as a reliever, but he has the frame and the arsenal to start, and he had his best outing of the year on Friday, striking out 12 over seven shutout innings while allowing just three hits and needing just 90 pitches. His fastball and slider are both a tick above average, his changeup has the potential to be average, but everything plays up due to an easy delivery that gives him well above-average command and control. He could be in Double-A Arkansas by the second-half and knocking on the big league door by 2014.
Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals (Double-A Springfield)
Sending Taveras to Double-A to begin the season was a risky proposition. Sure he flirted with .400 much of the 2011 season at Low-A Quad Cities, but he also played just 78 games due to hamstring problems and he doesn't turn 20 until June. Whoever pushed for it, whoever was that guy really pushing for the move, looks like he was right, as after four hits over the weekend and three home runs in his last five games, Taveras is now hitting .330/.358/.659 on the young season. Nitpickers can point at the three walks, but he's struck out just 13 times in 91 at-bats and 16 of his 30 hits have gone for extra bases. How do you tell a guy like that things would be better if he took more pitches?
Cory Vaughn, OF, Mets (High-A St. Lucie)
A fourth-round pick in 2010, Vaughn's pro debut made him a very real prospect, but after an ugly full season in 2011, his stock was back to to what would normally be expected for a fourth-round pick: interesting, but let's not get a big league uniform ready yet. The good news is that even while struggling, Vaughn's tools were still there, and they've been on display more on the diamond: with home runs in all three games of the weekend, he's now hitting .276/.368/.539 in 20 games. With a corner outfield profile he'll need to keep hitting, and that will require less swing-and-miss in his game, but again, the tools are still there.