Blake Beavan, RHP, Irving, TX
Our first high school player to make the Ten Pack this year, Beavan earns the spot for good reason. A six-foot-seven righthander who touches 95 mph and has a plus slider, Beavan fired a perfect game earlier in the week, striking out the first 14 batters he faced and finishing with 18 punchouts–and keep in mind that in high school, games last seven innings. Unlike most teenage pitchers with Beavan’s combination of velocity and height, there are no control problems here, as he’s compiled as 46-to-0 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his first three starts. He’s rocketing up the draft charts.
Billy Butler, OF, Royals
Butler has easily been the most impressive hitter in Royals camp so far, going 10-for-18 with three doubles, a pair of home runs, and just one strikeout. At the same time, the Royals are doing the right thing, with manager Buddy Bell saying, “there are other things to playing in the majors besides hitting.” It’s a not-so-lightly veiled reference to Butler’s defense, which is still a little rough in the outfield (to put it mildly). For now he’ll go to Triple-A Omaha to start the season, but in the end he’s going to wind up a designated hitter anyway, so just get Mike Sweeney out of the way, get Butler going, and stop having him wasting time on something he can’t do.
John Danks, LHP, White Sox
Going into camp, the White Sox penciled in the recently acquired Gavin Floyd as the number five starter, hoping that pitching coach Don Cooper could work a miracle with the former Phillies prospect. So far, the baseball gods have failed to come down and provide their blessings, as Floyd has given up seven runs in six innings and struck out just one. Another candidate, knuckleballer Charlie Haeger has pitched OK, but the team seems more comfortable with him in a more flexible relief role. Enter Danks, the top prospect in the system acquired from Texas in the Brandon McCarthy trade. A month away from his 22nd birthday, Danks was thought to need more time at Triple-A, but he’s now in the major league mix after allowing just one run in his first three outings. He was already the team’s best option in the long run, but he might be their best option right now.
Josh Fields, RHP, University of Georgia
Top-notch college relievers are a hot commodity in any draft, as some teams look for a player who can move quickly and pay off swift dividends in the big leagues. Fields entered the season as the top-rated college stopper, but the early part of the season has revealed some troubling control issues, as Fields issued eight free passes in his first 7 2/3 innings. Things looked a little better on Saturday, as the six-foot righty struck out five over four shutout innings while allowing one hit in the Bulldogs’ 6-2 loss to Gardner Webb in a 18-inning marathon (the longest game in the team’s history). With an upper-90s fastball and plus slider, Fields is the kind of guy who could be a late first-round pick, and then up in the big leagues by 2008. Scouts are hoping the weekend performance is the beginning of a return to form.
Gaby Hernandez, RHP, Marlins
Hernandez has an 11.57 ERA in a pair of spring outings this year, but that doesn’t mean he’s not opening eyes, with one team official who recently saw him e-mailing me to tell me I need to rework my Marlins Top 10 and move him up…way up. He’s gained a couple of ticks on his fastball, pitching at 92-94 mph, but more importantly, he’s found a breaking ball, as his borderline-average curveball is now flashing as a plus offering. He’ll begin the year at Double-A, but some within the organization think he won’t be there for long.
Tim Lincecum, RHP, Giants
Lincecum struggled in his first outing of the spring, but was in midseason form over the weekend, striking out four over three shutout innings while allowing a pair of hits. He touched 97 mph with his fastball, and his curveball was the monster that we’ve seen throughout his career. The Giants have changed things up a little bit as far as charting Lincecum’s path, indicating that he’ll begin the year in the Triple-A rotation instead of down at Double-A, which puts him closer to the big leagues, both in baseball terms and geographically.
James Loney, 1B, Dodgers
What does Loney have to do in order to get a big league job? He’s tied for the spring training lead in hits, going 14-for-28 so far in 11 games, but he’s struggled a bit in an attempt to play the outfield, and Nomar Garciaparra is locked in at first base. Loney deserves better, but for now he’s in line to break camp in the big leagues, then return to Triple-A once the fifth starter has to be added to the roster. Teams looking for a first baseman might think about making that call to the 213 area code.
Brandon Morrow, RHP, Mariners
Morrow may have become a bit of a forgotten commodity after the fifth overall pick in the draft pitched just 16 innings last year. That would be a mistake, as Morrow has been one of the big stories in Mariners camp, firing three shutout innings over the weekend while striking out three and giving up just one hit. His fastball touched 97 mph, his slider and split both looked excellent, and he’s slated to begin the year in the Double-A rotation. A late-season call-up isn’t out of the question in an organization with a track record for rushing top prospects.
Hunter Pence, OF, Astros
Pence is making things difficult for the Astros’ decision makers, as the top hitting prospect in the system is also the hottest hitter in Florida, going 14-for-21 so far with seven extra-base hits and a 1.238 slugging percentage. Chris Burke has been promised the center field job as he waits to return to second base (his natural position) another year so that Craig Biggio can notch his 3,000th hit. At this pace, however, Burke might be relegated to super-sub, because Pence’s performance makes it look like that expected assignment to Triple-A would be a waste of time.
David Price, LHP, Vanderbilt
He entered the season as the top talent in the draft, and now Price is beginning to pitch like it. On Friday afternoon, Price delivered his best outing of the season, striking out 16 in a complete game four-hitter, making only one mistake as Illinois-Chicago designated hitter Mike Kaffel took him deep in the second inning. Price showed three plus pitches in the game: a fastball that touched 96 mph, a vicious slider, a surprisingly effective slow curve, but he also showed an improved feel for a changeup. Vanderbilt is one of the top teams in the nation, with an 18-0 record and team ERA of 2.33, outscoring opponents 142-50 so far this season. Price’s 2.52 ERA is actually the highest of Vanderbilt’s four primary starters, but his 57-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 35 2/3 innings shows why he’ll be a multi-millionaire in the next three to five months.