Nick Adenhart, RHP, Double-A Arkansas (Angels)

As a pitcher who had Tommy John surgery just after being drafted, it would be understandable if Adenhart was a little behind the standard age/level curve. Instead, he was making his Double-A debut on Saturday, more than four months away from his 21st birthday. With this in mind, we’d understand if he get roughed up a little. Instead, he took a no-hitter into the sixth, finishing
with 5.1 innings of one-hit ball, walking two and striking out eight. Adenhart’s low-to-mid 90s fastball was there, as was the changeup, but as he showed in camp, Adenhart’s throwing a much improved breaking pitch, which was the primary reason the Angels felt comfortable pushing him to the higher level. His timetable has moved up, and Adenhart is starting to look like he’ll compete for a big league rotation job next spring.

Bubba Bell, OF, High-A Lancaster (Red Sox)

Chances are pretty good that you had never heard of Bubba Bell a week ago, and that’s to be expected. He was a 39th-round pick in 2005, and he was almost 23 years old after a four-year career at Nichols State. In an industry where 18-year-old kids buy houses and Escalades, Bell inked for $1,000. He hit very well in the Gulf Coast League, not a big surprise for a player four years older than the competition. He began 2006 in extended spring training, then filled in at three different levels. This year, the extra outfielder was needed in the Cal League, and Bell is off to the best start in the minors. Taking advantage of one of the hitter-friendliest hitter’s parks around, Bell went 4-for-5 on Friday with a pair of home runs, then blasted two more on Saturday, and another Sunday as part of another four-hit effort. In four games, Bell is 12-for-21 with a triple-slash line of .571/.591/1.381. He’s not suddenly a prospect, and we probably won’t talk about him much this year, but we would be remiss not to throw out some props here.

Dallas Buck, RHP, High-A Visalia (Diamondbacks)

Buck entered 2006 as one of the better pitching prospects in that year’s college class, but nothing went right for him in his junior year. He went from a guy who threw in the low-90s to one who sat in the low-to-mid 80s. A ligament in his elbow was sprained, and Arizona took him in the third round, hoping that rest would allow him to avoid surgery. So far, so good. Making his pro debut on Friday, Buck struck out 11 over six innings, allowing three hits and an unearned run. His velocity is still only in the high 80s, but it’s working for him so far.

Todd Frazier, SS, Rutgers

I’ve praised Frazier’s bat in this space in the past, and while it only came against Connecticut, he put together another big weekend, going 6-for-14 with seven runs scored and 12 RBI in the three-game sweep, going deep in each game, and capping things with a walk-off shot on Saturday; he’s now upped his season averages to .395/.514/.816. The shortstop designation is a temporary one, and with more than twice as many home runs as any other teammate, it’s a mystery to why he bats leadoff. In the end, he’s a corner outfielder, a middle-of-the-order run producer, and a likely first-round pick.

Gio Gonzalez, LHP, Double-A Birmingham (White Sox)

After a one-year sojourn with the Phillies, Gonzalez is back with the team that drafted him following the offseason Freddy Garcia trade. Returning to Double-A to work on his control problems, the little lefthander delivered five no-hit innings on Friday night against Carolina, striking out nine and, perhaps more importantly, walking just one. With John Danks in the majors in the No. 5 starter job, Gonzalez earns the title of Top Pitching Prospect in the System, and he proved why in his second system debut.

Tim Lincecum, LHP, Triple-A Fresno (Giants)

One of the more anticipated season debuts took place on Saturday, as Lincecum took the mound against Portland. On a strict pitch count, he fired five shutout innings, allowing two hits, walking three, and striking out eight. He threw a total of 83 pitches, 50 for strikes. Beyond the statistics, everything was there on a scouting level as well: his fastball touched 98 mph, and his curveball was the same power plus-plus breaking ball as always. As to when Lincecum will reach the big leagues, it’s anybody’s guess, but these kinds of performances will keep the pressure on the Giants’ brass to make the call.

Evan Longoria, 3B, Double-A Montgomery (Devil Rays)

At the big league level, the Devil Rays are arguably the most compelling team to watch, with a lineup loaded with young talent. The scary thing is that there’s still plenty of talent coming, beginning with Longoria. Picking up where he left off from his eye-popping 2006 debut, Longoria has multi-hit efforts in his first three games, and while he had “just” one hit on Sunday, it was his first home run of the year. Now 8-for-13 with three doubles, the home run, and a lone strikeout, Longoria is making one think about what’s going to happen at the big league level. B.J. Upton has seemingly found a home at second base, and Japanese import Akinori Iwamura is off to a great start at third base and inked through 2009. There’s no answer as to how this is going to all shake out, but one way or another, Longoria will give the lineup another young, elite bat sooner rather than later.

Beau Mills, 3B, Lewis-Clark State

Last year, Mills was one of the better sophomore bats in the country at Fresno State, before academic problems cost him the end of the season. He transferred to NAIA powerhouse Lewis-Clark State, who have won 14 national championships at that level, including five in the last eight years, and the move hasn’t hurt his draft stock. In a three-game series with Dixie State, Mills went 4-for-5 on Thursday with his 13th home run of the year, and went nuts on Friday, hitting three homers and plating six runs. In 33 games, Mills is now batting .460 (64-for-139) with 15 doubles, 16 home runs and a .914 slugging percentage for the 31-3 Warriors. Impact college bats are at a premium, and Mills has maintained his status as a surefire first-round pick.

Jeff Samardzija, RHP, High-A Daytona (Cubs)

After signing a historic contract prior to the season, Samardzija made his highly-anticipated season debut on Friday night in the Florida State League. On the surface, the one run allowed in five innings is solid, but the peripherals fail to thrill, with five hits allowed and just one strikeout. I’ve been highly critical of the bonus handed out to a player who many saw as a late first-round pick on pure baseball talent, and despite some scouting hype of late, I remained unimpressed. He reportedly hit 99 in college, and was consistently in the high 90s this spring, yet in this start he sat at 90-92 mph, hitting 94 on occasion, while rarely showing an average slider, and throwing a rudimentary changeup. I could be totally missing the boat here, but I still don’t get the excitement.

Nate Schierholtz, OF, Triple-A Fresno (Giants)

A 2nd-round pick in 2003, Schierholtz has plus-plus raw power, but a long swing and unorthodox mechanics had been preventing him from fully using it, as he entered 2006 without a single 20+ home run season. While he hit just .270/.325/.443 last year at Double-A, there were some signs of life late in the year, as he hit .376 with eight home runs over 26 games in the final month. The power surge continued in the first week of the season, as Schierholtz homered in the first three games, and is now 8-for-16 on the season with 20 total bases. An average right fielder with a plus arm, Schierholtz will be replacing Randy Winn in 2008, if not sooner.

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