Corey Brown, OF, Short-Season Vancouver (Athletics)
Going into this year’s draft, Brown drew Mike Cameron comparisons-he had power and speed, he showed good plate discipline, he was an outstanding athlete loaded with tools…and he struck out a ton. It was a bit of a surprise to see him drop all the way to the 59th pick overall, which is where Oakland snapped him up. Making his debut in the Northwest League, Brown showed everything that was expected from him over the weekend, extending his strikeout streak to ten games, hitting a home run on Saturday, and drawing three walks on Sunday. Through 28 games, Brown is batting .253/.385/.596 with a secondary average of .576 thanks to 19 of his 25 hits going for extra bases, plus 19 walks and four stolen bases. He’s a fascinating talent who should at least be a big leaguer, yet has potential for so much more.
Kyler Burke, OF, Short-Season Boise (Cubs)
Burke was the big prize of last month’s Michael Barrett trade, though the value of that prize was debatable, as San Diego’s supplemental fist-rounder from last year was hitting just .211/.305/.268 for Low A Fort Wayne at the time of the deal. Clearly not ready for a full-season league, the Cubs put the 19-year-old on their Northwest League roster, and he started his career with the organization in a 0-for-22 slump. Much like his new parent club, Burke has come alive in July, going deep on Sunday as part of a ten-game hot streak in which he’s gone 16-for-33 with five doubles and three home runs, which has raised his season averages at Boise to .283/.411/.517. Burke’s bat speed and power are both impressive, and there’s potential for him to shine in a system that’s pretty short on high-ceiling offensive prospects.
Dan Duffy, LHP, AZL Royals
A third-round pick this year out of a California high school, Duffy was drafted for his lightning arm, as he shows excellent velocity for a southpaw, though his rough mechanics and nearly non-existent secondary stuff are what prevented him from being an instant millionaire in the first round. With just three games on his professional resume, it’s too early to jump to any conclusions, but after striking out five in a pair of scoreless innings on Friday, Duffy is at least three-for-three when it comes to dominating outings, allowing just three hits in 7 2/3 scoreless innings while striking out 15-or exactly half of the batters he has faced. Again, way to early for any judgments, but Duffy’s is certainly a name to look for in Arizona box scores over the coming weeks.
Austin Jackson, OF, High-A Tampa (Yankees)
This is one of those weird things that just happen sometimes. In 2005, the Yankees gave Jackson $800,000 to buy him away from the starting point guard job at Georgia Tech, and while he has great tools and athleticism (not surprisingly), his full-season debut last year finished with a uninspiring .260/.340/.346 line at Low-A Charleston with 151 strikeouts. Returned to the South Atlantic League this year, Jackson seemed to be making little progress, with a .260/.336/.374 line. Then he was pushed up to the Florida State League, not that his performance merited such, as he was in the midst of a 0-for-18 slump when he moved up. There’s no exact answer to what is going on, but it’s good whatever it is, as Jackson went 5-for-12 with two doubles and a pair of home runs over the weekend, upping his numbers with his new squad to an almost shocking .375/.411/.650 in 30 games. Is it for real? Maybe, but the fact that Jackson has always been seen as a high-ceiling player makes it a little easier to hope that it is. To quote Agent Rogersz in Repo Man, “It happens sometimes, people just explode.”
Tyler Kolodny, 3B, GCL Orioles
Ever hear of him? Me either. As a pretty obscure 16th-round pick this year, few other than the Orioles and the Kolodny family have, but he sure is raking. Kolodny went 0-for-4 Sunday, but that only ended a five-game streak in which he went 14-for-21 with three home runs. Now at .402/.467/.695, Kolodny leads the Gulf Coast League in all three triple-slash categories, and illustrates why I love this beat so much-every day, be it in a box score of coming out of a scout’s mouth, you’re going to see or hear a name that you’ve never heard before, and you’re going to have someone new to learn about.
Andy LaRoche, 3B, Triple-A Las Vegas (Dodgers)
Looks like somebody found his power swing. LaRoche got off to a slow start this year, but was nonetheless given a brief big league look by the Dodgers, where he didn’t do much before going on the shelf with more shoulder problems, which have been plaguing him for a couple of years now. While he took the day off on Friday, LaRoche went deep on Saturday and Sunday, and in his last eight games, he’s a remarkable 14-for-29 with four doubles and seven home runs and 19 RBI, raising his slugging percentage by 138 points in the process and putting him at a quite suddenly very impressive .305/.385/.579 in 51 Pacific Coast League games. He’s not likely to supply instant punch to the lineup the way Ryan Braun has for the Brewers, but he would give a first-place team an immediate upgrade at third base.
Dan Meyer, LHP, Triple-A Sacramento (Athletics)
While the A’s trade of Mark Mulder to the Cardinals looks like nothing less than a stroke of genius at this point, the deal that sent Tim Hudson to the Braves has looked almost equally bad, as the big prize, Meyer, has been both injury-prone and remarkably ineffective since arriving from Atlanta. That said, he may be starting to get it, a least a little bit. Friday night, Meyer had his best start of the year, allowing one hit over six innings while striking out 11, and in his last four starts he’s giving up just 13 hits over 23 1/3 frames and lowered his ERA to 3.89. He’s still not showing the low-90s velocity he had in the Braves system, sitting more in the 87-90 range, but he’s found the bite in his slider, which now rates again as a plus offering. There’s still work to be done, as Meyer’s has command problems and is high inefficient, averaging 19 pitches per inning this year, but at least things are moving in the right direction.
Chris Nelson, SS, High-A Modesto (Rockies)
The ninth overall pick in the 2004 draft, Nelson made a big splash in his debut in the Pioneer League that year, but his stock had taken a huge deep after back-to-back mediocre years in the South Atlantic League. His prospect status has been slowly returning with a good year in the California League, and now its movement has been accelerated with a red-hot July. Nelson homered on Friday and added three more hits on Saturday, upping his monthy totals to .353/.398/.729 with seven home runs in 85 at-bats, and now sits at .276/.352/.482 on the season. When my position rankings get to shortstop in the next week or so, Nelson will be on the list.
Tyler Robertson, LHP, Low-A Beloit (Twins)
Yes, the Twins have yet another pitching prospect. A third-round pick last year, Robertson was held back in extended spring training, but joined the Beloit stuff at the end of May, and has been lights-out from day one. On Friday he struck out a career-high 10 over seven shutout innings, lowering his ERA to 1.71 in 58 innings, with 64 strikeouts against just 19 walks. Robertson is 19 years old, six-foot-five, left-handed, throws strikes with an 88-91 mph fastball, has a plus curveball, and was raised by a scout. What more could you want?
Max Scherzer, RHP, Double-A Mobile (Diamondbacks)
When Max Scherzer began his pro career with three California League starts in which he struck out 30 over 17 innings while giving up five hits, I started getting emails from readers asking me to compare him to elite pitching prospects like Philip Hughes and Tim Lincecum. Based on the scouting reports I was receiving, I was nowhere close to putting him in that class, and now that he’s in Double-A, nobody else is either. Friday night, Scherzer gave up six runs over five innings to raise his ERA to 5.23 in six Southern League starts. Scouts are still looking at him as a future bullpen arm because the fastball is great, the slider is ok, and the changeup is rudimentary at best. So, he’s not as good as he looked in June, but he’s still going to get some big outs in the majors.