Adrian Alaniz, RHP, Double-A Harrisburg (Nationals)
A lot of what’s behind picking the players for each Monday’s Ten Pack involves getting emails, text messages, and IMs from scouts. They’re at the games, they see something that excites them, and I’m lucky enough to be on the list of people that want to talk to about it. Now, Alaniz is definitely not one of those guy who is going to excite scouts; his fastball sits in the upper 80s, touching 90 once in a while, and he throws a nice curveball, and he fills up the strike zone. While that’s not the kind of player who has any kind of “wow” factor, he sure can pitch. On Saturday, Alaniz made his Double-A debut, firing six shutout innings while allowing just three hits. This came after he went a perfect 9-0 in 12 High-A starts for Potomac with a 2.62 ERA. It’s impossible to see him as a future star, but the eighth-round pick from last year has gone from fringy prospect to a guy who looks like a solid piece for the back of the rotation.
Brett Anderson, LHP, High-A Stockton (Athletics)
Acquired from Arizona in the Dan Haren deal, Anderson looked like the elite prospect that he was coming into the season during the first six weeks of this year, as he had scoreless outings in four of his first six starts. Then came a stretch in which he allowed 19 runs over 11 innings and got placed on the disabled list with a sore thumb. The good news is that that’s Anderson is back and as good as ever. He allowed three hits and only one run over seven innings on Saturday, and in four starts since his return, he’s surrendered just three runs in 23 2/3 innings while punching out 27. Last year he was one of the most polished teenage pitchers in the game, and nothing has changed this year, other than his improved physical conditioning. He’ll likely see Double-A at some point in the second half of the season, and could be in the big leagues as early as late 2009.
Michael Burgess, OF, Low-A Hagerstown (Nationals)
Everyone knew that Burgess was loaded with raw power when the Nationals drafted him in the supplemental first round last June. What’s so exciting here is for a 19-year-old to show this kind of in-game power so early in his career. After going 13 games without hitting one over the fence, Burgess hit home runs on Saturday and Sunday to give him 14 on the year in just 244 at-bats, good for second in the South Atlantic League. Now, Burgess is hardly perfect, for he struggles against good left-handers, and has struck out 83 times in 244 at-bats. But this kind of power is hard to find, and even more so in the Nationals system.
Chris Davis, 1B, Triple-A Oklahoma (Rangers)
I received an email from a reader recently asking me where, at this point, Davis might rank in my Top 100 next year. At his current rate, it’s just not going to matter, as he not only continues to move through the system at a breakneck pace, but he seemingly continues to improve every time he moves up. Davis went 5-for-12 with a pair of home runs over the weekend, and is now batting .355/.419/.671 in 22 games for the RedHawks. It’s hard to see him making another step forward if he gets the call to the big leagues, but he’d certainly be a massive upgrade over anything that guys like Jason Botts, Ben Broussard, Frank Catalanotto, or Chris Shelton have provided for the big league squad this year.
Neftali Feliz, RHP, Low-A Clinton (Rangers)
It’s hard to remain professional when talking about Feliz. When I ranked him as the No. 3 prospect in the Braves system at the end of 2006, I got a ton of emails calling me a moron, or worse. When I ranked him as the No. 1 prospect in the Rangers system this year, those emails continued. He was too young, too unproven, too risky. Now, every time he pitches I have to restrain myself from just saying, “I told you so.” Feliz had arguably his best start of the year on Saturday, allowing only one hit over 5 1/3 innings while striking out 13 to lower his ERA to 2.24. As impressive as that is, keep in mind that he took a while to find his groove for Clinton. In his last 10 starts, he’s given up just six earned runs in 52 innings (1.04 ERA), while allowing 31 hits and striking out 65. I’ve gone on and on about his stuff in other places, so I’ll just say, “I told you so.”
Austin Jackson, CF, Double-A Trenton (Yankees)
After last year’s breakout campaign, the test for Jackson this season was to prove that the gigantic step forward was for real. In part, Jackson has already done that, keeping his average in the upper .200s most of the year while drawing walks, stealing some bases, and playing a good center field. The one aspect of last year’s explosion that did not carry over was the power. That changed this weekend, as Jackson went deep on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to double his home run total on the year from three to six and raise his season averages to .273/.353/.431. Jackson isn’t a pure power hitter, but if he can be the type of player who’s good for 15-20 homers per year, that would be the difference between him being a possible star-level player, and being one more ordinary.
Vince Mazzaro, RHP, Double-A Midland (Athletics)
A third-round pick in 2005, Mazzaro hasn’t done much to help his prospect status by posting ERAs above 5.00 in each of the last two seasons. At the same time, scouts continued to see stuff to like, primarily a low-90s sinker that Mazzaro can get swings and misses with when batters aren’t pounding it into the ground. The A’s have been patient with Mazzaro, moving him up a level at a time, and it’s finally paying dividends in the Texas League. On Saturday, Mazzaro delivered another quality start for the RockHounds, his third in a row and ninth in his last 11. With a 2.29 ERA in 86 1/3 innings and a .239 opponent’s average, Mazzaro is living up to scout’s expectations as an innings-eating ground-ball machine who will fit well into the back of a rotation.
Colby Rasmus, CF, Triple-A Memphis (Cardinals)
Rasmus’ nightmarish first two months at Triple-A probably generated more emails and chat questions than any other story in the minor leagues this year. The biggest problem was that there was no real answer. From what we know, he was perfectly healthy the whole time, and when you talked to scouts who had seen him play, they’d still tell you he was the best prospect on the field. Finally, things are coming together for the Cardinals top prospect, as he went 6-for-12 with two doubles and a home run over the weekend to extend a 15-game hot streak in which he’s gone 23-for-58 (.397) while raising his OPS 109 points. Now at .246/.343/.400, Rasmus is easily on pace for at least another 20/20 season, and everybody seems to think he’s back in line for next year’s center field job in the big leagues.
Trevor Reckling, LHP, Low-A Cedar Rapids (Angels)
An eighth-round pick last June, Reckling is the kind of pitcher you can dream on–an athletic southpaw who’s raw but offers a lot of upside. This year, he’s showcased a fastball that has average velocity but explosive late life, as well as a plus curveball, and in the past month he’s been nearly untouchable. On Friday night, Reckling had his best start of the year, allowing three hits over eight shutout innings, which was just another day at the office of late for Reckling, who has fired 28 scoreless frames in his last four starts while allowing just 15 hits. He’s one of the fastest risers around.
Daryl Thompson, RHP, Triple-A Louisville (Reds)
When Thompson arrived in the Reds system as part of the Austin Kearns deal, he was a young pitcher with upside who was in need of a lot of refinement. All but written off after missing most of 2006 while recovering from labrum surgery, Thompson has been better than ever this year, posting a 1.76 ERA in ten starts for Double-A Chattanooga before getting moved up to Triple-A last month. On Friday night, Thompson come within one out of pitching a complete game, allowing five hits over 8 2/3 frames while striking out six. His low-90s heater can touch 95 and features a bit of cutting action, while his changeup is plus and his curveball solid. With Homer Bailey continuing to get clobbered in the big leagues, Thompson might be next in line.