9 Spot- 9 prospects to watch in the upcoming weeks

ATLANTA SPORTS CARDS

By James Kennedy

Spot To Watch

SPOT TO WATCH

Adam Warren, P, Yankees AAA

Yankees seem to be afraid to lean on their prospects in times of need, Warren was one of my main exhibits, and he helped prove my point with six shutout innings on Saturday to lower his ERA to 2.87. To be clear, Warren isn’t some kind of savior or future star, but he should be able to hold his own in the big leagues thanks to a plus fastball and average secondary offerings. Why go through all the machinations to add Brian Gordon to the roster and leave Warren down on the farm? Only the Yankees know for sure.

Rob Erlin, P, AA Rangers

After dominating the Carolina League for the first two months of the season, the Texas League hadn’t been as kind to Erlin, who entered Sunday’s start with a 5.28 ERA thanks to more than a hit per inning. Some were wondering if his extreme strike-throwing ways were starting to catch up to him. He put many of those doubts to rest with a career-high 14 strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings while throwing 77 of his 105 pitches for strikes. Struggles for a 20-year-old in Double-A are more than understandable. A 14-strikeout game for a 20-year-old is more than a bit impressive. He still profiles as a middle-of-the-rotation starter and the kind of player who exceeds projections.

Nick Franklin, SS, AA-Seattle

For two-and-a-half months, Franklin was a disappointment. The 2009 first-round pick led the Midwest League with 23 home runs last year, and with a move to High Desert this year, big things were expected, or at least big numbers. Instead, we got a baffling .275/.356/.411 line with just five home runs in 258 at-bats. Nonetheless, the 20-year-old was moved up to Double-A as part of the Dustin Ackley domino effect that bumped Kyle Seager to Triple-A. While Seager was busy going 9-for-18 in his first four games for Tacoma, Franklin was the bigger surprise, with four straight multi-hit games that put him at 9-for-16 in his first four Southern League games with a home run. Being disappointing at one level and then being great after moving up is always a confusing combination. We need more data before making any conclusions.

Aaron Hicks, OF, Hi-A Twins

We’ve been talking about his tools nonstop since he was a first-round pick in 2008, but the numbers haven’t been there, including the first two months of this season. All of a sudden, he’s arguably the most dynamic player in the Florida State League; with a 4-for-10 weekend that included two doubles and three walks, he’s hitting .333/.477/.507 in 19 June games and .275/.390/.410 overall. A plus-plus center fielder with a plus-plus arm, Hicks has plenty of defensive value, and he’s always had a patient approach. Now that’s he’s hitting, and with scouts believing that many of his 19 doubles in 229 at-bats will turn into home runs down the road, there’s real reasons for optimism here.

Ryan Lavarnway, C, AAA-Red Sox

Lavarnway has always hit. He has put up big numbers since he was selected out of Yale in the sixth round in 2008, including a .356/.420/.667 line in 11 Triple-A games after a 5-for-13 weekend that included two doubles and a home run. Combining a quick bat with massive strength, scouts have no problem projecting him as a big-leaguer at the plate, but the debate rages about his abilities behind it. He’s big, thick, and slow, and while that’s not rare for a catcher, he doesn’t move well behind the plate, and it takes a long time to get his 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame out of a crouch, leading to problems controlling his running game. Still, scouts are quick to say he’s getting better back there, possibly to the point of adequacy, and a September look should give us a better idea of where his future lies with the Red Sox.

Angel Sanchez, P, Lo-A Dodgers

Few players in the minors have been more of a pop-up prospect than Sanchez, who had his best outing as a pro on Saturday with five no-hit innings to lower his ERA to 1.83. Signed last year out of the Dominican as a relatively old 20-year-old, Sanchez made his pro debut in late May with the Loons, moved into the rotation this month, and has limited the league to a .143 batting average by allowing just 17 hits in 34 1/3 innings while striking out 37. At 6-foot-3, skinny and long-levered, Sanchez has a smooth delivery that cuts loose 91-94 mph fastballs with good movement, to go with a solid curveball that he has trouble controlling at times and a changeup that is a true plus offering. I’m not going to lie; I hadn’t even heard of this guy heading into the season, and now he’s someone Midwest League scouts can’t stop talking about.

Trevor May, Hi-A Florida

May might be starting to put it all together. The Phillies’ 2008 fourth-round pick struggled in high Class A last year, going 5-5, 5.01 in 70 innings before a midseason demotion to low Class A, where he remained the rest of the season. Inconsistent mechanics leading to poor control were May’s undoing last year, but he’s made significant strides this year. His 37 walks in 78 innings this year might not sound especially impressive, but when you consider where he’s coming from—61 walks in 70 innings for Clearwater last year—it’s clear there’s been some progress.

May, who was also the winning pitcher in the Florida State League all-star game last Saturday, hasn’t allowed more than three runs in 11 consecutive starts dating back to April 19. Against Tampa on Wednesday, May had a no-hitter for five innings and his fastball sat consistently in the 90-95 mph range. He touched 94 in the seventh inning, and Tampa’s hitters only hit a couple balls hard all night.

May struck out the side twice on his way to matching his career-high with 14 strikeouts. He fanned eight of 10 batters from the third through fifth innings. Unfortunately for May, Tampa came back to tie the score after he departed, and the game wound up being suspended due to rain in the 10th inning. The way he’s going, May could very well be in Double-A by the time the game is completed.

Drew Smyly, HiA- Tigers

Smyly just loves pitching at Daytona. Smyly’s best two starts of his brief professional career have come on the road against the Cubs’ affiliate. This week, Smyly struck out a career-high eight batters in seven innings, matching his longest start. In his last start in Daytona, he threw seven no-hit innings and struck out seven. Overall, Smyly has brushed off some elbow concerns that hampered him early in the year and has a 2.92 ERA in eight starts.

Tyler Skaggs, HiA- Angels

Tyler Skaggs continued his domination of the high Class A California League last Friday, in his final start before the all-star break. The 19-year-old struck out seven batters in six innings, pushing his season total to a league-leading 102 in 83 innings. That matches his whiff total from all of last season .

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