The former Michigan Wolverine had his best season as a pro last year between AA Tennessee and AAA Iowa, batting .287 with 31 HR 105 RBI 39 doubles and 93 runs scored. Determined to earn a ticket back to Wrigley longer than his 14 AB stint in 2007, Fox worked hard in the off season and put together an impressive spring in which he hit .350 with 4 HR and 16 RBI. Former teammate Micah Hoffpauir won a final roster spot, however, and Jake Fox was sent back to Iowa. Since that time, he has hit .432 with 11 HR 29 RBI and 21 runs scored in his first 18 games, pushing the envelope for another call up. Though he has the power to hit 25-30 HR at the major league level, Fox still struggles from time to time with his plate disicpline. He crushes fastballs, but often has a difficult time grinding out AB's once he himself into breaking ball counts. Defensively, Fox was a subpar catcher which prompted his move to a corner OF spot where he is...subpar. He is an adaquate first baseman, however, and would be an excellent candidate to DH for an American League club in the future.
2009 Projection: His hot start pretty much guarantees that he will get a call up at some point this spring or early summer. Cubbies free agent acquisition Milton Bradley is off to a miserable start and his checkered health history makes him a prime candidate for a DL stint at some point this season. Enter Jake Fox. Fox has the power capability to put up numbers in bunches but his below average plate discipline and defensive capabilities will likely have detrimental effects on his ability to sustain big numbers throughout an entire major league season. I bought a bevy of baseball card hobby boxes here of products bearing his key rookie cards because I feel so strongly about him. At 26, his career path is somewhat similar to Oakland A's slugger Jack Cust who spent several seasons as a minor league slugger before breaking out with in the Bay area as a one dimensional HR magnet.
The 20 year old experienced a nice bounce back from a slightly disappointing '07 season by hitting .318 with 11 HR 84 RBI 33 doubles and 98 runs scored at High-A Lake Elsinore. Hunter has the makings of a future .300 hitter with a sweet left-handed stroke that peppers line drives all over the field and produces occasional power to the gaps. Employing excellent hand-eye coordination, Hunter is a tough man to strike out (42 BB/47 K) and if he continues to work deeper into counts, there is a good chance that he could bump up his walk totals. Hunter has average speed, but he uses it fairly well on the basepaths and in covering the gaps in CF. There was some conjecture in the past about a dip in Hunter's work ethic prior to his 2007 season. Some within the organization felt that his fine '06 pro debut may have went to his head a little bit, contributing to his performance dip at Low-A Fort Wayne. It seems that he has moved beyond these concerns, though, and his future as a #2 or #6 hitter in San Diego seems to be quite bright.
2009 Projection: Hunter will play at AA San Antonio in '09. After a highly successful campaign at Lake Elsinore, it seems reasonable to expect a slight drop in his AA numbers. If he can continue to hover around the .300 mark and progress with his power potential, Hunter should figure more prominently into San Diego's 2010 plans. The Padres, however, have some other intriguing offensive options in the OF with the likes of Chase Headley, Kellen Kulbacki, Chad Huffman, and '08 draftee Jaff Decker. Cedric Hunter may not be able to match them homer for homer, but his several other skills should keep him in the mix.
The Dominican switch hitter quietly compiled a monster season over two levels in '08, hitting .292 with 11 HR 81 RBI 42 SB and 82 runs scored over two levels. Speed is far and away Jose's best tool and his efficiency on the basepaths (89 SB/7 CS over last two seasons) is amongst baseball's best. The surprising jump in Vallejo's power numbers were also a welcome addition to his game, especially given the fact that he was able to simultaneously cut his K totals from 104 to 91. Prior to the '08 season, Jose hit a combined 4 HR in over 1,200 AB's and, despite the fact that he hit in two hitter-friendly environments, his 29 doubles shows promise that he can put up double digit HR numbers at the major league level. Vallejo has the tools to be an excellent defensive player, his arm strength is quite strong and his range is excellent, but he does still get sloppy at times with the glove. The Texas Ranger farm system is far and away the best in baseball, which leaves this young 2B prospect a fine under the radar value buy.
2009 Projection: Vallejo handled his promotion to AA Frisco extremely well, but don't be surprised to see him back there for the beginning of the '09 season. Ryan Roberts and Joaquin Arias currently share the 2B duties at AAA Oklahoma City and All-Star Ian Kinsler is a long term fixture in Arlington. With that in mind, it seems that Jose Vallejo's best chances for progress are going to be either at a different position or new ballclub. The Rangers are on the cusp of being a playoff team and the need for depth in their rotation may be enough motivation for them to peddle Vallejo's high upside skills on the trade market. Jose will best help himself by regaining the power stroke that he exhibited at Bakersfield while cleaning up his glovework.
The Mets' affinity for young, toolsy international position players prompted the Mets to select this Puerto Rico Baseball Academy grad in the 2nd round this past season. Rodriguez played for the Mets' GCL affiliate and struggled mightily, hitting just .193 with 1 HR 20 RBI and a 10 BB/27 K ratio. Rodriguez has an athletic frame that projects to add more bulk as he matures. His bat speed is good right now, but is projected to be excellent and a source of future power production. Rodriguez is a good outfielder right now with vast CF range and a plus-plus arm, but as he gains size, he will likely be shifted to RF. Like many young international hitters, Rodriguez is a very aggressive hitter with a rudimentary knowledge of the strike zone. The Mets will assuredly take their time in shaping his tools in to productive skills
2009 Projection: Don't be surprised to see Rodriguez spend time at extended spring training before joining one of the Mets' short-season clubs (likely Brooklyn). The looming specter of J-Rod's plate discipline is the proverbial fly in his developmental ointment. Another thing to watch is his body size, as Rodriguez is just 18 years old and not finished growing. With increased weight comes higher Home Run totals, and with more Home Runs comes increased attention from fans and collectors. As it stands right now, Rodriguez's Bowman Sterling autographs are low-cost, high-reward investments going into the 2009 season.
2008 was a downer year for the Cards' top prospect. After bombarding AA pitching in '07, Rasmus was expected to continue the hot streak at AAA Memphis for a short while before patrolling CF at Busch Stadium. None of that happened, however, as Rasmus battled an early season slump and was plagued by injuries to his groin and knee. Rasmus struggled to hit .252 with 12 HR 38 RBI and 15 SB in 96 games. When healthy, Rasmus is one of the brightest 5-tool talents in all of baseball. His left handed swing generates easy power to all fields as he seemingly hits every ball with authority. Rasmus can play any OF position with Gold Glove capability and his speed translates to 20-30 SB potential at the big league level.
Rasmus' injuries are of concern, though his sprained knee was a Grade 1 sprain that did not need surgery. Additionally, Rasmus is a very streaky player who has a history of getting off to slow starts in the early part of the season. The Cardinals would like to see him develop a more consistent approach to his game. Tony LaRussa had a chance this last September to bring Rasmus up for his MLB debut and he responded by saying "He hasn't earned it" Reading between the lines, this may be an indicator that Colby has some "between the ears" developing to do before becoming the centerpiece of the Cardinals' talented 2009 OF.
2009 Projection: Spring training will be a key indicator on the immediate future of Rasmus. If he can perform well, he may not need to go back to Memphis to start the season. Though current CF Skip Schumaker had a solid '08 season, Rasmus is the future. Expect LaRussa to make him earn it this spring. Keep an eye on Colby's health and his early season stats (especially his BB/K ratio). When Rasmus comes up, whether it be April or later, he is a prime N.L. Rookie of the Year candidate.
It was a tale of two seasons for the former AFLAC All-American. The Braves began Gilmore at full season Low-A Rome and he stunk up the joint hitting just .186 through 26 games. After pulling the plug on that promotion, Gilmore was sent to short season Danville where he enjoyed much more success hitting .337 with 4 HR and 31 RBI. Gilmore has the potential to be a very special power hitter with a smooth swing that generates good leverage and HR pop to all fields. He is very balanced at the plate, which allows for him to react well to fastballs and offspeed pitches alike. Defensively, Gilmore has the tools to be a top-rate 3B with soft hands, quick reactions, and a strong, accurate arm. In addition to his physical skills, Jon is a grinder who eats and breathes baseball. Gilmore proved himself to be mentally tough by taking the demotion in stride and having a successful second half to his season. Gilmore needs to progress in working himself deeper into counts and drawing more walks. As his power comes forward, pitchers will be more reluctant to give him pitches to hit in the zone. Gilmore's selectivity will be a crucial element in determining his ability to hit for a high average down the road.
2009 Projection: Gilmore will give Rome another shot, likely with better results. Look to see if he can improve his walk rate as well as his power. Gilmore has an athletic and strong physique that could build muscular bulk. If and when he does this, his HR power will progress and more people's eyes will be opened to his abilities, making his 2007 autographed cards more valuable commodities.
Rosa has risen up the Chicago Cubs prospect chart after a fine full season showing at Peoria. Rosa's 43 doubles and 81 RBI for a mediocre team shows promise of more power to come from this young 1B prospect. Like many young hitters, Rosa strikes out too often and doesn't walk enough. Defensively, he is an adequate fielder at either infield corner though his bat will need to produce enough power to stay there. Rosa is still under the radar as many prospects go though his development into a notable everyday player is not a sure thing. Keep an eye on him at High-A Daytona next season. If he can bump the power numbers up and cut down the K totals, he may open a few more eyes.
The Mets aggressively pushed Tejada this season and it showed. Tejada played the full season at High-A St. Lucie skipping a level. Not surprisingly, Tejada struggled to maintain his sterling BB/K ratio and SB numbers. Tejada's glove is ahead of his bat right now as he possesses above average range and arm strength to play SS at the MLB level. His baserunning speed is good, though his SB numbers decreased from 35 in '07 to just 8 this season. Tejada will never hit for much power, though his plate discipline is advanced for a player his age and could produce a solid average suitable for a top of the order hitter. Additionally, Tejada is a mentally tough "grinder" whose work ethic has been lauded by team officials.
2009 Projection:Tejeda was the victim of an overly zealous organization that tends to rush its prospects too quickly through their system. Expect Tejeda to repeat at St. Lucie with better results. Watch to see if he can develop a little bit more extra-base pop while increasing his average. Tejeda is very young still and has quite a way to go before realizing his projectible skills. Temper your expectations, but do keep an eye on his development.
Flowers had a solid season at High-A Myrtle Beach hitting .288 with 17 HR 88 RBI and a league-high 98 walks. Flowers has a massive frame that should produce 25-30 HR power at the major league level. If he sticks as a catcher, this would make him an All-Star, though it is quite possible that he will have to move to a corner infield position as Brian McCann is firmly entrenched as the leader of the Braves' battery. Flowers has enough athleticism to make the move to 1B or 3B and the move may be better for him in the long run as he has already had a knee surgery. One caveat to Flowers' game is his 50 game suspension for the use of PED's that he served at the beginning of the '07 season. Flowers, for his part, admitted to the mistake saying that he used bad judgment as a member of Chipola CC's baseball team. Braves officials seem to be satisfied with the progress that Flowers has made since the suspension.
2009 Projection:Flowers has absolutely hammered Arizona Fall League pitching to the tune of a .385 BA with a league leading 10 HR 18 RBI and 20 runs scored. Expect his '09 debut to be with AAA Gwinnett and, if he can continue to replicate his promising numbers, a trip to Atlanta is imminent. Flowers' first year autographs in the 2008 Donruss Threads set are immensely popular and should continue as he blossoms into a major league slugger.
Lambo was quite impressive in his first full season showing off the sweet swing and power potential that made him a top flight draft pick. Lambo is an effective run producer who has a good feel for hitting that should render a high average and 25-30 HR per season at the big league level. Defensively, Lambo is a decent fielder who uses good instincts and routes to negate his below average speed. Some feel that he may be better suited for 1B as his frame fills out more and speed decreases. One area of his game that Lambo needs to Read the full story
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Schafer had a tumultuous beginning to his 2008 season when he was suspended 50 games for the use of PED's. Upon his return, Schafer struggled leaving many to suspect that his rapid ascension over the past year was chemically induced. Schafer caught stride, though, and finished the AA season with respectable numbers. At his best, Schafer is one of the more intriguing 5-tool athletes in baseball Read the full story
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A 2nd round pick in the 2007 draft, Romine had a fine first season at Charleston showing promising pop and solid plate discipline for a teenager. Romine has above average power and great defensive tools that should keep him behind the plate. His arm is one of the strongest in the system and he is far more athletic then the average catching prospects. In light of these tools, one criticism in Romine's game has been his inconsistent use of them. Sometimes he seems to be quite agile and intriguing behind the plate and other times he looks like a future 1B.