One month into the season, there are already prospects who have raised their stock and caught the attention of scouts. Here are four players in low Class A—some you might know a little bit about, some you might have never heard of—making some noise early on:
Alex Perez, rhp, Indians: Signed as a 6-foot-2, 156-pound 17-year-old in May 2007, Perez has added 23 pounds to his frame and built up the beginnings of a solid track in the low minors. After positing a 2.90 ERA, 64 strikeouts and 13 walks in 49 2/3 innings in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League in 2007, Perez came to the U.S. last year and had a 4.25 ERA with 49 strikeouts and 16 walks in 49 2/3 innings in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.
Now armed with an average fastball and a good feel for his secondary offerings, Perez has a 2.28 ERA for low Class A Lake County in 27 2/3 innings through five starts. Perez, 19, has a swing-and-miss curveball and a good changeup, leading to 27 strikeouts. He’s also shown good control with eight walks (2.6 BB/9) and has had 70 percent of his outs on balls in play come as groundouts. Because his offspeed stuff—his breaking ball in particular—is often too good for South Atlantic League hitters, Perez is still learning to pitch more off his fastball, but he’s starting to look like one of Cleveland’s better pitching prospects.
Derek Norris, c, Nationals: The Nationals’ farm system should take a step forward next year by virtue of having the No. 1 and No. 10 overall picks in the draft, but the continued development of Norris for low Class A Hagerstown should also be a boost. Last year Norris led the short-season New York-Penn League in walks and OBP by hitting .278/.444/.463 in 302 plate appearances with 63 walks and 56 strikeouts.
Norris, 20, is off to a good start for Hagerstown this year, batting .250/.366/.513 in 22 games. The 27 strikeouts in 93 plate appearances have sliced into his batting average, but while the Nationals have wanted Norris to be more aggressive with two strikes, his strikeout rate should simmer down as he finds a happy medium between being patient and hitting for power, as he already has five home runs and five doubles. He has the arm strength and quick release to control the running game, though his receiving skills are still a work in progress.
Rossmel Perez, c, Diamondbacks: The Diamondbacks sent low Class A South Bend catcher Ryan Babineau to the disabled list late last month and brought the switch-hitting Perez up from extended spring training as his replacement. Perez has wasted little time getting started—albeit in just eight games—batting .429/.529/.500 in a 12-for-28 start, reaching base at least once in each game. Perez, a $150,000 sign out of Venezuela in 2006, is selective at the plate and has a feel for making contact. He still needs to develop more power to be able to do more damage when he does make contact, but a.) he’s only 19, b.) hitting for power in the Midwest League in the first half of the season is no easy task and c.) he already has good bat speed.
Anthony Rizzo, Red Sox, 1b: Rizzo was off to a nice start last year with low Class A Greenville through the season’s first month, but he missed the rest of the season to get treatment for cancer. Now Rizzo, 19, is back and looks like he hasn’t missed a beat. He’s off to a .282/.364/.417 start in 27 games with Greenville, showing solid plate discipline with 14 walks and 22 strikeouts. He isn’t hitting for much power yet, but at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, the lefty-swinging Rizzo should grow into his power in time as he learns to turn on pitches with greater frequency.
Emptying The Scouting Notebook
• The Dodgers made James Adkins a supplemental first-round pick (39th overall) in 2007 out of Tennessee. Pitching on Monday for Double-A Chattanooga, Adkins’ fastball sat consistently at 84 mph, ranging from 81-86 mph and touching 87 once.
• Indians lefthander David Huff showed an 86-90 mph fastball that he was able to locate to both sides of the plate to keep hitters off balance on Friday at Triple-A Durham. His best pitch was an excellent changeup that had Durham hitters fooled all game, either whiffing at the pitch or getting caught out front trying to fight it off. Huff also flashed a 79-80 mph slider and an occasional slow curveball in the low-70s.
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