Continuing from last week’s look at the 2008 draft beyond the first round, let’s take a look at nine players drafted after the third round off to good starts in 2009, excluding players who signed for well over slot money. Jordan Danks, for example, is a seventh-round pick playing well, but he also cost $525,000. That’s going to be a bargain for the White Sox if Danks turns into any type of serviceable big leaguer, but the point here is to focus on some of the more under-the-radar picks.
1. Brandon Crawford, ss, Giants (4th round, 117th overall)
Crawford’s swing-and-miss tendencies left the toolsy shortstop still available in the fourth round, but the 22-year-old has already reached Double-A Connecticut. Crawford opened in the high Class A California League, where he put up a .371/.445/.600 line in 25 games with San Jose before his promotion. Some of Crawford’s flaws have already begun to get exposed in the Eastern League, where Crawford is hitting .261/.313/.348 in 23 games with six walks and 25 strikeouts.
2. Devaris Gordon, ss, Dodgers (4th round, 127th overall)
Had Gordon played Division 1 baseball last year, odds are he would have gone higher than the fourth round. Instead, Gordon was academically ineligible to play at Seminole (Fla.) Community College last year, and some area scouts in Florida never even had the chance to see him play. Now the speedy shortstop is showing the ability to hit in games, but he’s only scratching the surface of his potential. Through 50 games for low Class A Great Lakes in the Midwest League, the wiry Gordon is hitting .293/.360/.390 with 16 walks and 39 strikeouts, while flashing his plus-plus speed with 29 steals in 35 attempts and six triples. He’ll also need to cut down on the miscues after committing 16 errors already.
3. Dan Hudson, rhp, White Sox (5th round, 150th overall)
Hudson struck out 107 batters in 92 innings during his junior year at Old Dominion, but his 4.70 ERA was also his highest in three years with the Monarchs. His pro debut last year with Rookie-level Great Falls in the Pioneer League was promising, with Hudson flashing a lively fastball and an average slider to strike out 90 batters and walk 22 in 69 2/3 innings with a 3.36 ERA. Hudson, 22, didn’t need much time this year in low Class A, and his 1.23 ERA and 30-2 K-BB mark in 22 innings got him pushed quickly to high Class A Winston-Salem.
4. Brett Lorin, rhp, Mariners (5th round, 162nd overall)
At 6-foot-7, 245 pounds, Lorin gets good downward plane on his pitches, which have been too much for Midwest League hitters to handle so far. The 22-year-old from Long Beach State isn’t overpowering anyone with an 88-92 mph fastball, but his breaking ball is sharp, which has led to a 1.79 ERA with a 60-15 K-BB mark in 60 1/3 innings for low Class A Clinton.
5. Rick Zagone, lhp, Orioles (6th round, 176th overall)
The 6-foot-4 lefthander put up back-to-back seasons at Missouri with an ERA north of 5.00, but Zagone has been solid so far with low Class A Delmarva. His stuff isn’t overpowering, but Zagone keeps the ball on the ground, with a 67 percent groundball rate on the season. His ERA sits at 3.35 in 53 2/3 innings with 54 strikeouts and 20 walks thus far.
6. Eric Thames, lf, Blue Jays (7th round, 219th overall)
Thames excelled last year at Pepperdine before being slowed toward the end of the year with a torn quad. That quad muscle tightened up again on Thames this year, keeping him out of action since May 9, but he’s been productive when he’s been on the field. Thames, 22, is batting .340/.418/.462 in 28 games in 13 walks and 19 strikeouts.for high Class A Dunedin in the Florida State League, showing a knack for putting the barrel to the ball.
7. Will Smith, lhp, Angels (7th round, 229th overall)
Smith, 19, made one start for low Class A Cedar Rapids, then left in the first inning of his next start and landed on the seven-day disabled list with a hamstring injury. He got rocked in his first start back, but now the 6-foot-5 Smith is showing why he ranked as the top pitching prospect in the Rookie-level Pioneer League a year ago. In Smith’s last four starts, he has a 2.08 ERA in 26 innings with a 26-2 K-BB mark. He might not be a sleeper for long.
8. Jay Jackson, rhp, Cubs (9th round, 281st overall)
A two-way player at Furman, Jackson needed only a couple of months to look like a steal for the Cubs in the ninth round. In 50 innings last year between short-season, low and high Class A, Jackson sported a 2.88 ERA with 70 strikeouts and 13 walks in 50 innings. The Cubs aggressively jumped Jackson to Double-A this year, and he’s shown he has the stuff to be successful, primarily with a fastball in the low 90s and a mid-80s slider.
9. Dexter Carter, rhp, White Sox (13th round, 390th overall)
It looks like Carter should be joining Hudson, his former college roommate and pro teammate last year at Great Falls, at some point soon in high Class A. Carter’s junior year was awful, as he gave up a run per inning and walked nearly a batter per inning. But some mechanical adjustments last year to get him to stride more directly to home plate helped Carter improve his control. After dominating with Hudson in the Pioneer League last year, the 22-year-old Carter now has a 3.86 ERA in low Class A with 77 strikeouts and 14 walks in 58 1/3 innings.
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