The Twins shifted last year's Appalachian League co-player of the year Eddie Rosario from center field to second base, and all he's done this season is hit .312/.413/.452 through 93 at-bats for low Class A Beloit. Though their tales may not be quite so high profile, like Rosario, a handful of young players with Eastern Division organizations are taking on new roles this season.
The Orioles tabbed New Jersey prep third baseman Billy Rowell as the ninth overall pick in the 2006 draft—the first high school position player selected—but not only has the 23-year-old never made Baltimore's 40-man roster, he's never reached Double-A in any meaningful sense. This year, Rowell can set aside his frustrations as a hitter—he batted .250/.316/.371 in three full seasons in the high Class A Carolina League—because the Orioles' new front-office regime has converted him to the mound. The 6-foot-5 righthander is working in extended spring training with an eye toward making his pro pitching debut later this season, his final one before minor league free agency.
Boston Red Sox
Dominican bonus baby Oscar Tejeda put up a .799 OPS as a 20-year-old second baseman in the high Class A Carolina League in 2010, showing significant promise and earning passage on Boston's 40-man roster. He led the circuit with 24 errors, however, and met those same criteria last year in the Double-A Eastern League without showing any instinctual improvements. Now in his second go-round with Portland, the 22-year-old Tejeda has shifted to left field to both enhance his versatility and also find his place in an organization with an all-star at second base (Dustin Pedroia) and a top prospect at third (Will Middlebrooks). The Red Sox can option Tejeda to the minors again in 2013, so he has time to learn the ropes at multiple positions.
New York Mets
Erstwhile middle infielder Jordany Valdespin made the majority of his starts this season for Triple-A Buffalo in center field as he expands his utility profile. Power lefty Robert Carson unleashed his mid-90s fastball and cutter out of the Double-A Binghamton bullpen this season after his ERA in the Eastern League as a starter bumped up against 6.00 during the past two seasons. Perhaps more significantly, former Venezuelan wunderkind Wilmer Flores made the much-anticipated shift from shortstop to third base, where his lack of quickness won't be such a hindrance but his where his power must continue to develop. The 20-year-old may be making good on that last part as he approaches 1,000 career plate appearances with high Class A St. Lucie. Through 92 at-bats in the Florida State League this season, Flores has batted .315/.337/.500 with nine extra-base hits, including four homers.
New York Yankees
Losing his hold on third base apparently is the best thing to ever happen to Tyler Austin. Dislodged from the hot corner by Dante Bichette Jr., the reigning Rookie-level Gulf Coast League player of the year and the Yankees' top pick last year, Austin migrated to right field and has batted a scalding .348/.404/.831 through 89 at-bats for low Class A Charleston. The 20-year-old leads the South Atlantic League in home runs (nine), slugging (.831), extra-base hits (21) and home run ratio (one every 9.89 at-bats). Only 31-year-old Brad Eldred has a higher slugging percentage among minor leaguers.
The Nationals snagged Mercer center fielder Billy Burns in the 32nd round of last year's draft, and while his signing didn't herald many headlines outside the Atlanta area, a fall alteration may have enhanced his prospect stock. The natural righthanded hitter—and 80 runner on the scouting scale—learned to switch-hit during instructional league and fared well enough that Washington assigned the 22-year-old to low Class A Hagerstown to open 2012. Burns may be just 8-for-35 (.229) as a lefty batter thus far, but he's shown encouraging command of the strike zone with 14 walks and six whiffs. His righty swing is fine, as attested to by a 1.091 OPS in 28 at-bats.
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