Bryce Harper's college career has started at the CC of Southern Nevada. The presumptive No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft could have been a high school junior like most 17-year-olds, but instead he's challenging himself as the youngest junior college player anyone can remember.
Harper went 1-for-3 with two RBIs in his debut on Friday against Arizona Western, then suffered through a hitless doubleheader Saturday against Yavapai (Ariz.) before delivering his first juco homer on Sunday against Arizona Western. In four games, he has gone 3-for-15 (.200) with a double, homer and three RBIs. That's a small sample size, obviously, but also an indication that dominating older competition while using wood bats won't be easy.
Because they were caught up in a visa scam, neither Beltre nor Ogando has played in the United States since 2004. They're the most notable of roughly 30 players denied visas by the State Department after being lured into sham marriages, getting paid a few thousand dollars in a scheme to gain the women entry into the United States. Unbenknownst to the players, the women were forced into prostitution or unpaid labor.
The Rangers initially expected that the penalty would be a one-year ban and began to wonder if the players ever would be allowed to return. They spent 2005-07 in the Dominican Summer League, the lowest level of Organized Baseball, sat out 2008 and played briefly in the DSL last year. The efforts of their agent, Charisse Espinosa-Dash, and Texas assistant GM Thad Levine were crucial in getting the ban overturned, and Beltre and Ogando helped their cause by speaking to young Dominican players about their situation.
Beltre signed for $600,000 in 2000 and cracked our Texas Top 30 in the Prospect Handbook three times: in 2001 (No. 18), 2002 (No. 12) and 2006 (No. 27). He has enough pitches to start, with a 92-96 mph fastball, a slider and a splitter/changeup. He'll get a chance to begin the season in Double-A.
Ogando originally signed with the Athletics as an outfielder and ranked No. 20 on our Oakland Top 30 in the 2005 Handbook. After he got caught in the scam, the Rangers selected him in the Triple-A phase of the 2005 Rule 5 draft. A reliever, he sits in the mid-90s and touches 100 mph with his fastball and backs it up with a hard slider. He'll probably being the year in high Class A.
Both pitchers have big-time arms and a lot of upside, and the Rangers will add them to their 40-man roster. Their ages—Beltre is 28 and Ogando is 26—and inability to face quality competition for years works against them. Texas has a loaded farm system, coming in at No. 2 in our Handbook rankings, and Beltre and Ogando would fit somewhere in the middle of the Top 30.
Wallace's trade also led to some odd circumstances with his appearances in print. The deal became official right before our AL East Top 10 Prospects issue went to press, so he appeared there as Toronto's No. 2 prospect. But he didn't change teams until after our transaction deadline for the 2010 Prospect Handbook, so he's included there as Oakland's No. 2 prospect.
Here's his scouting report from the Jays Top 10:
Brett Wallace, 3b/1b
Born: Aug. 26, 1986. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 205. Drafted: Arizona State, 2008 (1st round). Signed by: Chuck Fick (Cardinals).
Background: The Blue Jays drafted Wallace in the 42nd round out of high school in 2005 but didn't get their man until four years later. The Cardinals signed him for $1.84 million as the 13th overall pick in 2008, then sent him to the Athletics in a trade for Matt Holliday last July. Oakland dealt Wallace to Toronto in December for outfielder Michael Taylor, part of the package the Jays received for Roy Halladay.
Strengths: A natural hitter, Wallace has a strong lower half and an inside-out stroke that allows him to drive balls to all fields. He has outstanding bat control and knows to how to get in favorable counts where he can do the most damage, allowing him to project for 20 homers per year despite not having outstanding raw power. His recognizes pitches well and puts together relentless at-bats. He has the hands and arm strength to play third base.
Weaknesses: Though he has worked hard at third base, Wallace lacks the agility and athleticism for the position. Most scouts think he'll have to move across the diamond to first base. He's a below-average runner.
The Future: The Blue Jays have their own 2008 first-rounder, David Cooper, as their first baseman of the future, so they'd like to keep Wallace at third base as long as possible. He figures to start the year in Triple-A but could take over for Edwin Encarnacion in Toronto by the end of the season.
I like Castro a little more than Sanchez because I think he'll be a more well-rounded player. Sanchez has a stronger arm and better receiving skills, though Castro is solid in both departments and was more successful shutting down the running game in 2009, throwing out 45 percent of basestealers compared to Sanchez' 33 percent. Castro projects as the better offensive player, as he should hit for a higher average, get on base more often and supply more power.
After some scouts questioned his bat before the Pirates drafted him fourth overall last June, Sanchez deserves credit for hitting .309/.439/.539 and reaching high Class A in his pro debut. If he continues to hit like that, his superior defense would make him more valuable than Castro.