Prospect Hot Sheet

We look back at which '08 draft picks are succeeding





See also: Previous Prospect Hot Sheets

With the 2009 draft consuming most of our lives here at Baseball America this week, we figured it was a perfect time to take a look at how the Class of '08 has done. This week the rules for making the Prospect Hot Sheet are different than normal—it's looking at 2009 production for draftees from 2008, so for once, season performance is what matters, not last week's performance.

To make the list, a player has to have played in 2009, so players like Anthony Hewitt and Aaron Hicks weren't considered. The statistics listed are for the entire 2009 season.  And as always, this isn't a new Top 100 Prospects list, instead it's a look at which prospects have produced the best over the first half of the season.

Contributing: J.J. Cooper, Matt Eddy and Jim Shonerd.

No. 1 GORDON BECKHAM, SS
WHITE SOX
Team: Chicago White Sox
Age: 22
Why He's Here: .330/.381/.528 (58-for-176), 23 2B, 4 HR, 25 RBI, 14 BB, 26 K
The Scoop: Beckham's first seven big league games haven't gone as well as those minor league stats listed above, but that doesn't diminish from what has been a pretty amazing start for the White Sox' '08 first-round pick.

Beckham had an outstanding big league training, which led Ozzie Guillen mulling over bringing him north with the club as the team's second baseman. Instead he was sent to Double-A, where he quickly settled in to be one of the league's better hitters. He eventually also handled a move from shortstop to third base.

He's hit, proved he can handle three defensive positions and climbed to the big leagues when most of his fellow '08 college first-round picks are hoping they can be promoted to Double-A. It's hard to imagine Beckham having a better first year as a pro.

2009 Stats
No. 2 JAFF DECKER, OF
PADRES
Team: low Class A Fort Wayne (Midwest)
Age: 19
Why He's Here: .283/.455/.543 (36-for-127), 8 HR, 9 2B, 27 RBIs, 27 R, 35 BB, 30 SO
The Scoop: Decker's production is impressive when compared with the Midwest League standard. But it's even more startling once one realizes he's a supplemental first-round pick out of high school from the '08 draft. Decker leads the MWL in on-base percentage and ranks fourth in slugging, as he's had no trouble converting his plus raw power to game power (that's eight home runs in 39 games). At this rate, he may add another MVP trophy to his case at year's end. Decker won the Rookie-level Arizona League award last season.
2009 Stats
No. 3 CASEY KELLY, RHP
RED SOX
Team: low Class A Greenville (South Atlantic)/high Class A Salem (Carolina)
Age: 19
Why He's Here: 6-3, 1.80, 65 IP, 47 H, 21 R, 13 ER, 10 BB, 53 SO
The Scoop: Any time a teenager puts up the kind of numbers Kelly has in his first year in a full-season league, it's pretty impressive. But Kelly's success has been even more eye-opening given that he'd never thrown a pitch as a professional before this season and had never even been a full-time pitcher before. None of that slowed him down, and neither did Sally League hitters. Thanks to a three-pitch mix that includes a low 90s fastball and maturity beyond his years, Kelly tore through the SAL, going 6-1, 1.12 in nine starts for Greenville before before a late-May promotion to Salem. The Red Sox plan to let Kelly go back playing shortstop after he reaches the 100-inning mark, but it's hard to envision his future not being on the mound after such an impressive first season.
2009 Stats
No. 4 BRIAN MATUSZ, RHP
ORIOLES
Team: high Class A Frederick (Carolina)
Age: 22
Why He's Here: 4-2, 2.16, 66 2/3 IP, 56 H, 22 R, 16 ER, 21 BB, 74 SO
The Scoop: Matusz was the best college pitcher available in last year's draft, where the Orioles nabbed him with the fourth overall pick. He's done what you would expect a pitcher of his caliber to do against A-ball competition, where his plus curveball and changeup, along with a low 90s fastball, have been too much for most opposing hitters. Matusz leads the Carolina League in strikeouts and ranks third in ERA. He's working on a 23-inning shutout streak, not having allowed a run in his last three starts. He's also held batters to a .225 average and hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in any of his 11 starts.
2009 Stats
No. 5 BUSTER POSEY, C
GIANTS
Team: high Class A San Jose (California)
Age: 22
Why He's Here: .310/.406/.526 (66-for-213), 16 2B, 10 HR, 44 RBI, 29 BB, 36 K, 5 SB
The Scoop: Our 2008 College Player of the Year hasn't slowed down since the Giants made him the fifth overall pick of last year's draft. A year after nearly winning a national triple crown with Florida State, Posey has continued showing off his considerable all-around talents, hitting for average, hitting for power and ranking fourth in the Cal League having thrown out 46 percent of base stealers, a fact that's not surprising given that he was once Florida State's closer and was a prospect on the mound as well.

2009 Stats
No. 6 ZACH STEWART, RHP
REDS
Team: Double-A Carolina (Southern)
Age: 22
Why He's Here: 4-1, 1.51, 71 IP, 29 IP, 20 H, 20 R, 12 ER, 2 HR, 15 BB, 56 K
The Scoop: Stewart was looked at as a potential first-round pick early last year, but he was bounced around between closing and starting with Texas Tech, which ended up helping him slide to the third-round. It was thought that Stewart profiled as a late-inning reliever, but he's proven to be one of the best starters in the minors during the first half of the season (he's currently fifth in the minors in ERA). Stewart doesn't pile up a lot of strikeouts, but his naturally heavy 93-94 mph fastball gets lots of groundball outs.
2009 Stats
No. 7 JORDAN DANKS, OF
WHITE SOX
Team: Double-A Birmingham (Southern)
Age: 22
Why He's Here:  .317/.396/.489 (72-for-227), 44 R, 72 H, 15 2B, 3 3B, 6 HR, 30 RBI, 31 BB, 63 K, 7 SB
The Scoop: Danks slid all the way to the seventh round in the '08 draft because of concerns about his power. But by focusing on what he does well (hit for average, get on base, run down liners in center field) the White Sox have gotten a lot out of Danks already. He earned a quick promotion to Double-A after only 148 class A at-bats, and he's shown no problems holding his own against older pitchers. The White Sox farm system ranked 16th in our pre-season rankings. Thanks to their 2008 draft and picks like Danks, Chicago will likely move up in next year's rankings.
2009 Stats
No. 8 JUSTIN SMOAK, 1B
RANGERS
Team: Double-A Frisco (Texas)
Age: 22
Why He's Here: .325/.444/.503, 6 HR, 9 2B, 28 R, 28 RBIs, 32 BB, 30 SO
The Scoop: Smoak would've been higher on this list if not for a strained left oblique that's kept him on the sidelines for all but one game since May 23. Nevertheless, Smoak had no problems catching up to the speed of Double-A, where he ranks 10th in the TL in average and third in on-base percentage. As advertised, he's shown himself to be an exceptionally disciplined hitter, having walked more often than he's struck out, and an outstanding defender. Smoak committed an error on Opening Day, but hasn't made a single one in 35 games at first base since then. Before the season, it was believed Smoak could make it to the big leagues by 2010, and he's done nothing to dispel that notion.

2009 Stats
No. 9 BRANDON CRAWFORD, SS
GIANTS
Team: Double-A Connecticut (Eastern)
Age: 23
Why He's Here: .321/.385/.388 (32-for-116), 7 2B, 3 3B, 8 HR, 23 RBI, 18 BB, 61 K, 4 SB, 7 CS
The Scoop: It's hard to imagine a player having a worse 2008. Brandon Crawford saw his once pristene draft status slip due to concerns about his bat, as he struggled during his junior year at UCLA. But all of those concerns have proven overblown since he became a pro. In a lineup that included Buster Posey, Conor Gillaspie, Angel Villalona and Roger Kieschnick, Crawford was the hitter who earned the first promotion thanks to an outstanding first month. His numbers have slipped a little in Double-A, but he's still hitting well enough considering he's also a solid defensive shortstop.
2009 Stats
No. 10 LONNIE CHISENHALL, 3B
INDIANS
Team: high Class A Kinston (Carolina)
Age:
20
Why He's Here:
.297/.371/.507, 10 HR, 14 2B, 1 3B, 36 R, 44 RBIs, 21 BB, 48 SO
The Scoop:
Chisenhall was considered a bit of a reach at the time the Indians took him 29th overall last June due to makeup concerns after he was kicked off South Carolina's baseball team, but he's looking like a bargain now. Chisenhall has torn up the Carolina League, where his name can be found all over the league leaderboards. He leads the league in RBIs, is tied for second in home runs, ranks sixth in average and fifth in runs scored. The only red flag is his defense, as he's already committed 19 errors at third base after having moved off shortstop before the season. Nevertheless, his bat looks like it could play anywhere.
2009 Stats
No. 11 CARLOS GUTIERREZ, RHP
TWINS
Team: high Class A Fort Myers (Florida State)/Double-A New Britain (Eastern)
Age: 22
Why He's Here: 3-3, 1.96, 59 2/3 IP, 44 H, 25 R, 13 ER, 24 BB, 36 SO
The Scoop: One year ago at this time, Gutierrez was Miami's closer, helping pitch the Hurricanes to the College World Series. The Twins took him 27th overall in the 2008 Draft and converted him back to starting, which he'd last done as a college sophomore. The early returns have made it look like that was the right move. Gutierrez has been a groundball machine thanks to his power low 90s sinker, getting batters to hit the ball on the ground at an eye-popping 4.31 ratio of groundouts to flyouts. Gutierrez dominated the Florida State League before a recent promotion to Double-A, leaving the FSL behind as its ERA leader after compiling a 2-3, 1.32 mark for Fort Myers.
2009 Stats
No. 12 CHRISTIAN FRIEDRICH, LHP
ROCKIES
Team: low Class A Asheville (South Atlantic)/high Class A Modesto (California)
Age: 21
Why He's Here: 4-3, 2.34, 65 1/3 IP, 51 H, 21 R, 17 ER, 20 BB, 86 SO
The Scoop: The 25th overall pick last June, Friedrich returned to Asheville, where he finished last year, and had no trouble carving up Sally League hitters. The lefty from Eastern Kentucky, who features a low 90s fastball and a 12-to-6 curveball, piled up 66 strikeouts in 45 1/3 innings for Asheville, fanning nine or more hitters in four of his eight starts. Friedrich earned a promotion to Modesto in late May and hasn't slowed down there, either, going 1-0, 2.70 in his first three starts.
2009 Stats
No. 13 JASON KNAPP, RHP
PHILLIES
Team: low Class A Lakewood (South Atlantic)
Age: 18
Why He's Here: 2-4, 3.92, 64 1/3 IP, 48 H, 30 R, 28 ER, 24 BB, 79 SO
The Scoop: Pitching close to home, the New Jersey native Knapp made a splash early on when he struck out 14 hitters over seven shutout innings against Lake County in his third start of the year. He hasn't registered a double-digit strikeout game since, but that doesn't mean he hasn't still been effective. Knapp, who's fastball can reach the upper 90s, ranks third in the SAL in strikeouts while his ERA for the season is a little inflated because of two bad starts. The biggest obstacle for Knapp has been lack of run support, as he's held opponents to two runs or less in five of his last six starts, yet hasn't been rewarded with a win in any of them.
2009 Stats

IN THE TEAM PHOTO

Diamondbacks first rounder LHP Daniel Schlereth (26th overall) has already made it to the big leagues less than a year after being drafted, though he wasn't actually the first member of the 2008 Arizona Wildcats bullpen to make it to the majors (that distinction goes to the Tigers' Ryan Perry). Before getting the to the bigs, Schlereth dominated with Double-A Mobile, putting up a 1.42 ERA in 15 relief appearances, allowing only nine hits in 19 innings while fanning 21 in the proces . . . The Padres' supplemental first round pick a year ago, 3B Logan Forsythe has jumped right in with high Class A Lake Elsinore and had no problems handling the California League. Forsythe, 22, is hitting .327/.475/.540 with eight home runs in 202 at-bats, leading the league in on-base percentage and ranking seventh in average . . . The No. 1 overall pick in the '08 Draft, Rays SS Tim Beckham has acquitted himself well with low Class A Bowling Green. The 19-year-old was hitting .292/.359/.421 with three home runs in 195 at-bats . . . Jordan Lyles wasn't a consensus supplemental first-round pick last year, but the Astros picked after a strong pre-draft workout. It's paid off up to now. Only 18, Lyles is 2-6, 3.26 at low Class A Lexington with 81 strikeouts and only 12 walks in 66 IP . . . We've already mentioned Gordon Beckham and Jordan Danks from the White Sox '08 draft class. Dexter Carter (13th round) has also had an solid start to his career, but 22-year-old fifth-rounder Dan Hudson has already been promoted to high Class A Winston-Salem thanks to his 5-4, 2.70 season with 71 K and a 0.92 WHIP in 71 IP . . . Yonder Alonso, 22, has performed as expected since signing with the Reds last August, which means the first-round pick is hitting for average, getting on-base and hitting for power. He's hitting .284/.360/.480 after a recent slump since being promoted to Double-A . . . That 2008 Astros draft is looking pretty solid right now as well. Not only is Lyles excelling in the South Atlantic League, but first-rounder Jason Castro, 22, has made it to Double-A thanks to his .309/.399/.517 line at high Class A Lancaster.

NOT-SO HOT SHEET

Shooter Hunt, rhp, Twins: Strikes have been hard to come by for Hunt, who walked 33 in 17 2/3 innings for low Class A Beloit before being shut down with a groin strain.

Kyle Skipworth, c, Marlins:
We don't like to be too harsh on high schoolers spending their first years in full-season leagues, but Skipworth's line is just too loud (in a bad way) to ignore: .187/.245/.327 in 150 at-bats for low Class A Greensboro.

Evan Frederickson, lhp, Brewers:
The 35th overall pick out of San Francisco last year, Frederickson has struggled to gain traction in the usually pitcher friendly Midwest League with low Class A Wisconsin. His ERA ballooned to 7.06 in late May, though he's shown signs of life lately, improving his mark to 3-3, 5.31 in 42 1/3 innings. Still, you expect better of a college pitcher in the MWL.

Allan Dykstra, 1b, Padres. He hit .188 without a home run in April and though he has improved upon that standard since, relatively speaking, Dykstra remains a .201/.385/.346 hitter through 53 games for low Class A Fort Wayne. For a first-round college slugger from the Atlantic Coast Conference, that's the definition of not hot.

Pedro Alvarez, 3b, Pirates. Alvarez' 2008 season was wiped out thanks to a dispute over whether he signed before or after the Aug. 15 midnight deadline. His 2009 season has had much less drama, but less than expected production (.236/.335/.448 in 203 at-bats at high Class A Lynchburg) as well. Alvarez' power (10 home runs) is there and his on-base percentage is almost 100 points higher than his batting average, so if he can just fix his low average, he should be fine in the long-run.


GREAT VALUES

Jon Gaston, of, Astros. Since this is a special Hot Sheet, we're mixing up our categories a little to acknowledge a pair of prospects who have proven to be great values considering where they were picked. Gaston, the Astros' seventh-round pick, is among the minor league leaders in multiple categories, as he's hitting .291/.391/.653 with 16 2Bs, 8 3Bs, 15 HRs. Yes, Gaston is hitting in high Class A Lancaster, but it's worth noting that he's hit more home runs on the road than at home.

Alex Avila, c, Tigers. A fifth-round pick out of Alabama last year, Avila has proven to be a key cog in the Tigers' Double-A Erie lineup. Avila is hitting .284/.371/.467 having spent the entire season at the Double-A level. He also leads the league in fielding percentage and caught-stealing percentage (45.6 percent). As a 22-year-old lefthanded-hitting catcher who is already holding his own against advanced pitching, Avila is proving to be quite a steal.