The Future of Major League Baseball
The World roster won 3-0 over the U.S. roster on Sunday during the Futures Game. The annual prospects showcase featured some of the most impressive and talented prospects in professional baseball. Many of the names were familiar to fans of minor league baseball but there were also some lesser-known players to make an appearance on the big stage, which is the group we are going to look at this week.
Wilkin Ramirez, 3B
The Tigers do not have an overly impressive minor league system but Ramirez is one bright spot. He is currently hitting .303/.372/.545 in 297 at-bats with 14 homers and 19 stolen bases. Ramirez briefly saw some Triple-A action earlier this season but hit just .083 in 36 at-bats. With a career .310 on-base average, Ramirez needs to continue to improve his patience at the plate.
Gerardo Parra, OF
With the off-season trade of Carlos Gonzalez, Parra became the No. 1 outfield prospect in the system and has taken that status to heart. He doesn't offer as much power as Gonzalez, but Parra has a little more speed and may be a better defensive player. He is currently hitting .252/.314/.358 with two homers and six stolen bases in 123 Double-A at-bats, after beginning the season in High-A ball with a line of .301/.381/.413 with two homers and 12 stolen bases in 196 at-bats.
Scott Campbell, 2B
Campbell has the chance to become the first New Zealander to play in the Major Leagues. Currently at Double-A, he is hitting .332/.422/.451 with five homers and two stolen bases in 304 at-bats. Impressively, Campbell skipped over High-A ball at the beginning of the season. He currently has 46 walks and 47 stolen bases. The second baseman is just an OK fielder and cannot hit southpaws (.194), so he is likely a future bench or platoon player.
Che-Hsuan Lin, OF
Although just 19, Lin made the World roster based on his potential. The Taiwan outfielder, who was signed in early 2007, has hit below .250 in his two-year career so far. Currently at Low A-ball, Lin is hitting .248/.344/.368 with five homers and 27 stolen bases in 323 at-bats.
Welington Castillo, C
Castillo is no doubt looking to follow in Geovany Soto's footsteps. Split between High-A and Double-A ball in 2008, Castillo is hitting .291/.346/.422 overall with four homers in 199 at-bats. With the promotion of Soto to the Major Leagues and the recent trade of Josh Donaldson to Oakland, Castillo is now the No. 1 catching prospect in the system after beginning the season third on the depth chart. At the very least, his defensive abilities should ensure he will make the majors as a back-up catcher.
Hector Rondon, RHP
Rondon was a little-known prospect last season, although he combined on a no-hitter with a teammate in Low A-ball. He has solid control for his age, to go along with a low-90s fastball, curveball and fringe change-up. So far this season the right-hander has had no issues with High-A ball and has allowed 88 hits in 93 innings. He has walked 32 batters and struck out 101.
Shairon Martis, RHP
Martis was originally signed by the San Francisco Giants and later traded to the Nationals for aging reliever Mike Stanton. Martis won 14 games in 2007 but struck out just 108 batters in 151 innings. His sinker and plus change-up induce grounders but he will need to improve his breaking balls to succeed at the Major League level, especially since he has been allowing more fly balls this season. After 14 Double-A starts in 2008, Martis was promoted to Triple-A where he has made four starts.
Greg Golson, OF
Golson, a former 2004 No. 1 draft pick, is having a career year even though he is still showing no patience at the plate. The athletic outfielder is currently hitting .299/.333/.455 with eight homers and 17 stolen bases in 264 at-bats. However, he has just 14 walks and 80 strikeouts, which suggest his success will not last.
Cliff Pennington, SS
Pennington is another former No. 1 pick (2005, 21st overall) who is finally having some success. He fell off the prospect charts in 2006 and 2007 but started off 2008 by hitting .260/.379/.314 with 20 stolen bases in 204 Double-A at-bats. Promoted to Triple-A, Pennington is currently hitting .277/.408/.394 with two homers and five stolen bases in 155 at-bats. Impressively, he has walked 74 times and struck out 59 times. With his combination of patience and speed, Pennington should spend time in the Majors as a utility player.
Chris Getz, 2B
Getz also projects as a big league utility player. The hard-nosed infielder has significantly improved his stock this season with a Triple-A line of .303/.361/.452 with eight homers and seven stolen bases in 310 at-bats. The former fourth round pick out of the University of Michigan has a strong arm but limited range, which hurts his utility player prospects a bit.
Dexter Fowler, OF
Fowler was originally drafted in the 14th round of the 2004 draft as a raw project. He has finally taken that next step on his way to a solid big league career. Fowler is currently hitting .325/.412/.510 with nine homers and 16 stolen bases in 351 Double-A at-bats. The switch hitter is currently batting .438/.500/.671 from the left side. His 73 strikeouts, though, are on the high side.
Taylor Teagarden, C
While playing at the University of Texas, Teagarden was considered by many to be the best defensive catcher in all of college baseball. His bat, though, was a question. Not long after signing his first pro contract, Teagarden underwent Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow and spent much of the next season at designated hitter. His bat improved and in 2007, split between High-A ball and Double-A, Teagarden hit .310 and slugged 27 homers. He is struggling a bit offensively this season with a line of .220/.333/.381 in 164 at-bats split between Double-A and Triple-A but his glove will ensure that he sees time at the Major League level before long.
Casey Weathers, RHP
It may be a little surprising that you haven't heard more about the eighth overall selection of the 2007 draft, but Weathers' popularity is hurt by the fact he is a reliever and has pitched just 50 innings since signing his first pro contract. Regardless, he has put up solid numbers and so far this season has allowed just 23 hits in 35.1 innings. He has walked 19 batters, which is high, but he has also struck out 40 hitters. His ground ball outs to fly ball outs ratio is also about 2-1, which should help him in Colorado. Right-handed batters are hitting just .168 against him.
The future is certainly bright in Major League baseball, especially considering the above group of players were not even considered the cream of the crop at the showcase. You can read more about this week's Futures Game here.