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Young talent overflowing in Class A Advanced04/04/2007 10:00 AM ET
By Ryan McConnell / Special to MLB.com
With Opening Day for the three Class A Advanced leagues almost upon us, it's time to preview 10 names you'll need to know for 2007. There's a new crop of players aspiring to be this year's Reid Brignac, Philip Hughes or Homer Bailey -- prospects who put themselves on the brink of the Major Leagues with big seasons in high-A ball.
Among others, this year's group features the top wide receiver in Notre Dame football history, a lanky outfielder who turned down the chance to attend Harvard and a player many scouts believe may be the next Ken Griffey Jr.
Elvis Andrus, SS (Myrtle Beach Pelicans)
But a deeper look reveals Andrus was just 17 years old for most of the 2006 season, approximately four years younger than many of his counterparts in the league. With an athleticism that makes scouts drool, the precocious Andrus will show off his tools in the Carolina League this year.
Jay Bruce, OF (Sarasota Reds)
Either way, the Reds had to be thrilled with Bruce's development as a 19-year-old last season. He'll look to develop more consistency and improve his hitting against southpaws (.236 with 36 strikeouts in 123 at-bats) for Sarasota in 2007. But if he succeeds, don't be surprised if MiLB.com's No. 8 Minor League prospect is promoted to Double-A Chattanooga before the summer begins.
Carlos Carrasco, RHP (Clearwater Threshers)
But given another shot at Lakewood last season, the resilient Carrasco dominated the South Atlantic League, posting a 12-6 record with a 2.26 ERA in 159 1/3 frames. Now widely considered the Phillies' top pitching prospect, Carrasco will take on the competition in Clearwater. After making the mistake once, don't expect the Phillies to rush Carrasco again. Unless he shows unmistakable dominance, the 20-year-old Venezuelan likely won't reach the Majors until 2009 at the earliest.
Dexter Fowler, OF (Modesto Nuts)
The big question with Fowler is how much power he'll develop as his skinny frame fills out. If he turns a significant portion of the 31 doubles he hit last year into home runs, the scouts comparing him to Andre Dawson and Andruw Jones will look awfully good. He'll sharpen his skills in the California League and, if all goes well, could see Double-A Tulsa by the end of the year.
Will Inman, RHP (Brevard County Manatees)
For his part, Inman isn't prepared to embrace mediocrity. As he told MiLB.com last November, "I want to be the guy who goes out there and dominates for years and years and years and ends up in the Hall of Fame. I want to make a statement when I get there."
Inman's fastball may not impress on a radar gun, but he has the confidence of a future All-Star. Look for him to prove the critics wrong in the Florida State League this year.
Cameron Maybin, OF (Lakeland Flying Tigers)
An outfielder with 30-30 potential, Maybin's only weakness thus far has been his plate discipline. He'll try and improve on it this year in Lakeland and, before too long, Double-A Erie. But even if he doesn't rein in his free-swinging ways, a Major League career resembling that of Mike Cameron or Eric Davis isn't out of reach.
Andrew Miller, LHP (Lakeland Flying Tigers)
Still, with a fastball that reaches the upper 90s and a slider that would make Randy Johnson proud, all the 6-foot-6 University of North Carolina product needs now is experience and perhaps another secondary pitch. If he's a quick study, Miller might find himself with a one-way trip back to Detroit before the end of the season.
Jeff Samardzija, RHP (Daytona Cubs)
But Cubs fans expecting to see the shaggy-haired pitcher perform at Wrigley Field this year are likely to be disappointed. While Samardzija's fastball has been clocked in the high 90s, he'll probably need a full season to improve his raw secondary pitches. Samardzija will gain that experience in the Florida State League.
Jose Tabata, OF (Tampa Yankees)
With expectations already sky-high, Tabata will try not to disappoint the impatient New York fan base this year at Tampa. After hitting .314 in his debut for the Gulf Coast Yankees in 2005, Tabata took a leap forward while playing at Class A Charleston before a July slump (10-for-50) and a jammed thumb limited him in the second half. While the 18-year-old nonetheless finished with a respectable .797 OPS, he managed just five home runs in 363 at-bats. The Yankees expect Tabata to develop more power as his body fills out. If his home run off Schilling is any clue, he may be well on his way.
Justin Upton, OF (Visalia Oaks)
But Upton failed to meet those impossibly high expectations and hit a pedestrian .263 with 12 home runs and 66 RBIs for Class A South Bend in his first full season. Despite the disappointing pro debut, most scouts still regard Baseball America's 2005 High School Player of the Year as one of the top prospects in the game. He'll have a chance to prove them right while playing for Visalia in the hitter-friendly California League.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.