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10 names to know in the California League03/21/2008 8:00 AM ET
By Lisa Winston / MLB.com
Heaven for hitters, hell for pitchers? The Class A Advanced California League has that reputation, which may or may not be earned. Either way, the prospects sent to the 10-team league include some of the most exciting and potentially dangerous hitters in the Minors, as well as several young hurlers who could overcome the "pitcher killer" label.
Here's a look at some of the best and brightest heading west for the summer, or at least the beginning of it.
1. Brett Anderson, LHP
One of the many prospects the Athletics acquired from Arizona in the deal for Dan Haren, the 20-year-old southpaw impressed in his debut season in 2007 as he posted a 2.21 ERA in 14 starts at Class A South Bend. He followed that up with a 4.85 ERA in nine starts at Visalia in the California League, and returns to the Ports rotation to open 2008. His command is excellent, with 21 walks versus 125 strikeouts over 120 1/3 innings. The son of legendary Oklahoma State baseball coach Frank Anderson, Anderson has learned from his bloodlines how to show poise beyond his years on the mound. His arsenal includes four pitches, all of which he commands well.
2. Lars Anderson, 1B
Some day people will look back at Anderson and say, "Wow, how on earth did this guy ever drop to the 18th round of the Draft?" The answer is that he ranked high on most scouts' sheets, but his apparent college commitment scared people off. The Red Sox took a chance midway through the Draft and it shows all signs of paying off big time. The 20-year-old left-handed hitter from northern California has good size and great power potential to all fields. In 2007, at Class A Greenville, he hit .288 with 10 homers and 69 RBIs, after which he had a brief taste of the Cal League, where he showed his stuff, hitting .343 in 10 games. He returns there and should be a serious contender for Player of the Year honors, if he sticks around long enough to qualify.
3. Peter Bourjos, OF
The son of former big-league outfielder and current superscout Chris Bourjos, the 21-year-old speedster is a high-energy, top-of-the-order guy who wreaks havoc on opposing pitchers. A finger injury cut his 2007 campaign short at Class A Cedar Rapids, where he hit .274 with 19 steals in 63 games. He should finally enjoy his first full season with the Quakes and ought to be an exciting player to watch.
4. Chris Carter, 1B
If you can keep track of this, you get an A+ on "prospect geography." The Arizona Diamondbacks had a slugging first base prospect named Chris Carter and dealt him to the Boston Red Sox last summer. They also received a slugging first base prospect named Chris Carter from the Chicago White Sox via trade for outfielder Carlos Quentin. They then dealt him to Oakland in the trade for Dan Haren. Recapping, this is the second Chris Carter (and coincidentally, neither one's real first name is Chris -- this player's real name is Vernon). Okay, that said, the 21-year-old slugger has dangerous power, and showed it off at Class A Kannapolis, where he hit .291 with 25 homers and 93 RBIs in his first full season. Imagine what he might do in the Cal League. Pitchers should be afraid.
5. Fautino De Los Santos, RHP
But De Los Santos does not need to be afraid because he won't have to face Chris Carter, his teammate at Kannapolis in 2007, with whom he is reunited in a new organization. De Los Santos headed into '07 a virtual unknown outside of the White Sox organization, about to make his stateside debut. By the end of the season he'd pitched in the Futures Game, emerged as one of the top pitchers in the system and became a key name in the January 2008 deal that brought Nick Swisher to Chicago. Add five starts with Class A Advanced Winston-Salem to his Kannapolis numbers and he combined to go 10-5 with a 2.65 ERA, limiting hitters to a .163 average over 122 1/3 innings. With a fastball that reaches the mid-to-upper 90s, the 21-year-old is a shockingly polished pitcher with good secondary stuff. While no one can expect him to post those sorts of numbers in the Cal League, he could continue to dominate.
6. Hector Gomez, SS
The Rockies are sending absolutely loaded lineups to Double-A Tulsa and Class A Asheville, but their Modesto club will be no slouch either. That's especially true in the middle infield, where the 20-year-old Gomez will pair up with fellow prospect Daniel Mayora. Gomez was a South Atlantic League All-Star at Asheville last year, hitting .266 with 11 homers, 61 RBIs and 20 steals, and his prodigious tools across the board should continue to blossom this year. A pure shortstop who has hit .293 over three seasons, he also dazzles on defense.
7. Cedric Hunter, OF
The 20-year-old Hunter was the club's third-round pick in 2006 out of high school in Georgia, and in his pro debut that summer all he did was hit .371 with 17 steals in the Arizona League, winning the circuit's MVP award. That should have been a tough act to follow, but he performed admirably in his full-season debut in '07, batting .282 with seven homers, 58 RBIs and eight steals. An outstanding athlete and gap hitter who has power potential to all fields, he also has good strike zone discipline and is a solid defensive center fielder with plus speed. That arsenal of tools should serve him well at Lake Elsinore this summer.
8. Gerardo Parra, OF
Contrary to popular belief, the Diamondbacks organization was not stripped bare when they dealt six top prospects to Oakland. Far from it. But with the departure of outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, the 20-year-old Parra has emerged as the system's top outfield prospect. His bat is legit. He won the Midwest League batting title by hitting .320 and also racked up 24 steals at South Bend last summer. An excellent defensive outfielder with a live bat to all fields, he's stolen 20 or more bases in all three of his pro seasons.
9. Leyson Septimo, LHP
Septimo was at Visalia last year, as well, but it was as an outfielder, hitting .271 with five homers, 42 RBIs and 12 steals. Upon further consideration, the Diamondbacks decided to convert the strong-armed but inconsistent hitter into a potentially dangerous southpaw, and he'll return to the Oaks to make his pro pitching debut. With a fastball in the mid 90s, Septimo has shown a quick grasp of the concept of pitching, and the club is understandably very excited about his upcoming season.
10. Carlos Triunfel, SS
It's hard to make the numbers jive. In a 2007 season interrupted by a thumb injury, Triunfel combined to hit a more-than-respectable .296 in 96 games, batting .309 at Class A Wisconsin and .288 at High Desert. Yet this was just his pro debut, and he was just 17 years old. This year, looking at a season where he will be only 18, Triunfel is expected to spend -- or at least start-- the year back at High Desert, where the megaprospect could really rack up numbers. He is still developing all aspects of his game, but his upside is as high as anyone's.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.