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10 names to know in the Eastern League03/27/2008 10:00 AM ET
By Lisa Winston / MLB.com
Not long ago, Triple-A players were the only Minor Leaguers to receive callups to their Major League clubs. But in the last few years, it has become almost as common for a team to bring up a prospect from Double-A as from Triple-A.
These 10 top prospects all break camp with the knowledge that if they perform well and the right situation arises, the next call they get could be from the big leagues.
1. Andrew Carpenter, RHP
Carpenter was not the Phillies' Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2007, though with his Minor League-leading 17 wins and admirable 3.20 ERA at Class A Advanced Clearwater, he certainly could have been (the honor went instead to sleeper reliever Mike Zagurski). But as he moves up to Reading to begin just his second full season, he'll be a leading candidate for the 2008 prize. A second-round pick in 2006 out of Long Beach State (where he was a teammate of Rays third baseman Evan Longoria), Carpenter has command of five pitches: a fastball that hovers around 90, a slider, a curveball, a changeup and a splendid splitter. He's done nothing but impress as a pro, tossing a seven-inning perfect game for the Threshers last summer and earning two post-season victories. As Phillies' farm director Steve Noworyta said, "You don't win 19 games with smoke and mirrors."
2. Carlos Carrasco, RHP
Joining Carpenter in the R-Phils' rotation will be Carrasco, the organization's top pitching prospect. Just turned 21, the Venezuelan native returns to Reading, where he posted a 4.86 ERA in 14 starts during the second half of the 2007 season. He began the year with Carpenter in Clearwater, going 6-2 with a 2.84 ERA in 12 starts. Carrasco throws a lively fastball in the mid 90s and a Major League changeup, but still needs to harness command and consistency. He's always been one of the youngest pitchers in whichever league he's pitched and the Phillies see no need to further rush this future ace.
3. Wes Hodges, 3B
Drafted out of Georgia Tech in the second round of 2006, Hodges' ascent has been hampered by injuries that include a broken hamate bone and a toe injury in 2007. In his pro debut at Class A Advanced Kinston he hit .288 with 15 home runs and 70 RBIs. A line-drive swing with opposite-field power helped him add 22 doubles. Look for him to build on those numbers when healthy and ready to contribute on a daily basis with the Aeros. He's a gamer who can play through pain, but the Indians hope that won't be an issue this year.
4. Austin Jackson, OF
The Yankees have emerged as an organization with as much talent as any in baseball and, more surprisingly, a willingness to let that talent shine in the big leagues. The Thunder heads into the '08 season as the defending Eastern League champion and is still formidable, thanks in part to two outfielders on this list. Jackson, just 21, moved from Class A Charleston to Class A Advanced Tampa in 2007 before getting a taste of postseason action with the Thunder. He improved with each promotion and combined for 13 homers, 59 RBIs and 32 steals at his two Class A stops. An outstanding athlete, the 2005 eighth-rounder turned down a basketball scholarship to Georgia Tech.
5. Fernando Martinez, OF
Don't let Martinez's return to Binghamton for a second season fool you into thinking this top prospect has suffered a setback. The 19-year-old (he won't turn 20 until October!) broke his hamate bone during his 2007 tenure with the B-Mets and doesn't lose any development time by heading back to the Eastern League club. He's very mature for his age, a power hitter to all fields and every tool you could ask for. The Mets gave up nearly every top prospect in their system except Martinez to acquire Johan Santana from the Twins. He showed why this spring, hitting .340 in 18 big league games before returning to Minor League camp. Catch him now before his Minor League career ends -- he'll be in the bigs before long.
6. Justin Masterson, RHP
The aforementioned trade between the Twins and Mets kept Masterson with the Red Sox -- he was one of the Boston prospects heavily rumored to be headed to the Twin Cities had the Sox made the deal. The big (6-foot-6, 250-pound) right-hander has a tremendous makeup that helped him reach Double-A Portland in his first full season. He has command of his sinking fastball to both sides of the plate as well as a good feel for his slider and changeup. Though he'll return to Portland to start the season, he could move up very quickly. He put up impressive numbers at Class A Advanced Lancaster in '07 with a 4.33 ERA and posted a 4.34 ERA at Portland, striking out 59 in 58 innings while walking 18. He's a second-rounder out of San Diego State in 2006.
7. Justin Maxwell, OF
Maxwell made a huge splash in his Major League debut: his first big-league hit was a pinch-hit grand slam against the Florida Marlins. The Nationals' 2007 Minor League Player of the Year will head to Double-A Harrisburg to start his 2008 campaign, which will, believe it or not, mark his Minor League debut above the Class A level -- the Nats called him up straight from Class A Advanced Potomac. The Montgomery County, Md. product is a local boy drafted in the 2005 Draft's fourth round whose preternatural poise should serve him well when he comes up for good. The only player in the Minors to combine for 25 doubles, 25 homers and 25 steals (at Class A Hagerstown and Class A Advanced Potomac), the 24-year-old Maxwell could be back in the Majors at any time.
8. Travis Snider, OF
Snider, just 20, will make a big jump from Class A Lansing to the Eastern League this season -- but if anyone can handle it, it's the remarkable first-round pick from 2006. Snider, whom the Jays selected out of high school in Washington state, has impressed mightily in his brief pro career, both with his performance and his maturity. In his '06 debut at Pulaski he hit .325 with 11 homers and 41 RBIs. He hit .313 with 16 home runs and 93 RBIs in his full-season debut at Class A Lansing last summer. And as one of the youngest players in the Arizona Fall League -- shortly after the unexpected passing of his mother -- he hit .316 as a 19-year-old. Not only is he the Jays' top prospect, he's also one of the brightest outfield prospects in the game. He has a great arm, good bat speed and all-around instincts for the game. The Jays are going out on a small limb by skipping the youngster past Class A Advanced Dunedin straight to the Eastern League, but he'll no doubt handle the promotion with his usual aplomb.
9. Chorye Spoone, RHP
A local kid who regularly had dozens of family members at his starts with the Class A Advanced Frederick Keys, Spoone's performance in 2007 impressed even Orioles fans outside his immediate circle. The eighth-round pick from 2005 truly took no prisoners down the stretch in 2007. The 22-year-old right-hander led the Keys to their second Carolina League title in three years, earning playoff MVP honors by tossing two dazzling complete games in the postseason. In the first (in the semifinals), he came within one out of a no-hitter. In the second, he took a shutout into the ninth inning to earn the win in the championship-clinching game. With a live arm that boasts a fastball in the mid-90s and a plus curveball, Spoone has concentrated on acquiring the poise and maturity necessary for his development.
10. Jose Tabata, OF
In Tabata and Jackson, the Thunder may have the Yankees' two top outfield prospects roaming Waterfront Park. Tabata, who won't turn 20 until August, was signed out of Venezuela in 2005 and has tantalized the club with his talent since then, hitting .307 with five homers, 54 RBIs and 15 steals in 103 games in a 2007 season shortened by the aftereffects of a broken hamate bone he suffered in 2006. He's back and healthy for 2008 and the club is delighted by his progress.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.