This week’s version of the Hot/Cold Report will be a bit abbreviated. I’m currently in Phoenix catching Cactus League action and, as such my baseball brain has been somewhat distracted from college by pro ball.
Gordon Beckham, SS Georgia Jr.
Beckham is quickly becoming a familiar figure to our loyal readers. The Bulldogs’ leader and early favorite for the Golden Spikes Award went 8-for-11 on Saturday and Sunday boosting his overall season line to .507/.553/1.041. Finding anything wrong with Beckham so far this season is serious nitpicking but that is what major league scouting directors and general managers are paid to do. Beckham is very much a free-swinger at the plate and one worries -- at least slightly -- about his ability to continue to produce without being more selective at the plate. On the plus side, however, while Beckham has only drawn 5 walks in 15 games that sum is equal to the number of strikeouts he has. He’s a free swinger with legit power who makes constant contact and will play on the left side of the infield.
Aaron Crow, RHP Missouri Jr.
Crow is currently the number five draft prospect on our board and is making a strong pitch -- sorry for the terrible pun, I can’t help myself -- to take over the No. 1 spot. On Friday against a Toledo team that admittedly is not a powerhouse, Crow was nothing short of dominant. He struck out 15 in a complete game, two-hit shutout and did not walk a batter. In 26 innings on the young season, Crow has 41 K’s and just 4 walks. If he keeps up anything close to this pace, you can go ahead and pre-order your Rays’ jerseys with “Crow” on the back.
Sawyer Carroll, 1B/OF Kentucky Sr.
Carroll is one of the very few players who have legitimately out-performed Gordon Beckham so far. Carroll had very solid season in 2007 (.350/.449/.519) but has been other-worldly in 2008 (.532/.634/1.032). Those are the numbers, and they speak for themselves. To go along with seven long balls, Carroll has hit nine other extra base hits (48% XBH). His 17 walks rank him in the top 10 in the country and look even better when compared with just seven strike outs. Carroll wasn’t on a ton of radars before the season but he’s playing like an elite prospect.
David Cooper, 1B California Jr.
Cooper is in the Sawyer Carroll division of guys who had pretty good 2007’s but have blown the doors off in 2008. Cal’s first baseman is currently hitting .373/.494/.780 with seven home runs. While those numbers are quite impressive on their own, when you factor in the fact that Cal’s home park is one of the best pitchers parks around (81 PF according to Boyd’s World) you really have to take notice. While he’s limited to first base defensively, if Cooper can keep up this production he’ll hear his name called in the early rounds.
Anthony Shawler, OF Old Dominion Jr.
One of the great things about college ball is that it represents the highest level of competition where guys go both ways. Shawler is on of the best two-way players in the country, where he is the Saturday starter and cleanup hitter for ODU. On Saturday, Shawler had about as good an offensive day as you can have, going 4-for-4 with two home runs and two doubles, driving in six and drawing a walk in ODU’s wild 13-12 loss to William and Mary. Shawler is currently hitting .392/.468/.725 with 11 of his 20 hits going for extras in a park with just an 87 park factor (Boyd’s).
Anthony Shawler, RHP Old Dominion Jr.
While Shawler knocked in six runs in that crazy Saturday game, he gave up seven on the mound. Last year, Shawler was much more productive as a pitcher (114 innings, 130 strikeouts, 29 walks) than he has been in 2008, where his walk rate is uncharacteristically up (11 walks in 27 innings). As of now it looks like Shawler’s future is in the field where his power is developing in spades and his athleticism and arm strength make him a plus defender in right field. He still has enough talent to get a strong look at on the mound but he’ll need to regain his command if that is to be.
Danny Espinosa, SS Long Beach State Jr.
Espinosa has been Honorable Mention in each of the last two lists and is one guy I had a strong liking for before the season started. After getting off to a fast start the slick fielding Espinosa -- who is one of the few prospects out there this year who project as a true plus defender at short -- is mired in a slump. His season stats have come down to .328/.408/.492 due to a 5-for-29 stretch (.172). That line in and of itself isn’t that bad but for a guy with Espinosa’s defensive value. But when you factor in his strike out and walk rates (21% K, 8% BB) you have to wonder if his bat will ever be strong enough to give him a shot in the pros.
Lincoln Hamilton can be reached at email@example.com.