How much more exciting could finishing up the first month of play be that with the appearance of two of the most followed prospects over the last two years, with the return of Mike Trout, and debut of Bryce Harper?
For Trout, who still holds his rookie status thanks to 135 at-bats last year (five shy of the limit) good for .220-5-16 numbers, meaning Trout spent 91 games (.36-11-38) at Double-A Arkansas, and just missed making the team out of spring this year. All Trout did at Salt Lake City was .406-1-13 with a 1.091 OPS (.467 OBP; .623 SLG) and since the Angels released Bobby Abreu to the tune of $9 million this year, you can expect Trout to play pretty much every day. He has, as you can see, nothing left to prove in the minors.
As for Harper, there is simply nothing left to beyond his double and RBI Saturday during his first game, and his web gem catch Sunday simply show just how special this kid can be. .290-18-61 totals with 27 swipes over just 129 games and all we can do is consider ourselves lucky to have witnessed a rookie crop with Trout, Harper, and the Athletics' Yoenis Cespedes. Should any of this troika be available for any odd reason in your free agent pool, run, do not walk to your transactions page and pick them up.
Moving to some corner spots, earlier in the week the Athletics picked up Luke Hughes to try and pick up some pop at third (I was actually at his first Oakland game, where Hughes comitted a pair of errors and drove the ball twice to the deepest part of the park only to fly out, making for a tough evening), and now have picked up Brandon Inge, just let go by the Tigers. I would actually expect Inge to log the bulk of time at the hot corner, though and though Hughes does have a few minor league games at first, it is probably a stretch that he would play there. Inge has .234-140-589 major league totals, while Hughes has .220-8-34 numbers. Despite essentially weak numbers, both are upgrades to what Oakland already has, at least at third.
Also in Oakland, don't look now, but first sacker Kila Ka'aihue is quietly hitting .310-0-2 over 14 games, and that might only be good for a .763 OPS, but it is a start, and maybe a sign that the big (6'4", 235 pounds) Hawaiian--who boasts a solid .390 minor league OBP--has finally gotten the hang of big league pitching. Keep an eye on him, for if Ka'aihue gets into a groove, the power will indeed follow.
Across the bay, since Aubrey Huff has forgotten that he performs well in even years, and has since fled to the DL as he tries to reorder his life. And, that measn for the most part Brandon Belt will be the everyday first baseman, and that is a good thing. It is one thing Belt needs to know to instill his confidence and sense of belonging. Just over the weekend, Belt supplied the go-ahead run on Saturday, and while Brett Pill might get some looks at first, and Buster Posey as well, this should afford Belt a chance to settle in without the pressure of competition. Keep an eye on his play for the next couple of weeks. (In fact, knowing Huff is in his contract year, with some left-handed pop, he becomes potential trade bait to a contender looking for said comodity. That is provided the Giants are not contending.)
And, though we have one more position player to check out, let's stay in San Francisco long enough to report out on Erick Hacker, who made his first start for the Giants on Friday. Hacker is a 29-year old throw back looking guy, stading in at 6'1", 230 pounds, with a big--and traditional looking--wind up replete with a big leg kick. But, he does not throw very hard, topping out around 89 MPH with his fastball. I was surprised that over almost six innings Friday, that the righty whiffed seven Padres, but at the big league level he does not look like much to gamble on. I am still much higher on another Eric: that being Eric Surkamp.
San Diegoe advanced 24-year Blake Tekotte, their third round selection of the 2008 draft. The outfielder has a pretty good resume of .274-58-222 over 433 games, and after a solid .285-19-67 at Double-A San Antonio, Tekotte was brought up for a month (.176-0-1 over 19 games). He began this season at AAA Tucson, going .278-2-6 before the call-up, and though it is not a certainty the flychaser will stay with the team, for the rest of the year, he is one of many interesting young pieces to a rebuilding movement.
Staying in the west, Los Angeles recalled pitcher Nathan Eovaldi, a good looking 22-year old who made a splash last season with a 1-2, 3.63 mark over six starts and 34.2 innings. Eovaldi did cull 23 strikeouts, but also 20 walks (1.40 WHIP) so despite a good spring (1.72 ERA over 15.2 innings) the youngster went back to Chatanooga to start the season. There he has posted fine 0-0, 2.08 numbers over four starts and 14 innings (14 whiffs and three walks) before his call-up. Expect Eovaldi to start out fleshing the pen, but if he holds his own, expect the 11th round pick in 2008 to be in the rotation by next season, and maybe even sooner.
Speaking of recalls, Houston did just that with lefty Jordan Lyles, the Astros first round pick, once again from the 2008 June draft. At 20, last year Lyles was pushed to Minute Maid, probably prematurely, as his 2-8, 5.36 totals over 15 starts and 94 innings (1.41 WHIP with 67 whiffs) indicates. The lefty was 3-3, 3.61 over 10 starts while not in the majors at Triple-A Oklahoma City, and this season has been 4-0, 3.41 over four starts, allowing just 24 hits, four walks, and 24 strikeouts over 24 innings, with just one dinger allowed. He pitched pretty well against the Reds Sunday, going six innings, allowing three runs on four hits, three walks and five strikeouts. The Astros might scratch for wins this year, and it could even be a loss leader for Lyles, but this too is an arm worth watching.
Finally, don't look now but Baltimore's Pedro Strop has earned two saves and a win since last Tuesday. Since Jim Johnson is down, Strop is a pretty good sleeper--at least for this week--to add to your team and maybe pick up a save or two. The righty is a 26-year old, who notched 2-1, 2.05 totals last year over 22 Baltimore innings, but before that was less successful out of the Texas pen (0-1, 7.24 over 33 games). Ride the hot hand, as they say.