Goodyear, AZ, USA; A general view of a game between the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox during the eighth inning at Goodyear Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE
There are barely any statistics compiled in short-season Lowell, given they started play a week ago, and you have to contend with the short stints of many pitchers along with the lineup shuffling of youngsters. Given that, most of the focus in these early updates are going to be on what we know of these players, more than what their 2012's might be saying after 20 plate appearances.
Mookie Betts, SS
Betts had just one game and four plate appearances professionally before the start of the 2012 campaign with Lowell, that coming as an 18-year-old in the Gulf Coast League the previous season. Betts was a fifth-round selection in the 2011 draft, and while he's at shortstop now, he profiles to move over to second base full-time eventually. Luckily, he also projects to be a plus defender there.
You might be shocked to hear this, but the 5-foot-9, 156 pound Betts does not have much power, nor is it expected he'll ever develop very much. This isn't to say he might not ever hit -- Sox Prospects describes him as having a "solid-average hit tool" and states he has the potential to make a lot of contact once he learns how professional strike zones work. Hitting for average and playing high-quality defense are two of the things you definitely like to see out of a middle infielder; if Betts can draw walks consistently, there could be something here.
He's all of 19, and just in a Spinners' uni, so don't be too down on him if he doesn't immediately play like the projected description above. All of these players need substantial development time before they fit those molds.
Kyle Kraus, P
Kraus was Boston's seventh-round selection in the 2012 draft, a senior out of the University of Portland. He's all of 5-11 and 185 pounds, a short and slender right-hander who has succeeded with command. Kraus signed for just $1,000, and soon after the draft, saving the Red Sox $142,000 against the slot recommendation.
He wasn't drafted only because he could be had on the cheap, though. Kraus posted a 2.03 ERA in his final year in the NCAA, tossing 111 innings with just 1.1 free passes per nine. He'll need to miss more bats in the pros -- he struck out just 5.3 per nine in four years and 406 innings with Portland -- but that's what he's doing in short-season league to begin with.
As with any draft pick -- not just those selected in the seventh -- Kraus is no sure thing, and there's plenty here that needs to be worked on. As a four-year senior, he might not get much time to do so at Lowell, as there is an expectation he's refined to the degree that will see him in Greenville next season. That's the plan, anyway, but it's up to Kraus to get himself to that point in the present day.
Nathan Minnich, 1B
Minnich was Division II's Player of the Year in 2012, after hitting .487/.645/.980 with 21 homers in just 152 at-bats for Shepherd College. He's already a large player at 21, standing 6-3 and 245 pounds, but given he was a senior who dominated Division II, he'll need to show what he can do against pro competition before anyone can get any kind of gauge on what he might become.
Minnich, selected in the eighth round, signed for $10,000, or nearly $125,000 under his slot recommendation. Like Kraus, he was part of Boston's plan to shuffle money in their allotted draft budget around to allow them to ink additional high-ceiling players. Minnich might have a career ahead of him -- it's easy to envision, with how routinely he tattooed baseballs in college -- but the big man will need to keep the strikeouts down and show that he can produce against pro pitching before he's useful for more than just helping his organization sign others.