It's tough to pick a true sleeper at the Triple-A level because most are a phone call away from the big leagues. In this case, however, De La Cruz fits the bill – except to San Diego. They added him to the 40-man roster, despite a walk total of 44 across 69.1 innings. That should tell you a bit more about his stuff, which is considered above average. He has a terrific fastball that is routinely in the high-90s and a great curveball. He also tosses a solid changeup. Command, obviously, is the biggest issue.
Double-A San Antonio: RHP, Mike DeMark
The right-hander has continuously battled past his undrafted status, proving himself at multiple stops along the way. He has a fearless attitude and competitive nature that wills success. DeMark throws a low-90s fastball that hits 94 mph and appears to come in even quicker thanks to a quirky delivery. He also has a very good slider. Look to him when bullpen options are needed in 2010.
High-A Lake Elsinore: OF, Danny Payne
He has been a forgotten man because of injuries and lack of performance since getting drafted high in 2007. While there has been inconsistency with his bat, the outfielder has plenty of tools to perform at a high level. Everything begins and ends with his swing. He has trouble with the pitch on the outer half of the plate and must make the adjustment. A patient hitter, Payne has battled through confidence issues and figuring out what kind of player he is. Provided he makes the necessary adjustments, Payne has big league talent.
Low-A Fort Wayne: RHP, Nick Schumacher
The right-hander was an afterthought to begin the season, starting the year in extended. When he arrived in Fort Wayne, he was the one called upon in blowouts. As the year progressed, his role became much bigger – pitching in tight games and rewarding the TinCaps regularly. The right-hander developed a cutter this year and that pitch propelled him forward, as the opposition had a tough time putting bat to ball. He also has a plus slider and four pitches total to choose from, routinely keeping hitters off-balance.
Short-season Eugene: OF, Matt Vern
The numbers weren't very good in his professional debut, as the outfielder struck out 71 times in 207 at-bats. There is an underlying level of talent there and immense power potential. He underwent a total revamp of his swing this season, getting rid of the rotational, aluminum bat type mentality. The impressive part is he stuck with changes that were not comfortable through the year in order to see the benefits in subsequent seasons. If he can put the pieces together and improve pitch selection, the athletic Vern could do considerable damage offensively.
Rookie Level Arizona Padres: OF, Cameron Monger
A speedster that lacked significant playing time at the collegiate level, Monger put his feet to use professionally by stealing 29 bags in 52 games. He has strong baseball acumen and puts lessons learned into application quickly. While he has a ways to go in terms of learning the nuances of the game, he has adapted well and should continue to blossom. His understanding of his talents makes it easier to bring forth a groundball/line drive approach that will make infielders awake with nightmares.
Dominican Summer League Padres: RHP, Eugenio Reyes
A 6.47 ERA in any league doesn't generally warrant a look but Reyes is an exception. The right-hander has a mid-90s fastball that has sinking action and a potential plus changeup make him a candidate to perform well in the years to come. Because his fastball is so lively, the changeup has a chance to be a special offering that gets hitters rolling over. He will need to work on tightening up his breaking ball.
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