High School Hitters from the 2004 Draft
Matt Bush, SS, San Diego Padres (1st overall, California HS)
Hitting .211/.250/.303 through 18 games for Class A Fort Wayne in the Midwest League. 4 walks, 17 strikeouts, 76 at-bats. Also has 6 errors. Bush did not play well in rookie ball after signing last year, and was also involved in an infamous under-age bar fight incident before he even played a pro game. That's standard stupid behavior for an 18-year-old athlete, and he should grow out of that with proper supervision. Scouts like his glove, but there were doubts about his bat before he signed, and his early pro performance is quite worrisome. It is way too early to scream "bust." He would just be a college freshman right now if he had not signed. But Bush has a lot of work to do to justify his selection.
Chris Nelson, SS, Colorado Rockies (9th overall, Georgia HS)
Hitting .100/.091/.200 in 6 games for the Class A Asheville Tourists in the Sally League. 0 walks, 4 strikeouts in 20 at-bats. Nelson has had his playing time limited by injury, and the sample size is too small to draw any conclusions about anything. He played well in short-season ball last year, and I was very optimistic about him heading into this year. In retrospect, the Grade A- I gave him may have been one notch too optimistic, given the fact that he fanned 42 times in 38 games last summer. He'll need to improve his contact rate to live up to expectations, but at this point I'm much more optimistic about his chances than about Matt Bush's.
Neil Walker, C, Pittsburgh Pirates (11th overall, Pennsylvania HS)
Hitting .278/.337/.443 in 21 games for the Class A Hickory Crawdads in the Sally League. 8 walks, 16 strikeouts in 79 at-bats. Walker is playing solidly right now, showing decent power and good-enough strike zone judgment. His defense is pretty good too. He's not Joe Mauer, but if he stays healthy, he should be a solid all-around catcher, both offensively and defensively.
Billy Butler, 3B, Kansas City Royals (14th overall, Florida HS)
Hitting .363/.446/.650 in 21 games for Class A High Desert in the California League. 12 walks, 16 strikeouts in 80 at-bats. While the park and league context help him, Butler is legitimately dominating older pitchers, showing excellent plate discipline and plus power. His bat is ready or nearly-ready for Double-A right now. Alas, his defense at third base is pretty terrible. If I were the Royals, I'd move him to the outfield right now. Many teams thought he was an overdraft at 14th overall, but at this stage he's the most advanced hitter in the '04 high school class.
Trevor Plouffe, SS, Minnesota Twins (20th overall, California HS)
Hitting .104/.164/.164 in 18 games for Class A Beloit in the Midwest League. 5 walks, 10 strikeouts in 67 at-bats. Obviously not hitting well, although he is making contact at a decent rate. If he does not pull out of this by June, a drop back to the Appalachian League looks likely when the short-season teams get started up. I will see Beloit play in Cedar Rapids this week, and hope to get a good look at Plouffe then.
Greg Golson, OF, Philadelphia Phillies (21st overall, Texas HS)
Hitting .276/.337/.356 in 21 games for Class A Lakewood in the Sally League. 6 walks, 18 strikeouts in 87 at-bats. Also has 5 steals, although he has been caught 3 times. Golson has excellent physical tools, but some scouts have doubts about his swing, which can be too long and too vulnerable to breaking balls. So far, he is holding his own against full-season pitching. I'd like to see better plate discipline, which would help his power develop beyond where it is right now. Golson is very intelligent and works hard, which will help.
Blake DeWitt, SS-3B, Los Angeles Dodgers (28th overall, Missouri HS)
Hitting .279/.319/.419 in 21 games for the Columbus Catfish in the Sally League. 5 walks, 15 strikeouts in 86 at-bats. Some experts rated DeWitt as the most advanced pure hitter in the '04 high school ranks, but he's been passed by Butler. DeWitt is holding his own right now, not showing tons of power yet, but doing OK. He had some problems with defense last year, but seems to have settled down somewhat.
Jon Poterson, OF, New York Yankees (37th overall, Arizona HS)
Hitting .119/.167/.179 in 19 games for Charleston in the Sally League. 4 walks, 20 strikeouts in 67 at-bats. Poterson was drafted for his power, rated as well above-average. But that power is quite raw right now; he has had trouble tapping it against pro pitching due to poor plate discipline and contact ability. He hit just .202 in rookie ball, and given his weak performance thus far this year, a drop back to short-season ball in June appears very likely. Like Bush, it's too early to think "bust," but he needs to make a lot of adjustments.