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Postcards from the complex leagues
Top '12 draftees check in from Arizona, Gulf Coast circuits
08/16/2012 10:00 AM ET
Carlos Correa has posted .244/.283/.366 marks in his first 42 pro games.
Carlos Correa has posted .244/.283/.366 marks in his first 42 pro games. (Cliff Welch/MiLB.com)
Carlos Correra, SS, GCL Astros; Drafted first overall (Stats)

Experience: At the beginning it was tough, because I'm not used to playing every day from Puerto Rico. We are here from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., so it's been a lot of work. I have actually lost weight: When I got here I was 202 pounds, and now I'm 195. I won't feel 100 percent every day, but I feel more consistent.
Adjustment: I am hitting against guys that throw hard but don't know where their pitches are going, so I am working on being selective. Our hitting coach, Edgardo Alfonzo, has been with me since I got here and has helped me with my swing. He taught me to be ready early and to transfer the weight of my lower-half into the ball so I have more power.
Promotion: Assigned to Rookie-level Greeneville on 8/11.
Headline: Top pick Correa cracks first career hit on 6/18.

Kyle Zimmer, RHP, AZL Royals; fifth overall (Stats)

Moment:: Just walking into the locker room for the first time and seeing my name on the back of a Royals uniform and having a professional locker, I think that's when it hit me.
Adjustment: I use to throw from the first-base side of the pitching rubber, and they had me move over to the third-base side. It makes sense to get more deception, to get a better angle on my breaking stuff and fastballs in to righties and fastballs away to lefties.
Teammate: The guy who catches me, Chad Johnson, is really good behind the plate. We worked well together.
Opponent: We shared a complex with the Rangers and played them a few times. That Joey Gallo guy (Rangers), I got to face him once -- it was a two-pitch at-bat, groundout to first -- and watched him a bunch. It looks like he's got some game.
Promotion: Assigned to Class A Kane County on 7/24.
Headline: Zimmer flashes strikeout skills on 8/11.

Albert Almora, CF, AZL Cubs; sixth overall (Stats)

Moment: My first hit was a home run. I got it pretty good. I came into the dugout, and I didn't really notice until like two innings later. One of my coaches, Lee Tinsley, was like, 'Your first pro hit was a home run.' That's when it really sunk in: I am a pro baseball player.
Teammate: I saw Pierce Johnson pitch, and he looked fantastic. Just the way he commanded his pitches, strong arm, everything.
Opponent: Joey Gallo (Rangers) -- he hit a home run to tie the game in the last inning against my team.
Promotion: Assigned to Class A Short-Season Boise on 8/15.
Headline: Almora homers in short-season debut on 8/16.

Max Fried, LHP, AZL Padres; seventh overall (Stats)

Moment: Right before my first outing -- we were the away team, so right as that third out was recorded -- something through my body hit me and said, "Wow, this is actually happening."
Adjustment: Right now, it's not about juicing it up or throwing 100 percent every time. It's more dialing it back and working on fastball command and being able to hit my spots and not give up walks. The Padres informed me that I threw a lot during my high school season and don't want me to overdo it, but also to give me enough time to pitch and experience professional baseball in a small dose. I'm on a 30-pitch count limit. My body is not as developed as other guys here, so I can get sore from lifting weights, but it's nothing that I can't deal with.
Teammate: Walker Weickel and Andrew Lockett are hard-working guys and they have the same drive to be great that I do.
Opponent: Joey Gallo (Rangers) has hit some huge bombs here. Every single team that we play against, someone always mentions his name. I faced him once and he got a broken-bat single.

Andrew Heaney, LHP, GCL Marlins; ninth overall (Stats)

Experience: The early mornings were pretty tough, I am not a morning person. Whoever's family is in town is all the people you get at the game. You have to love baseball to practice before you play it at 9 a.m.
Teammate: I roomed with Avery Romero, who was our second pick, and he got off to a really rough start. But the last week I was there he got two bombs. He has settled in and started playing really well.
Opponent: I got to pitch against Carlos Correa (Astros) -- first AB, fly out; second, struck him out swinging -- but he's pretty good. He can really field it, too. Defense is his strong suit right now.
Promotion: Assigned to Class A Greensboro on 8/13. ... We were at the mall when I got a call from a Texas area code. It was our manager, Jorge Hernandez. I was expecting Class A Short-Season Jamestown. I'm on cloud nine. This club is pretty close -- they have played over 100 games together -- so I am just trying to fit in and not do anything dumb. The other day, I threw my suitcase on the wrong end of the bus. I'm hoping to avoid fines!

Addison Russell, SS, AZL Athletics; 11th overall (Stats)

Experience The competition is way better than high school -- I can tell you that.
Adjustment I'm learning how to pay my own bills, living on my own. On the field, I have been having some pretty good success here and there. I really haven't had work on my swing going through high school, and the first day Juan Dilone, one of the hitting coaches, saw some problems with my swing and corrected them. He said I wasn't staying through the ball, but it's been good since then.
Teammate: People told me that I am fun to watch, but I never really got what they meant by that until watching Daniel Robertson. He plays the game with a lot of energy and passion.
Opponent: Daniel Vogelbach (Cubs) -- we played on the same travel team like forever and to see us come from high to the Minor Leagues, it's kind of cool. Daniel is killing it, hitting bombs and stuff.
Promotion: Assigned to Class A Short-Season Vermont on 8/2.
Headline: Russell flirts with cycle in NYPL debut on 8/3.

Nick Travieso, RHP, AZL Reds; 14th overall (Stats)

Moment: Before I went out for my first game, I was thinking, 'It can't be too different from high school ball.' The first game I go out there, I am facing a Cuban, Jorge Soler (Cubs), who just signed for $30 million. I got him to ground out, but I realized that some of these guys out here are not 18. They're in their 20s already, they have kids already and they're fighting for a spot just like I am. That was a huge eye-opener for me.
Experience: I remember growing up my dad would tell me, "Minor League Baseball is baseball all day." He was right. I love waking up and coming to the field instead of sitting in a classroom all day and then going to the field. But it's a lot of hard work. Derrin Ebert, our pitching coach, has been in our shoes, got drafted out of high school and pitched in the big leagues. The other day, he told me, 'You never know who is who.' That got to me, because I'm out here playing pro ball and I don't know who is watching.
Adjustment: I have to learn to keep the ball down. The air here is not like back at home in Florida where it's humid and thick. Here, it's dry, so leave the ball up and the should-be pop-fly outs go out.
Teammate: Tanner Rahier -- I heard his name a lot last summer, and it's great to have him here.
Opponent: I have been watching a lot of Albert Almora (Cubs) because I grew up with him. I haven't pitched against him yet, but he's been tearing it up. And Lewis Brinson (Rangers) -- every time I see him he's getting two, three hits a game.

D.J. Davis, CF, GCL Blue Jays; 17th overall (Stats)

Experience: I've been trying to get on base and steal bases. I should have more, but 17 in 37 games is a good number. What does Billy Hamilton [a fellow Mississipi native] have? Over 100? That's off the charts. I need to be making more contact with the ball to get on base but I am having a little trouble with that.
Adjustment: On outfield defense, they've taught me to field the ground ball out front and not the side of my foot. So if it hops, it will hit in my chest.
Teammate: George Carroll is a good hitter, a good catcher and he's not afraid to tell you when you're making a mistake. He's like another coach.
Opponent: Yeicok Calderon (Yankees) has got a good stick. He puts the ball in play a lot.

Michael Wacha, RHP, GCL Cardinals; 18th overall (Stats)

Experience: It's a different kind of baseball, especially coming from Texas A&M and having 5,000 people at every game and going to the Gulf Coast League and having maybe three people in the stands. It gets hard at times to get pumped up for games. It wears on you mentally too, but it's part of the grind. They really wanted me to take it slow, throw like two innings in a week. But it was a good introduction to pro ball, to learn the way the Cardinals do things: bunt plays, coverages, throwing bullpens on the side.
Opponent: Carlos Correa (Astros), only 17 years old, but he's a big kid and he can hit the ball for sure. I struck him out twice, which was pretty cool.
Promotion: Assigned to Class A Adv. Palm Beach on 7/30. ... I'm down in the bullpen one of the first games, and those guys like to mess around quite a bit. I was sitting there watching the game, paying attention and everyone just keeps on looking at me and smiling. I was like, 'What's going on?' Three innings later, I take off my hat, and there's a big old piece bubble gum in a bubble. I was like, 'Alright, picking on the new guy. I get it.'

Stryker Trahan (stats), C, AZL D-backs; 26th overall (Stats)

Moment: In the sixth or seventh game we were playing [the Mariners], and the guy tried to run me over. That made me realize, "This is pro ball now. Guys can run me over." High school ball, the runner has to slide no matter what. It was pretty awesome to see the number of views or people back home in Louisiana telling me they saw it. I don't even know who put it up. A couple of guys in the locker room showed me. (Joe DeCarlo, the Mariners player who hasn't spoken with Trahan since, said, "I didn't know it was out there, but I guess the dugout cameras got it. It's kind of funny to see it out there.")


Adjustment: Before now, I haven't had too much instruction. And there they're tuning up everything from my swing to throw-downs and blocking the plate. As a catcher, they've taught me to have a more athletic stance behind home plate, keeping my feet wider apart.
Teammate: Andrew Velazquez: Him being a little guy, I didn't expect him to be as good as he is. He makes amazing plays at second base and has some pop in his bat.
Opponent: Joey Gallo (Rangers) -- he's got 18 home runs! He actually hit a home run against us the first time we played him, and pretty much every time he's at the plate, he's hit the ball hard. It's fun to try and out-think a guy that has hit so many home runs.

Clint Coulter, C, AZL Brewers; 27th overall (Stats)

Moment: We got in trouble for taking ice out of the cooler one time, putting our hands in what we were drinking out of. So we got Gatorade taken away for two weeks. We were drinking water for two weeks as professionals, and I was loving it.
Experience: This is the perfect atmosphere to get better. We're on the move from 12:30 to midnight. No off-days over here. Coming into pro ball, I thought it would be more relaxed because we're playing everyday, but it's definitely pretty intense, and that's how I like to play.
Adjustment: In high school, I had 41 at-bats my last year, so I hadn't seen pitching, let alone pro pitching, and got off to a slow start. Every game is like playing in an elite high school tournament and facing the best pitcher in the tournament. I got a lot of catching instruction from my high school coach back home, Tom Lampkin, and he played 13, 14 years in the big leagues. So I had a lot of good fundamentals, and it's been a lot of cleaning things up, little adjustments, how to call games, a lot of little things.
Teammate: Angel Ortega, our shortstop -- I first got to know him at the Brewers' pre-Draft workout and I was like, "Man, this guy's pretty good." And now playing with him, I realize this guy's really good: really strong arm, good instincts, battles at the plate.
Opponent: Joey Gallo (Rangers) has been killing it, hitting homers. I've caught against him, and he had two hits and a double, but we kept the ball on the right side of the fence, so I count that as almost a success.
Headline: Coulter, Crew score 17 -- in first inning on 7/8.

Joey Gallo (stats), 3B, AZL Rangers; 39th overall (Stats)

Moment: My first home run wasn't until five or six games in, so I was like, 'Wow, I need a home run, I need a home run.' So after I got the first one out of the way, I kept going off from there. The one I hit really, really well was against the Padres. I hit toward right field, over a hill, onto the cement -- it was the farthest ball I have ever hit; someone said it went 470 feet. That's the one of the league-record 18 that I remember the most.
Adjustment: I have been working on my defense at third base, trying to make more plays and less errors. I'm learning to get my feet ready and be ready to field the ball. There's not many tall guys at my position, but I feel I like I can play there long-term.
Teammate: Nick Williams and Lewis Brinson have been spectacular.
Opponent: Definitely Max Fried (Padres) -- lefty on lefty, I always hate that. I usually haven't been able to concentrate against lefties, but having the experience of facing good lefties everyday has helped me.

Jesmuel Valentin, SS, AZL Dodgers; 51st overall (Stats)

Experience: There are no fans here, but in Puerto Rico, no matter what game you'r playing -- exhibition or tournament -- there are always lots of people. But these parks are better than back home, where you get some bad hops, funny hops on the infield.
Adjustment: The first thing they changed with me was my defense. The first day I came here, I was moving too much. Now I am keeping my eyes behind the ball. I also have only been switch-hitting for one year, so my coaches are helping me get better from the left side, teaching me how to load into my swing.
Teammate: Paul Hoenecke -- every single at-bat, I love to watch that kid.
Opponent: Addison Russell (Athletics) -- we played together for summer ball and were roommates for three months, and I have played against him three or four times. He hit two bombs against us, a great player.

Mitch Gueller, RHP, GCL Phillies; 54th overall (Stats)

Experience: It's my first time being away from home for so long and not seeing my parents everyday. It's almost like I am living on my own. On the field, it's a big change coming from high school. In high school, I could miss a spot with a pitch. In the Gulf Coast League -- and all of pro ball -- if I miss a spot, it's going to get hit pretty hard.
Adjustment: One of the minor tweaks Steve Schrenk, our pitching coach, had shown me is keeping my head more level when I am throwing. Sometimes I tilt it to the side. I'm also keeping my hands higher and breaking earlier. They help me keep balanced.
Teammate: Zach Green -- he works hard, and he's been hitting the ball well. Dylan Cozens has huge power, hits the ball a mile in batting practice.

Memo from Mayo
Though many members of the Draft class of 2012 began in the complex leagues, some started a bit higher and have already jumped on a much faster track. Many thought Duke's Marcus Stroman, the Blue Jays' second first-round pick, could make a beeline to Toronto, especially in a bullpen role. Sure enough, the right-hander is already in the Double-A Eastern League after a brief, seven-game stop in the short-season Northwest League. He doesn't seem too overwhelmed, with a combined 2.93 ERA (2.25 in four Double-A outings) and 11.2 K/9.

Not to be outdone, Mariners top pick Mike Zunino is also already in Double-A, making his Southern League debut on Aug. 14. The Golden Spikes Award winner got in 29 Northwest League games and hit .373/.474/.736 over 110 at-bats, clearly needing a better challenge. Keep in mind he's done that while catching quite a bit and throwing out 42 percent of would-be basestealers to date (eight out of 19).

By moving so quickly out of the gate, both Stroman and Zunino have put themselves in the position to help their respective parent clubs sooner rather than later. Could we see Stroman trying to get Zunino out in the American League in 2013? It shouldn't surprise anyone if that's what happens.

For Draft and prospects expert Jonathan Mayo's analysis, visit MLB.com's Prospects Central.

Prospect Up
No. 39 Casey Kelly and No. 85 Robbie Erlin -- two Padres prospects back from stained pitching elbows -- are showing that surgery isn't always the answer. Both missed the bulk of this season -- at least 20 starts apiece -- but have re-emerged this final full month of the campaign: Erlin combines on AZL no-hitter on 8/8; Kelly sharp in return to mound on 8/11.

Prospect Down
No. 79 Jed Bradley (Brewers), placed on the disabled list on Aug. 8 due to fatigue in his arm, completed 107 1/3 innings at Class A Advanced Brevard County in this, his first pro season. And, for a collegian picked 15th overall in the 2011 Draft, it has to be a dissapointing one. After compiling a 2.79 ERA and recording 28 strikeouts (against six walks) in his first 29 Florida State League innings, Bradley, in a word, buckled. He gave up four or more runs in all nine of his road starts. All is not lost, but the 22-year-old lefty struggled in other weird ways -- yielding a fair share of his runs the first time through a batting order and allowing right-handed batters a .342 batting average.

Your Questions, Answered
Tweet your prospect-related queries to @AndrewMiLB.

Reading Material

Prospect Tweet Worth Re-tweeting: "Something in soap and hand sanitizer weakens and ruins muscles in your hands a study showed from the University of Col. #Idontwashanyways" -- Zack Wheeler, AKA @Wheelerpro45.

Andrew Pentis is a contributor to MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at AndrewMiLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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