So I think most of us have a pretty good idea of Justin Smoak - who he is, who he could become, who he's most likely to become, and all that. You don't get to be a prospect of Smoak's stature without drawing a lot of attention to yourself and having people learn what you bring to the table. But the Lee/Lowe/cashmoney deal didn't just bring the one player. It brought them four, and while I did my best to talk a little about the other three guys yesterday, I'm not going to sit here and pretend to be an expert. I don't know much about them, which is why I went to Jason Cole, whose work came to me highly recommended. Jason handles the farm system stuff for Scout.com, and you can also find him on Twitter. I asked him for some insight on the Forgotten Three, and he very graciously agreed, for which I can't thank him enough. There aren't a lot of people who would be willing to help out somebody else's website on a Saturday morning.
Following is Jason's contribution:
Blake Beavan, RHP
6-foot-7, 250-pounds - 21-years-old - Irving HS (TX)
Beavan will be reporting to Double-A West Tennessee.
When he was selected as the 17th overall pick in 2007, he was regarded as a guy that could touch 96-97 mph and blow people away with his fastball. The Rangers cleaned up his mechanics after he signed, and he hasn't gotten that velocity back since. I think it's a mixture of the mechanics and getting accustomed to throwing more often in professional ball.
His velocity has improved this year, though, and his fastball has sat between 91-92 mph, sometimes a bit lower and sometimes hitting 93 or 94. His fastball doesn't have a ton of movement, but his command of it is excellent. That's where the 12 walks in 110 innings come in. He spots up his fastball at will.
In terms of secondary stuff, Beavan has shown some improvement. He made a lot of strides with his changeup last season, and his slider has improved this year. He's getting on top of his slider more often, helping him throw it harder and get a better break with more depth. I don't think either pitch projects to be a consistent swing-and-miss offering in the big leagues, but to me, he's a guy that should have a decent three-pitch repertoire down the line.
Beavan is only 21-years-old and I don't think he's a finished product yet. I think his secondary stuff will still improve some, and I think he'll have to learn to pitch outside of the zone a bit more once he reaches Triple-A. It's difficult to argue with his numbers this year. Even though he's not a strikeout guy in Double-A, he has been difficult to hit because of the command and improved stuff.
As of right now, the scouting community seems to see him as a safe back-end rotation guy with excellent command, perhaps with a mid-rotation ceiling.
Josh Lueke, RHP
6-foot-5, 220-pounds - 25-years-old - Northern Kentucky U.
He'll also report to Double-A West Tenn. Lueke has an excellent arm, but he also comes with some baggage. He missed nearly all of last season while awaiting trial and returned during Spring Training this year.
On the baseball side of things, 2010 has been a big-time breakout for Lueke. Because he wasn't allowed to return to Bakersfield, he started the year in Single-A Hickory and posted dominant numbers [0.46 ERA, 36 K in 19.2 IP]. He has done more of the same in terms of missing bats in Double-A [3.86 ERA, 26 K in 18.2 IP].
The 25-year-old has always had a good arm, but his stuff took a pretty big step forward this year. His fastball usually sits in the 93-96 mph range [touching the upper-90s at times this year], and his slider may have been the best in the Rangers' system.
The slider a big reason why righties are hitting .195/.262/.234 against him this year with 36 strikeouts in 84 plate appearances. He picked up a new slider this spring, and it's harder [84-85 mph] with sharper, later break than past years. He'll also mix in a splitter from time to time. His command isn't bad but he's not quite a finished product either. He has the stuff to pitch in a big league bullpen, without a doubt.
Matt Lawson, 2B
6-foot-0, 195-pounds - 24-years-old - Missouri State U.
I'm not certain on Lawson, but I'd assume he's also heading to West Tenn. Lawson is the scrappy, all-out at all-times, fan-favorite, hustle-type player that always has his uniform dirty. The kind of guy that doesn't have a bunch of natural tools but makes up for it with hard work.
Lawson started to turn some heads with a decent season in Bakersfield last year, where Cal League managers [via Baseball America] named him the best defensive second baseman in the league. He moves around well, has smooth footwork, a quick transfer, and a good enough arm for the position. He has also played some left field this year out of necessity [the Frisco team is short on outfielders], and he could play there in a pinch, but he's primarily a second baseman.
He hit .301/.393/.452 in April, .327/.424/.482 in May, .211/.280/.422 in June, and he's currently at .211/.375/.211 through six July games. Lawson has been caught in a bad slump. His plate discipline was much-improved earlier in the year, and he told me it was a focus for him, but he really lost patience and swung and missed quite a bit in June. Lawson's .351/.413/.640 line against left-handed pitching this year is a bit intriguing, I think.
Bottom line on Lawson––he's a fringe prospect with a chance to reach the majors someday, though he doesn't project as an everyday second baseman. The Missouri native doesn't necessarily have any plus tools, but he maximizes his talent and I'd say he also isn't poor in any one aspect of the game. At the very least, he'll hang around pro ball for as long as he wants.