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04/23/10 2:34 PM ET

Futures Exchange: Learn from the best

Smoak earns shot with Rangers; Hellickson on Rays' radar

Now we're really starting to get cranking.

The Minor League season is two weeks old, and we're starting to learn some things. True, the sample size is pretty small and you don't want to read too much into it, but how a guy starts out can mean a lot. Would people be this excited about Stephen Strasburg and Aroldis Chapman if they hadn't pitched well in their first three outings?

OK, bad example. But as this week's Exchange points out, strong starts have already helped one guy get to the big leagues and another looking ready to make a leap to another level.


In the bigs


Justin Smoak, 1B, Rangers: It was a question asked about as frequently as any I've gotten over the season's first couple of weeks: When will the Rangers bring their 2008 first-rounder up? The answer: Now. With Smoak hitting .300/.470/.540 over 15 games in Triple-A and Chris Davis hitting, well, less than that for the big club, the two have switched places. Smoak will be the Rangers' everyday first baseman and should be in the starting lineup on Friday night against the Tigers. At the very least, AL-only owners should do what they can to get this guy, but even those in shallower leagues may want to take a shot here. This guy can flat-out rake.


A phone call away


Jeremy Hellickson, RHP, Rays: While the Rays' rotation is certainly doing its job with an American League-leading 2.67 ERA, Hellickson is simply doing what he can to make sure the powers that be don't forget about him. Hellickson has won each of his first three starts, allowing just three earned runs over 19 innings pitched. The right-hander has posted a .176 batting average against while racking up 21 strikeouts against only three walks. His WHIP, in case you were curious, is 0.79. It's probably safe to assume that as long as the timing works out, Hellickson will be the first one to get the call if there's a need in Tampa Bay.


A year away


It's a two-for-the-price of one Royals extravaganza ...

Mike Moustakas, 3B, Royals: One game does not a season make, but the 2007 first-round pick certainly got off on the right foot in 2010. With everyone curious to see how he'd handle the move up to Double-A following a so-so '09 season, Moustakas' debut was put on hold while he recovered from an oblique injury. Given the green light to play Thursday, he banged out two homers and a double and drove in four runs. Yes, it's just one game, but it was an awfully good way for him to start.

Mike Montgomery, LHP, Royals: I know what you're thinking: Why is there a guy from the Class A Advanced Carolina League in this category? Well, with the way he's pitched, it's hard to believe he won't be promoted and playing with Moustakas soon. In three starts, the young lefty has gone 18 innings and allowed just one earned run on six hits (that's a 0.50 ERA and .100 BAA for those of you scoring at home). He's walked just four and struck out 27. Still only 20, he possesses a great combination of stuff and pitchability. Assuming he moves up to Double-A soon, there's no reason to think he won't be in Kansas City by 2011.


Further down the road


Jarred Cosart, RHP, Phillies: A teenager until the end of May, Cosart certainly hasn't had much difficulty in adjusting to his first taste of full-season ball. Granted, it will be interesting to see how he does when he hits that wall later on, but it's hard not to be a little excited by his start. He leads the South Atlantic League with 24 strikeouts (against three walks) and has allowed only 11 hits in 17 innings for a .180 batting average against. Cosart is likely going to move one rung at a time, so you'll have to be patient, but keep an eye on this young arm's progress.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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