Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for]]> Homer Bailey or Ryan Braun has been called up to the big leagues in the last couple of weeks?

It certainly has been good for us prospect fans, hasn't it? It's not often that so much talent -- the kind anyone in any league should be interested in -- comes up so early in a season. And don't worry, there's still plenty of talent left to discuss to fill out this week's Exchange.

In the bigs

Where do we start? Or, rather, where do we stop? How about in San Francisco, where Tim Lincecum made his highly anticipated big-league debut on national TV Sunday night. I'm sure many of you were disappointed by the outing, but don't let it scare you off. The walks were not surprising, as I expected him to be a little bit too amped up, and he still struck out five. The two home runs allowed were not typical, as he'd given up just three long balls in nearly 62 innings and change in the Minors.

The stuff is there. Who knows? Maybe someone in your league got disgusted and dropped him after the start (for those of you with daily transactions). He's slated to go again Friday ... in Colorado. I know it's risky, but I'd take the leap. It's unclear how long he's going to stay in the big leagues based on Russ Ortiz's injury status, but he's a guy you want to stash on your reserves for when he's up for good. And that's only a Russ Ortiz-like implosion away.

On the offensive side of the ledger, things are almost as interesting. Billy Butler got called up when Ryan Shealy went on the disabled list. And to no one's surprise, Butler has hit .304 over his first six games. He's been hitting sixth, so the Royals aren't burying him at the bottom of the order. The run production will come. He may not hit many homers right away, but his extra-base power should be enough for him to drive in some runs. With Reggie Sanders now also out for what could be at least a month, Butler will play just about every day. If he's out there, go get him.

If you look at Andy LaRoche's Minor League statistics from this year, you may have been surprised to see him in the Dodgers' lineup on Sunday. He was hitting just .235 with three homers and 11 RBIs in 24 games at Triple-A, but with Wilson Betemit hitting just .140, the Dodgers felt it necessary to give it a shot. If you really need a third baseman, LaRoche is going to get a nice, long look, and I'd recommend him for NL-only players for the time being. Yes, he's struggled, but this is a guy with a .292 average, .513 slugging percentage and .372 on-base percentage for his Minor League career heading into this year. All the tools to be a plus hitter are there. Sometimes, the challenge of a promotion wakes a guy up, and that could happen here. I'd be cautious; don't bet the farm on the guy, but he's got serious power potential.

Phone call away

I mentioned Ryan Braun and Homer Bailey in the intro, so let's check in on these two, shall we?

There's really not much more for Braun to do in the Minors. He's hitting .358 with eight homers and 17 RBIs to go along with a 1.142 OPS. More importantly, he's made just two errors over the first month-plus of the season. Supposedly, that was the only thing that was holding him back. The Brewers, in first place in the National League Central, understandably are taking an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" philosophy, but with the Craig Counsell/Tony Graffanino combination at third hitting a combined .220 with 15 RBIs, there will come a point soon, one would hope, that they'll consider Braun. When that happens, Braun will be a must-have in all leagues. Sticking with the Brewers for a second, if I may, before getting to Bailey ...

Also dominating in Triple-A is right-hander Yovani Gallardo. The 21-year-old got knocked around in his season debut, but since then, he's allowed just five earned runs and 14 hits in 32 innings. For the year, he's got a 2.19 ERA with a .164 batting average against and 51 Ks in 37 innings. If I were Dave Bush (6.03 ERA), I'd be looking over my shoulder.

And what about Bailey? The Reds' top prospect had a pretty rough spring, and I recently spoke with a scout who said his mechanics were all out of whack after seeing him in Florida. Bailey was the kind of guy who threw in the upper 90s with plus secondary pitches, all with an effortless delivery. This spring, his head was snapping, and it looked as if there was a lot more effort going into his pitches.

But maybe Bailey has gotten some things straightened out over his first five starts in Triple-A. He's got a 1.98 ERA and has allowed just 16 hits in 27 1/3 innings for a .178 batting average against. At the same time, he's walked 13 and struck out only 18, rates far below what he's shown in the past (he had 50 BB and 156 Ks last year, for instance). If he's just ironing some kinks out, look for the K rate to go up and the BB rate to go down. Then look for him to get the call. Maybe it takes him a little longer than anticipated. Perhaps he'll time it for when Matt Belisle remembers he's, well, Matt Belisle.

I want to quickly note that Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury got bumped up to Triple-A, officially putting him in this category. All he did in Double-A was hit .452 with eight steals before his promotion. He's off to a 4-for-12 start with Pawtucket, so keep an eye on his progress and any outfield needs the Sox may have in Boston.

A year away

Dodgers shortstop prospect Chin-Lung Hu might very well be the best defensive shortstop in the Minors. The question was how much he was going to hit. Back in 2005, he batted .313 and stole 23 bases, giving some images of a young Omar Vizquel. But then he hit just .254 last year with the jump to Double-A, leaving many wondering just what kind of offensive player he could be. The Dodgers smartly sent him back to Double-A -- he's just 23 -- and he's responded by hitting .371 over his first 27 games. He's also swiped five bases and slugged .534 thanks in part to his 15 doubles, showing something Vizquel never really has had: a little pop. Hu's glove will get him to the big leagues and keep him there, and he could be a nice little average/speed guy for your middle infield in the next year or so.

Now back with the team that originally drafted him, the White Sox, Gio Gonzalez was asked to repeat Double-A to work out some of the kinks that tripped him up in his year with the Phillies. He had a clunker (3 1/3 IP, 9 H, 8 ER) his last time out that skews his overall stats a bit. Throw that out, and he's allowed just 17 hits and six earned runs over 28 1/3 innings. That's a 1.91 ERA and .173 batting average against for those of you scoring at home. He's also struck out 47 on the season, good for second in the Minors. If he can shake off the last outing, he could be in line for a promotion to Triple-A in the not-too-distant future.

Down the road

Last week, I was in Eastlake, Ohio, to watch the Lake County Captains play. They're the South Atlantic League affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. During the game, I saw their third baseman, Jared Goedert, hit his 10th home run of the year. Just who is Goedert? He was the Indians' ninth-round pick in last year's Draft out of Kansas State, and he'll turn 22 at the end of this month. He didn't show anything close to this kind of power in his debut last summer, so it remains to be seen if it's an aberration. But he leads his league in homers, OBP (.513, thanks to 25 walks vs. just 15 strikeouts) and slugging (.772), he ranks third with 26 RBIs and is hitting a whopping .380 with a 12-game hitting streak going to boot. He's got Wes Hodges ahead of him up a level, but the Indians are pretty good about finding room for guys when they're ready to be promoted. It's too soon to know for sure how good he's going to be, but a power-hitting guy at the hot corner is someone you should keep a loose eye on.

What's with all the good pitching in the California League? Didn't they get the memo about how that's a hitting haven? Clearly, right-hander Brandon Hynick didn't. The Rockies' eighth-round pick from a year ago finally gave up his first run in his sixth start of the year. His ERA stands at 0.23 now, and he's allowed only 22 hits over 40 innings and yielded a ridiculously miniscule three walks on the year. He was strong in his debut last summer, too, so this might be more than just one hot month. His K rate has gone down -- 28 punchouts to date in 2007 -- but when you have a 0.63 WHIP, you can live without the strikeouts, can't you? He should get a shot at Double-A sooner rather than later.]]>