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Not every top prospect is Evan Longoria or Buster Posey, phenoms who immediately did what was expected of them at the big league level. Many are like Alex Gordon, the Royals' leftfielder who was the No. 2 pick in the stacked 2005 draft (which also included Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki and Justin Upton, to name a few) but needed five seasons to deliver on his early expectations. In an attempt to find this year's Gordon, who hit .303 with 23 homers in 2011, SI spoke with a quartet of scouts who this spring have already seen these five formerly highly rated hitters and has scored them on a Gordometer, with four "Gordons" being best.
MATT WIETERS, C Orioles
Wieters was Baseball America's No. 1 prospect in 2009. While the 25-year-old is defensively precocious and hit 22 home runs last year (his third in the majors), his .262 average and .778 OPS still fell short of expectations. Even so, says a scout, "the offense is coming. What he's doing better is handling the ball inside. The gold standard for offensive catchers is Brian McCann. Two years ago Wieters was nowhere close, but now he's closing in on him." The scout predicts an average near .300, with 25 home runs and nearly 100 RBIs. As this year's Alex Gordon, he says, "Wieters is a very good choice."
DEXTER FOWLER, CF Rockies
The speedy 6'4" Fowler's problems—and .262 average and 15 home runs in 405 major league games—have stemmed from his being rushed to the majors from Double A in 2008 and from a serious lack of strength. But the 25-year-old Fowler, whose plate discipline is already strong (.363 OBP in '11), gained 12 pounds in off-season workouts, and the switch-hitter looks more seasoned at both sides of the plate. "He's come up with a little leg kick that really seems to help him," a scout says.
PEDRO ALVAREZ, 3B Pirates
Alvarez, one scout says, still has the "off-the-charts raw power" that made him the second overall pick in the 2008 draft, but the lefthanded hitter must temper his desire to pull the ball, which has contributed to a .230 average through 169 big league games. "It's gotta feel great to hit 'em nine miles," says the scout. "But they go out in leftfield too, just like they do in right." The scout says he has seen signs of a more disciplined approach and that Alvarez, 25, could hit .275 this year with 25 homers.